Letting Go – The Art of Mothering
A couple of weekends ago I went to a festival called Shakti Fest, which was to honor the divine mother in all of us. It was three days of yoga practices, clean, organic food and lots of singing. No matter what tradition you come from, religious or secular, I think we can all honor the fact that mothers and the energy of mothering deserves special recognition in this world. It is our mothers who form us, love us, guide us and hold us in their hearts for all of their lives. This energy can also be expressed by a man or woman, whether or not the individual has ever had a child. The concept of mothering in general brings about thoughts of love, compassion, generosity and a spirit of care taking.
And so it was at Shakti fest that I found myself reconnecting to myself as a mother. The interesting thing is that for me, I am entering into a new mothering phase. My children are practically grown up now and I have been struggling with letting them go and redefining who I am as a mother. The process of defining the mother in me, even at this stage, has many parallels with how I felt when I was beginning my journey as a mother nearly two decades ago. Every phase of our lives we must become mindful of who we are, what we want the new journey will look like, and what we can bring to the journey. I remember feeling ill equipped to mother when I was pregnant, both times. Each time I had to talk to the little one inside me, and draw on my connection to them in order to find my rightful place as mother. The more I connected to them, the more that mothering just became who I was. I KNEW the role of mothering, because they were intrinsically tied to me and guided me through the process.
Yet, there I was, celebrating the mother, and my children were leaving home. Who was I now? Being mother’s day weekend, it was especially profound for me to me to celebrating this weekend with my girlfriends and to be far away from my children for the first time ever on a mother’s day. I was missing them most intensely, and also struggling with my mothering metamorphosis. I was no longer the mother of babies, toddlers, small children, young children, preteens, or even just teens. I was the mother of fully-fledged young men who had their own lives and were ready to begin forging the world on their own. This had been causing me angst. As much as I was glad they had survived my mothering and made it to this stage in life, I was still hanging on, unable to let them go and even more so, unable to let go of my traditional role as mother.
At one point, I had an opportunity to a take a workshop on BhaktiNova dance with Nubia Teixeira. I went by myself, as my girlfriends were interested in another yoga class. It was going to be about a Brazilian dance to honor the goddess of the oceans, Yemanja. I had never heard of this mythology before so I was fascinated.
As I entered the workshop, alone, without my girlfriends, I felt the intensity of that loneliness. I think I have felt this feeling at many stages of mothering. I remember feeling this lonely when I first became pregnant and it seemed to me that even though there were pregnant women everywhere, no one could possible understand what I was going through, how different my babies felt in my body. I would try and relay that to my friends but they would change the subject and talk about baby showers and other topics that were entirely meaningless to me. I wanted a partner in my loneliness. I also remember this feeling of loneliness when my youngest son walked the bridge for his preschool graduation and I was the only mother sobbing, grieving for the little boy who was gone, yet honoring the kindergartner smiling at me. I felt loneliness flow through me when I watched my son graduate and first go to his friends after tossing his hat in the air instead of his mom. As joyful as I was for his new life and adventure, I felt the need to let go weighing on me. I felt all of these feelings at once, and then Nubia started dancing.
Nubia showed us how to always first offer thanks for the dance.
It struck me that I should be in gratitude for the mere opportunity to mother my children. As I offered up thanks for the dance, I said a silent prayer of gratitude for my children.
We then began to move. Every movement of our hands, our hips, and out hearts meant something. I found myself completely immersed in the dance. It was then time to honor Yemanja, the ocean goddess. You become Yamnaja as you dance. You start by circling the breasts, to honor her ability to feed and nourish, and then you honor the big belly as you grow your child. I was grooving on this, as I am a childbirth educator, doula and lactation consultant. Connecting to the fertile, nourishing part of ourselves as women has always been something I loved. Next we cradled our babies in our arms and looked at their beautiful faces. Next came the complete shock to my system, we set our babies on the waves of the ocean and not only let them drift away, we encouraged the ocean to take our babies and make the waves stronger. As I danced, I realized I had tears coursing down cheeks. I was quietly sobbing as I visualized letting go of my babies and allowing them to do the work that they were set on this earth to do. We then danced as the waves and came to stillness. It was the movement of the dance, and the ritual of honoring Yemanja that allowed me to see for the first time that in letting go, I was nourishing the cycle of life. Yemanja would have many more babies, just as I would give birth to many more projects to mother. Letting my babies, my grown men, go was a part of life and it was not only my duty to let go, it was my honor.
No matter where we are in our mothering cycle, letting go of who we once were allows us to fully step into the journey. It gives us the ability to be present without restrictions. Letting go allows you to be free. That weekend I learned that letting go, is just more way we practice the art of mothering.
In the spirit of the motherbaby bond,