Profound Spiritual Teachings from a Teeny Tiny Guru


Rosei & mama b&wTales of a Traveling Yogini no longer feels apt. On my second lunarversary of motherhood I’m thinking to strike a line through that blog title and replace it with Profound Spiritual Teachings from a Teeny Tiny Guru. Watch this space. Meanwhile, Chapter One is about containment. And it starts with a little story…

When my daughter Rosie, now 2 months, was just 3 weeks old, I got a visit from our local Child & Family Health Nurse. She weighed & measured Rosie and then we sat down to talk about how it was all going. Rosie had been really engaged with her during this time, making eye contact and ‘talking’ in the way that babies do, but then pretty quickly she was grizzly and unsettled.

I went to put her on my boob so I could concentrate, but Helen the visiting nurse very gently suggested that maybe she wasn’t hungry, or windy, but that maybe she was getting tired.

Most little babies need some help to go to sleep, and if accidentally or otherwise overstimulated at that time will very quickly get ratty and upset, often flailing their little arms about and kicking their legs, fighting against the very thing they need most.

Helen asked me had I been swaddling Rosie? I said not really, that I didn’t think she liked having her arms restricted like that. She asked me to bring her a big muslin cloth, and then wrapped her up as snug as can be with her arms tucked in, and handed her back, telling me to hold her quite firmly to my chest, and sing or sway as I normally would when trying to get her to sleep.

She wriggled and squirmed, and fought against the restriction, but, soon after, she fell fast asleep. It worked.

I noticed something that day about the child in myself, the child in all of us. A lightbulb went on. As I learned how to better parent my daughter I learned how to better parent myself. I noticed these three things:

1) A child needs containment.
2) They probably won’t like it at first.
3) Creating that container for them is an act of love.

As Rosie flapped and flailed against the bliss of sleep, I saw myself and how much energy I too have wasted in flapping & flailing against the things that are truly good for me.

I might have outgrown my swaddle, but, as with most adults, there are parts of my emotional self that are still quite immature. I want what I want and I want it now, and I fight against anything that appears to restrict that. Blinded by my attachments sometimes I fail to see the bigger picture, and the deeper happiness that trust and surrender bring.

I often hear myself saying, “Just trust me Rosie, trust Mum” because I know that actually I do know better. It’s so obvious that she’s exhausted and will be so much happier after a good sleep. But I have to laugh at the irony of that because trusting was never my strong point.

Rarely did I trust my own mother. I was the kid who stuck the knife in the toaster just to see if what they said was true.

It was.

And now here I am on this thing we call the Spiritual Path. A kind of swaddle suit for grown ups, it’s all about restriction (as well as joy and bliss and happiness). The very fact that there’s a path at all implies that if you wander off then you might just fall into a great big hole. Like the Good Parent, it’s there for our safety, the safety of our Soul.

Parenting is my Spiritual Path these days, and it seems it’s all about restriction too (as well as joy and bliss and happiness). When I feel like moving I’m forced to be still, pinned to the couch by a teeny tiny being with an insatiable thirst for breast milk. Then when I’m longing to be still, or at the very least to sit down, she demands that I walk, and bounce, and sing, for hours on end sometimes in the elusive quest for deep sleep.

My freedom no longer lies in being able to do what I want, but in choosing to want to do what I’m actually doing.

And it seems that not being able to do what I want is making me a better person. It’s saving me from myself.

By grace, I have now become the Parent, the Authority Figure, the Teacher, and the Container that I so often resisted. But because I know what’s in my heart then I also know the extraordinary love that lies behind the seemingly mean holding in of flailing arms, the avoidance of eye contact when she wants to flirt instead of sleep, and soon no doubt the ‘no’s’ that I’ll say when she wants a third bowl of icecream.

The love of a mother knows no bounds, and so my Divine Mother must love me like that too. Even when She seems cruel at first, it’s only and ever Love that saves us from the worst in ourselves.

Om Namo Narayani

“God be with the mother. As she carried her child may she carry her soul. As her child was born, may she give birth and life and form to her own, higher truth. As she nourished and protected her child, may she nourish and protect her inner life and her independence. For her soul shall be her most painful birth, her most difficult child, and the dearest sister to her other children. Amen.”         ~ Michael Leunig