Letting Go In Parenting and Life

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Life Lessons

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

On the eve of the first day of school, I had to sit down and unentangle the knot of emotions. My youngest starts first grade tomorrow – “real school”. This will be so different from kindergarten – all day in school, lunch at school, expectations of parents and teachers, new friendships and new heartbreaks. Things I had put off to exist “somewhere in the future” a few short months ago. Suddenly that future is here. And I’m excited for her, yet so sad to see her grow up so fast. When she goes to bed tonight with stars in her eyes, I will gaze at her sleeping face and pray for strength once again. To let go once more..

The minute we decide on becoming parents, we’ve (consciously or otherwise) committed to a lifetime of letting go, in addition to continuous sacrifice and unconditional love. For many women, it begins with pregnancy – for with this new decision, we’ve also accepted that our bodies will never be the same again. With that one decision, we’ve let go (usually joyously) of our bodies and everything that is to come during pregnancy, childbirth and thereafter. With childbirth comes the next letting go – of knowing that the child is no longer a physical part of us, and that from this point on, it will be one after another event of letting go. Of sleepless nights, every milestone of babyhood that we wish we could sear into our brains, that first smile, the first word, the first curl, the first tooth, the first step, and even that first time she slept through the night.. With each change, we learn to let go, as one phase passes into the next. The hardest letting go happens when working mothers return to work, leaving the helpless infant in the care of others. For mothers like me, this is probably one of the most difficult of all parenting steps. For months, I was broken-hearted every morning leaving my precious babies. Eventually, I did let go of the guilt, the sadness, and the act of questioning my life’s path.

Pre-school is the next big act of letting go. When we realize that not everything that our little angels know was taught by us, it is a major shift in parenting consciousness! No matter how prepared we think we are, most of us feel a certain pang in the pit of our stomachs leaving them in school that first day (or if one is like me, sit on the school steps and cry one’s heart out!). We then somehow let go easily enough through first performances, new skills, new words and abilities. And thereafter, for these incredible little ones, life is about building on those abilities while simultaneously exploring new ones. And increasingly testing their wings with the eventual goal of flying away. Through it all, we are constantly letting go..

When we think about it, parenting is a lesson in living our lives. For the act of living is the act of letting go. As we pass through life, the longer we hang onto particular identities and roles, the harder it is to accept and love ourselves. Be it youth, beauty, health, or specific roles – parent, spouse, professional, of a particular religious sect, nation or skin color, the harder it is to see our true self in the image of God when we cannot let go of these attributes. For we are not any of these – in fact, our cells have regenerated so many times since birth that we are not bodies we thought we were just a few months ago. Our minds which are a constant train of thought and fickle are not “us” either! It is when we let go of our identification with our bodies, minds, thinking and the concept of “me” that true peace can be let in.

In parenting too, it is by gracefully letting go that our children can grow both roots and wings. For our children don’t belong to us – they are precious gifts given to us to nurture and love so they can reach their full potential and fulfill their purpose on this planet.

Having said this, I will arm myself with a camera and a box of tissues tomorrow as I accompany my little girl to first grade.

Notes from a mother

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Life Lessons

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

A few days ago, I had this thing come up – if I were to die now, when my children are still young, what would I want to have taught them? If I have learned anything, how can they benefit from my growth and openings?

In my continued exploration of what it means to be human, I’ve found that all outward values like kindness, humility, respect and brotherhood are farcical if they don’t arise as a result of our own inner transformation. Without inner growth and deeper understanding, outer displays of the so-called “good” qualities are merely an act, and serve no greater purpose. My lessons to my children are based purely on authenticity, and understanding that the outer is simply a reflection of the inner.

1. Self-preservation

If you understand this well, my child, you will see that self-preservation is the common thread of all life forms. This is the one thing that binds us all in “same-ness”. In humans, the thinking mind schemes up complex ways to accomplish this. To preserve his limited perception and beliefs, man lies, cheats, manipulates, gives in to anger, hate, jealousy and lust, kills and maims his brothers, and lives in constant fear of death. In knowing deeply what it is that makes people behave as they do, you can set them free of whatever they do to you. Be wise.

