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Becoming What You Gaze Upon

Naomi Rose

“I cling to Thee with a child’s faith, bearing Thy most lovely image in my heart.
I sought refuge in Thy bosom, Beloved, and I am safe, feeling Thine arms around me.” 
– Hazrat Inayat Khan

I have heard the phrase said in spiritual circles, “God is not our parents.” This I have understood as meaning that the full, nothing-withheld devotion and trust we give to our parents when we are born not only gives to them the power of God (when in reality they are “only human”), but also sees in them the God they cannot at that time see, or remember, in themselves. And also that God is much, much more than this.

For years I have been fascinated by the possibility that this might be true, and sought to find out how it could become real for me. I felt that I had lived through “Paradise Lost” both personally and archetypically. For as a young child, I had loved my mother with a complete and utter adoration; an unquestioning, enveloping love that permitted no doubts:

When I was very young, I loved my mother happily and completely. I loved her like God must love the morning in spring, when the mist rises golden on the meadows, when the sun moves a gold hand through the forest. I loved her like God must love the ocean, its vastness and depths, its dancing light and gravitational pull, every wave, every bit of foam, every little treasure it tumbles toward the shore. Drinking at her breast, searching her dark-brown eyes with my blue ones, burrowing into the fragrance of her hair, my adoration for her fed my spirit as much as milk fed my growing body. And in that state, all was good, all was well, all was beautiful.

It was scarcely a breath of difference from her arms to the lake where she taught me to swim, holding me stiffly from underneath, and letting me kick and flail and splash. “I’ll fall!” I cried; but her hands stayed with me until my body believed that this invisible, wet water would actually hold me up. There was a lurch in my torso when the warmth of her hands went away. But even with my flailing, the water held me.

I swam in the green lake, surrounded by greener trees, watching the reflected world appear and disappear with a single stroke of my small, swimming hand. At such times I belonged to everything, and bliss was too ornate a word for the deep happiness I knew, just being there, looking, swimming, breathing. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do. No mountains, no conquering. Why should I want to conquer what held me up and made me buoyant? Should I slice the water with a sword? Should I challenge the trees to bend to my will? No, my beautiful young mother sat on the bank, talking to a friend and smiling at me. I had been made to lie down in green pastures; I had been led to the still waters. I swam inside my own, patient joy. [Excerpted from my book MotherWealth: The Feminine Path to Money]

But this paradise was turned upside down by difficult familial life events that followed, and for decades I conflated the loss of that primal bond and support with the loss of all-embracing Love for me. So the original loss was made even more profound and all-encompassing by my extrapolating it out to touch everything, condemning me to inhabit a world in which “God” was not only hidden but essentially untrustworthy. And the even more profound loss was of my own devotional nature; for in losing my adoration for my mother, I lost connection with my original loving, belonging self as well.

There is a wonderful book, Physicians of the Heart, that speaks of the profound wounding that takes place in a child when s/he can’t heal the pain of the family s/he is born into, and the sense of deficiency that arises out of that. Authors Wali Ali Meyer, Bilal Hyde, Faisal Maqaddam, and Shabda Khan call this the “secondary narcissistic wound”:

We feel somehow we have failed to fulfill what our family or society has required of us. What makes it narcissistic is our self-identification with the deficiency of this wounded condition. The result of this identification is that we feel deficient in our sense of self, in the sense of our very soul…. As a child … we felt like a failure because we were not able to heal mother or to heal father. (“Love’s Mysteries,” pp. 95-96)

This wound, the authors claim, is inherent in the human psyche. So it was not just a personal failure! I took great comfort in this. But there was still the healing of this deep-seated conviction of inherent deficiency to be addressed.

For me, a primary remedy was coming into contact with the spiritual viewpoint that anything you wish you had for yourself and envy (or push away) in others is actually a mirror of what is latent and not yet manifest in you. That once you become conscious of it and start cultivating it, you can become that which you gaze upon. After all, this was the way you developed your conditioned sense of identity in the first place, including the identities you weren’t so happy about. But now, by opening to a desired quality or condition that you see in someone else, you give it room—in its infinite potential—to grow and flower from within.

