This pandemic has been hard on everyone. Now, we are learning that it has been particularly hard on women, and mothers. Motherhood is beautiful and joyful, yes, yet it also brings big, new challenges every day as our children continue to grow and calls for much personal transformation to meet those challenges. Yet, I have found that oft times discussing the challenges is a bit taboo, since we are supposed to be "selfless, loving mothers," a flat characterization which can make us feel guilty if we are perceived as "complaining" about the tough bits of it. Especially since we know that so many other mothers are undoubtedly facing similar challenges, and yet we don't hear them talking about it. Now, throw in a pandemic that disproportionately affects women and mothers (as well as our elders and others), and the challenges can become greatly amplified.
As you know, I am a woman, and I am a mother. So, let me start by saying that even if you feel you haven't been able to be the parent you wanted to be over the past year, you are not alone. It has scarcely been possible. This pandemic has brought so much suffering to so many people in so many different ways; yet, at the same time, it has also brought a multitude of lessons and opportunities. Opportunities not so much to change, but to find acceptance of one's limitations and those of the situation. Opportunities to soften our rigid perspective. Opportunities to transform our suffering into softness.
We all know that parenthood is a total blessing filled with so much joy, love and connection. We are so grateful. But that is not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the challenges. I think we need a safe space for this right now.
Parenthood comes laden with a multitude of simultaneous pressures. I don't need to tell you what they are, you know. Yet, this is precisely what makes it the Yogic practice and lifestyle that it is. The pressure creates the opportunity. In Yoga, the analogy often given is that of a diamond. A diamond endures tremendous pressure from all sides, in the same way that parenting on top of work and everything else can feel like teetering on the edge of overwhelm a great deal of the time, especially when you have little littles. Yet, that pressure transforms a simple hunk of coal into a strong, precious and beautiful diamond. Simply through the transformational power of pressure. Swami Satsangi-ji of Rikhiapeeth has also said that sometimes all one needs to do in life to evolve is endure.
We are not really talking about changing ourselves. When it comes to the hard barrier of the ego, when it undergoes tremendous pressure and difficulty from all sides and becomes totally frustrated and completely exhausted, it is at that moment that it throws its hands up in the air and surrenders. And with that surrender, there comes a great softening and openness. And with that softening and openness, we do not so much change who we are through hard work and so on (after all, the qualities of the heart are already within us, we only need to connect with them), but our perception, understanding and expression naturally tend to shift into the realm of the heart. From the suffering of the ego, into the softness of the heart.
Recently, having been home so much with my 3 and 1 year olds over this past pandemic year, whilst also trying to work a new job from a noisy and more-than-often-interrupted home office, on top of running the household with my partner, I had been starting to feel that immense pressure, fatigue, and frustration to the point where I knew that if I did not figure out how to deal with it in a more positive and Yogic way, that it could have a negative impact on my physical, mental and emotional health. So, being the Yoga aspirant that I am, I took time to stop. I just stopped. I rested. I reflected. I re-focused. And I let the kids watch a lot of TV while I did it.
In Yoga, there is a saying, "There is no noise in the marketplace, and no peace in the Himalayas. Both are within you." I thought about this a lot and what it meant for me and how to apply it in a practical way. I couldn't really do much to change my circumstances, they are what they are right now without a lot of wiggle room. However, something could shift within me. And then I remembered a seemingly minor incident that occurred while I was in the ashram during those 3 years of study.
I had been rushing off from one karma yoga activity to another, as I often was. I was literally running to try to get there on time. Somehow, I tripped when I was stepping up onto the curb from the road, stubbed my toe really, really hard taking a decent chunk of skin off, and fell. I looked to my right (feeling a little embarrassed and kind of hoping nobody was watching), and who was standing there witnessing the entire incident unfold was my Guru, Swami Niranjan-ji. Without saying a word, the message was crystal clear, "slow down. don't run." I have even heard Swamiji say before that, if you end up being late somewhere, better to arrive late and relaxed than to arrive on time and frazzled.
This incident suddenly felt so incredibly relevant. As a parent, I constantly find myself rushing all over again. Rushing from putting out one fire to the next, rushing from tidying this spot to the next, rushing from this appointment to the next, rushing to help manage the big emotions of my two toddlers, rushing to make meals and get everyone bathed, brushed and to bed, and then rushed to get everyone up, dressed, diapered and on time for preschool. Rushing, rushing, rushing.
In our tradition of yoga, it is often said that the speed with which you practice the asana does not impact the quality of awareness, meaning that the faster you go, you do not have to become less aware. Likewise, in parenthood, there is a lot to do all the time. We cannot always stop. Sometimes we may need to for a moment, but then we have to keep going again. So, how do we slow down inside and connect with this inner peace and stay there while there continue to be so many simultaneous demands on our attention, bodies, minds, and emotions as parents.
