How I found myself while Pregnant. Includes Meditation For Self Love.
by Donna Quesada:
My given name was Sun-Hi, a Korean name, meaning “goodness,” or in some translations, “obedience” and“happiness.” Like many Asians trying to fit into the American way of life, I eventually adopted a western name, hoping to seem more American and to be more liked by my American peers.
My parents sent me over to the United States when I was 17. The idea was that I would live with my aunt and go to college there. But due to some complications with my student visa, which I never really understood, I had to first do one year at an American high school before transferring to a university. As soon as I settled into my new home, I met my cousin, who in many ways was a typical, wannabe-cool Asian kid. He is the one who first advised me to adopt a western name, so that I would make friends more easily, and besides, he said, no one would be able to pronounce Sun-Hi—they would inevitably end up saying sən-hī.
The only other Asian in the senior class was a Chinese boy who called himself Henry, so I figured my cousin was right and so I decided to call myself “Sandy”, since the unstated convention was to take a name that started with the same letter as your original name. From that point on, I started putting “Sandy” on all my school work and introducing myself as “Sandy.”
I didn’t see it at the time, but that would be the first notable instance of selling myself, or giving away a part of myself in order to fit in or to make others feel better about who I was.
The next significant and life-changing instance would be when I filled in the word BUSINESS on my college application form, in the space where it asked for my major or area of concentration.
You see, my father wouldn’t pay for my college tuition unless I majored in something that would lead to a prudent and lucrative career. I heard his voice in my head, I didn’t sacrifice to send you to an American school for you to fool around and waste your time with a dead-end major, like art!
So, I buried my love of painting in my other love of food and promptly gained over 25 pounds within my first year of college.
Sun means ”obedience” in Korean. I began to wonder about the irony…Can you be happy when you’re being obedient? And I discovered that many western dictionaries translate the name to “goodness,” rather than “obedience,” most likely to make the name more palatable to western sensibilities.
So, I followed the path laid out for me by my parents. I went to business school and soon after graduation, got a job with a local firm. It was reliable. I had health insurance and a 401K…but I was depressed. Something in me always felt unfulfilled. So, I kept eating and I see now that I used food as a way of trying to fill that void. I wasn’t “allowed” to admit to myself, what had really created the profound sense of emptiness in my life.
I met an American man in the company and we got married. Without articulating it, I thought married life would make me feel “complete.” I thought it would open the way for a new kind of life. And I hoped it would give me a sense of purpose in life.
My parents came for the wedding and all the talk was that I was living “the American dream.” I was working for a prominent American firm, I was driving an SUV, and now I owned my own home in an upper class American neighborhood. Although it took them a while to adjust to this one… I even had an American husband. I guess this was my only rebellious act up until that point.
Once we moved into our new home together, I had this strange feeling within… like I was playing a role. I remember once, I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond, to get some things for the spare bedroom in anticipation of my parents’ yearly visit, and I found myself driving down the highway, not remembering going that far—I had completely missed the off ramp for the shopping center. I realized that I felt out of place, as if I was some bizarre creature that had just been dropped onto a new planet. My world felt foreign, like I was living someone else’s life. I felt as if I had just stepped in to play a role…like a stand in, who comes when the realactor is absent.
When I became pregnant, I could no longer continue my hours at the company, due to some complicationswith the pregnancy. That’s when I rediscovered some of my old paintings. It all started by chance one weekend, when I was clearing out that spare bedroom and going through all the boxes I hadn’t even opened since coming to this country. Rolled up next to some barbie dolls were beautiful paintings of birds done in the traditional Korean style. I was surprised how good they were, for having been done by a teenager. That teenager was me! And I hadn’t even picked up a brush since then.
The following Monday morning, I went to our local art supply center as soon as they opened. I wasn’t supposed to be on my feet for too long, but I could paint! I felt ecstatic at the mere idea of holding a brush in my hand again. I bought rice paper, ink, watercolor, and a couple of brushes, just to noodle around.
The woman next door, Melissa, had become a dear friend. One day when she popped over, she saw some of my paintings that I had placed around the kitchen to dry. She was so surprised that she blabbed about it every chance she got: Sandy has a hidden talent! Isn’t Sandy the mysterious one!…What other talents is she hiding? One of the people she happened to casually “mention” it to, was her daughter’s teacher, when we went to open house together.
