Recently, I was at a family gathering where a new mother with babe in arms left the dinner table to go into the other room to nurse. I sat feeling the wrongness and the unnecessary isolation being imposed when a woman feels as though she needs to separate herself from her people to feed her own baby. At one point I got up to see if she needed anything, only to find her deeply engrossed and hunched over her phone. She didn’t need me or my show of support. In fact, she didn’t really need any of us at that gathering. Who would miss us when there were infinite “tribes” to connect to with the swipe of a finger; potential communities, activities and entertainment sources that would ask nothing of her other than to stay curled over her device, but ultimately giving nothing much in return. Picture the scene in your mind’s eye. Mother and child off in another room by themselves. A baby at the breast of a mother who only has eyes for her screen. This is the seed of what is to come, and it ain’t pretty.
The very heart of our lives and therefor the lives of our communities is held and formed in the bond between a mother and her child. Baby and mother breathing as one. Heartbeats beating in sync. Invisible cords with the tensile strength of steel move back and forth weaving the two together. It is primal, animal and non-verbal. It is touch and smell and sound. It is the sacred encapsulating the physical. It is the dance and love song of life itself. They are more one than two.
So, what will it mean to insert a machine between them? What will it do to that new life seeking itself in the eyes of another to look up and see a piece of metal? What will it do to the physical health of a rapidly developing nervous system to be so close, so often, to the electromagnetic fields given off by the devices? How will that mother know her baby in the way that only a mother can know her child if she is physically there, but little else? How will that mother know how to advocate for herself and her child in the face of the injustices of the world if she can so easily distract herself from the inhumane realities that surround her? The same realities that only a present and passionate mother has the clarity and strength to challenge on behalf of her child. Truly, there are no words forceful enough or compelling enough to convey the irretrievable loss that takes place in this one scenario. You must feel your way through this one in all of its subtleties and nuances. And extrapolate out…
We all yearn for so much, and wind up settling for so little. Why is that? It wasn’t always like this. In the beginning, we were very, very grand in our largess*, aliveness and possibility. And then…the world got to us. We believed what “they” said, felt and did. We took in their ideas of what was true, not true, possible, and not possible. The fears, disappointments and judgments of others entered our open, vulnerable and unprotected little bodies and minds. And in the end, we tamed our spirits down to fit into a box that allowed us to belong.
We have become far too comfortable and familiar with our self-made and self-imposed boxes. It will require thinking and acting in novel, unfamiliar and contrary ways to break that box down. Make it a daily practice to throw away what it is that cautions you. Stop listening to the tyranny of the rational mind that cites all the documentation and evidence for why it can’t or shouldn’t happen. Let the ache of what you yearn for be your guide. Let the rawness of your own vulnerability let you know when you are on the right path. And let the fear and the terror around “what will they do or think” alert you to the truth: Our greatest power will present itself to us initially as our greatest fear.
* “Generous bestowal of gifts” is the definition of largess and perfectly describes the truth of what we came in with.
Habits. We all have them. Habits of thinking, eating, moving, feeling and of being in relationship. Like a well worn path they offer us familiar comfort and a sense of security in the world. They give us something to count on, to lean into, serving as an oasis of stability in an ever-changing world. Simultaneously, they are exactly what limits us. Exactly what keeps us from our goals, dreams and desires for other ways of being. Over time, we can even make life-depleting habits the ones we turn to out of routine, security and a lack of skill or awareness. And even though they might be keeping us from our heart’s desire, they are indeed the devil we know and prefer. In the words of Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, we “normalize the abnormal,” making the wrong things the foundation of our lives.
One of the most energizing things we can do around ingrained habits is to look at what it costs us to do what we do. For indeed, what we do moment by moment and day by day is in fact what creates the sum total of our lives. Imagine if you could add up all of the habits you keep and the equation would show you a visual depicting the life that you have chosen. What would your image be? Knowingly or not this is exactly what we do, every day. Our habits become so second-nature, so unconscious, that we do not even challenge their presence in our lives. Like a hamster on a wheel, we fill and create our lives by playing them out over and over again. Day after day. And, in the end, we wind up going nowhere.
Try this. Identify something you feel is a habit that no longer serves you. Try and take an attitude of non-judgment. When we judge we shut down the possibility of learning and set up a conflict within ourselves further entrenching the very thing we are trying to walk away from. So, after you identify what it is, work to disarm. Then, begin to learn about this habit of yours. How has it served you? You do it regularly, it must be there for some reason. What might that reason be? Spend time genuinely thanking it for the role it has played in your life. Let it know that while grateful, you are ready to move on. Lastly, notice when the habit arises, and before you engage, pause. If only for a second. Contained in the pause is the seed for a new habit. One that quite likely is more aligned with the truth of who you are and the life you are yearning to live.
“People do not decide their futures, They decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” ~F.M. Alexander