One time I was complaining to one of my teachers that it was so much harder for me to progress spiritually since I became a mama. I wasn’t willing to leave my daughter for months to go on a retreat, and I barely found time to sleep, let alone meditate daily. I asked the teacher, whom I deeply trusted, “What should I do?”
My teacher asked me if I had heard of Dipa Ma. Of course, I hadn’t. She explained that Dipa Ma’s specialty was helping householders cultivate their practice and helping them see that spiritual attainments were possible – even as a stay-at-home parent.
Dipa Ma had some pretty big tragedies happen in her life – losing her mom at just 18 and taking in her bother to raise as a result, having two children die, and then her husband suddenly dying in 1957. She also developed chronic physical pains.
Despite all that, she kept with her a love and passion for studying Buddhism and spirituality and is a very respected Vipassana teacher.
The gift I received from reading about Dipa Ma was how she turned her everyday life into spiritual practice, and how she also made sure she made time for it each day.
You see, one of the things I see a lot in the students I coach in Freedom School is this idea of “either/or thinking.” As if things are either one ORthe other, with no middle ground.
But in these scenarios, we often CAN find a middle way, right?
Dipa Ma talked about committing to your practice, waking up in the dark and getting in 1-2 hours of meditation before her children woke up. She would teach other mothers in Calcutta the importance of prioritizing spiritual practice and doing what it takes (she was no trust-funder!). She found a balance between family life and spiritual life – alternating between being home and going on retreats.
Once I decided to commit to prioritizing my spiritual practice as part of putting family first – that the idea of family first included ME as part of that family and my spiritual growth – I started to find more ways that a spiritual family life was possible that worked for me.
This changed everything. Being a dedicated practitioner and a mother are inextricably linked. One impacts the other.
Honestly, I can’t imagine being a parent without the framework of my practice to meet the challenges and demands of parenting.
Being a parent also provides a ton of opportunities for spiritual growth if you can be creative and use the experiences – just like, mother or not, we are encouraged to take challenges and obstacles and use them for our spiritual growth, to learn how our mind works.
Ultimately, being a parent is one long practice of letting go and helps us cultivate a more flexible approach to life, and to practice letting go, as we have to do with each stage of development our kids go through – letting go of the baby feet, of them wanting to cuddle with you, of them wanting to be near you all the time…
Parenthood can also give you opportunities to deepen and expand the parental love you feel into genuine metta by expanding that love to include others.
Metta has many similarities with mama bear love. Both are intense, nurturing, and selfless, so as a mother you can work to extend your love, so it is no longer self-referential, and it becomes limitless.
So, what are we to do then? What’s the best path a spiritual mama (or papa) can take?
I think it is important to find ways to bring the aspects of your practice into ordinary daily activities like doing the laundry, cooking, ironing, etc.
It’s also important to have a regular time when you can more deeply engage with your practice.
It’s also KEY to cultivate connections. It’s hard as a lone rebel wolf.
I want to encourage you to also consider starting a kalyana mitta group.
In the end, the world is more front-and-center when you bring up kids, and you will need confidence, that Ziji, that inner radiant confidence…and self-reliance.
We also can’t gloss over the fact that Buddha wandered homeless. It’s hard to understand that level of letting go as a householder. But Dipa Ma also showed us it is possible. That’s why it’s so important to study teachers that have also been mothers.
Mamahood can be a rich and fertile soil for spiritual growth. It can provide a ton of valuable opportunities for practice. It is a path of loving and letting go.
And so is the rest of life.
So, spiritual mamapapa, the take home here is that you must prioritize it. Family first? YOU are a part of that family too and YOUR spiritual growth benefits the entire family.
It takes some fierce mama bear energy to protect your own opportunities for spiritual growth:
// drawing the boundaries at home so you have time to meditate
// carving out time to go on longer retreats
// getting over your own shizzle about how everything will fall apart if you leave for a little bit
// having the discipline not to buffer at night with things that don’t truly help you relax so that you have the energy and time to wake up early so you can go deeper into your practice.
// using the challenges of motherhood to help you grow – using them to examine your mind, your beliefs, your attachment, and aversions.
And ultimately, realizing you are not your parenthood. You are so much more. You’ve always been so much more.
Topics in this week’s podcast:
// Going from either/or to both/and
// What it takes to commit to practice as a parent
// How I almost became a NUN (and why I didn’t)
// How dedicating to a practice helps parenthood
// The best path a spiritual parent can take
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.
// If you’re interested in a really awesome way to make the next year your best one yet, join Freedom School. Enrollment is open! And there are some sweet bonuses for you. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. This is an amazing group of rebel women committed to creating lives of freedom, adventure, and purpose. You can even gift a Freedom School membership to someone that you know could use the boost and come together! You’ll dive into getting clear about: what you want, how to clear your life of the things you don’t, skills for living an authentic life so you are out there being YOU and not what other people want you to be, and more.