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Mum to child, me to you

By Jane Close IN Connect

“Even as a mother protects with her life, her child… So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.” – The Buddha

The mother-child bond as a metaphor for all loving relationships

In his book, Beyond Religion, The Dalai Lama writes that a mothers love for her child is the most potent symbol of all love relationships.

Many first mothers speak of those intense moments of realising in the months after their child is born, that they are everything to the vulnerable little creature looking up at them. Likewise, we can bring more awareness to the important role we have to play in maximising the wellbeing of adults.

To feel indispensable to another human’s survival and growth is a powerful sensation.

The realisation that an infant is fully dependent on you, and inherently trusting, is life-affirming, even a bit confronting.  Most of all, it is powerful motivation to give, give, and keep on giving!

Even when you are feeling a bit numb with fatigue, the undeniable protective instinct of parenthood, enables you to dig deep and go through the relentless motions of childcare. Albeit, some days, with less flair than others!

While parents complain of fatigue and often talk about feeling overwhelmed, they also tend to get the confident glow of somebody who knows they have an important job to do.

Much like a mother knows their actions have a direct impact on their child, gradually we can become more aware that we are also empowered with the ability, and responsibility, to greatly affect the happiness and wellbeing of adults – including our ourselves. This can make us liable to do damage if we don’t take our job seriously!

Vulnerability: An enduring human quality

We adults disguise it well, but our vulnerability stays with us long after we have lost the sheen and softness of infancy. Consciously recalling this can help us feel more compassion and respect for ourselves and others.

Though adults’ vulnerability is not always as plain to see (or as endearing!) as that of a baby, it is always there. It often surfaces as something else, like a grumpy mood, a short fuse, or the adult form of a tantrum. Or it could be something positive, like laughter, which reveals that deep need for light and joy.

We tend to see a child’s behaviour as a pointer to something else – “she hasn’t slept enough”, “she’s hungry” ,“she’s excited”. Knowing that their behaviour is one small fragment of their entire being and not the full picture, we don’t tend to fixate on the behaviour itself.  Instead, we wonder, ‘Why are they acting this way? What’s missing? What happened? What can I do?’

It is too easy to forget to apply the same reasoning and understanding to each other. We can become narrow in our focus instead of maintaining a broad view of human nature.

Adults, just like babies, need tolerance, unconditional love and support in order to thrive. 

As we grow from infancy and childhood to adulthood, we are increasingly exposed to the full force of life, once softened for us by our parents. And so, even though we get bigger and stronger, so do the waves that can knock us down.

When hearts have been hardened by life’s strains, the idea of “smothering” someone with love can be useful. To do so is not to reinforce bad habits or damaging behaviour by going too easy on people, but by orientating ourselves towards acceptance of their very core.

But it is difficult to truly accept, forgive and love others, without extending such grace to ourselves. Our lived experience, if we allow ourselves to become more aware of its subtlety and depth through mindfulness, can be such a powerful resource for cultivating compassion. How can we consciously try to “see” another person, their nature, their truth, their suffering, without first looking directly at those things in ourselves?

Self-love as part of a healthy relationship with life and loved ones

We all have deep stores of compassion within us that often surface when we least expect it. But consciously cultivating it involves sitting with the human experience closest to us – our own!

Compassionate people tend to be skilled at, or simply naturally given to, forgiving, accepting, and healing themselves.

Being in the presence of such a person can be instantly soothing because it simplifies everything and makes you feel whole again. They bring your sense of vulnerability to the surface, helping you accept yourself or your situation, and throwing the burden off your shoulders.

But in the throes of family life, especially with young kids and babies to care for, it is not easy to be the angels that we can be for each other. Quite often, we wear the opposite guise. When it comes to conflict, bare in mind that external conflict is often a manifestation of the inner struggles and needs of each individual.

Emotional negativity and stress in relationships, as in life, can be traced to a person’s need for healing, rest or some kind of reorientation. This is why self-care, or self-mothering, can be seen as insurance against doing harm. The more we are tuned in to ourselves and aware of our current state and needs, the more we can make wise choices that are in our own and other people’s best interests.

Life is a dance between activity, learning and exertion, and rest, rejuvenation and refuelling.

As soon as we fall out of a healthy rhythm, we get tired and can do damage, or get hurt by other dancers on the dance floor, who are all over the place for some reason.

While our problems might seem different, often the remedy is the same. It’s not personal. Forgive.

Sometimes love simply requires an act of faith to dig deep and keep going through the motions until you get back into your rhythm.

After all, even as parents, the daily acts of loving a child, whose adorability is plain to see, are not always fun. Sometimes the job is just sheer hard work. But without fail, we are reminded again and again of how lucky we are to have them.

Mindful tip: If you feel you don’t have the energy to be your most loving, attentive self for someone in your life, just imagine that for a moment, you are all they have, and give them your full attention. Don’t hold back the vast amount of light and love that parenting has shown can travel through you. And if you receive such a gift from someone else, take it!   

 

Jane Close

Jane Close is a writer by nature. Forever seeking the deeper meaning and the truer tale. In her 20s, Jane’s passion for true stories and people from different backgrounds drew her into the world of journalism, where she churned out articles on topics from the arts to politics for Fairfax community papers in Melbourne.

A thirst for adventure then took Jane to Japan, where she spent four years chasing and telling the powerful story of Okinawa and Okinawan people (among other topics!). Now 33, and mother of two, Jane works as a copywriter, helping organisations and businesses tell their truest, most meaningful stories.

Jane has always had an insatiable interest in spirituality, which she has explored through reading, travelling, asking lots of questions, and going on a Vipassana meditation retreat while pregnant with her now 3 year old son. Since becoming a mother, Jane has learned (sometimes the hard way) just how important it is to practice self-care through mindfulness exercises such as yoga and meditation.

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