A little over a week ago, I had the chance to travel to upstate NY for a dear friend's baby shower, followed by a quick trip to Marlboro, VT to help out my friend Kirstin, who just became a new Mom to adorable twin baby girls. The girls, Sarah Rose and Jasmine Linnea, have quite an incredible story as they were born in India through a surrogacy program, and made their way 'home' to America at 2 months old in economy class from Mumbai all the way to Vermont! What a journey the twins, their parents and their Mormor (grandmother in Swedish) have been on! I had the honor to meet them for the first time last weekend and I can say with certainty that those little babies cracked my heart open wide.
Upon arrival, the house felt peaceful and full of love, with a little chaos thrown in for good measure. There were two of everything: Two adorable hand knit sweaters, two little play sets for them to lie on their backs and entertain themselves, two sets of bottles, two bouncy seats and many many diapers!
Driving in from upstate NY and a busy time there I had deceived myself into thinking that I would have a mini-retreat at my friend's gorgeous off-the-grid home and catch up on some reading on the Chakras for my upcoming retreat to Mexico. Ha ha, yeah right!!?? Of course I knew that I was there to help out my dear friend, but hey, I'm a single lady with a cat and no kids, so I had absolutely NO CLUE what I was getting into! As soon as I arrived it was clear that this would be my yoga for the weekend.
There was laundry to fold, babies to hold and swaddle, breakfasts, lunches and dinners to be made, dishes to be done, bottles to be sterilized, a dog to be walked, snow to be shoveled, a car to be fixed and the list goes on! Kirstin's husband William was away on business, and even with three of us on deck (Kirstin, me and a live-in helper/friend) there was never an idle moment. All flowed peacefully and smoothly as we attuned for 3 days to the needs of babies and household chores doing the 'new baby choreographed dance' around the sunny house. Surprisingly, everything did flow quite smoothly and effortlessly.
As dusk fell on my first day in cuteness overload land, Kirstin explained that I would be sleeping with Jasmine that night. 'Sleeping with Jasmine?! Are you kidding me?!' I could not even hide my surprise and dismay. There was no way to be all 'namaste' about this. I was the single free-spirit cat lady who cherished her full 8 hours and I wasn't about to disrupt it for this little being, as cute as she was. Well, as dusk became dark and we got the babies all ready for bed, I knew that this was part of my role in being here, despite my strong resistance to this idea. I would have to let go of my sleep. I assumed that in taking on this responsibility that when Jasmine cried, I would just bring her to Momma and she would be breast feed until pacified and then she would either continue to sleep in her Mom's bed or I would take her back when she was peacefully back in la-la land. Um...not so fast!
Kirstie explained to me that when Jasmine wakes up (at multiple intervals spread out over the long night) that I would pick her up, go downstairs, heat up water, make her a bottle of formula and rock her until she was full and fell back to sleep. 'Um, are you kidding me again??' You mean I have to get up and out of my warm bed, measure stuff at 3 am, not trip on the stairs on the way down and do this multiple times in one night?!!' Not surprisingly, I felt strong resistance rise up in me and deep entitlement to my long-held identity as the one with no kids, a free life, and little responsibility to anyone but myself (and my cat). But again, I relented. Kirstin delivered the placid Jasmine to me in her little baby basket and I stared down at her from my warm mattress on the floor. 'Okay, Jasmine, it's just you and me tonight, I hope we can do this!'
Fast forward to 1 am (my first wake-up call) and my feelings around this whole situation began to melt. I had this little tiny bundle of warmth and love to hold and bounce and I reached down to pick her up in the quiet darkness. A half moon shone through the window and Orion was vivid in the sky. I felt honored, I felt like I had this huge responsibility, and I felt like, 'I got this.' I also felt grateful that by taking Jasmine, my friend was getting some much needed rest with only having to care for Sarah. To make a long story short, my two overnights with the girls were touching and in the end, I was very sad to say goodbye and head back up the highway toward home. I think it was Marianne Williamson who said, 'It's not enough to love our own children.' This quote really struck me. I would like to add that it's not enough to love our own lives, our own careers, our own families and friends, and our own carefully crafted realities. We create change in the world when we soften our beloved walls, widen our circles and let a little more love in and give a little more love out. Even when we don't think we have the time.
I know for myself, I have carefully created my 'world' and I identify with what I think of as 'me'- my home, my lifestyle and my zone of comfort and familiarity. Cracking my heart open a bit for these babies really reminded me of the precious interconnected web of life of which we are all apart. It also reminded me what a big difference the little things make. In the words of Mother Teresa, 'Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.' I assumed that going to help out my friend for a few days wouldn't make much of an impact in the grand scheme of things, but I could tell it really did. Kirstin got 2 great nights of sleep, the babies received more love and support, and I received the blessing of widening my own circles of compassion and even letting some of my deeply held identity fall away. I felt a sense of connection to the twins native homeland, India, and all wild weavings that brought their births the fruition. I also realized that we can frame any experience any way we CHOOSE to. I could look at a night without much sleep as a drudgery or a complete honor and joy. I could look at it as a chore or a blessing. Outer circumstances will be outer circumstances. How we frame 'what happen's to us' is our choice. And can we remember that life is actually happening FOR US.
I want to thank Jasmine and Sarah for a little taste of unconditional love and for being two amazing jewels on Indra's Net. We are all interwoven, we are all connected, we all breathe the same air, and we all matter. As we break out of our carefully constructed cocoons and comfort zones we just might find a little more light, a little more love and some of the sweetest gifts awaiting us in small packages. As we take the time to remember that we 'inter-are' as Thich Nhat Hanh says, we see everyone around us in a different light- not just as anonymous people we don't really know and don't care to know. We see each person we encounter as a unique and beautiful jewel on Indra's Net or a glistening dew drop on a spider's web. And, we remember that any little tug on that web, for better or for worse, effects the whole of creation.
Asana Suggestions: Partner poses that remind us of our connection to the whole. Sure, we all practice individually, on our own yoga mats, but we are all interwoven. Try making a circle and have everyone do tree pose together or back-to-back breathing in partners. When we connect in a yoga class it reminds us that we're in this together.
Contemplations to Deepen Your Practice:
* What is your cherished view of yourself? Journal or share with a friend some deeply-held qualities that you believe to be true about yourself or identities that you hold on to. How true are they really? Are there other possibilities for who you really are?
* What is one thing that you deeply cling to? Examples: your sleep, your exercise routine, your yoga practice (eek!!). Would you be willing to give them up for a day or two if you had to?
* Examine (in your journal or with a friend) how your frame challenging situations. Do you catastrophize and awfulize or are you able to put a positive spin on things? Acknowledge the power of the mind and it's effect on our bodies and our well-being.
* Try something new that takes you out of your routine and might open you up to new groups of people, cultures, or socioeconomic groups: Volunteer at the local soup kitchen, offer to babysit for a friend who needs some support or join a meet-up group of interest. Widen your circles with compassion.
* What would it look like to step fully into your life with no excuses?? A great place to practice this is in a yoga class...immerse yourself wholeheartedly in whatever pose you are doing rather than holding yourself back and staying on the 'outside' of things. Breath into it.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
Rilke, Book of Hours, I 2
Translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
Call Me By My True Names
Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my
people,dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
- Thich Nhat Hanh
We are all jewel's on Indra's Net