Sept 27, 2017. Today was a beautiful, emotional close to my work with a new family who’s tiny little boy was born just two days ago. I can’t say often enough what an honour it is to be asked in to people’s most intimate moments and spaces. As the tears came this afternoon between me and the mother, I tried unsuccessfully to pin down the feeling that was flowing.
Sitting with it now, I recognize it as grace.
I feel so grateful to enter into that space that is nothing less than the very heart of life. Even when it is challenging and sometimes heart-renderingly raw, it is to the centre of love. To be with people when their hearts are being expanded and transformed by this precious new life, when their hearts are so very wide open is a sacred communion.
“This is the joyful fortune.” So says a holy Buddhist scripture given to me by my heart teacher. That joyful fortune has been revealed to me right here in my own life. I wonder if the people who allow me into the epicenter of their own family life have any idea how it has enriched my relationship with my husband and daughter.
To all the parents and their children I have worked with: I thank you all for opening up your loving families in this way.
When I finish my time of care with a family, I don’t leave with a sense of finality. There is always a door still open, should I be able to serve them in some way down the road. Even if we don’t connect again, we have samaya, or sacred bond, a fine yet strong thread weaving our lives together.When I meet that child again, I will look into their eyes and say, “I was there when you were born”.
To witness the moment when another human being takes their first breath is sacred. To wonder at the pure potential in that moment, to ponder the unique trajectory they are embarking on. Sometimes when I have downtime in a hospital delivery room, I look out the window and spy an anonymous individual making their way down the city streets. I recollect that, wherever they are going, whatever they are doing, whatever thoughts and feelings they are carrying with them, they too began just like this.
I know that what has happened at a birth has a ripple effect not only across the years and lives each person in that family, but over everyone else they come into contact with, and into future generations. It’s this understanding of the far-reaching impact of how a birth occurs that inspires me daily in the work I do.
“If we hope to create a non-violent world where respect and kindness replace fear and hatred, we must begin with how we treat each other at the beginning of life. For that is where our deepest patterns are set. From these roots grow fear and alienation – or love and trust.” ~ Suzanne Arms
Working with this particular family proved to be a moment of coming full circle. Their home was literally across the street from the building where I worked when the seed went off in my mind that whispered, “you know, you should really look into doing this doula thing”. I’d spent miserable years floundering in a career that had long ago come to the end of it’s natural life cycle. Years earlier in a moment of complete not-knowingness, I made a fierce act of truth – it involved a bridge, and throwing things into a large body of water, and a shit-ton of spiritual practice behind it – dedicated to somehow finding my way to a more meaningful, creative, joyful way of life.
Today I spent the afternoon with the mother in her bedroom, her base camp where she rested, nursed, and started to make her way into motherhood. I gazed out her bedroom window to that building across the street and realized, I did it. I’ve found my way from an unhappy j-o-b to my life’s calling. And this moment connected with another from the night following my own daughter’s birth. That night I peered out the hospital window with her in my arms, across the street to the building where I was then working. Full circle indeed.
Two years ago I had the good fortune to attend a teaching by the American kirtan artist Krishna Das. He is a beautifully humble human being, who’s response to most questions posed to him by spiritual seekers of all kinds is usually, “why are you asking me? I’m just a singer.” I’ve always been inspired by his humility and deep devotion. I had the opportunity to ask him him if grace was something that was bestowed on us spontaneously, or if it was something we had to earn through virtue. My question belies my confusion about just what exactly this grace thing is anyways. His answer was simply this: grace is our natural state of being. It’s not something to be given to us, or something that we have to go out and get. Our work is to cultivate the conditions for it to be revealed, and to recognize it when it appears.
So today, I see it. I recognize it. I appreciate it.
And I see you in your grace, too. Namaste.