There really is no anticipating just what becoming a parent will be like. There are so many aspects to the experience that are creating deep changes in my experience of life that I have stopped counting them.
One particular aspect of sharing so much time with Issa has been a dramatic shift in my experience and understanding of time.
Obviously, for a newborn there is no experience of what we would call the past or the future. Their experience is centered entirely in the present moment. The intensity that these little ones bring into each moment is extraordinary. The energy of their pure presence defies their small physical size.
When you spend a lot of time with them, you also are pulled into this kind of experience. Just to gaze into the fullness of their small faces and the primal energy of their expressions is to be brought wholly into the eternal now. So much of the time that I spend with Issa is timeless in nature. I have no idea how much linear time as passed when I am with him. What seems like a few minutes can, in fact, turn out to be an hour or more.
Now, when you bring that much attention and focus into the present moment, a very peculiar thing happens. Not only to do you lose all sense of time in the normal way that most people perceive time, but you gain a whole new experience of yourself and your surroundings.
Our deeper experiences of our selves all occur in the present moment. The most divine qualities of the self all are expressed when we are most centered in the present moment. The deepest kinds of wisdom, care, compassion, patience and love are all really only possible when we are deeply rooted in the present moment.
Conversely, we suffer most when we are distracted away from the present moment. When we dwell mostly in our thoughts of the past and the future is when we are most likely to take our selves and those we love for granted and miss the beautiful parts of living in this life.
Spending so much time with Issa has given me a whole new perspective and appreciation for the true nature of time. Focusing so much of my attention in the present moment has made me realize more than ever just how much of our true beauty and power lives in the now. I have never felt so many regular moments of deep peace and luminescent beauty throughout my days.
I also have never appreciated just how short this life really is. I have never felt such an appreciation for how important it is to cherish each and every moment, no matter what is going on. I have realized that when I am distracted by thoughts and feelings of the past or the future, I tend to live more in a dream-like state and can easily take many everyday moments for granted. Also, in the times when I am dwelling in thoughts of the past or the future, I tend to fall into the mistaken assumption that I have lots of time to waste or to spare.
When my attention is centered in the present moment, it is very clear that there really is no time to waste and that this life passes by with an alarming kind of alacrity. Each moment that we live on this earth is divinely precious and passes by very quickly. Our true wisdom and power becomes manifest when we realize the true nature of time.
As yoga practitioners, our entire purpose is to know our selves as completely as possible, to experience our inner self as fully as possible. The only way that we can do that is when our attention and mind is fully focused in the present moment, free from the distracting thoughts of past and future.
All of the techniques and practices that come from the yoga tradition are designed to draw our attention into the present moment, to still and purify the mind of the common distractions that we are all familiar with.
For many of us, these kinds of practices begin inside the studio and on our yoga mats. As soon as possible though, begin to practice drawing your attention and mind into the present moment during as many times during the day as possible. You can use the practice of simply watching your breath moving in and out to facilitate moving the attention into the now.
The more times you are able to pull your attention fully into the present moment, the more you will be able to see and experience yourself with increasing clarity. The light of your heart will begin to shine more and more brightly. There is a subtle, but powerful joyfulness that will begin to permeate the most ordinary and mundane moments of your life. It is an extraordinary shift that will often take you by surprise.
I thank God everyday for sending me this amazing child. There is no question in my mind that Issa is a direct gift from the heavens. He has only been on this earth for a little less than 2 months and already he has taught me so many lifelong lessons. What a great miracle it is that one of my greatest teachers has shown up here right in my own house!
One of the greatest blessings of being around a newborn child is that inevitably you begin to reflect back on yourself in a way that you normally would not do.
Naturally, once you become a parent, you only want the very best for the child that you have been given custodianship over. The innocence and the purity of that newly born being in your midst stir deep desires and passions to provide the very best conditions and environment for them to grow up in.
As a result, you begin to look a lot more closely at your own self. You begin to reflect back on yourself a lot more critically. You begin to ask questions of yourself that maybe you have not asked of yourself in a very long time (maybe never?).
This is why raising a young child has some parallels with yoga practice. The essence of yoga practice is self-reflection. Yoga practice is all about looking deep within your self, getting to know your self, examining parts of yourself that might otherwise go overlooked.
Newborn children, because of their relative purity, are wide-open fields of possibility, especially when compared to the way that most of us normally see ourselves. We can see and imagine that the way that we treat them now, the energy that we surround them when they are young, will influence and affect them for years to come. A harsh word or action here or there can have negative consequences on them in some very deep ways. There is even the possibility that our thoughts and unseen habits may affect them positively or negatively.
So, naturally, we begin to examine ourselves in a much more careful and detailed manner. We can ask ourselves, "what habits or thoughts do I have that I am unaware of that might have an unexpected affect on this child?" Or, I can ask, "what can I do differently in my life that will ultimately benefit the quality of life for this child?"
Now, I have started out here putting these questions in the context of being a parent. However, whether you are a parent or not, it is important as yoga practitioners to reflect back on ourselves precisely in this way. Without this kind of self-reflection. Without these kinds of questions directed back at our selves, our yoga practice can become relatively empty and flat.
The real power, the real "juice" of any yoga practice lies in our capacity to reflect back on our selves in a way that begins to awaken a deeper awareness of our own self. What creates real energy in our lives is our ability to uncover the habits and blockages that have gone unexamined in our selves.
The true Self is pure energy, creativity, joy and love. We lack access to that deeper Self when we go through our lives with unexamined habits and conditioned mental and emotional patterns. These habits and patterns act as blinds to our true nature and to the awesome power of the true Self. The only way that these habits and patterns remain in place and keep us from our true potential is if we get lazy and overlook them.
We all need to turn the light of our own awareness on ourselves. We all need to awaken our passion for knowing the Self. We all need to wake up and stop taking ourselves for granted.
So, whether you are a parent or not, begin asking yourself some seriously honest and penetrating questions. What areas of yourself or your life are you taking for granted? Where in your life have you become lethargic or even lazy? What positive change can you begin to implement right away that you have been making excuses about? What positive habits can you begin to build today?
As parents, the well-being and future of our children spur us on. But again, whether you are a parent or not, why not be spurred on by the well-being and the future of your self, for your loved ones, or even for the future and well-being of the entire world?
Nearly every single one of us underestimates our own power and what is really possible when we put our minds to something. We all take ourselves for granted in some way or another. We allow a kind of mental and emotional fog to roll over us and to take away our power. And yet, to pierce this seemingly impenetrable fog, we need only to awaken our passion to know ourselves, to ask ourselves some very honest and very deep questions.
I encourage you all to grab a hold of your own self today and reflect back on yourself in this way, with passion and with great vigor. You will be surprised at just how much you will see and with how much can actually change in your life in a very short time.