Honoring Traditions, Honoring Ourselves
As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m contemplating paths to outer peace – on a global scale of state on state violence, on a societal scale of institutional violence, on a frighteningly personal scale of schoolyard gun violence, on a kitchen counter scale as two 6 year old boys negotiate train positions.
Did you know that early efforts to establish Mother’s Day were responses to the Civil War? Abolitionist, peace, and women’s rights activist Julia Ward Howe organized the Mother’s Day for Peace, calling on women to stand up against the horrors of war. Less well known, activist Ann Jarvis was in the trenches, caring for Union and Confederate soldiers. She organized meetings of moms who had lost sons on both sides of the conflict. Her daughter led the charge to make Mother’s Day an official holiday and reportedly was widely outspoken about the almost immediate commercialization that followed. Apparently the younger Ms. Jarvis lamented Hallmark creating Mother’s Day cards. She had envisioned hand written letters figuring prominently in Mother’s Day celebrations. I can only imagine she’s rolling in her grave as we greet mom via text message.
150 years later in Boston, this newly minted mom participated in the Mothers Walk for Peace. Alongside moms who had lost their kids to gun violence, I pushed our stroller to raise funds for anti-violence programs. This was a far cry from the Mother’s Days of my childhood. Back then, we celebrated the quintessential Hallmark holiday. We’d get Mom a gaudy corsage to wear to church and out to eat afterwards. It was the one day each year we would eat in a restaurant, or at least a restaurant without a drive thru. I still look back in shame remembering the Mother’s Day I was 14. I was being such a brat that the waiter called me out for being rude on Mother’s Day.
Now I wonder if my mom had wished for Mother’s Day without her kids. In my early 20s, I babysat for a co-worker’s kids over Mother’s Day weekend. Her 5 year old quipped, “Mother’s Day is when mommies to get to be by themselves.”
Presently, I spend my days teaching inner peace. Yoga has a deep philosophical tradition that places ethical guidelines and personal practices front and center, before you ever get to pretzel poses or deep breaths. First and foremost comes ahimsa, nonviolence and compassion. Philosophers and commentators over the centuries are clear that nonviolence not only means not harming others, it also applies compassion inward.
In her book, A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras, yoga master Nischala Joy Devi defines ahimsa as “reverence, love, and compassion for all.” Yet when I look around at my frazzled fellow moms, it seems to me that revering others as ourselves too often plays out as compassion for others but never quite enough for ourselves.
What would the world look like if mom’s applied reverence, love and compassion to ourselves? If we taught our children self-care and self-respect by example? Healing our bodies. Nourishing and exercising them and RESTING them. Stocking our inner reserves so we don’t go totally crazy when we step on a LEGO, find Sharpie on the couch, face the eye roll, get called by the principals office or the police? Revering our worth so we remember there is more to who we are than mother?
What ways can you offer yourself ahimsa – reverence, love, and compassion – this Mother’s Day?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.