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On Being Mindful

January 9, 2017

As my husband and I prepare for the arrival of our baby girl this coming spring, I am reflecting quite a bit on becoming a mother. It stirs up a boatload of emotions from joy and exhilaration to fear and anticipation; curiosity and amusement and periodic doses of intense disbelief. My rising belly and the glory and wonder of her spontaneous movements, the chronic heartburn and indigestion and the fact that my jeans no longer fit, are all testament to the undeniable reality of her pending arrival. With every week that goes by, knowing she has grown just a little stronger and more resilient, I am overcome with fresh waves of relief and gratitude. But despite these daily reminders of the new life growing inside of me, I still find myself fascinated by the miracle of her conception. And I cannot help but wonder if this is all just a dream. There are bittersweet moments when I say to myself, I cannot believe I nearly missed this. I cannot imagine never having this chance. And then I remember to thank all the forces that helped me to get here. God. The universe. My wonderful husband. My body. I reflect back on my relentless courage and faith and years of perseverance, and I remember to also thank myself.

My emerging motherhood is the culmination of a long and painful journey, one I am grateful to have experienced because it brought me here today. And right here, right now, is exactly where I am meant to be. There is no place on earth I would rather be. Several years ago when my husband and I traveled to Florida to visit my grandma at the senior living facility where she spent the final decade of her life, we enjoyed a late night cocktail at an open air restaurant on a warm, balmy night under a star filled sky. There was a reggae singer performing that night; an older man with long weathered dreadlocks and dark, soulful eyes. I shared with him my regret that we arrived so late in the evening and therefore missed his earlier songs. This was a metaphor for my feelings about my very new marriage at the time. I was saddened by the fact that my husband and I did not find each other much earlier in life.

We had a number of conversations during our first several months together when we speculated on where we might be in our lives today, had our paths crossed much sooner. I imagined we would have 2 or 3 beautiful children by now, and a lifetime of memories to share. I pushed away thoughts that reminded me of our ripe middle age and all the “firsts” we would never get to share together. And I dreaded the thought that our time left on this journey is limited, due to our age and the passage of time. My mother likes to refer to the moment when my husband and I met as serendipitous. I consider it a stroke of really good luck that came our way just in the nick of time.

Getting back to that balmy night in Florida when we sat sipping our late night cocktails under a star filled sky, the wise reggae singer with soulful eyes took my breath away with a single sentence. You were not meant to be here any earlier, he said, with a clarity and conviction that sent shivers down my spine. And from that moment on, whenever those old feelings of loss and regret threaten to creep back in and remind me that my life veered off course for a long while, that I was hijacked by circumstance, that I was distracted and derailed from so many important milestones and dreams, I am able to ground myself in a deep sense of knowing. I was not meant to be here any earlier. I am exactly where I am meant to be.

As I embark on a brand new season in my life as a woman, the season of motherhood, I am keenly aware that every moment counts. A dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful book recently called True Love, A Practice for Awakening the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book suggests that a state of mindfulness, or deep connection to the present moment, frees us up to practice the act of self love, which in turn deepens our capacity to love others from a place of freedom, joy and authenticity. In the absence of mindfulness, we tend to miss what is most important. We lose our connection to the here and now.

A number of years ago when I was mired in emotional turmoil in the midst of divorce, I attended a Buddhist meditation circle and I will never forget the words of the wise young Rinpoche. In the midst of a death meditation he stated, death is a certain thing. It is only the timing that remains uncertain. This undeniable truth has helped me through countless difficult moments. We never know when our time here is up. We must celebrate the gift of each and every moment. And if we remain stuck in the past, pondering what should have been, or in the future, contemplating what might still be, we lose our connection to the present. And the present is the only place we can ever hope to live authentically, from a place of freedom and joy.

What type of mother do I aspire to be? The answer is simple. Above all else, I aspire to be a mother who lives right here, in the present moment. A mother who is mindful. My journey has taught me that time is fleeting and life is short. I spent a good part of my life aching over lost experiences and opportunities and weaving colorful tapestries of future fantasies and dreams. When the sunset was in front of me, I longed for the sunrise. When the tides inevitably shifted, I raced for the shore. As I approach the final chapter of my 4th decade of life, a chapter that will finally deliver me a child, I am dedicated to the practice of mindful connection. It is far more difficult than it seems, but well worth the effort.

When my daughter finally arrives, I want to really see her as the truly unique, one of a kind person I know she will be . When she makes a mess of things, I want to find beauty in her chaos. When she colors outside of the lines, I want to celebrate her fantastically flawed humanity. When she challenges my patience, I want to remember how many years I waited for her and how quickly she will grow up and leave the nest, like sand slipping through my fingers. And when she comes to me in sadness, I want to help her explore her pain and learn from the struggles rather than immediately trying to fix it or push it away.

I know I will mess up on all of these things, but I will never stop trying. And I realize that before I can be these things for my daughter or my husband or anyone else, I first  must be them for myself. It all starts with self love and connection to the present and the ability to find peace and stillness within. It is a work in progress and a lifelong practice; a practice that reminds me to stop and breathe. After all, what is the rush anyway? It is the present moment that counts, and the present moment is a gift worth experiencing. When I feel myself slipping backwards to old thought patterns and self destructive beliefs, I pause to remember the words of the reggae singer with the soulful eyes. I was not meant to be here any earlier. I am exactly where I am meant to be.

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