Friday, May 4, 2012

A Heart That's Ready for Anything

"We do this practice to have a heart that's ready for anything." -- Eric Kolvig, to me, about why we cultivate a mindfulness practice

"Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable, and lightness has a call that's hard to hear." -- The Indigo Girls, in "Closer To Fine"

This is my third pregnancy in a year. To our great joy, David and I found out that eight weeks after my D&C for a miscarriage, I am pregnant again. In the past, we only told people whom we'd lean on "if something happened." Both times, something happened. This time, we're trying a different approach: We are embracing that we are just very public people. We don't care if you know we're pregnant, even if things go wrong. In fact, especially if things, God forbid, go wrong. The feedback David and I have  gotten on our blog posts about our miscarriage posts have been overwhelmingly positive; many people said they helped them or helped their friends. We hope that by sharing our experience with this pregnancy, however it turns out, it's helpful. Emboldened by posts such as this one, I want to be upfront this time. I want you to know why I'm overly sensitive, why I'm flaking on commitments (nausea and extreme exhaustion) and that I don't think Sea Bands are fashionable.

I went to a powerful meditation retreat last week, and really connected with teacher Eric Kolvig. I talked with him openly about my grief, and how to apply a mindful and compassionate presence to it. Have you ever had someone say something to you that seemingly went straight through your chest and tattooed itself on your heart? I've had it happen three times; one is too personal to recount here. The second was when my first OA sponsor suggested, "Nothing else you've done to control your food addiction has helped. Why don't you try something different and just trust?" The third was Eric's statement to me that we do our mindfulness practice to have "a heart that's ready for anything." It was clear to me that after a lifetime of feeling blown about by my outside life circumstances, that is my deepest longing: to have a heart that's ready for anything.

If you know me you know that I am anxious by nature, and in fact have a severe anxiety disorder. So, I don't have unrealistic expectations that I'm going to be all Zen about this pregnancy. Every pregnant woman I've asked worries through her pregnancy.  After all, the stakes could not be higher, and we all desperately want to control the uncontrollable. What I am aiming for is to bring a mindful and compassionate awareness to my experiences, and not over-identify with them or become lost in my stories. For example, the other night I was brushing my teeth and thought, "I wonder if I'll have an ectopic pregnancy." I have no signs of an ectopic and no reason to think I'd have one. Instead of beating myself up for the "stupid" thought, I said to myself, "Sarah, brush your teeth. You're pregnant right now." I kindly acknowledged to myself that my brain is looking for ways to predict danger so it can protect itself. It's what brains do, the same way that hearts beat. That doesn't mean I have to buy into every thought my brain comes up with.

Another example of what I'm trying to achieve with this pregnancy is this: yesterday I became gripped with fears that we will lose this baby. Instead of my usual coping mechanisms, like telling myself that the doctors said we have a 70 percent chance of having a live birth eventually, or saying to myself, "don't worry," I took the advice of my teacher Tara Brach. She told me to greet the fear with compassion. So I put my hand on my heart and said, "Of course you're scared. It's ok." I then reconnected with my body and breath. This felt much better than pushing away what is desperately seeking my attention. This process about applying mindfulness to a pregnancy that has some anxiety coming up is what I hope to share on my blog.

So here I sit, full of anticipation about our pregnancy. Hope and optimism that things will go well, but the life experience to know that things might not. Yet, I truly feel like my heart is ready for anything. Bring it.


Stef said...

Sarah, SUCH wisdom in this post! I do believe you have the 'knack' of meditation - to accept life exactly as it is. Kudos to you! (And to think you were hesitant to start a meditation practice once upon a time...) ;) I'm super proud of you!!

Laura said...

This is wonderful news! I love your new approach as well. I might start to try a little of that myself! Prayers and "Zen" vibes coming your way my friend!

Sarah said...

Thank you, friends! Blessings.