I’ve been a mom for 8 months long enough to know that waking up with a cranky baby means long day ahead. She was beside herself. Meanwhile, my mind continued to monkey around. What could possibly be this upsetting when you aren’t even 250 days old?
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Sometimes life brings you lemons.
Between the growing pains of parenthood and an unexpected job change, my partner and I decided it was time to make some lemonade. We packed up the car and headed out on the road for a 10 day camping trip–2 month old in tow.
John Muir said, “Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
Whether it’s pregnancy, adjusting to a newborn child, a significant job change, or something else life changes both big and small have a way of challenging stability. They quickly provoke concerns surrounding the mundane minutiae of daily living which can feel sometimes like your succumbing to shallow waters rather than staying connected to the deeper abyss of the Self and your life’s purpose. From the, “how will we make ends meet?” to, “why is she crying again?” or,“where is the diaper bag?” and, “when will I have some time for myself?”, there is this overwhelming rush of superficial unknowns that can become dispiriting, deflating, and even manifest as sickness and dis-ease in mind and body if given enough time.
There is a relatively new form of therapy, ecotherapy, based on the hypothesis that many of our health issues as a society including depression, anxiety, and stress are due in part to our alienation from nature. Some statistics suggest that the average American spends 90 percent of their days indoors. In times of stress, this can become even further inflated. The term,”biophilia”, meaning the attraction one has to the living or living systems, is the study of our natural desire to connect with living things and continues to reveal that even a brief period of time in their presence–such as a walk outdoors or a few minutes basking in the sun–can positively impact our health and wellbeing.
Far before such terms, statistics, theories, and the advocacy of nature’s preservation by John Muir, humans have had an affinity towards nature and have relied on it for healing. Thinkers have retreated there for clarity, artists have turned to it for inspiration, physicians have scoured it for remedies. With origins that date back to 5,000 BCE, Ayurveda has been subscribed to for centuries as a life science emphasizing the use of plant-based therapies to achieve balance in being. These practices are founded on the belief that our bodily vessels house the soul of all that is, and from gross to subtle everything is made up of the same elemental constituents. As stated in ancient Vedic scripture, “As is the atom, so is the universe. As is the human body, so is the cosmic body. As is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.”
Nature helps us nurture our interconnectedness. It awakens a sense of responsibility to our part of the whole. When change happens and our size and depth and stability are challenged, it has a way of broadening our purview and reminding us we are much bigger. It helps us effortlessly reconnect with the feeling of being alive.
From the towering sequoias to the gaping canyons, from sandy shores to mountainous peaks, it’s evident after only a short time in the wilderness that nature–despite its vulnerability to environmental extremes–has a deliberate preservation of equilibrium and inherent intention to exist harmoniously. To observe this while it so gracefully embraces impermanence does indeed offer insight, inspiration, and is a remedy in itself.
Our human nature too is one of homeostasis. Although we may not always feel in balance, the natural world is a reminder of all that we are capable of, naturally, in the world within. As we continue to experience life and its fluctuations may we lean outward long enough to feel empowered inward to root, grow, bend, evolve, and endure it all with a rejuvenated spirit of capability.
I’d say the lemonade turned out pretty great this time around.
As the one month mark of motherhood quickly approaches, one word comes to mind in particular: humbled.
My loving partner tells me I’m beautiful which is not the first word that comes to mind as I look in the mirror at my postpartum body dressed in spit-up soaked sweats that I’ve been wearing since Sunday, blemished face adjusting to hormones and parenthood, hair that looks like it hasn’t seen seen a brush or a pair of scissors in months, the list feels endless–as any new mother surely can empathize.
The collision of disruptive sleep [at best], sore breasts and body, energy deprivation, a haphazard diet, and sedentary lifestyle sans asana has proven to be a sobering one. I find myself questioning, “Is this what they mean by, ‘letting yourself go‘?!” Then reality answers; with a child solely dependent on your love and care for survival, you inevitably haveto let some things go.
C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
Truth. Entry into motherhood has been a sincere invitation into a selflessness that I’ve never known. Sure, I’ve done for others and sacrificed my own wants and needs for the greater good but let’s be honest–nothing like this. There is though something strangely validating and inspiring in knowing this being that you co-created is dependent on your ability to put yourself aside. I’ve begun to recognize this as both the underlying challenge, and the ultimate gift of being a parent. I’m thankful for the opportunity to think of myself less, to put someone else’s existence before mine, and the challenge that comes with that in not thinking less of myself through the process.
There is a quote in the Bhagavad Gita that reads, “Yoga is skill in karma.”
Karma, a way of acting, thinking, and doing by which one aligns with self-realization by acting in accordance with one’s duty (dharma) without consideration of personal self-centered desires, likes, and dislikes. The karma of being a mother is a reminder that beneath the clothes, and the skin, and the hair, and all the exterior forces that draw us outward, there is indeed a beautiful self unfolding on the interior through the selfless service of caring for your child.
And so, as I return to exploring the stretch and strengthening that comes with nursing, laundering, diapering and the like I bow, humbly, to my 25 day-old teacher. What a different yet deepening yoga practice it’s been so far.
On this particular Pi Day, a celebratory occasion honoring the mathematical constant that never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern, we honor irrationality.
What does it mean to be irrational, and why do we glorify it?
Perhaps because we can relate to it. As Dan Ariely, author of “The Upside of Irrationality” said, “When it comes to our motivations, we are less like hyper-rational Mr. Spock and more like the fallible, myopic, vindictive, emotional, biased Homer Simpson.”
Which leads me to the rainbow sprinkles. As a Registered Dietitian and a mindful yogi–particularly around the choices I make about nourishing my body–I found myself needing rainbow sprinkles this week. Before a 7:30 PM appointment my partner and I decided to venture out to the local grocer located in the opposite direction of our appointment at 6:45 PM, in hopes to get there before they closed at 7 PM. After successfully acquiring the sprinkles and completing the appointment, we then ventured to a local creamery where we grabbed a couple of scoops to go, and headed home (because the gluten-free ice cream cones were not available at the creamery, only in our pantry.) What comes after that was just a half-melted, successfully sprinkled, non-nutrient dense but absolutely delicious example of complete irrationality.
It is in our human nature to behave irrationally: thinking, talking, and acting without being reasonable. There is no doubt that the amount of non-optimal decisions we make far outweigh those that are optimal. Of course I am aware that the sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, corn starch, corn syrup, red 40, yellow 5, blue 1, and soy lecithin are not ideal for my health. Of course I am aware that going the wrong way in rush hour traffic 30 minutes before an appointment to get sprinkles probably isn’t the most logical decision. Of course I am aware of the juxtaposition of putting said ingredients in a “gluten-free” 12 calorie cone. Still, the sprinkles won.
Whatever kind of “sprinkles” you are enabling in your day-to-day, it’s important to note that we all behave unreasonably at times, and acknowledge what’s been proven psychologically impactful and essential to the learning process: a willingness to be wrong. As it turns out understanding cognitive biases and irrational tendencies along with a willingness to misstep are incredibly crucial components of learning.
Perhaps our insensibilities are not so insensible after all.
On this day of veneration for 3.14159265359…remember that you too are immeasurable, non-duplicative, and in fact, an irrational expansion. Celebrate every step. Let your life and decisions be your teacher. Embrace every new direction–even the most ridiculous ones–that are unquestionably capable of facilitating growth beyond your boundaries.