Another problem with the self-help teacher’s prevalent call to self-love is that even if we’re clear about how and where to draw boundaries around ourselves, and can identify and move to claim our needs it’s not always possible to shelter ourselves and get those needs met. Life isn’t convenient or tidy. It doesn’t neatly fit into picture frames we construct. Isn’t it true that the more we define the look and size of the frame, life enjoys bulging out all over?
What if we can’t kiss our grandchildren, hand them a cookie and two dollars and send them on their way safely? What if we have to frame our self-care more selflessly? What if I must sacrifice my meditation time for others? What if my spiritual path is the most important thing in the world and I’m justified in clamoring for it but it seems that events and people get in the way?
Humans can be incredibly creative. I’m someone who needs my mantra meditation time. I covet it. Besides meditation, doctors have prescribed daily physical therapy. And I have this powerful urge to write. At my age I ought to have a life constructed the way I want it. But I don’t. I’m in my mid-50s raising a grandchild.
I don’t know how to fit in a personal life (writing), spiritual practices (prayer and meditation), and personal health care (PT) with the amount of sleep I need and the sheer number of hours and energy it takes to entertain and educate a three year old, do the errands, cook the meals, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, tend to the yard, and manage the household. But I’m finding my way. As I’m sure you can also when people need you.
This morning, I sat down to say my prayers. I don’t want to just say them. I want to enter into them. Meena joined me in my altar room with a baby doll and doll bottle. I kept my eyes closed as I silently intoned my mantras. If I made eye contact, she’d start chattering immediately.
Yes, I have modified my meditation time. I have less of it. I get distracted. But I can still enter into deep reflection and nurture my inner landscape with a toddler crawling on my lap with her baby doll. In fact, it’s a good test of my mental focus. After all, we don’t meditate to meditate. We meditate to have clarity, insight, and strengthen a foundation for living.
My spiritual teacher, Bhaktivedanta Swami, said that spirituality ought to be practiced in the cities not in the Himalayas. Meditating successfully without interruptions is not the ultimate challenge nor the ultimate success.
So pray and meditate, or make offerings to God in other ways, while the children crawl and babble. Let them feel your unconditional love as they imbibe that they are just as important to you as those practices and private time that mean so much to you.
It’s not helpful or reasonable to think liberation, or spirituality, is about self-love, unique identity, spiritual identity, and embracing our divinity. These are all me-centered statements and can negate—or lessen emphasis on—our inter-relatedness to others who want, need, and deserve the same things. The irony is that we can all achieve everything we need by sharing love in service and care for each other.
Begin by identifying the difference between body, mind, and heart. Our vision has been focused slightly off the correct center. By conducting life grounded with a heart-centered focus with unconditional love we can achieve the peace, happiness, and self-content we so desperately seek. Loving is the most efficient, thorough, enjoyable, and genuine self-nurturing process.
Love sent out reaches back, for spirit is immutable and always in touch with itself.