[Submission for book ‘Unbound Perspectives: 2020’ to be published by the Unbound Press in February 2020]
On January first of 2020, as I lay in bed next to my one-month old infant, I asked the universe for a sign for what I could be focusing on for my work. Although I didn’t feel like I needed to continue working right away, I felt something was emergent, a different emanation of myself was being midwifed, and I had a creative spark flowing through me. I had just had a profoundly ecstatic delivery with a beautiful baby girl and was floating in the liminal space of new life being birthed in the middle of winter. I was in the midst of a mystery unfolding, a new possibility, in between moments of delirium from sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion.
I witnessed the moment of pushing the baby through the ‘ring of fire’ with no epidural support, wondering if I would even survive, wanting the baby to stop thrusting forward yet praying for the pain to end. I pushed with all my might, roaring like a lion, with my husband and doula by my sides, being coached and cheered on by a team of doctors, nurses and midwives, and within moments, a miracle happened – the birth of my daughter Maya, and the possibility of the indescribable joy in experiencing motherhood all over again.
Thankfully, this time I had managed to escape postpartum depression which was an unfortunate cornerstone after my first delivery.
That delivery had torn me apart, physically, emotionally, physiologically. While the delivery itself was immensely challenging, I felt heartbroken as I watched my hormones ravage my body like brushfire, eating up my willpower, exposing me to anxiety attacks I had never felt before. Despite the discomfort, I pushed to care for myself and the baby, going from crying to laughing within minutes due to the intensity and ups and downs.
When the postpartum period was finally over, I was elated, and I chalked up my journey into motherhood as a spiritual fire walk, a crossing through the dark night of the soul that allowed me to transcend to the echelons of warriorhood. It also grounded me in empathy and deep connection to the feminine consciousness, which entails serving life while feeling deeply vulnerable, and a new appreciation for the role of the masculine in my life, seeding and supporting the creation rumbling through me.
As I sat with what was emergent, I realized I wanted an avenue for creative self-expression and to find a sense of truth within me; something outside of being engaged in the world as I had in the past. What was the wild, authentic desire within me that I could access in this primal, shamanic portal I was walking through? What was the birth that was happening, yet again?
When I sat with the emotion I desired to feel in 2020, the feeling that came up was Transcendence.
Transcendence for me has had a hoity-toity connotation, reserved for spiritual aspirants and yogis, people who lecture on mindfulness or spend their free moments on beaches meditating and doing asanas. This seemed out of reach for a new mother waking every three hours to feed a ravenous, inconsolable child. How could I revel in this vibrational realm, while being present during the very human act of mothering, which sometimes was deeply uncomfortable and requiring every ounce of my attention and energy? On the flipside, I also could see that being pregnant, giving birth and caring for a child, primitive activities that required tremendous presence and love, had given me a unique opportunity to be undone, and allow whatever is authentic to me to unravel.
When I tuned into the feeling of transcendence, there appeared to be a golden radiance, a feeling of upliftment, an elevation beyond my current state, a revelation of some sort. A knowing that I am in the world, but not of it. It evoked in me a greater sense of heart openness, a wonder with the world and delicious acceptance of being. Of fully experiencing pain and pleasure, but not attaching to either. Of accessing a deeper truth and luminosity, which appeared easily during the mundaneness of life of mothering yet was also fleeting.
Years before 2020 began, during my first pregnancy, I started having panic attacks at random moments. When I would be in the subway or elevator while traveling from my apartment in New York City, I would be gripped by immense claustrophobia; and sometimes would feel leery or insecure at night or while walking around. My body was telling me something through these panic moments when felt paralyzed and felt a quickening of my heart rate and corresponding adrenaline rushes – was it a grief that I hadn’t processed? I envisioned I was entering a long, underground tunnel, and was stuck with the walls caving in, the same feeling I have when I am about to deliver a child.
If I were honest, I had intuitively felt that the world would be changing drastically, and it was feeling even more imminent. There would be a death and rebirth of some sort; there was no way out. I worked with a hypnotherapist who helped me overcome my fear of darkness and closed spaces that had escalated due to hormonal surges in my body. By the grace of God and through this man’s help, I was able to be comfortable with the darkness more, despite my fear of uncertainty of what was to come.
The very next morning, after sending that missive to God asking me for direction in my work, I got onto social media and saw advertisements related to publishing one’s book. I thought somewhat skeptically, “Maybe I’m supposed to write a book? God, I need more proof here!” The same day, I got an e-mail from an old mentor who told me that she envisioned me becoming a writer; and later that afternoon during grocery shopping, I spoke with my husband about what to prioritize for work, he confirmed that he, too, felt this was the time to write a book. Third time’s the charm, they say, when it comes to synchronicity!
I began to feel into writing a book. It seemed particularly challenging given the little time I had between childcare and recovery, yet, it was the perfect, solitary, creative activity for a new mama. Writing was a seed that was planted in me from my childhood, always looking for an opportune time to sprout, and somehow, now seemed the time.
As fortune would have it, the very next day, I received an e-mail from Nicola Humber talking about joining a Writing Mastermind. My heart raced as I read it, and I took the plunge.
The year 2020 began with this endeavor – of writing a book, being in the mystery of life, while attending to everyday responsibilities of childcare and recovery. I knew I wanted something to transform, but what was it? I had a feeling that writing would be my container for alchemy.
