My life has delivered several events that feel like turning points, moments when time seems to pause, and life opens up, and some basic questions emerge: What are my priorities? What is the best way to live? Is there something I need to realize or change before life speeds away with me again?
Having a child was definitely one of these moments. A profound change in my life that has naturally prompted me to reassess, to consider what I have to give, and what may need more focus. To honestly ask myself whether the life I am living brings me closer to Him.
When I was younger, these moments made me think I was supposed to do something drastic, dramatic—move to Cambodia, or quit my job, or sit down to write that novel at long last. But, more and more I end up with the same sense of direction when given the chance to look at how I’m living: Open your heart. Love others. Let go. Take the High Road. Remember the Source.
And, because life gives us a virtually endless stream of opportunities to practice loving others, I put a lot of thought into how to do that one thing, how to really treat others with love. Isn’t it what we all want more than anything and fail at all the time? Even when I have the best of intentions, I am often puzzled by what actually makes another person feel loved. And, in part I know how hard that can be because I’ve had the experience of someone trying to love me and me instead feeling criticized or smothered or confused. So I’ve come to accept that the gap between our intentions and our impacts is something we must all constantly attend to and negotiate. Which is where “Open your heart,” and “Let go,” come in handy.
I recently came across the full quote in which Baba asks us to love each other: “When a person tells others ‘Be good,’ he conveys to his hearers the feeling that he is good and they are not. When he says “Be brave, honest and pure”, he conveys to his hearers the feeling that the speaker himself is all that, while they are cowards, dishonest and unclean. To love God in the most practical way is to love our fellow beings.” What a wonderful reminder that loving another person is not about providing guidance, or judging their behavior; loving is not about telling others how they should live or who they should be. Love grows from humility and the capacity for compassion comes from listening, not from knowing the answer. These seem like particularly good reminders as I embark on the adventure of parenthood.
Luckily, Baba gave us some concrete ways to practice:
If, instead of seeing faults in others we look within ourselves we are loving God.
If, instead of robbing others to help ourselves, we rob ourselves to help others, we are loving God.
If we suffer in the suffering of others and feel happy in the happiness of others, we are loving God.
If, instead of worrying over our own misfortunes, we think of ourselves more fortunate than many, many others, we are loving God.
When I think about the life in front of me, and wanting to be someone my children admire, I try to focus on these ways to express love: to give of myself, to empathize with others, to cultivate gratitude. My little boy already teaches me about each of these things each day and I hope to model them in return as he makes his way through this wild card of a world.