I’m dressed as the Great Pumpkin, the easiest costume I’ve ever assembled, since I’m due to give birth in roughly ten days. All that’s needed is an orange sheet and a couple of touches with black construction paper. Here I am, spending four days at a small retreat with Ram Dass, deep in the woods.
I’m here without actual permission from my doctor, believing I can make the two-hour trip home with no problem. Ram Dass, with the appropriate air of a world-class guru, blesses my baby by putting his hands on my belly and bowing. A few days later, back at home, my daughter Johanna enters the world.
Fast-forward eighteen years. Johanna has just graduated from a rather rocky high school experience. Ram Dass has been the victim of a stroke within the last year. We happen to arrive at the retreat center while he’s there, and kind devotees, hearing the story, generously usher us into the presence of the now almost wordless guru. With little preparation or forethought, we find ourselves sitting with him under a gazebo.
It’s me. My husband. My daughter. And the sage.
I tell him the Great Pumpkin story.
It takes him a very long time to frame his words. To dress them, like searching through a wardrobe of clothes, he says.
Slo-w—ly … he looks deeply into my eyes.
“You (pause) ARE NOT (pause) a mother.”
“YOU (pause) ARE NOT (pause) A PUMPKIN.”
Another excruciatingly long pause. Lots of time for me to breathe slowly, try to stay present, and wonder if the guy has lost his famous marbles along with his verbal ability.
“You … are … a … SOUL.
There have been many times since then that I’ve been, shall we say, a little confused about my identity, mistaking my role for my Self.
But these words still echo, a reminder that I am not: a daughter, a teacher, a wife, a coach, a writer, a mentor, a friend, and … yes, a mother. The list of identities I wear as mindlessly as a hat goes on and on.
When I forget, I take a deep breath, remind myself of Ram Dass’ other words:
“The … silence … it’s … so … so complex … so enough …”
“THIS … (he gestures up to the trees. I notice the dappled light and the quiet swaying of the trees in the stillness.)
There’s another long pause as he searches his word closet.
“Infinitely more complex than the Grateful Dead.”
Every year at this time I’m reminded of that moment. Every time I drive past a blazing orange field or simply look up at the sky. I experience for a minute the infinite complexity and play of color and light.
And not for a moment do I believe I’m a pumpkin.
After telling this story, I’m not in the mood to slip on my coaching hat or to sell or promote anything. This is a simple sharing, with an invitation. No. Not an invitation. I implore you to notice what roles weigh heavily on you. Invite yourself to slip into something more comfortable, to take a drive or a walk in the autumn light. Just you with you. Simply notice. The complex interplay of light, smell, color.
Please let me know how you’re doing. Make an appointment if you need help questioning any little thing that would keep you from savoring this … infinite complexity.
With love and respect,