It's been a month since my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and WOW has it been a learning experience! Changing diapers at 3 a.m., figuring out how to sterilize bottles, bathe the little one, strap her into the car seat, and rock her to sleep. The hardest part? It's not about "me" anymore. The baby doesn't care if I have articles to write, meetings to attend or taxes to file -- it's all about her needs. Like all parents, I've had to yield to this tiny creature who contains so much joy and wields so much power over her surroundings.
It reminded me of a story about Ram Dass, a personal hero of mine. Ram Dass is a Harvard professor turned spiritual teacher who traveled to India in the 1960s seeking enlightenment, and later met his Guru in the Himalayas. One day, while spending time in his Guru's ashram, Ram Dass went up to the old man, who was lying on a sheet on the floor, and asked: "How can I attain enlightenment?" His guru replied: "Feed people and serve people." Feed people and serve people? OK.
So Ram Dass returned to the U.S. and did just that; he began sharing his wisdom through seminars and retreats and books and helped introduce yoga and meditation to America. He also co-founded the Seva Foundation, which works to "prevent blindness and restore sight worldwide," and has served as an inspiration to other masters like Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. If you've read any of his books (Be Here Now is a must) or heard him speak, you know that Ram Dass is enlightened -- or at least on the verge of it.
What does all this have to do with diapers and your own enlightenment?
A lot. When you have a baby, think about what you are doing. You are feeding and serving it. You change its diapers, wash its clothes, clean its milk bottles, sing it lullabies, cradle, love, and soothe it. In other words, you are doing exactly what Ram Dass's Guru said you must do to find enlightenment. You are feeding and serving another living being.
True, this little being may look like you and come from your own flesh and blood, but there's a spiritual process taking root; a process of opening and expanding your capacity to love and serve which lies at the heart of the spiritual quest.
But this is only the beginning. The trick is to take this spirit of service and extend it beyond your immediate family to your circle of friends, and community, and to complete strangers, until you no longer differentiate between who you serve and why. You simply treat other people, all people -- even those who don't share your values and beliefs and DNA -- the way you'd treat your own children.
You see, having a child is not just a physical act, it's a spiritual act of creation, whereby from two (mother and father) comes a third. A Holy Trinity.
It's also an initiation, a process through which your heart and psyche and definition of self opens. Your ego shrinks and your Self expands. Pre-baby I was a husband and a non-profit director and a motivational speaker and an author. But now I am a father. That's big. And it's added a whole new dimension to my capacity to serve.
Now even if you don't have a baby or ever plan to, there are three important takeaways:
1) Remember that everyone you meet, even people you despise, were once cute little babies. They have purity and innocence in them. It's there beneath their masks and hurt and pain and ego. You just have to see through their shtick to help them discover it. So instead of judging try to see someone's highest, brightest self. Try to see them as they were as babies. This, I imagine, is how God sees us. (And it's how babies see the world -- without judgment or entangled agendas.)
2) The second point is that you don't have to look for a Guru or a spiritual teacher in some far away land. They are everywhere. Your children are your gurus; your parents are your gurus, your friends are your gurus, and even your enemies are your gurus. In everyone and everything lies a teacher.
3) Finally, if you seek enlightenment, you need not go to an ashram or a yoga retreat on a mountaintop in Maui. You just have to go out into your community and be of service to your fellow men and women. Having a child will teach you about service but there are plenty of other ways. Buy a homeless person lunch, offer to clean up your neighbour's yard, go out of your way to give someone a compliment or an uplifting word or a smile; volunteer at an elderly home or become the mentor of a disadvantaged teen. Pick up litter at your local park. Adopt an animal. The opportunities to serve are endless.
The trick is to find someone or something to feed and serve, be it an animal, a pet, a person, or a child, and extend that energy towards other living beings; even if they don't reciprocate, resemble you, or come from your own narrow "tribe." Don't get caught up in forms, go beyond the forms to the stuff we are all made of.
And when you begin to see yourself in others and others in yourself to the point where "self" and "other" dissolve and only love, of which you are a vessel, remains -- you will come to the river from which Jesus, and Buddha, Moses and other great beings have drank.
Easy in principle, excruciating in practice, but every diaper counts! Now let's get going.
Have a beautiful week,
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