I have been thinking back, recently, to when my children were babies. They were so soft and sweet and warm. Babies are just so physically wonderful, they’re impossible to resist. But babies can also stir up some difficult feelings, especially for new mothers. I believe this is because babies are absolutely and completely in the present moment. Babies don’t dwell on the past or have any concept of future. They only have this moment, which is actually all any of us have. As the mind develops, we begin to think about the past and the future, by the time we are adults, many of us are almost never in the present moment, we are always too busy thinking about the past or future.
Babies are still and present, meaning they are absolutely immersed and aware of what they are experiencing here and now. As such, they call out the presence in us. Babies require stillness, patience and allowing. Babies need us to allow them to be, in a way that doesn’t adhere to clock time, getting things done or accomplishment. They don’t care about logic or reason or justice. They need warm arms, sweet milk, rocking and rhythm. They need loving gazes, soft heartbeats and gentle breathing. These are not things that are valued in our culture and so often, it is difficult for mothers to surrender to the gentle rhythm of baby time.
We are so used to doing, to getting things done, that we have forgotten how to simply be. We have been taught to suppress our needs and emotions. One of the ways we do this is by running around doing things. If you don’t believe you do this, I challenge you to do an experiment: Set an alarm on your phone for 9 am, 12 pm, 3 pm and 6 pm. When the alarm rings, check to see how you are feeling and ask yourself if you have a need in that moment that is not being met.[i] Ask yourself how you are feeling. When I tried this, I was shocked at how often I was dwelling in a state of low level anxiety, at how often I could not describe my emotion as a positive one and sometimes I couldn’t identify any feeling other than okay or not okay.
Babies, since they have not yet developed intellect, are absolutely in a state of being. Eckhart Tolle says “Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgements and definitions that blocks all true relationship.”[ii] Since babies depend on their relationship with us to survive, they call us into the state of being. We are so used to identifying with our mind, that it is difficult to surrender in to being. “…Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally.”[iii]
Sometimes I read articles by mothers who have been able, at moments, to surrender to the sweetness of being with their babies. They describe a feeling of deep peace and love that comes over them, often during one of those deep night feedings, the ones so many of us are in a rush to leave behind. In the quiet hours, these mothers are able to let go of their expectation of sleep, the inconvenience of it all, their just plain exhaustion, and discover a plush, enveloping peacefulness that lies beyond their desire for order.
For me, I was just so full of anxiety about whether I was doing it “right” that I never fully experienced this beautiful state, especially with my first child. Looking back, there were moments where I did just let go, stopped thinking and allowed my children’s beauty, warmth and scent to draw me into presence with them. I wish I had known back then, that this is really the essence of motherhood. I wish I had put down the books, let go of the fears and just allowed myself to be deeply in relationship with them. I am grateful for the brief moments that I was able to experience this soft, warm love. And it’s never too late. I still look for moments that I can do this. But often, I’m just too impatient, have things I want to get done, have things on my mind, and I miss so many moments. But there’s always another one. There’s always another chance to begin anew, to come into the here and now. Even with my oldest son, (he’s 27) I still find the odd moment where I can enter into presence with him.
So give it a try. Maybe when you’re feeding your baby, or lying down with your toddler (or 10 year old!). Just give in to their warm, little bodies, their delicious scent. Forget about all the things you need to get done. Set aside your worries, (they’ll be there later) and just come into the moment. Words don’t do it justice. It’s something that must be experienced to understand. When you do, you may grieve for all the missed moments, and that’s okay. Remember, there’s always another moment. Let go of the failures and focus on the times you are able to let go into this presence, this love.
[i] What We Say Matters
[ii] Practicing the Power of Now p.17
[iii] Practicing the Power of Now p.16