At first, I did not know what my book would be about and each day, I simply wrote in a stream of consciousness whenever I could get a moment. I attended group calls with other women in which we shared our joys and trepidations about our writing journeys.
The tides changed soon enough. The news of the Coronavirus started floating from China and Europe, keeping us glued to the news. When would it arrive, and what would the impact be? Would it be deadly, would we lose our loved ones? Would New York City be so lucky as to somehow avert the disaster?
The second weekend of March, we decided to visit my in-laws in New Jersey for a couple of nights. On the train ride there, we heard about the first documented case in New York City. By the end of the weekend, over a hundred tested positive. What should we do, do we even travel back home by train, we wondered? In that moment, a good friend told us to simply stay put, and not go back, out of compassion for all.
Not go back to our home! What a wild thought, and yet, we decided that in that moment, there could be no other answer.
Much like the labor process of birth, life began to take on a life of its own and we had to surrender. There was so much uncertainty and excitement at the same time. We moved into communal living, with my mother-in-law supporting in childcare and cooking while I was scurried after a three-month-old and a three-year-old. My body ached and I mustered through with fragmented sleep. My husband quickly shifted gears to managing his team and clients virtually, holding space for his employees’ fears and questions.
As all this was occurring, I sat with the waves of discomfort which came over me like contractions. I grieved at a lost past and an uncertain future, knowing that this would be the point of no return that my body was signaling to me. There were moments when I grappled with fear. What would happen to my husband’s job, to our family and friends in big cities, to our parents who were vulnerable, or our relatives who were doctors? I wondered if it were the last time that I would see my loved ones in person, and even faced the fear of getting sick myself, or possibly losing my own husband.
Despite all of this, I felt strangely calm, sensing that all of this was a natural part of life, that what had felt like labor pains was now coming to a culmination, that somehow we are now passing through the ring of fire as a humanity was potentially giving birth to something new, unseen before.
As a mother, I grieved for the world, holding the pain, truly understanding for the first time the meaning of the phrase “the only way out, is through”. I also felt love and compassion emanating from my heart, deeply recognizing the sacredness of every single person on this planet, feeling my connection to everything. I prayed for healing and transcendence of suffering, not just for the pandemic, but for all of our collective trauma till now. What new life would we live, after passing through this portal? Would the world as we know it end? What is it like to hold space for something to emerge naturally, and hopefully for the better, through our collective human experience?
In this setting, writing took on an even greater sense of importance. It proved to be a spiritual raft that helped me feel sane and witness my own thoughts and experience. I was dancing with fleeting creative impulses while learning to navigate a new viscerally uneasy yet trusting connection with the divine.
Miraculously, a new reality birthed itself around me. As I gestated with the book in my womb, my nest was being created (as I imagine it) by celestial birds and elemental beings working while I slept. The house next door to my in-laws opened up which we bought, bringing to fruition a long-held dream of creating an intentional community and living close to our loved ones. We became close with our neighbors with whom we leaned on during both joyful and tumultuous times. I spent every moment I could outdoors, smiling with the sun streaming on my face, catching butterflies and counting ants with my little ones, whom I otherwise would have sent to daycare. My husband started growing a little garden and we became crafty in the kitchen, serving elaborate lunches and dinners and capping our day with small celebrations. My parents flew in from India to stay with us for the foreseeable future. In a way, everything I had dreamed about was coming to fruition, made possible due to impermanence.
My life, in these turbulent times, was somehow aligning with what resonated deeply with my heart and soul.
Motherhood sometimes requires so much patience that it becomes a superhuman quality. Due to the vulnerability of the role, it also invariably leads to a great deal of humility and surrender. Mothers are shamans in the know of the mystical process of creation, and have firsthand experience in the lovemaking, seeding, conception, gestation, labor, delivery and post-natal care for this delicate, wondrous process. While they are masters at the secrets of creating and sustaining life, they also recognize that life is only possible because of death; a new sprout can only bloom if something else has already been composted. There is a sacredness to the duty of serving life and death which engenders courageous warriorship driven by a sense of fierce love. Being around young ones, however, reminds mothers to have an absurd lightness and humor with it all.
Mothering requires one to have an innate trust in life, that despite all our machinations, there is a creative force moving through that can’t be stopped. While bringing a child into the world, you have to trust that your body has the natural intelligence to complete the process, like an acorn destined to become an oak tree.
The only thing you can pray for is the guidance and support to help you move through with wisdom, compassion and grace. You watch as your world falls apart, your body ravaged and your belief system collapses. The ego will hold on for dear life, hating the changes. You will grieve and wrestle with life. Yet if you’re able to hold space for the discomfort and understand the revelatory process of death and creation, you can be a part of ushering in something greater, perhaps even miraculous. You’ll be able to touch into your personal truth of who you are and witness the awesome paradox of an awareness that you are both nothing and everything.
As I’m penning this, I’m in the labor process of writing my book. I have a loving group of women helping me midwife my book, along with my eternal companion and champion, my husband, by my side holding my hand as I wade through waves of both ecstasy and painful contractions while something is being birthed. What, when or how are out of my hands, and all I can do is show up, be a mother, knowing that death and emergence are around the corner.
I see the world changing around me, old systems and structures falling apart, and people having to choose what to fear, love or trust. Watching the breakdown, I wonder, as I had moments before my daughter popped out of me, will we break through? I pray that my writing and beingness will, in some way, support the nascence of the baby that desires to be born, as we pass through this collective ring of fire.