All of us have profound, often tangled, deep, and complex connections to mothers, whether we like it or not. Our relationship to our mothers is a core issue that all people interested in the spiritual journey, in living more consciously come across, sooner, rather than later! We all had a mother, we all have them as friends, and many of us are mothers ourselves. Some of us, see the picture to the right, have been or are still are ‘Mothers in the Middle,‘ in relationship both with our own parents, and dealing with the inexorable changes that come with aging, and at the same time we’re also challenged and gifted by the relationships to our children.”What’s a Mother?” is an essay in BECOMING that addresses the issue of what being a mother actually means, how it feels, smells, sounds, resides in our body…to two people connected to the same mother πŸ™‚ My grown son Martin and I had a conversation one fine summer day that began with some consternation and confusion, and ended with warmth and deepening connections. I began by saying, “I’m so glad I don’t have to be your mother anymore.” Martin looked puzzled and a bit alarmed, and returned, “But I want you to be my mother. Don’t say that!” We were obviously on different pages, and maybe even reading different books!

At the time I was taking conflict resolution training, and one of the skills that were touted was to ask open questions — to help put ourselves into the other person’s shoes, to get a feel for their experience. And happily, in that moment of puzzlement and disconnect, I thought to explore what ‘mother’ meant to each of us.

For me the associations with ‘mother’ included joy and wonder, love and caring — yes, for sure — but, as a mother in the middle, I was still painfully in touch with the tinges of criticism that I had felt from my mother, her expectations… Add to that my recollection of wakeful nights, aching and wondering what was best for my children, my having expectations and hopes for their well-being, but not wanting to lay my views and values too heavily on them… So it was a very mixed bag, and I was pleased to be moving beyond that push-pull of parental responsibility to a cleaner adult connection, more like being friends, connecting in a more equal way.

And it was a pleasant and illuminating surprise to hear Martin’s associations — the set of experiences and feelings about what ‘mother’ meant to him… They are recounted on pages 92-94, if you’d like to see! Each child will be different, of course, but that day opened up wide worlds for Martin and me.

Do these musings wake some ‘mother’ recollections, maybe challenges, in your own life? Perhaps you might like to reflect on your own experiences: What does the word ‘mother’ mean to you? What do you think it meant(means) to your mother? If you were to have a real or imaginary conversation with your mother about what mothering meant, what would you like to say? You might even try this, using two chairs. When you sit in one chair, speak for yourself, and then move to the other, and speak as you think your mother might speak. When each mother feels complete, has said what is important to her, see what new information emerged.

Now that I am no longer ‘mother in the middle,’ but the nearly the oldest of the mothers in my extended family, I am relishing being a grandmother, which one of our friends calls ‘recreational parenting.’ πŸ™‚ It is fascinating to dialogue with the mothers in my life about their views, their values, their challenges, their considerations. There is so much to read these days, so many suggestions, admonitions, perspectives to consider… It can be quite daunting.

In this regard, a new book on parenting has just come out that I would love to have had as a resource back then. It’s called: A guide to raising spiritually conscious family, by Annie Burnside. One reviewer has called Annie “the Eckhart Tolle of parenting”! πŸ™‚ Annie brings into focus an vital dimension of conscious parenting, and her book is a gift to parents, children, and grandparents alike.

Apropos both of being in the middle, and wanting to raise a spiritually conscious family, here is a quote from Pema Chodron, a respected and beloved Buddhist teacher:

“We are told about the pain of chasing after pleasure and the futility of running from pain. We hear also about the joy of awakening, of realizing our interconnectedness, of trusting the openness of our hearts and minds. But we aren’t told all that much about this state of being in-between, no longer able to get our old comfort from the outside but not yet dwelling in a continual sense of equanimity and warmth.

Anxiety, heartbreak, and tenderness mark the in-between state. It’s the kind of place we usually want to avoid. The challenge is to stay in the middle rather than buy into struggle and complaint. The challenge is to let it soften us rather than make us more rigid and afraid. Becoming intimate with the queasy feeling of being in the middle of nowhere only makes our hearts more tender. When we are brave enough to stay in the middle, compassion arises spontaneously. By not knowing, not hoping to know, and not acting like we know what’s happening, we begin to access our inner strength.

Yet it seems reasonable to want some kind of relief. If we can make the situation right or wrong, if we can pin it down in any way, then we are on familiar ground. But something has shaken our habitual patterns and frequently they no longer work. Staying with volatile energy gradually becomes more comfortable than acting it out or repressing it….Staying with it is what heals. It allows us to let go of our self-importance. It’s how the warrior learns to love.”

If this resonates, have a look at some of her books. You might want to start with Start Where You Are!

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