10 Things I Learned From My Mother

On Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day and pay homage to our mothers, expressing gratitude for their unconditional love and the sacrifices they've made for us that we so often take for granted. 

A mother's love comes in many forms, from tender and loving to fierce and protective. In yoga classes, we often hear about cultivating the nurturing qualities of a mother. This used to make me uncomfortable because I didn't really know what that was supposed to mean. I couldn't relate to traditional images of a mother (baking pies in an apron, always at home), since my eccentric, creative, and cosmic mother never baked once!

But as I explored the concept of "Mother" in my practice and teaching, I realize she comes in many forms and the pies are a symbol for all that nurtures our growth. Well, in that sense I had the most nurturing mother! In Hinduism, there are 1008 names and forms of the Divine Mother, from Laxmi the Goddess of beauty and wealth, to Saraswati the Goddess of Wisdom and Creativity and Kali or Durga, the fierce Goddesses of protection and destruction or tough love.

We get to recognize and bow deeply to all these qualities within our own very special and divine mothers. Perhaps not the ones we wanted at the time as children, but with which we can look back upon with deep appreciation for how they shaped and encouraged our growth and who we are.

As I now embark on my own journey to becoming a mother, I so appreciate my own mother, Alice, and the lessons, gifts and guidance she gave to me. Here are just 10 things I learned from my mother, the cosmic apple pies that nurtured and shaped who I am.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere!

1. Be who you are. 

From birth, my mother cultivated the unique qualities and celebrated the differences between me and my older sister Ariana. From clothes we wore to games we played, foods we liked and creative differences we were each guided to honor our selves as well as our differences.

2. Be creative. 

My mom tells me my first word was "make." As an infant, before I could walk, I'd roll around with paper and crayons, chanting “make, make, make” and scribbling and circumambulating around my creation. We didn't have traditional toys or TV growing up in the Middle East and were always making our own toys and games, writing, drawing and singing and dancing.

3. Be compassionate. 

When faced with being teased at school or challenges within the family, my mother would teach us the practices of compassion, offering deeper insight and larger perspective into the situation.

4. Speak your truth. 

Well, this one got me into trouble too as I became more rebellious, but soon I used this gift to become a confident speaker and activist.

5. Learn from life. 

One could say I was raised with no real discipline of being told what to do by my mother as I paved my own mysterious path, rich with the ups and downs of life. But now I see how I was allowed to make my own mistakes and learn from them rather than being sheltered from life. Life was my teacher instead of a formal education, and it was overflowing with wisdom.

6. Do whatever it takes. 

After my parents divorced, my mother raised us single handedly. She went back to college to get her degree, worked two jobs, and received public assistance to care for us while she developed and worked on herself. My mom was incredibly strong as well as creative and spiritual and has been such a role model of doing whatever it takes and working hard.

7. Expand your mind.

At an early age we were introduced to many cultures, traditions and spiritual paths. There were many wild characters along my mom's many spiritual paths, and she always shared them with us. We leaned to respect and connect with all people and faiths.

8. Commit to a spiritual practice. 

Although she never forced us to sit and meditate, we grew up seeing her devoted to her teacher Chogyam Trungpa and the Tibetan Buddhist path of Shambhala. I witnessed my mother’s daily devotion and practice as well as the sacrifice of taking time for longer retreats and deepening her practice for over 30 years and it has inspired my own daily practice and commitment.

9. Youth is not age. 

As my mother grows older she seems to be getting younger at heart and in spirit! After retiring from a life of service to San Francisco's most challenged communities, she is the busiest person I know, doing what she loves and serving selflessly. She can now offer astrology readings, commit to her practice and sangha, constantly creating and always learning something new.

10. A mother's love. 

Never for one second of my 43 years have I doubted my mother's love and deep devotion. She has loved me unconditionally from near and far and supported me in everything I do. I am so honored and so happy to offer the gift of my mother to my daughter, and hope to pass on just a fraction of all I have received.

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