Both of my children were born well past their due dates. I spent those last weeks in a constant state of expectation, knowing they could come at any moment and that once they decided it was time, there was no turning back. For months I had prepared, not only my home, but my heart and mind as well, for this stranger to arrive and change everything forever. And yet, after months of anticipation, I still felt wholly unprepared. I would have moments of panic: Can I do this? Can I bear the pain of childbirth? Will I know what to do? Am I capable of giving this child everything it needs?
Those moments would last minutes or hours, sometimes even days. Then I would stop and breathe and remember that everything would be fine. Things would be fine not because they would be easy or because I would always know what I was doing, but because my whole life up that point had prepared me for this. Every pain, every joy, every difficulty, and every triumph had taught me that nothing is impossible when there is Love.
When the time came for their births, it was Love that carried me through the beginning waves of labor. It was Love that enveloped me as I prayed and prayed for strength. It was Love that held me together as my body broke open in the most glorious exquisite pain and they entered the world. And it is Love that keeps me going day in and day out in my task of guiding these little beings toward becoming who they are meant to be.
As we begin the liturgical year we are asked to prepare our hearts and minds for the arrival of the Beloved. We commemorate the Birth and look forward to the second coming. Is Christ’s coming something in the distance or is it already here? Is Christ being born each time we show compassion and mercy and fight for justice? Is the Kingdom of God a distant reality or is it being built “one friendship at a time” in our communities of faith?
We prepare ourselves for the Beloved by moving into a state of receptivity and listening, being willing to be used as instruments of Love, willing to be broken wide open so God can be born through us, in each moment. As Meister Eckhart’s full quote says: “What is the good if Mary gave birth to the Son of God 2000 years ago, if I do not give birth to God today? We are all Mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.” It is Love that sustains us as we bear the labor pains of being broken and it is Love that empowers us to embody compassion in action, to become mothers of God using all that we have and all that we are in service of the Beloved.
The following short practice is meant to help us embody Love, Compassion, Justice, and Mercy and to be present to each moment as we move through our Advent journey. (See links for detailed instructions for each posture)
Sitting with a nice tall spine, soles of feet touching, reach the top of your head up towards the heavens and feel your bottom connecting to Mother Earth. Allow your hips to open, releasing tensions and hurt feelings, which tend to accumulate in this part of the body. Take 10 deep inhales and exhales, imagining that each inhale is relaxing the body while each exhale carries away any anxiety.
Plant your hands firmly on the ground, spread your fingers wide, reach your hips up and back and allow your head to hang freely. Imagine all of your anxieties flowing out of the top of your head and into the earth where they are absorbed. Feel your spine lengthening. Take 10 deep inhales and exhales.
Stand firm as if your feet are growing roots into Mother Earth. Pull your belly button in towards your spine, reach the crown of the head towards the sky. Enjoy the simplicity of standing on the ground, confident and calm. Take 10 deep inhales and exhales.
Coming into Warrior pose, imagine loving energy radiating out from your heart in all directions. Extend your arms long, bringing your gaze over your front fingers and as you bend your front knee and sink into the pose, notice the earthiness of your legs. You are here, serene and peaceful and strong, resting in the present moment, poised between past and future, in all that you are. Take 10 deep inhales and exhales. Repeat on the other side.
Moving back into downward facing dog, once again connect to the earth energy as it rises from your palms up into your arms and spine. Reach your hips up and back, perhaps wiggle your “tail”, enjoying the playfulness of being a dog. Stay for 10 joyous breaths.
Melt into the earth the way a child melts into their mother’s arms. Surrender completely, letting go of expectations, judgments, and anxieties into this posture of prayer. Connect to your breath in the here and now. Stay for 10 deep breaths.
Resting once again with your bottom on the earth, feel how delighted the earth is to support you. Feel the length and strength and grace of your spine. Notice your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Bring your awareness to the space surrounding your heart. Observe yourself with compassion and mercy, as if you were seeing yourself through the eyes of the Beloved. Tap into what you intuitively know to be true: everything is about Love.
Top Photo Credit: De Visu, Shutterstock
V.K. Harber is a yogi, contemplative, and writer exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism, and social change. She is a co-founder and former managing director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga, a nonprofit healing arts center, and has over 1,000 hours of teaching experience focused on underserved populations for whom yoga is not readily accessible. She is currently the spiritual director for Hab Washington, an ecumenical and inter-spiritual “new monastic” fellowship established in NYC by Adam Bucko, which offers formation in radical spirituality and sacred activism. V.K. is also the producer for Adam’s radio show, Radical Spirituality and Sacred Activism, on Unity Online Radio. Her website is