2. Worth

Almost everyone that will come your way will attempt to assess your worth and project it back at you. And you will do the same with them. Recognize this pattern and learn to notice the untruth of all such assessments. Know that worth is beyond all calculation – yours included. Service and devotion are the only notable external signs of worth and inner strength. Be strong.

3. Teachers

Every day of your life, you will encounter teachers and teachings. The only way to recognize them is to keep your heart open to them. If your eyes are open, everyone is a teacher. Thus, honor all (people and experiences) that come into your awareness. Know that some teachers will never manifest on this plane, but will guide you nevertheless. I will be one of them for you, always. Embrace every encounter with gratitude, and your life will be transformed. Be grateful.

4. Me and Mine

Everyone falls into the trap of partitioning “me and mine” from “not me and not mine”. Know that all divisions in the world arise from this. Also know that this erroneous division is merely a play of the human mind. Even the best amongst us is prone to this folly. Hence, forgive those (very human) friends, parents, teachers and leaders that give precedence to their own. By recognizing that this is merely a human tendency, resolve to find that in you which unites, not divides. Be inclusive.

5. Jealousy, greed, hate

No matter what field you choose, you will encounter these qualities in those around you. People will try to pull you down, set you up, put themselves first at all costs, call you names, steal from you and cause you pain. Know that those that exhibit these tendencies don’t know any better. Thus, forgive them. Know without a doubt that the most effective remedy to all negativity is love. Strive to go beyond such petty limitations yourself, by keeping your heart fixed on the nobler goal of knowing the divine in you (and by default, in all). Know that all else in life is irrelevant in comparison. Be brave.

6. Meditation

Without fail, make time and space for quiet every single day. Every aspect of your life will be the better for it. Guard your solitude like no other property. Become intimately familiar with the workings of your own mind – it is in this familiarity with your own self that you can undo all that does not serve you. In becoming friends with all the evil in you, not only can you empathize with the evil in others, but also learn to let go of it and attune yourself to the divine in you. Be still.

7. Moderation

In order to fulfill life’s divine purpose, it helps to follow moderation in all areas of life. Time and again, you will be tempted to over-indulge, be it work, play, study, talk, food, sleep, nice things, travel, or even spiritual pursuits. In all matters, be diligent about moderation. At all times, be cognizant of your mind’s pushes and pulls. Loss of control over your mind’s demands and tantrums is the first step into hell’s descent. Be disciplined.

8. Self-talk

There is much in popular psychology about positive self-talk. But this is a primitive step in the long and arduous process of gaining mastery over your own inner workings. Learn to listen to that inner voice and it’s constant flow – watch all the unkind ways in which your mind will degrade you in response to a present situation but always based on a habitual pattern picked up long ago. As you learn to watch them (aided by daily meditation), recognize the humor and futility of your mind’s endless stories. Once you learn to see the mind’s spinning as simply it’s own mode of self-preservation, you will have the power to not believe it’s stories. And once you stop believing it, the mind has no choice but to drop it. Be reflective.

9. Fame and wealth

In your times, more than ever, there will be a clamoring for wealth and fame. Many around you will dedicate their lives to seeking fame and wealth at the cost of all else. In this pursuit, they will display the one quality not seen in any other species – selfishness bordering on insanity. You may be tempted to follow that path yourself. Know without a doubt that neither fame nor wealth will give you lasting happiness. The more you seek them, the more will peace and freedom evade you. However, if you can understand how the Universe works, you will discover true joy which will radiate from you in the form of love, kindness, abundance, and compassion. The secret to abundance is giving – give your time and resources without reservation and watch your life overflow with abundance. Be giving.

10. Humility

You are gifted. So is everyone else. There is no being that is brought into existence without a divine purpose. As you go through life, your successes and achievements will bring admiration from many. But remember one thing – talent and success make one akin to an uncut diamond. What gives the diamond it’s signature dazzle is humility. And humility is knowing with conviction that you are no better than anyone else, and all that is given to you is merely a gift of Grace. Do not fake humility, or any other virtue. Faking is always unnecessary, non-serving and obvious. Do not get ahead of yourself with pride and arrogance – there is nothing more unbecoming. Genuine humility will bring the Universe to your feet. Be humble.

