Giving Ourselves

Conscious Parenting

Giving Ourselves
Monday, June 24, 2019

Can you let others convert you to the Love that you truly are? Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, in her book Nurture the Wow, asks:

What is love, anyway? And what does it mean to love? . . .

The feminist theorist bell hooks . . . claims [that love is] the “will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” [1] “The will to extend yourself”: to push past your comfort level; to . . . work really hard. That means doing things you never thought you’d do, and may not particularly want to. But you do them. You stretch and extend, because someone needs you to, so that they can grow. . . .

Extending the self is about the moment when the tantrum is going down right as you need to be getting somewhere and you realize you have to slow down and pull, from underneath your annoyance and your desire to just physically force the child out the door, some compassion to help dial down her out-of-control feeling. It’s about the willingness to get out of bed at two a.m. to be with the child who’s totally shaken by a nightmare. . . . It’s about enabling our beloveds to feel secure, enabling them to be able to do the work they need to do. It’s about enabling them to feel the warm rays of our attention on their skin, even when we kind of actually want to just zone out. . . .

Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister behind the TV show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, said once that “to love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” [2] . . .

That moment when we say, I accept you—even though being with you is awfully hard right now—that’s love. It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences—we don’t have to accept terrible behavior. But part of how we love our children is in choosing, again and again, to take the whole child. . . .

If all our spiritual efforts are aimed at loving these people better—well, that alone is and should be enough. And, as it happens, if we’re able to go deep into that specific, aching love for these particular people, with these smiles and that laugh and that sweet face—something else might happen as a natural consequence of it. Maybe, as our hearts overflow, we find that love can, naturally of its own accord, extend wider, until it encompasses caring for all things, and connection to everything—until our love becomes Love itself, the very flow and force of the universe. [This is what I mean by accessing the universal through the particular. —Richard]

References:
[1] bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions (William Morrow: 2000), 4. This is based on M. Scott Peck’s definition of love, inspired by the work of Erich Fromm.

[2] Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember (Hyperion: 2003), 53.

Danya Ruttenberg, Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting (Flatiron Books: 2016), 19-21, 45.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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