December 1st came, and once again I woke to the joy of my daughter rolling over and saying “Hi!” to me with a bright, smiling face. I could feel the love wash through me like an electric current, rushing up my body to my heart, where it seemed to burst into a thousand rays of hugs and kisses.
Had it really been 14 months of feeling this joy? And 14 months of spotty sleep? The last time I experienced 8 hours of sleep was somewhere mid-pregnancy. It had been even longer since I slept through the night, waking several times either by my bladder or my little darling calling out for milk.
Something kept me going
I often wonder how I’m doing it. Before my pregnancy, I had trouble with anything less than 8 hours, or 7 at the very least. Something kept me going, even on those days in which I didn’t get a nap, and wee one was kicking and screaming with gas at 2am. Sometimes, I woke up just to make sure I heard that soft breath and to gaze at the sweetness of my baby’s face.
The one thing that has sustained me is the love I have for my baby. The welling up of intense emotion in the heart center, making me feel like embracing the whole of creation, has carried me through what previously would have led to exhaustion and probably illness. I’ve been drafting on love.
Sustaining energy by drafting
Drafting happens in nature, and it’s common in sports. We most frequently see it in the fall, when geese migrate South for the Winter. The geese fly together in a V formation so that the birds to the side and behind “draft” on the ones ahead: there’s less wind resistance, so they sustain energy to fly for longer.
The Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska says that “the lead goose is breaking trail for his flock mates, much like a front-running bicycle racer allows teammates to decrease wind resistance by drafting directly behind. When the lead goose gets pooped, he supposedly gives a honk and another takes his place at the tip of the V.”
A flock of 25 birds in this formation, according to Science Magazine, can fly 70 percent farther than a single bird using the same amount of energy! That’s a huge boost. And that’s what we experience when we’re in the presence of love and joy.
My husband calls it his “cutie boost”. He comes home exhausted and grumpy from a long day at work, and after a few moments with his gleeful and grinning daughter, he’s renewed. I’ve had the benefit of riding on the natural exuberance that radiates from my daughter – and from within my heart – since the day she was born.
Drafting on Inspiration
Love sustains, inspires, and motivates us to do and be more than we could have imagined. When we are in the presence of someone who radiates this pure love, we are carried along and find that we are able to give more selflessly of ourselves. We draft on the inspiration not only of our beloved children, but of a great leader, a saint, or a spiritual teacher, and find ourselves experiencing, and perhaps doing, the miraculous.
Recently, while watching the movie Fierce Grace, about the life of Ram Dass, I was touched by the comment of one of his friends regarding their guru, Neem Karoli Baba. “Maharaji”, as they call him, was a simple man in some ways, yet he emitted a palpable and powerful love that touched one’s very soul. This devotee said that what he found amazing about Maharaji was “not that He could love everyone, but that in His presence I, too, could love everyone”.
It is this unconditional love that has inspired the world’s spiritual traditions, usually coming from one being who exemplified it. Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and Baha’u’llah, to name a few, became the source of inspiration for love and compassion that evolved into some of the great religions of the world.
Saints from the modern day and the past, such as Mother Teresa and Francis of Assisi, have motivated many to serve others with the kindness and caring they demonstrated. Throughout many cultures, women and men have experienced motherly love for all creation through symbols of the Divine Mother such as Yemaya, Demeter, Devi, and the Mother Mary. And we have seen the power of leaders who exemplified kindness and non-violence in the throngs who drafted on the inspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, marching for peace and harmony in our world.
A modern-day example
I have been blessed to experience the extraordinary presence of a present-day master of divine love: Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi). Known as the “hugging saint”, Amma (which simply means “mother” in her native tongue) embraces each and every person who comes to see her.
She has been known to continue this for hours at a time, sometimes 24 full hours, without stopping or showing signs of fatigue, hugging tens of thousands of people in a day. Going against all tradition in Hinduism – it is usually forbidden to touch a guru, let alone to touch a woman in Hindu culture – Amma persisted in her determination to share her love for all beings through embracing them, and is now known and inspired by millions around the world.
How is it that Amma is able to do that – and why? Quoting from “Sacred Journey”, by Swamini Krishnamrita Prana:
When asked once by a reporter why She embraces people, Amma replied: “Human beings are born to experience pure love, but they never get it. They are searching to experience it from birth until death. Amma’s main purpose of interacting with people and embracing them is to awaken the pure love in them… The only way we can feel free is by feeling the love within. When Amma embraces people, She is also transmitting a part of Her spiritual energy to them, so that they can awaken to this pure love.”
And indeed they do – so much so that Amma has inspired countless charitable works around the world, from soup kitchens to entire hospitals, homes for the elderly, hospices, orphanages, as well as highly respected universities.
Flying on love
The throngs of followers who contribute their energy and resources to these people in need are flying on the love of their spiritual teacher. They are able to give so much more to the betterment of others because they are inspired by Amma’s example.
Isn’t this also the source of many of the other charitable causes of the world? Christian churches have missions in needy countries to help build proper sanitary facilities through the example of the love of Jesus for all, whether rich or poor. Volunteers teach children to plant trees in deforested areas, respect and preserve animals, and care for their environment inspired by the selfless and tireless work of Jane Goodall. Thousands across the United States were so moved by the love of one woman – Julia Butterfly Hill – for an old redwood tree – “Luna” – that they formed an organization called Circle of Life to teach young and old alike how to live in more harmony with the planet and each other.
Find your inspiration to draft on
This is the time of year when many of us seek inspiration. No matter your religion or spiritual beliefs, you can find someone or something that evokes that feeling of love within. There is some example of selflessness, whether in a great spiritual leader or in the compassion of a nurse volunteering to care for the still-homeless from the Katrina disaster, that can inspire each of us to
give of ourselves.
Find someone to lead you and slip in place behind them, drafting on their love for all of life. When you find yourself tired or despairing, ride on their inspiration and know that as you love others, you experience that pure love within yourself. That’s the true message of the holiday season.
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Julia Butterfly Hill
Copyright © 2005, 2009 by Constance L. Habash