11. Love

Realize that love is the very fuel of creation. It is what drives every creature, big and small. Love and God are synonymous. Love is what remains after everything else is gone. And the only place you will find it is in your own heart, even though you may search for it everywhere else for a long time. The only way you will experience true love is by loving. If you pick and choose whom to love, you will miss the greatest gift of human life. Be loving.

12. Religion

The world is divided by those fanatical about “their” God. In your life, you will encounter many who will try to convince you that “theirs” is better than “yours”. You may also notice yourself wanting to prove that yours is better than theirs. Recognize that this tendency is the hallmark of divisiveness, a uniquely human condition. God does not divide. God is all there is, in every being, every rock, every planet and every sun – in all of creation, seen and unseen, known and unknown. Seek to know God that is you; all else is trivial. Be God.

The “Where Am I?” Game

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Life Lessons

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

A few months ago, I was cooking while my children sat at the kitchen table working on their homework. As usual, they began bickering about something, and I heard one of them say, “No, this is mine. I have had it for months..”

The following arose as a jovial conversation between the younger child and me:

Me: “Are you sure it is yours?”

Her: “Yes.”

Me: “What makes it yours?”

Her: “Because as I said (with a look of ‘poor dumb Mommy’), I have had it for months. Besides, because I say so.”

Me: “Hmmm.. so it belongs to you.”

Her: “You’re not listening mom. Yes, it does.”

Me: “To whom?”

Her: “Me.”

Me: “Ok, where is this me that has this?”

Her: “Right here in this chair.”

Me: “Where in the chair?”

Her: “In my body.”

Me: “Where in that body?”

Her (thinking a bit): “In my brain.”

Me: “So will I find you if I cut open your brain? Remember the pictures of brains you’ve seen? By looking at those pictures, can you tell who they belong to? Was the person in the brain?”

Her: “Ahh, no. In the heart then.”

Me: “I show you live pictures of hearts all the time. Is the person ever in the heart?”

While the above was transpiring between this younger child (age 9) and me, the older one (age 11) sat listening quietly. At this point, her eyes widened with absolute disbelief and recognition. The following is the conversation with her:

Her: “Gosh, mommy! I’m not in my body at all!!”

Me: “Where are you then?”

Her: “Must be in my mind!”

Me: “Where is this mind where you are?”

Her: “In my brain.”

Me: “In those pictures you’ve seen of brains, is there a part called mind?”

Her: “No.. So, am in my feelings?”

Me: “Do your feelings come and go?”

Her: “Yes.. Ahh.. so I cannot be in my feelings because I am here even when the feeling goes away.. Tell me then mom. Where am I??”

Me (big smile): “Sorry, can’t do. You have to find out for yourself.”

At this point, I just laughed and changed the topic. A few days later, I was driving the older child back late at night from an activity.. After several minutes of silence, she began:

Her: “Mommy, can we play the where am I game again?”

Me (taking several minutes to figure out what she was talking about): “Sure.”

Her: “So, I am not in my body, mind or feelings. But I know I’m here. Where am I then?”

Me: “You tell me.”

Her: “Why am I not my thoughts again?”

Me: “Do you know you are thinking?”

Her: “Yes. Always.”

Me: “So are there two of you? The one that thinks and the one that knows?”

Her (momentary disbelief again): “Gosh! No. I am the one that knows. Because even when thoughts don’t come, I know there are no thoughts.”

Me (heart bursting with joy): “Yes!”

Her: “When did you figure this out mom?”

Me: “Certainly not at your age.”

Her: “Does everyone figure out that they are not in their body or mind?”

Me: “Eventually.”

Her: “If I am not in my feelings, that is amazing. I don’t have to worry about being sad.”

Me: “Exactly!”

After several moments of pregnant silence,

Me (mostly to myself): “The most important question you can ask is who you are. And the first step in that is to ask where you are. Nothing else you achieve in life will come close to knowing where you are not.”

Her: “This is so cool, mommy. Can we play this game every time we are alone?”

Me: “Yes. Any time you want to.”

Just like that! And it took me a few decades to “get” this even intellectually..

My children, my greatest teachers.

