The Spirit of Motherhood
Published on May 11th, 2014 | by Harmonist staff7
By Gaurangi-priya dasi, originally published on June 26, 2009.
The sky is just beginning to lighten, as a new day begins. My son is plastered against me in bed, his warm body snuggling mine. (Yes, my 5-year-old still comes in my bed in the middle of the night at times, but no, I’m not talking about the family bed today). The grogginess of sleep envelops me as I attempt to wake up. You see, rising early is something I find incredibly difficult. My mother will tell you. And yes she will tell you that I went to mangala-arati everyday, starting at the age of 10 days old. I continued this routine all through my childhood. Attending mangala-arati was part of my upbringing, part of my everyday existence.
And yet, here I am, a full-fledged adult, and rising early is such a struggle for me. But all practitioners of bhakti, or any spiritual path, understand the advantages of prayer and chanting in the early morning hours of the day. Chanting is more than my ideal, it is an anchor in my day, a necessity in the non-stop business of my life as a mother.
Today, after my children are off to school, I sit down as the morning sun pours through the window. I didn’t make it up early today. No. My idealistic vision of the perfect devotee mother would be having me up at 5am, chanting japa, showering, and then waking up my children to the smell of baking muffins for breakfast and Srila Prabhupada chanting bhajans in the background. But I’m being honest here, and the best place to start is where I am. I have learned to shelve the book of guilt, and practice with the confidence of grace. So, I pull out a floor cushion and begin chanting my gayatri mantras in front of our altar. My gurudeva told me that chanting these mantras will help me chant the harinama mantra. I try to focus on that, think of who I’m meditating on, pray for nishta, steadiness, and pull my mind from the endless tasks of the day. Yes, I know that I have 4 loads of laundry to do, and yes it’s going to be a sunny day—good for hanging up clothes—and yes I have to figure out lunch, and yes, my son Venu’s play date. But, now is time for me and Krishna. I pick up my japa beads and begin chanting. The names are comforting, nourishing, calming.
I remember when my children were younger I read a tip for sanity in a mothering book. It was that as a mother you should find something to do each day that has some lasting effect. The satisfaction of cleaning laundry, washing dishes, changing diapers, or sweeping floors is quickly diminished when at the end of the day all those things are full again, literally. Yes, the book advised, find something that at the end of the day you know will have a longer-lasting effect than the next morning.
Chanting is that for me. It is the time where I stop, look, and listen. Krishna says in the Gita that there is no loss or diminishing effects on the path of bhakti. For someone who never seems to see a diminished laundry pile, that is a nice thing to meditate on. Seriously, chanting is my life-line, the thing I know makes a lasting difference in my day. I’m cleaning my heart, and though that does seem like an endless task, it will progressively get cleaner—something I can’t guarantee about my kitchen floor.
So, I chant everyday. I chant at the playground with the afternoon sun beating on my back. Not the ideal time to chant, I remind myself as my son interrupts me to help him across the monkey bars. Or, I chant in the morning hours while my children are at school, putting off the laundry, and e-mails, and lunch preparation. I know sometime in my life I will again rise for mangala-arati and chant in the cool morning air during that magical time that is not night, but not quite morning. That time in my life will come again. I know it will.
In the meantime, I do what I can do, start where I am, and trust that drops will wear away the stone and that Krishna really carries what I lack and stores what I have. I was thinking of making a bumper sticker: Moms for Mahamantra. Until I can see cars driving everywhere with that sticker, I try to gain strength by thinking about the other devotee mothers spread throughout the globe, struggling as I do to maintain a level of sadhana while being the best mothers they can be.