I’m delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Mayra Hall’s reflection “Sustaining Our Traditions.”
It’s been a week and a day since my granddaughter’s birth, and finally, during a grace-filled conversation, I was able to be fully connected to the emotional swell in my heart. It had been building up since the moment my daughter went into labor.
My daughter started having contractions on Friday and Nova was born on Sunday, August 20, 2017. Her name was inspired by the recent Solar Eclipse. Labor was a long process, counted at 43 hours, although I think it was even longer than that. During that time, there was a moment when the hospital equipment could not find Nova’s heart beating in the womb. Soon enough they did find it, and was monitored even more closely after that. So much so that on Sunday afternoon, the obstetrician recommended a Caesarean birth. It was a good thing that my daughter agreed to it because we later learned that Nova’s umbilical cord had begun to wrap around her neck. Left to attempt a natural birth, she could have suffocated.
Nova had two close calls with the end of her life even before she was born! Needless to say, she was monitored very closely during the three days she was in the hospital. One time while sleeping, Nova gurgled and stopped breathing. A nurse had to perform an extraction procedure in order for her to breathe freely again. That happens often with newborns, but with such a fragile state of emotions among us, it was yet another awakening to the enormous task of survival. The struggle continued while my daughter & Nova figured out the rhythms of breastfeeding.
During the beginning of life, newborns are so vulnerable. It takes vigilance to care for their delicate nature. What we take for granted later in life, we had to learn through an arduous process.
I have seen my granddaughter begin that journey, and embrace that learning curve. Moreover, I have witnessed her parents navigate their own emotionally packed responsibility for her care. It has touched me deeply, to the core of my being.
This has started me thinking about the way we condition ourselves to forget the vulnerability of our beginnings. We cover it up with layers and layers of can-do attitudes. We hide signs of it, and label them as weaknesses or character flaws, or inadequacies. Society has led us to believe that we outgrow our vulnerabilities. Healthy adults ‘should’ be able to handle their life events. Our culture does not allow us to be gentle with ourselves when vulnerabilities emerge. Bidden or unbidden, they do show up from time to time, especially during periods of transition in life. That is, whenever something new is being born from within, or around our environment in a way that affects us.
Rather than question our worth, our capabilities, our holiness, or actually wonder if there is something really wrong with us, what would happen if we tried to imagine what it is like to be a newborn infant? Would we understand that all births come hand in hand with vulnerability?
Could we welcome the new (the stranger) whole-heartedly? In Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, Lonni Collins Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB, say that:
“Benedictine spirituality insists that if you want to be whole, you have to let the ‘other’ in… [Furthermore, Benedictine] hospitality requires not grand gestures but opened hearts. When I let a ‘stranger’ into my heart, I let a new possibility approach me.”<
What would happen if we embrace that attitude as we contemplate the new that is emerging within us and around us?
1) What is new in your life? It can be a new relationship, new career, new energy in creative expression, new city, new house, new level in business, new anything at all. The new seems to be always accompanied by a delicate process that we need to nurture. Whenever we begin anything, we need to care and protect it as much as new parents have to care and protect an infant.
2) How can you take steps to protect and care for it?
3) How does it feel to be vulnerable again? Can you cradle that dimension of yourself? Can you soothe yourself gently? Maybe imagining a gentle bounce, or rocking motion. Can you see yourself as a newborn around this new beginning… again and again…?
4) How can you navigate this transition to the new? What do you need in order to support this process? What resources (human or material) might become available for you?
5) How might community (virtual or local) be a place of sustenance while the new (within and around you) begins its integration in your life?