On November 30, 2011, alone and with a heart wide open, I boarded a flight that would take me halfway around the world. My destination was a tiny yoga school in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India.
Vaguely, this quest had something to do with purpose and fulfillment. Although I was unsure of the exact thing I was searching for, I was certain I’d find it there somewhere along the banks of the holy Ganges River, which carved the town into thirds.
Six years to the exact day later, I embarked on the second great journey of my life: motherhood. Coincidence, maybe. But I’m more apt to believe the arrival of my daughter marked a lap of a cycle that began back when I planted my wide, flat feet firmly onto the mat in that magic place that felt more like home than home itself.
What I found in India, what I found in yoga and what was reaffirmed when I gave birth to my daughter (and to myself as a mother) was the power of letting go.
As the orange sun set on the foothills of the Himalayas and in a rooftop classroom with window frames frequented by smiling, sometimes sinister monkeys, I learned that, at its very core, the practice of yoga is abhyasa and vairagya — holding on and letting go. Strength and flexibility. Effort and surrender.
What I learned on my hands and knees on the floor of my birthing center, naked in my divine power, my tiny daughter about to take her first breath, is that motherhood, like yoga, occurs at this junction of effort and surrender.
In both of these spaces, and with the great effort of becoming, my self broke into infinity, revealing my ego and with it, the chains of “shoulds,” the empty wanting, the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we believe. With each breath I take as a mother, there is resistance, and then there is the quiet but mighty voice of surrender. The freedom of letting go. The power in simply existing, right there, in a moment, exactly as it is, exactly as you are.
I am not the mother I thought I’d be, the one my ego tells me I should be. I am the mother I am. When you view motherhood through the lens of surrender, you accept your body and you thank it, despite the sometimes foreign feeling of it. You move more fluidly through sleepless nights, undone laundry and dishes, the idea that you should have showered by now.
Mostly, you experience time in a new way. “It goes by so fast, so savor every moment,” they say. It does go by fast. And you never know the futility of savoring it until you’ve studied a groggy, milk-dripped smile and the line of a tiny body, a body you made, under the moonlight, so desperate to save a moment, you exhale to keep your heart from breaking.
Motherhood is that exhale.