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Interview with Vimala McClure

Author of "The Tao of Motherhood"

by New World Library

Vimala McClure is the author of The Tao of Motherhood. She’s also the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage Instructors and author of Infant Massage. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

With all of the demands on their time, how can Moms make time for their spiritual life?

I believe that caring for children is spiritual practice. Many people think that prayer and meditation constitute spirituality, but when you have a baby, your practice must shift; everything you do with and for your child can be spiritual practice.

You can set aside time that is specifically for that practice. In the early morning, usually you can find time when your baby or child is in a happy mood. For a baby, you can use massage as a way to connect deeply with him/her and let your baby know how much you love him/her. With older children, you can just focus on being with them with the intent of strengthening your love for each other.

Some parents are able to teach their children how to meditate in a simple way. They can sit on the floor together, close their eyes, and breathe deeply in and out, thinking "I am" "peaceful" (or happy, or any other word that may strike a chord with the child). Start with 5-minutes and work up to 15.

I don't believe practices per se are important during childhood. I believe that strengthening the loving bond between parent and child whenever possible constitutes spiritual practice for both. Then, when Mom is able to return to a time for spiritual practices herself, such as meditation, it will be a continuing of that energy.

What do you feel is the most challenging part of being a mom? What does the Tao say about that specific challenge?

I believe the most challenging part of being a mom is to remain in a relaxed and yielding state regardless of what is happening around you. This is the most important principle of Taoism -- to relax and yield. The Tao uses water as an example of this teaching. Water yields, flowing through and around all things, and yet it is the strongest of all things, carving the Grand Canyon, moving in tsunamis across the earth.

If you can remain relaxed and yielding with your children, your home will be peaceful and happy, and yet all will know the strength of the mother when it is called upon. When babies cry, children fight, teens rebel, it is challenging to remain relaxed. If you can cultivate a deeply relaxed way of being from the beginning, you will be able to see clearly what is needed in every case.

Does the baby need to cry for a while to release tension, or does he/she need a quiet room and rocking to sleep? Does a child need a "time out" or a listening heart? Does a teen need firm boundaries set or boundaries loosened a bit to lovingly show trust? Only a deeply relaxed and yielding heart can solve all these problems without mirroring pain and frustration. Deep relaxation allows you to listen deeply, and often listening is all that is needed.

What is the most important source of wisdom for Moms? Why?

The most important source of wisdom for Moms is nature. Look around and find examples of how nature brings itself up and follow that flow. For example, water is the most yielding of all things, yet it can overwhelm that which is most hard - rock. It nourishes without needing to be nourished.

Thus, you can nourish yourself before fatigue or frustration goad you to shame your children for requiring so much of you. Water flows into places where there is seemingly no room. Rigid things can't do this. Only that which is relaxed, yielding, and fluid can go into places of seemingly no space and be effective. While a rushing stream may push obstacles out of its way, a lazy river will flow over, around, and through all things in its path. There is harmony and serenity outwardly, and great power underneath.

All rushing streams end up in lazy rivers that follow their nature to merge with the great ocean. Young trees are flexible; they bend when a raging wind assaults them. Old trees are brittle and will break at the first snowfall. If you are fearful, you want to stop the flow of time and change. Acting out of fear, your inner "juice" dries up and, like a dead tree, you can easily be broken.

If you wish to continue to be full of life, you must learn to relax and yield, to flow. Like the young tree, you will be flexible and strong, ever growing, with abundant youthful energy. If you cannot relax, you cannot listen to and truly hear your children, and you miss their messages, misinterpret their needs and wishes, and lose touch with who they really are.

What advice would you offer to new Moms?

Remember that it is natural for you to try, in some way, to return to your "old" way of life. The Tao teaches slowing down, relaxing, yielding, listening, and letting go. Try to think deeply about what these concepts mean to you. Our culture pushes you to rush, hurry, produce, win, excel, achieve. In a sense, it is earning your very place as a being on this earth, that you must question. You must rethink what is driving you each day. New babies require mothers that are warm, relaxed, move slowly, and who can take time to listen, eye-to-eye-, skin-to-skin.

Take thirty minutes out of your morning, when your baby is calm and playful, and massage him/her. My book Infant Massage, a Handbook for Loving Parents goes deeply into this time of your baby's life and shows how to massage in a way that will be comfortable and joyful for you both; or, you can take a class, which adds the fun of connecting with other moms and babies.

Do you have any specific words of wisdom based on the Tao to offer working Moms?

For several years I worked one-on-one with working Moms, teaching massage. Often their babies had "colic" and difficulty adjusting to the massage; moms were frustrated and guilty, blaming themselves for their crying infants.

My advice was for Mom to change into relaxed clothing after work, breathing deeply and relaxing. First, I'd ask them to warm the room. Then connect with baby in whatever way was comfortable for them. Often the baby would need some crying time to release the tension held by being without Mom for a long period. I advised them to allow the baby to release this tension, and join them; often, especially with newborns, I'd come in finding both Mom and baby crying! After that was exhausted, usually the baby would need a diaper change, so Mom could use it as a time to remove baby's clothing. After the release of crying, and perhaps the need of feeding, the baby would be relaxed and ready to connect.

Using a natural massage oil, I taught them, gently and very slowly (one week, the legs, next week, the tummy, etc) baby massage. I showed them the technique I developed for curing colic. It was noisy and difficult the first week and a little bit less each week. By the fifth week, Mom was relaxed, baby was relaxed, colic was cured, and the massage was fun.

If you can't use massage, try using the idea, carving out a time after work or before work, for the two of you to bond. Hold your baby, swaddled, and rock, meeting his/her eyes and sing or tell a story. Even 15 minutes of this kind of one-on-one time can re-create your bond, and you will feel connected again with your little one. The constant repetition of the ritual will be soothing to your baby, and in some way he/she will look forward to this time with you.

You will find that you will feel less guilty at work if you can have this simple, concentrated 15-minute bonding time at home. I found that one of the most important messages I brought to Mothers was that their babies cried because they loved their Mommies so much and missed them, not that the baby was "angry" or rejecting Mom for being gone. The Tao teaches relaxation, yielding, slowing down, being present, accepting and validating. All can be accomplished in this ritual before or after work, whether you use massage or simply cuddling and being fully present and loving with your baby.


April 15, 2011 • Parenting/Spirituality • Paperback • 176 pages

Price: $14.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-013-9

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