Zen and the art of baby-care

From the earliest days of having a child I realised this one was of those real life experiences that was going to stretch me, challenge me and (all being well) help me grow. I found having a baby utterly deconstructed my personality as I knew it: who am I? The easy answers were washed away ‘I am somebody who works for charities’; ‘I am an amateur photographer’; ‘I am somebody who loves going out and being social’… none of these applied anymore, especially in those early months as my life was a blur of breastfeeding, serving as a human-bed (as baby sleeps on me) and generally carrying and comforting a seemingly endlessly crying baby.

I have spent years on a spiritual path (if you want to call it that, for a moment) knowing I am none of those things – worker, photographer, friend. Those are things that I do, they are not what I am. They are like clothes this spirit wears. I could stop doing all of them and my essence would be untouched. And yet what a challenge to be ‘forced’ to drop all of them. I always thought renunciation would be a voluntary thing in my case. Hah!

And the kind of baby I had in those early days – one that wanted loads of attention, lots of rocking and bouncing and almost constant human touch – meant there was no room for anything other than being in that moment, serving the needs of another, no escape. None of the tricks of the mind to distract itself from What Is were working. I just had to be there in eternal baby meditation.

My life was rolled back into the Now, forcefully, with a bump. I mean I am not sure I was always ‘here’ whatever that means, really, but I know I was now. I had to give up, one by one, every one of my unconscious schemes to hold on to my old life. I would lie there feeding my child thinking about the emails I was going to write later or the photos I would take, the people I would get in touch with or my plans to clean up the kitchen… and then I lay there for hours more as all of these stratagems were thwarted. All this intellectual escapism led to was frustration, more and more frustration as these mental to-do lists went unfulfilled.

It was about then that I realised that lowered expectations = happier, easier day. So I gave up the planning. It was too painful anyway. And I gave up thinking I could EVER do anything but This.

Mantras helped at times and Self-Inquiry breathed its ‘I Am-ness’ breath on me… so that I was again transparent. But there were times, when I was really in the thick of it, when there was nothing to it but to ride the wave of emotion as it came and then subsided.

There is no ‘happy ending’ to this story. There isn’t an unhappy ending either (as far as I know – knock on wood and all that). The ‘story’ goes on. Mind continues to do its thing… but I am grateful for this new way life shone a light on what I am not. Thoughts continue, planning can still happen (although I really do keep it very simple and achievable nowadays) but the clarity about what is important, the simple distinctions between doing, doer and the witness of it all these keep being polished, somehow.

I always said the Universe finds your comfort zone and squeezes it. Not much learning in comfort. I guess school is very much in session.

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5 thoughts on “Zen and the art of baby-care

  1. I rarely write about spirituality mostly because as soon as I write it it is untrue, somehow, like describing the wind only to find as soon as you do it has changed. But here you are… something.

  2. Conversly I tend to find myself more in my head away from baby. Thoughts and planning flood the head: bills, college funds, plane trip to grandma’s, baby proofing, does she have enough clothes, how are we going to discipline her, we’re going to need a bigger place, what if she dates a jerk?
    I guess having someone else depend on you can have alll kinds of things clutter the mind. That is until I am with Anya. Then it’s hard not to get caught up in her innocence and watch with nothing but love as she simple be’s.

    • Hey, this is slowly becoming a mommy-daddy blog :)

      Yes, both are true: emptiness and fullness of thoughts. And both are watched… I was just highlighting the fact that I HAD to let go of some of the planning associated with my old life, with trying to be what I had been and do what I used to be able to do in a day. Suddenly there was plenty of time to day dream it but no time to execute it and that meant eventually the planning had to go too or it would lead to extreme bonkerness on my part. And breathe…

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