The teacher called me the very next week to ask how I would feel about hanging a few of my paintings at the community school auction. Any proceeds would be split with the school and used to buy school supplies for underprivileged students. To my surprise, they all sold!
And from that point on, neighbors I had never even met were contacting me to buy paintings from me directly. That meant I had to keep painting to fill the orders! My days of pregnancy were filled with painting and napping. Melissa even offered to do paint store runs for me, to save me from being on my feet for too long.
One thing was for sure…I had no desire to ever return to the company. And my husband was thankfully fully supportive and encouraged me to keep painting.
The Role of Parent—
I was also reading a lot during my pregnancy and rejoiced when I read a certain passage in A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, which someone had given me. He asks, “Are you able to fulfill the function of being a parent and fulfill it well, without identifying with that function, that is, without it becoming a role?”
In other words, when we become attached to the “role” of being a parent, and to the mental ideas of whatever that means to us, we overdo every aspect of it, to the point where it goes beyond the fundamental act of fulfilling basic needs, and the whole thing then gets transformed into controlling-type behavior. This is especially true when the child becomes an adult and the fundamental needs of the child no longer need to be provided by the parent.
I had suddenly found articulation for what I always knew to be true, through my own experience.
This hyper-attachment to the identity of being a parent, creates a kind of obsession within us, to the extent that we get “taken over,” with the idea of what parenting entails, and as soon as we are living in the world of ideas, we are no longer present with the actual child in front of us.
The result is a heavy handed, almost despotic approach to parenting in which over protectiveness takes the place of genuine connection. In effect, it becomes over-parenting, rather than parenting.
It comes wrapped in the package of “I know what’s best for you,” which, as Tolle says, may be true when the child is very young, but when it takes the place of heartfelt communication, it prevents the formation of an authentic relationship, as the child becomes an adult. How could there be an authentic relationship, when every word and action, on the child’s part, becomes guided by the instinct toward defensiveness, guarding against unwanted meddling?
MEDDLING: What is really underneath?—
Now that I am a parent myself, I see the fear that was underneath my parents’ aversion to my going to art school. When I became pregnant, I resolved right then and there, not to do the same thing to my own child, especially as he matures into his own person. I want to honor his path as his own, whatever that path may be.
Then Comes the Guilt—
After defensiveness comes guilt, since the grown child will at some point find the courage to assert independence, and in response, in a desperate attempt to maintain control, the parent of the grown child will use guilt, dressed in the guise of concern. This additional ingredient ensures the continuation of a disconnected relationship characterized by suspicion and resentment.
The root of this unpleasant mix comes from the ego’s need to manipulate so as to fulfill some insecurity within. As Tolle points out, that lack is usually beneath the surface and may not even be consciously recognized. The concern camouflages itself in statements like, “I sacrificed so much for you.” But, underneath, is My disapproval of what you’re doing is intended to make you conform to my wishes so that I can feel comfortable.
It starts innocent enough, though. Even “noble” over-parenting, for the purpose of protecting your kids from pain, is self-defeating, according to Dr. Robin Berman:
It’s both human, and typical of how we parent today: At the first indication of unhappiness from our kids, we rush in to fix it, serving like human pacifiers. And while the intention is valid—why let a child suffer, when it’s so easy to take the pain away—the ramifications of protecting our kids from dealing with the ups-and-downs of life have far-reaching consequences, including a lack of agency, an inability to regulate emotions, and a future inclination for co-dependent relationships and to look to outside factors for soothing.
So, according to Berman, the over-involvement is propelled by the well-meaning, but misguided desire to see your kids “happy.” A more long-lasting gift would be to teach them how to manage their emotions. It’s like the old proverb that reminds us how much more useful it is to teach someone how to fish, than to simply give them a piece of fish. In the case of parenting, how much more useful it would be to help our children manage their intense emotions, than to try to make them magically disappear, pacify them or suppress them with whatever version of instant gratification we can reach for, whether it be food, shopping or some other panacea.
Berman summarizes the situation perfectly:
Here’s the secret: To have happy kids, you must teach them to tolerate being unhappy.