I feel that it starts with a choice. A choice to prioritize my inner peace and happiness. And then, when I feel the coil inside me beginning to wind tighter and tighter, I remember. I remember my inner priority. I breathe through the tension, and breathe the tension away. I choose peace. I unravel my inner coil before it winds tighter. I remind myself that, while this moment is intense, everything is usually pretty okay in general. And I choose peace. I accept the limitations of the moment, and the limitations of myself. I let go of how I thought things should be, or how I wanted them to be. I focus my mind, my attention, my eyes and my ears on what I need to do externally the best I reasonably can without becoming angry or judging myself that I could not do it better. I slow down inside. I let go of the thoughts that begin to sprout in all directions, and let the resulting emotions rise and fall away. I do what I need to do, inside and out. Sometimes I fail. But, then I just try again. Just like I teach my kids to do.
Sannyasi Gyanhira is a Board Member of the Living Yoga Society. She has spent over 3 years studying in Ashram with her Guru Swami Niranjanananda and now resides in Vancouver BC. Sn Gyanhira is mother to two blessed, happy, and energetic little boys, ages 1 and 3 years old and in 2017, founded a small business called CommUnity Maternity Shop. On the website of this shop, Gyanhira creates a blog called the Yoga of Motherhood Blog where she writes about the naturally yogic nature and sadhanas of motherhood.
In Yoga there is a fundamental belief that the Divine/Universe, is always bringing itself back into balance, union or Yog. It is the ultimate expression of the oscillation of our dualistic reality. Negative, Positive — Transcend. One extreme — another extreme: peace, happiness, contentment.
Limbo, or the “unknown,” has never been an easy place for humans to sit. We like certainty and control (albeit perceived), solidity, routine, things we can ‘count on’ to ‘make us’ feel calm. In times like right now, the whole world has been thrown into a space of uncertainty. The most accurate words that are coming out of anyone’s mouth at this moment are “we don’t know” and this is not a comfortable place for people to sit. Now bare with me - this is a necessary space to sit.
As Yogis, we go out of our way to actively create uncomfortableness where we stimulate and push our consciousness into opportunities for transformation. We call it Tapasya. This is a mix of austerity, sacrifice, discipline and uncertainty. Uncertainty is important, because when we engage in a Sadhana that is pushing us to our mental, emotional and physical limits we just don’t know if our efforts through the practices of Yoga (eg. Mantra, Havan, Asana, etc) are going to be successful. We just don’t know. We don’t know if all the uncomfortableness is going to bring us into the experience of more peace, more clarity, more Love. We don’t know and we learn to be ok with not knowing.
Being ok with not knowing is also called a state of Faith. Faith that every little effort we make, with the intention of stepping into health, balance and evolution in mind, will collectively, and eventually, create an outcome that is good for us. That doesn’t mean an outcome that is necessary pleasant, easy, or enjoyable but an outcome that will ultimately bring us into a more optimal state of balance, of Yog, than we were before.
Dare I say it, it will bring us closer to living our fullest potential.
The thing is, the more out-of-balance we are, the more these out-of-the-norm, out-of-our-control experiences hit us hard. If you are attached to having a screaming hot shower, then to have a cold one becomes is a big leap. But if you live a (Yogic) life where you are aspiring for nonattachement - balance at every turn, then a cold shower is a mild (mental) inconvenience only a step away from the tepid norm.
The key is to SLOW DOWN and WITNESS. Witness ourselves as the media ramps up its hysteria machine. Witness your mind in its balance between making sure that you are doing your due diligence for your own safety, but balancing that with making sure that others around you and in your community are also taken care of. It's easy to slide into the mass consciousness of fear and anxiety and that can quickly fester into self-preservation. But self-preservation has never been the point of life, for the simple fact is that we will all die. LOVE has, and will always be, the point of life.
It is not a coincidence that Covid-19 is centred around the purification of the lungs and heart centre. Anahata Chakra (heart space) holds Love, but it also holds attachment, and grief. It is these frequencies of mind and emotion that it is trying to recalibrate. And it is also no surprise that the greater ripple of this is creating economic instability for two reasons:
1) Anahata is the foundation of the 5th Dimension and that mirrors Mooladhara which is the foundation of the 3rd Dimension - which is the home of money and physical stability. These things are going to be rocked to their core — because they need to be.
2) Our whole collective-consumeristic-society is based on attachment. Mine and Yours. “I need more to feel good and feel safe and I’m attached to those things, because if I don’t have them anymore my emotional and mental well-being, ‘my world,’ will collapse.”
And this, my friends, is our opportunity - To see where we are out of balance in our attachment and to see where the past (grief) is still influencing our decisions for our present and our future.
I believe that virus’ such as Covid-19 are a reality to help us come into balance. And anything that helps us come into balance is ultimately helping us step into our fullest potential as humans. Now is the time to step up, to love, to help each other, to listen deeply to your soul, to let go of what you want, and focus on what you need. From 'Niwas, we are all sending blessings & mantras to you and to those who are suffering and experiencing loss.
May this time be a softening, of expansion and of deep connection with yourSelf and those around you.
Om and Prem.
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