As you might expect, it’s had a big impact on my practice, but not in the way you might think. Let me explain.
I was not that woman who dreamt about becoming a mother. I have always loved kids but parenthood seemed to be a club full of exhausted, distracted people who towed the party line claiming “its the greatest thing in the world” while cleaning food off the walls…or themselves.
I watched the relationships of happy, fun couples become strained or breakup in the first few years of having children. I saw once ambitious and vibrant people lose the passion for their goals and become firmly entrenched in a mundane status quo.
Even my friends in the yoga and spiritual world who were committed to living a meaningful life seemed to struggle (understandably) to maintain their practice of inquiry in the face of dirty diapers and late night feedings.
So, when I got pregnant just a few months into my marriage I had mixed emotions.
My husband and I met in a spiritual community. We had lives structured around spiritual practice and pursuits.
He meditated for hours each day and lived in an ashram-type setting surrounded by other practitioners for nearly a decade.
I had given up a “real job” and spent years as an entrepreneur devoted to teaching yoga, meditation and treating clients in my Acupuncture clinic.
When I got pregnant, suddenly our aspirations about what we might do on our journey together were overshadowed by the concerns of every new parent about our home, our finances, and the environment we intended to raise our child in.
At the same time, many of the spiritual practices and routines that had been our focus began to shift.
Morning yoga gave way to morning sickness.
Evening meditation turned into evening foot rubs (for me, not my husband).
Once our daughter was born, the idea of maintaining daily “spiritual practice” went out the window for a long time.
But I realized that parenthood itself is a powerful way to live a spiritual and purposeful life that I hadn’t considered before.
Service and Humility
When you let go in meditation, you drop into awareness. In that space, you’re nobody special. The practice shows us that we are big but our little egos are small and impermanent.
Parenthood does this too.
It’s a practice of devotion and service. There are things I do for my child without a second thought that no one will ever re-pay me for or appreciate fully.
If I am up half the night with her, she doesn’t reward me with a day off or a even a few extra hours to sleep in. When I make her food it is just as likely to be thrown on the floor as it is to end up in her mouth.
I am on call 24-7 with no vacation and while that may sound scary (heck, sometimes it is) the truth is I love being with her. It is nothing short of magical to watch her learn and refine new skills.
That is what makes the parent-child relationship incredibly humbling. Every ounce of care and love you give to a child is an investment in their future-self. And they may never understand or reward you for it.
There are no gold stars and no awards, just the sweet smiles of your little person and the occasional toy they drop in your purse or backpack for you to find later in the day.
Mediation & Perspective on What Truly Matters
One of the biggest benefits to spiritual practices like meditation is that they offer you a wider lens through which to see the world.
I never expected it, but that parenthood has had same effect.
While quiet moments on the cushion are hard to come by with a toddler running around, parenthood can easily snap you out of petty drama and help you stay focused on the big picture and purpose of life.
For one, they keep you humble. Children have no time for our issues, plain and simple.
They don’t greet you at the door, hand you a glass of wine and say:
“Oh Dada, rough day at work? Is Jerry still on your case?”
Instead they run screaming into your arms and pull you down the hall to show you that they redecorated your closet by dumping all the clean, folded laundry on to the floor (you’re welcome).
If you choose to, you can let go of frustration, anger, or stress that happens in moments like that. It is the same kind of renunciation that you cultivate in meditation.
And little kids don’t care about your deadlines, insecurities, or the results of your peer review. Young children want your time and attention.
If you are aware and appreciate the impermanence of that special phase of their life, you will happily give them all the time and focus you have.
Having a little person who routinely pulls you away from the smaller concerns will also inevitably highlight just how precious time and energy gets wasted on things that don’t really matter in the long run.
Personally, this has had a dramatic effect on my life. Knowing that my time and energy are not infinite has clarified that I want to use those resources wisely.
In order to be available for my child and the other important people and priorities I have, it means I have had to let go of goals, relationships and situations that don’t support my life’s purpose.
Since becoming a mother, I have discovered the thing that so many people tried to tell me for years–that parenthood can be a deeply spiritual path.
Sometimes I feel exhausted and distracted but that is because this life is as rigorous as it is rewarding.