I had a dream about a month ago in which I find an incubator abandoned in a dorm room. Inside is a single egg, with a chick much too young pushing his way out. He is so weak and fragile, his feathers slicked down. Once out he collapses on the sprinkling of sawdust, panting, his eyes half-closed. Slowly, gently, I pick him up, humming “Ambe Ma” (a bhajan meaning Divine Mother) under my breath. I am so filled with love for this tiny creature; I feed and cuddle him, keeping him warm and close to my chest. Large birds and cats appear from time to time, and I have to fight them off, clutching my baby, doing my best to defend him even though I never know when the next attack will surface.
Making spiritual practice a central focus in your life doesn’t seem very common these days in North America. Sure, there are sub-cultures but for the most part the principles of slowing down, being humble, trusting in a Higher Power, training the heart/mind run contrary to what mainstream society says we should be doing. Be number one. Dream big. Have it all. These are beautiful sayings, but they just don’t resonate with me. I prefer: Be kind. Serve others. Show gratitude. And sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand where we’re coming from, why we’re putting so much time and effort into something that doesn’t seem to create any external change.
They attack. Maybe in little more than a look or a smirk, but sometimes that’s all it takes. One word can form that doubt in my mind and suddenly the cat is at my elbow, licking its lips at the sight of my fragile little bird. The ego is always primed to devour my growing spiritual self so it can keep itself in charge. It waits for the moment when my baby is most vulnerable, and it will use anyone’s disapproval, judgement, or misunderstanding as a springboard. It’s my job to be a proud mama, to know my opinion is every bit as valid as theirs, to search the silence for answers, to listen to the needs of my baby.
I’m so used to listening to others and assuming they know better than me, it’s hard to stay focused on what I’m striving for, what I know to be true for myself. Even within the spiritual community, I admire so many teachers who seem to contradict each other – from Noah Levine to Doreen Virtue, atheists, mediums, meditators, preachers, I love them all. But trying to marry all of them and bind them in the spiritual patchwork of my heart leaves me wondering if I’m doing it “wrong”, as I look to all of them for validation instead of listening to the way my heart leaps at their words. My spiritual baby, the tender chick I’ve adopted as my own, is nourished by all of it. To deny him that nourishment, to be caught up in disappointing others or looking bad, is unfair of me. It’s not very maternal behaviour.
Then of course, there’s just so many distractions to keep me from practicing, from looking inward. There are so many ways to avoid dealing with my demons and growing the wiser, kinder part of myself. This morning I couldn’t think of what to write on here today and without the distraction of work I immediately went in search of something else. I opened books, I turned on the TV, I went online, I got something to eat, I daydreamed, nothing could hold me for long. Anything to prevent having to look inside.
Truthfully, I could keep running forever if I chose to. I could fill myself and my days with delights, accolades, relationships, clothes, haircuts, whatever, and never come back to the present moment. But let’s get real, if I never stop and feed him, my baby bird will die. Plain and simple. He’s so weak, so so little, and he depends on his mama for everything.
He has so many soft points – society’s judgements, conflicting teachings, daily distractions. Thank God over ten years I’ve also learned some of the things that most help him grow:
Quiet – in the stillness and silence I can most easily discern the needs of my spiritual baby.
Forgiveness – in letting go and stopping the guilt trip I free up my hands to hold my baby closer.
Surrender – it takes a village, honey. Any single parent will tell you how much they value having other people help out with their child. I call on the whole universe daily to help with mine.
Blessing others- when I wish everyone well my whole energy changes. It’s no longer me and my baby against the world, just all of us in the world, making the best of it.
Thinking of my practice as a spiritual baby helps keep me focused because it ignites my compassion, picturing this innocent part of myself so in need of nurturing. It also wakes up my inner warrior, ready to defend my little inner family. And when these two sides of my spirit come together, lemme tell ya, I am a force to be reckoned with.