Breaking Free from Tribal Authority—
I also read Caroline Myss, who reminds us that we all, in some way, are subscribing to what she calls “the tribal mind.” What she means is that we unconsciously support tribal belief patterns by investing our energies into them. In a very real sense, we are “giving part of ourselves away” by directing our life force into maintaining our affiliation with the tribe, which usually includes our family and the community that surrounds us. This involves an implicit agreement to think like the tribe thinks, to evaluate situations and judge people the way the tribe does, and to believe in right and wrong according to tribal values.
So many of our prejudices and fears are derived from these tribal beliefs, such as “All men are liars,” or “all women are liars,” or “all Italians are mafia.” Or, in my parents’ case, “art isn’t a valid pursuit.”
Inevitably, as we awaken, we will come to a point where we will want to break out of the inflexible tribal mentality. We will want to evolve as an “individual voyager” in which we consciously let go of what we no longer genuinely believe.
The Real Roots of Depression—
The most significant corollary of “selling” a piece of ourselves in order to please others is the resultant depression that follows. The pages filling psychologists’ textbooks of depression are uncountable and the clinical definitions and causes vary from chemical imbalance to seasonal disturbance, while our collective understanding of it seems to change every decade.
But one thing that gets overlooked in mainstream analysis is the role of authentic living in the development of depression. It seems depression is guaranteed when we are not living our lives authentically and expressing ourselves as we are, truly, through the work that we do and through our relationships. This includes setting proper boundaries, knowing how to say no, and expressing our needs.
When we sacrifice our own vision, in order to satisfy someone else’s vision for us, we end up living a life that is not truly ours. The result is depression, as well as an abiding sense of powerlessness over our lives. In other words, when we are not being true to ourselves and living “from the heart,” we set up the conditions for depression. This keeps us trapped in a cycle of feeling like a victim, rather than the master of our journey.
Energetically, not living from the heart means that we have disconnected from our channel to the divine—we have ceased to be a conduit for the divine flow, which expresses itself through our authenticity… through everything we were meant to create, through our words, and through everything that we do. It is no wonder the result is depression.
What’s the alternative?—
Let’s go back to nature and take a cue from the mother of all mothers: Mother Nature. If a mother hen tries to crack the eggshell to help her baby out, the chick dies. If we hover and constantly rescue our children from feeling sad, we are preventing them from fully hatching. ~Dr. Robin Berman
As I continued reading and reflecting on these lessons during the last weeks of my pregnancy, when it became difficult to even sit up and paint for any length of time, I inwardly resolved to be a different kind of parent than what I had grown up with. Although I came to see that my parents meant well, I felt that I had a responsibility to do better, as an awakened person. I knew that as parents, We have to BE the lesson before we can TEACH the lesson. The more self-aware we are as parents, the better we can parent. We don’t want to scream at our kids to stop screaming or yell at them to calm down. Toughest of all is to resist the knee-jerk urge to rescue our kids from their negative feelings. We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable watching our kids struggle. If we jump in and rescue our kids at every turn, we send them the message that they can’t handle their own feelings…. Empathy goes farther than rescuing. It creates emotional safety for our children. So, my own resolve as a new parent is to embody the proclamation that says, “I see you, I get you, I hear you.”
A Meditation to Accompany Your Inward Journey—
Since I wasn’t supposed to walk too much during my pregnancy, my doctor advised me to take up gentle Yoga to keep my joints agile. With the help of videos, as well as local classes, I ended up discovering the transformative power of Yoga, not only for the body, but also for the spirit, and for my own sense of empowerment. I loved that I could comfortably rest in easy pose whenever I needed to, sit out the movements that I couldn’t do, and join in when I was ready. My favorite Yoga classes were Kundalini and Yin Yoga, both of which included various meditations, as well. I particularly resonated with this Kundalini meditation, which is a good companion to any journey to self-empowerment:
PROSPERITY MEDITATION FOR SELF ESTEEM AND SELF LOVE—
POSTURE: Sit comfortably, on a pillow or a cushion, with your back as straight as possible.
MUDRA: Hands are in Gyan Mudra (tips of the index finger and the thumb touching each other, forming a circle). Wrists are resting on the knees.
EYES: Eyes are gently, or nearly closed (1/10th open).
MANTRA: Inhale deeply, suspend the breath and mentally recite:
I AM BOUNTIFUL.
I AM BLISSFUL.
I AM BEAUTIFUL.
Exhale completely and hold the breath out as you mentally recite:
EXCEL, EXCEL, FEARLESS.