At bedtime, I place my hand on my 5 year old daughter’s heart center and say, “I love my daughter, I bless my daughter.” And then I bless her little body, gently touching and sending love to all parts of her. Head, nose, eyes, mouth, forehead, jaw, chest, shoulders, belly, arms, hands, feet. “Don’t forget my legs, she says.”
“I love my daughter’s hair, I bless my daughter’s hair,” “I love her skin, I bless her skin, “ “I love her belly, I bless her belly” and so on.
Sometimes, it’s a natural evolution from loving mother/daughter moments.
Other times we’ve had a lot of the usual tension leading up to bedtime. Maybe I’ve repeated the same thing over and over, “Brush your teeth, get out of the tub, put your pajamas on,” Lay down and close your eyes. I’m tired, I don’t have any patience left, hurry up!” Maybe she has felt rushed or maybe she is strategizing how to delay the inevitable.
In these moments, the blessing is a way to cut through the hurt, the tension, the expectations, the power struggle and the negative communication and feelings between us.
I don’t do it every night. Sometimes I ask if she wants me to bless her and she says no, so we skip it. Other times she asks me, “Mama, will you bless me?”
What a sacred gift it is to share a blessing – it takes me right out of the mundane and off my schedule and into the present moment . We come together to be grateful for our physical forms, learning to cultivate love and gentleness for the body.
She will internalize so many moments of our family life (good and bad) and what friends or society or the media tell her about her body. My hope is that eventually self- blessing becomes a part of her self-talk and her inner world.
Recently, I told this story to another teacher who remembered feeling controlled by his own father’s desire to administer a blessing through their religious tradition. It was a good reminder that respect for choice and consent on the part of the child must be real and absolute. The parent should have enough self awareness to be evaluating whose need is being met. As much as I may sometimes enjoy my role and our connection, the point is for my daughter to have a positive, healthy dialogue with her own body and Self, not to acquiesce to my desire to be a leader, teacher, or ideal yoga mama. Neither is the purpose to please me.
We all have that internal voice. Much of it is automatic thoughts and feelings, based on our previous experiences . In my Yoga and Talk Therapy Groups, we notice and share about the viciousness of the inner critic and how relentless she can be in judging us as unworthy. In one of my groups, a young woman (quite beautiful on the outside) poignantly described feeling that she “sneered” at herself and her imperfections.
We know that as we grow up in our culture, our physical bodies can sometimes become the object of rejection or contempt. Many of us can feel great disdain for hair, skin, nose, stomach, thigh, weight, any part that somehow does not measure up to what we learn from society or the media is the “right” way to look or be.
We often take our bodies completely for granted, particularly these days, as our minds are absorbed in cyberspace, far from the sensations of our physical forms.
When people have experienced illness or injury, trauma or physical challenge, they sometimes feel angry and ashamed of their bodies (or certain parts). Parts of the body can also be banished from our awareness.
But the body has a legitimate need for kindly attention, nurturing and assistance. Hurt parts cannot be healed by hatred or ignoring.
My teacher Yogi Bhajan, in the Kundalini Yoga lineage, taught that by the age of 3 a child should know how to bless herself. So as my daughter turned 3, I began to ponder: How would she learn to extend loving kindness into all parts of her?
I was 30, when Dr. Gurucharan Khalsa gave me the first meditation that I did for an extended period of time. First I did a breath exercise, following by a meditation.
After the meditation, I was to say out loud “I love myself, I bless myself,” and then continue with blessing every part of my body.
I spent at least 90 days on this meditation, crying as I spoke the blessings at the end, letting go of the pain of all the years of saying the exact opposite. Releasing the belittlement, judgment and anger towards my imperfections. Beginning the journey of self -acceptance.
The tears were also from feeling the tenderness and vulnerability and pleasure in taking the time to be gentle, loving, and present with myself.
I’m thinking about a time when my daughter is older and I’m not around. There will be times when she is tired or frustrated, not liking herself, sick or injured. My hope is that she remembers our connection and how to come into a space of compassion and love to change the direction of her thoughts and feelings about herself.
You can also practice this self-blessing. It helps to begin it as a daily activity.
Sometimes I have people imagine they are mothering a younger version of themselves or the divine child within. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to deeply nurture and “mother” ourselves.
Lately, I’ve been doing the self -blessing as soon as I wake, even before opening my eyes. I do a loving inventory of each part so that my mind and body wake together to face the day.
To begin, find a quiet moment where you can go within. Place the hands over the center of the chest and say out loud or in a whisper to yourself: “I love myself, I bless myself” with the hands at the heart center.” Then begin to touch and bless every single part of you.
If you are trying it with your child, a relaxed “Would you like me to bless you?” at the right moment (maybe before sleep or when they are wanting to connect and relax).
Be guided by a feeling of mutual enjoyment and connection, not obligation.
Keep it short and sweet!