Women In Medicine – Personal Insights

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Life Lessons

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

My 12-year old daughter declared at the dinner table recently that she wanted to be a cardiologist when she grew up. Amused, I asked her why and she responded that she loved what I did and that it seemed to be quite “cool”. I wondered what I would want her (and any young woman with a dream to pursue a career in medicine) to know. The following is what came up from this reflection, and consists of what I have learned from a decade of cardiology practice:

  1. Do not apologize: The common (and hopefully, fast fading) perception of women in competitive medical (or other) careers is that we must be cold, sterile and austere in order to succeed.

There is never any need to apologize for wanting to have or raise a family during training or practice. If the program or practice is unaccepting or disrespectful of this fundamental need, it is not for you. Keep looking.

  1. Negotiate wisely: The long years of training with the associated loans and frugal living lead to anxious wanting of financial security. However, a bigger paycheck or title always come with a greater pressure to deliver, particularly in the current dynamic landscape of healthcare.

It is all relative; you will have more than enough money to live comfortably, and certainly much more than the majority of the world’s population. Know what (time, energy, etcetera) you are willing to compromise in return for status, titles and paychecks.

  1. Put in your best work: The pressure to prove ourselves may seem to be considerably more acute for us than for our male colleagues. While it is not necessary to go overboard with our own expectations, it is essential for all doctors (male or female) to establish a strong work ethic and be committed to it.

Ask for help or advice when needed and pitch in whenever possible. If you excel at what you do and consistently live up to the ideals of earnestness and integrity, you will do well wherever you go. Focus on your own work and stay away from petty politics.

  1. Collaborate freely: The key to success, be it in academic medicine or in clinical practice is to collaborate and to share freely. Being humbly rooted as part of a whole and working toward the well-being and development of this whole is far more gratifying than to selfishly hoard successes and achievements.

Give freely of your time and talents so that everyone you associate with benefits.

  1. Believe in yourself: Even in this modern era, it is not uncommon to encounter sexist banter and behavior from male colleagues, patients (and their families), ancillary staff and even students/trainees.

Be steady in your conviction, knowledge and wisdom; your success and/or self-image are not dependent on anyone else. Stand up quietly for your rights and dust off the rest. The well-rounded men along your career path will remain your friends and mentors, and earn your loyalty.

  1. Equality does mean sameness: The abilities, talents and gifts that women bring to the field of medicine necessarily differ from those of men. There can be a distorted perception that equality means “sameness”, where we have to do things in exactly the same way as men in order to be considered their equals.

Do not be clouded by this misperception. Tap into your unique talents and joyfully integrate them into your work and life. Creativity and dynamism arise freely against the backdrop of calm confidence and self-assurance; they are therefore worth cultivating.

  1. You can have it all, but perhaps not simultaneously: We are not just doctors; we are also wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. The peak of our careers coincides with the peak of our biological systems. It is also the time when our children grow up and our parents age.

Growth in your career will never occur in isolation; your partner’s career and choices must be honored equally and your family’s needs met with grace. It is necessary to develop a larger perspective and to learn to prioritize according to ongoing (and constantly changing) life circumstances.

  1. Count on change: Change is the only certainty. Not only do our professional lives change as a result of policy and technology, but our personal lives also undergo profound growth and change as we age and mature.

Your career may take unexpected turns reflecting personal growth and/or life circumstances. What seemed crucial at the beginning of your career may fade into a non-issue down the road. Be flexible in your outlook; going with the flow will save you from needless inner turmoil and anguish.

  1. Make time for yourself: As clichéd as it is, women are nurturing by divine design and the ability to give freely of ourselves depends largely on being secure and content with who we are.

Becoming a doctor does not mean that you will have to permanently sacrifice your personal well-being. Nurture yourself with quiet time, friends, hobbies and activities that you enjoy. You will be a better doctor, partner, parent and friend for it.

  1. Tread the middle way: A balanced life calls for delegation when needed and letting go of stubborn attachment to always having things be a certain way.

Whenever possible, get help with housework and other noncritical tasks. Practice what you preach to your patients and stick to moderation in your own lifestyle.

Ultimately, a career in medicine is demanding and often all-consuming. Yet, there are few other professions as humbling or gratifying. In return for the service we provide, our patients generously teach us much about ourselves and catalyze our growth as humans; in truth, they serve us far more than we can ever serve them. For this alone, all the hurdles and challenges along the way are well worth it.