Being a mother is so confusing. We seek to deeply attach to and bond with our children, and yet, the skill we must truly develop is the one of learning to let them go. We must learn to let go of our attachment to what they do (and don’t do) that is different from what we want or expect. And it starts early. If we are paying attention, it starts the very first time that we feel a tension about something going on with the baby. It is the task of the mother who planned a beautiful home birth and ends up with a c-section. The task of the mother who hoped for a boy and was gifted a girl. The task of the mother who settles down for a quiet moment to herself and is immediately interrupted. The task of the mother who “thought it would be different” than it is. Learning to let go (aka “surrender”) is the task of every mother who wants or plans for _____ and gets _______. And surely that is all of us.
One of the priceless gifts of Shambhava Yoga™ is the teaching of Surrender. Babaji Shambhavananda clarifies: “Surrender is a process that takes place inside of you. When fear, anger or any strong emotion arises, if you can let those feelings go, you are surrendering. In the moment when tension arises, your ability to expand beyond it and release it is surrender…”
I must say that my initial reaction to “things not turning out the way I expected” is not exactly “surrender.” It is more along the lines of aversion, an inner scream of “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” For me, this is the sort of inner reaction that can be expressed outwardly with anger or engaging in power struggles that I soon regret. Fortunately, I have a practice that is slowly but surely transforming my reactions. With breath, mantra, and a very conscious wish to let go, aversion can be transformed to acceptance of things as they are. This inner letting go creates space and an absence of tension that is hard to believe. My experience is that when I go to my practice (my breath, mantra, my intention) and really release inner tension, then my mind is free to address issues with my children more creatively. Many concerns are not as urgent as I first think, and a centered mama is a more skillful mama. And when I make a mistake, my practice helps me to release my own guilt and upset more quickly, so that I can get back to the experience of connection with myself and my child.
I had more to say, but the baby has finished her nap early. Off to practice!!!
“Instead of trying to recreate what was, see what IS.”
Learning to open to the life that you have is one of the most beautiful gifts of a regular meditation practice. Disappointed that your relationship is not what it used to be? That your sweet-natured child is learning to speak up, but only with you, and only in regards to saying no to EVERYTHING you ask him to do? That your body looks or feels different than it did 1 or 20 years ago? If you can take a breath and truly let the disappointment go; if you can resist your urge to “make things as they used to be,” you may discover that there is joy in what remains.
First, there is the “space” that comes when we really and truly surrender – perhaps a moment of spaciousness and inner ease, a softening. It is not necessarily easy to do, and you do have to REALLY want it. You have to mean it. You have to commit to taking that breath instead of feeding your negative thoughts. Then, there is the result of letting go. We become more present. When we focus on what IS, sometimes we are surprised at the beauty of the present moment. Perhaps you have less time with your spouse, but your ability to be truly comforting to each other in hard times has amplified over the years. Notice that. Perhaps your child seems less easygoing because she is becoming more confident in herself. As a result, her social relationships are blossoming and she hardly ever whines any more. Notice that. Perhaps your body can feel strong and steady with less exercise than you once needed in your 20’s. Perhaps you are learning that you are actually much, much more than your body. Notice That.
If you don’t feel much like your old self anymore, try saying goodbye to your old self, and being open to who you are today.
“Surrender is a process that takes place inside of you. When fear, anger or any strong emotion arises, if you can let those feelings go, you are surrendering.” (S. Shambhavananda)
I must confess that I have done a fair amount of wondering about whether or not I really know how to surrender. Over time, I am learning to let go of my confusion and desire for immediate results. Every now and then I see clearly the benefit of my meditation practice, and there is absolutely no doubt of its gifts. It goes something like this. A pattern, such as jealousy, shows itself over and over again inside of me. Someone has something that I want and can’t have, and I feel jealous, left out, sorry for myself. Or maybe someone has hurt my feelings, and each time I think about it, my chest gets tight and I play out a brief but colorful revenge fantasy.
These days, it is becoming second nature to use my meditation practice to help me when I am in danger of becoming stuck in mental/emotional ruts such as these. I simply notice my reaction, I soften, I take a breath, I connect to mantra, and I let the feelings or reaction go as best I can. To be honest, it does not always seem to be working immediately. Some feelings are strong and tend to linger. Over time, however, I’ve developed some faith in the long term process. I’ve come to believe that my countless efforts at surrendering really do make a difference. The miracle comes when, one day, I am presented with the person/object/situation that triggers my anger/jealousy/hurt feelings and … I don’t feel a trace of a reaction to it. It’s just not there. There is no tightness in my chest, no surge of stress hormones, no craving or aversion of any kind. In place of the familiar tension, there is in fact a lovely feeling of openness. A lovely inner spaciousness. This is the magic of my meditation practice. In my experience, it is the purpose of surrender. It allows me to have great peace and acceptance for life “just as it is.” Events may or may not change, but my inner experience is completely transformed. I am loving this practice of paying attention, taking a breath, whispering a mantra, and feeling the magic.