And so I began to gaze upon bringing forth a loving Mother inside me.

Previously, when I would come upon a loving mother and her child—say, at the bank or the supermarket—I would think to myself, “I wish I’d had a mother like that.” But now I made the effort to focus instead on how beautiful the child was in her trust of maternal love; how beautiful the mother was in her free and loving giving. This shift from keeping myself familiarly outside the experience to one of appreciating it eventually led me to being able to identify with the experience: to feel at one with the child whose mother was bending down to look into her eyes; to feel at one with the mother whose centering in love naturally opened her arms to embrace the child. And the next development was the capacity to be at one with the Love itself, as it expressed through both mother and child.

Cultivating an appreciation of the Loving Mother and the Deeply Loved Child over time gave me access to both my original innocence and devotion, and the mothering capacities dormant within me. No one was more surprised—or joyful—than I to realize that what I had always longed for actually did exist within me. The mothering I had needed was available from within, from a Beloved who had never left the scene; it was I who had lost heart, left, and needed to return.

To seek to develop the very quality whose absence has marked you and turned you away from the wholeness of Being is to invite the Beloved to blow on the embers of your heart’s desire and spark them into life. How extraordinary—and ordinary—to realize, at whatever chronological age, that you are capable of capacities that seemed never to exist before. As I cultivated my connection with the Divine Mother, I recognized that I was in the process of becoming that which I had longed for all along.

Along with the return of the pure, devotional heart that I had experienced naturally but not consciously when young, came the desire to imprint these images in a materialized way. So I began doing drawings of mothers with children—a subject that always had interested me artistically—this time to be actively present with the physical expressions of that maternal-child love. By slowing myself down while drawing as I moved my pen across the paper, I found myself naturally contemplating this sacred relationship more closely. I was especially moved by the postures of love: how the mother inclined her head, held the child in her arms, offered a loving and radiant glance.

Some of the drawings I copied from photos of people I had never met, because something about the mother’s postures pleased my heart as well as my eye:

But others I took from photos in my own life; first, of me as a child with my mother:

Then, of me as a young mother with my child:

In every case, some “magic” happened as I did the drawing. Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan has spoken of our conditioning as engraving “grooves” that, like those on a phonograph record, replay the same false self-identities over and over, causing us to forget our true nature. Drawing these images went in the other direction, engraving the lineaments and postures of love into my mind and heart.

Some of us may have been blessed to have been given such a loving and supportive maternal experience that it kept our true nature alive throughout our whole lives. But for those of us who grew up in its absence, it is not too late. Even now, we can invoke and cultivate this sacred foundation, this longed-for birthright. By releasing the self-identification of deficiency and allowing this precious, devoutly wished-for experience to make its way into being, we come to inhabit, embody, and radiate a reality in which this Divine Mother-Love—or whatever the longed-for quality—is alive and well in us, and so also in the world.

Lead image: Detail from the book jacket of MotherWealth: The Feminine Path to Money by Naomi Rose.

Naomi Rose is the author of MotherWealth: The Feminine Path to Money and its forthcoming sequel, Living in MotherWealth ( A writer and book developer based in Oakland, California, she helps people write the book of their heart in the spirit of, “I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known.” Her approach to book-writing, “Writing from the Deeper Self,” is based on the premise that deep listening will bring out the best of what is uniquely yet universally true in the writer, and therefore in the reader. This also is the premise of her own book, Starting Your Book: A Guide to Navigating the Blank Page by Attending to What’s Inside You.

Read more about Naomi Rose

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29 June 2015

Tagged Under
sacred, love, divine, heart, family, ideals, divine feminine, The Great Mystery, Our Sacred Heritage, God, sorrow, Mother, loss,
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