I had been right in intuiting that Yudit, in all her wisdom, was the only person who might stir me into a healthy acceptance of my circumstances – a shift away from trying desperately to accept them under duress, as I had been doing for so long already.
With her usual calm persistence, Yudit went on to explain, again and again, that I needed to have faith in the greater scheme of things that lies way beyond the visible world and that, in a world where absolutely all is interconnected by atoms, neutrons and protons, there was no separation between anything or anyone. Not any more than there was between my mother and me.
Cryptically, I thought at the time, Yudit added, “CC, don’t try to understand this through your mind. It will never make sense. The wisdom of the heart doesn’t come to mind in a culture where ego-driven logic, self-justification, and science created through the microscope rule human lives.” Yes, but then again, I thought, our western culture does understand what it means to ‘follow one’s heart’, to obey one’s sympathetic or compassionate inclinations. Perhaps, we have inherited that understanding from ancient wisdom. Maybe it is a remnant from a time when enlightened folk knew that an aspect of Neshama was in each heart. Maybe they intuited that the heart had intimate, insider’s knowledge of the one for whom it pumped more than 7000 litres of blood daily. Maybe it is only once we are attuned to our heart that we can make this organ, not the brain or the mind, the dispenser of our genuine free will.
The problem, for most of us is that we do not see the problem..But, eventually, it became clear that the sooner I deleted the idea that I could change my mother because I ‘deserved better’ or that ‘I deserved more’ of my mother’s love or more of anything, the better off I would be – the faster I would jump out of that life-long rut.
“Like a good parent, Neshama gives us the opportunity for growth and independence but no entitlement, CC – never! Not even for the most powerful persons in the world!” Yudit was categorical. “We each get what we deserve not as punishment, not for gratification but to ELEVATE ourselves, and that is the gift of love from Neshama.”
Bluntly, she continued, “Don’t think like an ignoramus! What you get is always what you deserve. Get that inside your head! You want your mother to love you unconditionally, but you won’t admit to yourself that you don’t feel any real love for her. Sentimental attachment is not LOVE. It’s a conditioned attachment. Platitudes, occasional visits and gifts a couple of times a year is all you give her. They don’t count. They don’t come from the heart.”
Yudit’s rebuke brought to mind a teaching from Ramana Maharishi. In Guru and His Grace, Sri Ramana gives an answer as to why visitors offer presents to Bhagavan.
“Why do they bring presents? Do I want them? Even if I refuse, they thrust the presents on me. What for? Is it not like the bait to catch the fish? Is the angler anxious to feed them? No, he is anxious to feed on the fish.”
OK … no gifts to ingratiate myself in between birthdays, Mothers’ Days and Christmases, I get that. Maybe I could make an effort to see Mom more often or more spontaneously than once a month.
“Doing more and more of the same will not create different results from what you already got,” Yudit warned. “Wake up! LOVE your mother!”
Her words sounded like the fifth commandment in the Torah: Honour thy father and thy mother. It is said that granting this ‘honour’ is a mitzvah, an essential good deed, that does not depend on the worthiness of the parent but, doesn’t ‘honour’ suggest love as a sub-layer? Or does ‘honour’ simply means ‘respect’, as in the opposite of disrespecting someone? Could ‘honour’ mean ‘protect’?
Either way, how is it possible, in the absence of love, to truly want to protect or respect a difficult parent?
Lightbulb moment: Perhaps it is precisely because filial love has always been so difficult to generate that the ancient ones have embedded the commandment to generate it by hook or by crook in the list of Commandments.
I returned my attention to Yudit’s mail. “Sentimental attachment doesn’t create any changes. Understand this tov-tov, CC! Understand this well! Being nice on the surface, out of duty, that’s not LOVE. It’s a duty which means it’s forced. Only unconditional love, your total acceptance of what is – of the person your mother is – will produce the miracle you’re after. Your duty, if you want to use that word in a better way, is to accept your mother in your heart. Your acceptance will melt her defences. Don’t you know how true is the expression to ‘win her heart’?
Win her heart? Hah! A mother’s heart, her love, should never have to be earned, won or won back. It just is. A mother’s heart nurtures and nourishes unconditionally, not only when all the boxes on a long checklist are ticked again and again.
“He puts his cheek against mine,” wrote Mary Oliver in her Poem entitled Little Dog’s Rhapsody In The Night, “and makes small, expressive sounds. And when I’m awake or awake enough, he turns upside down, his four paws in the air and his eyes dark and fervent. ‘Tell me you love me,’ he says.’”Tell me again.” Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over he gets to ask. I get to tell”.
So simple, so easy to feel love, real love, unconditional love for a dog. Why is it so hard to feel real love, unconditional love for a mother?
Around the age of twenty-two, I decided that I would never want to become a mother. Way too hard to get it right, I thought. Sigh.
In objective retrospect, it is not my mother’s fault she had me at nineteen years of age – a byproduct of her honeymoon – too young to have had a chance to think about motherhood properly. Then, isolated from her brother and sisters, from parents and relatives, always living worlds away, she missed out on the support and guidance that might have shaped her adult mind differently. Instead, separated from her clan, she allowed her own understanding of mothering to strike roots.
My mother, too, is a byproduct of what we all mistake for adult free will.
“Make big space for your mother in your heart and for yourself, CC. Be joyful with her. Make her laugh. Dance with her. Give up the struggle to control the moment. Give up expecting your mother to show love according to how you think she should show it. Don’t argue your point. Don’t try explaining how you feel. It will only make her defensive. Just be in the moment, sincerely present, as if there were no ghosts of the past between you. Truth is, there are only the ghosts you choose to resurrect. Your karmic duty is to break that cycle! Do it now!”
Dancing, laughing are for those who feel carefree. I cannot be light and spread light when fight and flight are the two gears rusting out in my gut. In a way, all of this business about stepping up and, time and time again, showing up as the best version of myself only amounts to Hobson’s choice. Either I do it, or I don’t.
Breathe consciously, CC, breathe!
“Take it or leave it?” I said out loud, bringing back to the moment underfoot the main points Yudit had done her best to teach me.
Basically, we need to develop healthy detachment and empathy for all who cross our path. Together and separately, our response to the multitudes that cross our path paves the road that leads to our personal version of happiness.
For me, the time had come to step away from intellectual debate and theory. The time had come to skydive toward the pitted, rugged and gutted, slip-sliding, swampy terrain of activation.