Do your practice, all is coming. ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Increase your sweet practice. Your practice will benefit you at another time; someday your need will suddenly be fulfilled. ~ Rumi (from "The Guest House")
The motto of The Samarya Center's teacher training is "Teach from the Heart, Teach what You Know." I believe that whenever we teach from this place of authenticity and experience, we offer the gift of our own challenges and joys to illuminate some of the more hidden aspects of our spiritual practice. Our practice then, becomes something living and practical, rather than simply a study of philosophy, or a lofty idea. It is in this spirit that I sometimes feel that the Universe is speaking to me, through me, pushing me through trying times so that I might offer some bit of wisdom or contemplation to my community.
Over the past several months, the Universe has been preparing me for the topic of Santosha, contentment. It has offered me multiple opportunities to reflect, to desire, to be disappointed, to be optimistic, to be in love and to be humbled. During this time in my life, more than ever, I have been grateful for Santosha, and in particular, for my longtime spiritual practice. I know that it is my practice that has allowed me to come through all of these wildlyvacillating and rapidly changing emotional states with an intact soul, a joyous heart, and a deep gratitude for the mystery of life.
The journey to parenthood has been challenging to say the least. It has been well over a year of a constantly evolving emotional landscape and a reorganizing of heart, mind and body. After losing a pregnancy last year, my beloved husband Sasha and I moved on to our original plan A: adoption. Adoption had been our intention when we first were together, but over time, that intention turned into a desire to have our own biological child. It was not so difficult then, to decide that adoption was truly our path. We started asking people about it, researching it, going to informational meetings and generally getting excited at the idea that there was some little person out there that we didn't know and who didn't know us, but that would come into our lives and forever change us and them. Then, as it seems to often happen, in the midst of this, we discovered we were pregnant again. With the first pregnancy, it was all excitement and openness and adventure. With this second one, we leaned towards stoicism and reservation. We hardly talked about it at all, and didn't even tell our families until we had passed the timeframe that we thought was most fragile.
While visiting my parents in Canada recently, we finally began to settle into the idea that this was really going to happen. My parents were supportive, comforting and fun. They were optimistic and joyous when we felt good, and encouraging and understanding during the times when I felt down. Quite honestly, it was hard for me to believe in the pregnancy, having had only one other experience with it, which didn't turn out how I wanted.
One night when I was feeling especially unsettled, I was sitting with Sasha on the lake, looking at the seemingly infinite array of constellations and shooting stars. I turned to him and said, "I'm really scared, and glad to be here with my mom and dad. It's like I'm a little kid, believing that when I'm with my parents, nothing can go wrong, that everything is going to be OK." Sasha, in his wisdom, responded, "Or maybe, when you are with your mom and dad, you just know everything is going to be OK, no matter what happens." Santosha. That deep feeling of being OK, of being in the flow of life. I realized Sasha was right. I was going to be OK no matter what, and my relationship and faith in my parents had everything to do with my relationship and faith in God, the Universe, Ishvara, with Life itself. I started o reflect more intensely on this feeling of contentment. Even with the prospect of giving birth well within my mental reach, I also knew that this child, this pregnancy, this one desire, was not the thing that would bring contentment. I knew deeply that as much as I wanted this child, that I would always be, and in fact always was, ok. That even within the heartbreak and loss, there would always be a part of me that could find a deep sense of peace and ease. This overwhelming feeling of contentment, even gratitude, with and for my life as it is, held me in a soft and suspended place of truly letting go.
I recalled a few years ago when I was with one of my most treasured teachers, Pam Havig. Pam has one of the most beautiful marriages, families, husbands, perspectives on life, I have ever known. Several years ago, I was sitting with her and some of her students, and somehow someone asked her if she could be happy if something ever happened to her husband. Pam answered without hesitation. "Of course! I love Don more than anything in the world, but my ability to be happy is not based on his presence in my life." Wow. I was stunned. Pam and Don are the kind of couple that make you happy just to be around. They love each other so deeply, respect each other so much, and have so much fun together, it truly seems like they were made for each other, that one could not be without the other. I remember thinking, "How can that be so? I want some of what she's got." What she has is contentment. Santosha. That transcendent sense of being at peace, even in the midst of change, disappointment, simple inconvenience, and even heartbreak.
While Sasha and I were in Canada with my parents, we attended Catholic mass as we usually do with them. My parents instilled in all of their children that whether or not we chose Catholicism, as they had, that we would benefit fromtaking some time out of every week just for silent reflection and connection to something greater than ourselves. Although I am not Catholic now, I have held that teaching and enjoy going to mass, back to my roots, from time to time. During the sermon, the priest talked about his work as a chaplain in hospice care. He talked about how he had observed that many people died in fear and isolation, but that those who had made a practice of saying the rosary always died peacefully. He preached strongly to his congregation that they should start saying the rosary and make it a consistent practice. He reminded them that they could take twenty minutes here and there throughout the day to complete the rosary and that they would benefit deeply from their practice. When we left church, I said to my mom, "That was a lame sermon. I've sat with people at end of life and have observed both of those things, both the fear and isolation, and also the peace and readiness. And it did not depend on whether or not the person said the rosary." My mom agreed immediately. "A person can dowhatever their practice is. It might be saying the rosary, it might be reading the Torah or the Koran, it might be silent sitting, but what is the same is the dedication to practice. That's what develops that sense of peace and ease." My mom is awesome. And she's right. It is the dedication to practice that creates the change. It is the dedication to the idea of contentment, to developing this inner sense, that creates the feeling. When we practice, we get to reap the benefits, and we never know how or when we will most need the fruits of our practice. I think about learning to handstand, or headstand, and recall seeing those poses for the first time. They seemed so far away, almost impossible. But we dedicate ourselves to the practice, and we see the results. We learn to headstand, we learn to handstand, we progress slowly, our "success" looks different than anyone else's. But what we have in common is the desire to create that change. To move, or live, in a way that is more fulfilling than what we have done before.
Sasha and I are back to Plan A. Again. We lost our second pregnancy right at the magical, mystical twelve week mark. But the experience this time was radically different. We had already been on this ride, and we knew all of the possibilities. We had already committed to our love and gratitude for each other and had reflected deeply on our own contentment, whatever happened. Yes, it is a sad story, but it is not a story of sadness. This story, to me, is one of hope and joy. It is a direct experience of going through heartache and emerging OK. It's not to say that it was easy, nor to say that anyone else's experience would be like ours. But my desire truly is to "teach from the heart, teach what I know." And what I know is that with practice, this contentment is here, already, for anyone. But it comes with a price - the price of practice. So, like the priest said, twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there - do your practice. The gift of contentment is a gift worth working and waiting for. We believe that the gift of our child will be the same. Worth working for and worth waiting for. And that all that we have gone through, and our dedication to our practice, in fact will make us even better people and better parents.
"Do your practice. All is coming."
"Increase your sweet practice. Your practice will benefit you at another time; someday your need will suddenly be fulfilled."
~ with much love and light ~ molly
"When I dare to be powerful- to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." ~Audre Lorde