Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Human Face

When I was pregnant with my first baby (who's now 6), I spent a lot of time doing yoga and relaxation exercises. I developed the idea through things I read that the process of giving birth was an ancient ritual to which I should trust myself, and that my role in the process was as little more than a vessel. More than actively doing anything, I needed to not do-- not clench muscles, not collect the physical stressors in my body-- I needed to step out of the way and let everything flow through me. (I could wax ecstatic elsewhere about the joy of natural childbirth but I will spare you of it here).

I didn't plan to continue using those exercises but they came back to me as I nursed my babies. I was surprised, when they were new, at how much time I was required to spend passively providing their nourishment. I was a busy career woman and not accustomed to spending large swaths of time doing, ostensibly, nothing. I learned not to watch the clock. I watched their faces. I felt their warmth. I did not think about what came next. I practiced relaxation techniques. I centered myself in those moments.

Shortly after my oldest was born, I started taking clients to the border to present applications for admission to the U.S. I was still establishing myself as a credible attorney and I would spend a lot of time in waiting rooms with clients where I could feel tension begin to collect in my body. And I found those same relaxation techniques coming back to mind as a necessity. I began to stay inside of those moments of seeming nothingness and to focus on what was right in front of me: my client-- a person just as stressed out (if not more so) than I was, someone who had placed an enormous amount of trust in me, whose livelihood was on the line. And I began to talk to my clients with the kind of focus I used in bonding with my babies, as if there was nothing outside of that moment with them. I learned later that that kind of attention to people was part of what made me good at lawyering, but at the time it was nothing more than a coping mechanism transferred from that humbling patience of motherhood which shows us we are always only vessels through which something larger than ourselves is always trying to emerge. We resist this process with our very bodies as something uncomfortable. We tense up. We exert our strength in the way that is natural to us, by doing something active, when what is required is to open ourselves through relaxation to what is happening around us, to participate in the seemingly inconsequential moments between the things that we deem important. So often this means looking into a human face. 

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post. Although I am not a mother, I am a nurturer, and spend my days physically connected to my clients. During a long day of giving massage, I sometimes notice that I avoid looking at my clients' faces throughout their session. After giving some thought to this post, I realized that I was excusing myself for this by reasoning that the lack of eye contact was for my clients' privacy and comfort. In reality, I believe I'm stifling the added potential connection to avoid the extra cost to me - my energy supply.

    Therapeutic massage is as draining as it is rewarding - physically, mentally, and emotionally. I care deeply about the health of my clients. So much pain is connected to mental health. If my client suffers from depression or loneliness, having a meaningful connection with someone who cares can help them as much as the physical manipulation of their tissue.

    Thank you for reminding me of the power of the human face.