Last week, our sweet daughter Isla Luce turned 5! After a weekend of celebrating with her grandma, her friends, and us, she is sleeping soundly--snoring a little--with her beloved Santo, our dog, by her side. As I do many evenings after she's asleep, I knelt on Santo's bed, placed my hand on her back, and for a moment, we three breathed.
Over the years, I've watched as the hand that used to hold her entire tiny body now covers only a portion of her princess-dressed back. And as she grows, so does my gratitude for the extraordinary privilege of being her mama and the blessing of knowing mother love.
When I was pregnant with Isla and then Maverick, I was amazed (and let's be honest, also horrified) at my body's complete transformation, its ability to widen and stretch, to soften and give, to labor and birth life. Now, entering the final month of the sacred window of postpartum, I view my body's expansion as but a tiny mirror of my heart's boundless capacity for opening.
And yet, multiple times a day I forget the vastness of my heart and feel constricted by judgement, attachment, aversion, blame and so on. My instinct is to withdraw away from the pain and further from myself. I wallow in my own misery and unleash my discontent on those I love best. I see the evidence of my body's life-giving expansion and groan, agonize, and criticize. I close my daughter's door and miss the opportunity to kneel, breathe and give thanks. And in these moments caught up in the impossible struggle of resisting reality, my heart feels much like the Grinch's: two sizes too small.
But sometimes, my intuition prevails and I remember my heart is big enough to hold it all. Instead of shutting out the difficult emotions of jealousy, grief, disappointment, and so on, I welcome them. Inspired by the beautiful Buddhist practice of Tonglen, I allow pain to touch my heart, breath it in, and feel how my heart receives it, holds it, and eventually, releases it. If you're interested, I have prepared a Tonglen-inspired guided meditation. You'll find the link at the bottom of the page. Try it and feel your heart grow.
This willingness to be with what is, to be present for whatever is happening right here, right now is the most challenging and most rewarding yoga practice I know. And it's as powerful to witness as it is to practice. When I shared with my esteemed teacher and friend, Kelly Griswold, both my desire to teach in our tiny yoga community and my fear that there wouldn't be enough students for the both of us she responded with what has become a mantra for me: there's room for us all.
Kelly's embodiment of the true spirit of yoga -- a generous, open-hearted surrender to what is -- is among the many gifts for which I give thanks on those evenings when I remember to kneel, breathe, and, as I watch my daughter grow before my very eyes, feel my own heart expand again.