We are aware that to some people, Mother's Day seems to be a holiday concocted by the greeting card and floral companies, a cultural holiday dominated by consumer pressures. For those whose mothers have died or are distant, and for those who have never been mothers, the day touches other sensitivities. But we think any "problem" with Mother's Day is just because typically it is defined too narrowly. There are many mothers in all our lives and many kinds of mothering experiences.
Here, then, for that very special day, Mother's Day, are spiritual practices to honor our many mothers.
Arts & Photography
- God's Gift (for Sons and Daughters)
In a song titled "Mother's Eyes," Willie Nelson sings: "God's gift sent from above / A real unselfish love, / I find in my mother's eyes." Create a gift for your mother to express your gratitude for her unconditional love. Remember to also thank God for this unsurpassable gift to you.
- Contemplate Images of God the Mother
Meinrad Craighead has painted images of motherhood in its many forms. She explains: "The creative spirit I know within me has the face and the force of a woman. She is my Mother, my Mothergod, my Generatrix, the divine immanence I experience signified in all of creation." Forty paintings, including Garden, are reproduced in The Mother's Songs: Images of God the Mother along with brief meditations by the artist on each of them. You can also see her work and purchase prints at the artist's website: www.meinradcraighead.com. Sit with these paintings and experience the creative spirit and force of the Mother. The painting pictured on this page is "Enclosed Garden"; it appears in a retrospective of Craighead's work titled Crow Mother and the Dog God. Here is a gallery of other images from that book.
Mother's Heart (for Mothers)
"The mother's heart," Henry Ward Beecher once noted, "is the child's schoolroom." Share with someone near and dear to you a few of the important spiritual lessons from your heart that you have passed on to your children — or that you want to pass on to your children.
Check out these movies about the challenges and rewards of motherhood.
Rituals & Ceremonies
Holy Mother Earth
Many Native Americans have hallowed the Good Earth as the mother who gave us birth and still takes care of us. A Winnebago wise saying goes: "Holy Mother Earth, the trees, and all nature are witnesses to your thoughts and deeds." Find a ritual way to honor Mother Earth and the bounties she supplies. Follow up with a concrete act to support the Earth, such as helping to clean up or protect an area of your environment.
Honor All Your Mothers
"If you consider as kind the mother who carried you in her womb, how can you dislike any being? For in countless past lifetimes all have been your mother," wrote the Seventh Dalai Lama in Meditations to Transform the Mind. As you walk around on Mother's Day, try to imagine that all of the people you meet have at some point been your mother. Send them love and peace and happiness.
- Address the Deity as Mother
Sri Ramakrishna, the great Hindu spiritual sage, wrote: "Why does the God-lover find such ecstatic delight in addressing the Deity as Mother? Because the child is more free with the mother than with anybody else, and consequently she is dearer to it than anybody else." Try using one or more of the following honorific titles for God: Mother of the World, Mother-God, Goddess, Sophia, Shekinah, Queen of Heaven, Tender Nursing Mother, Gentle One, Wise Old Crone. Gather other names and /uploads/features/images of the Divine Feminine that speak to you. Incorporate some of them into your devotions over he next few weeks or months as an ongoing Mother's Day practice.
- Holy Mother
In India, women who are profoundly compassionate, nurturing, and wise are publicly acknowledged by the title "Holy Mother." Recall a woman you know or have known who qualifies to be addressed as "Holy Mother." Write a description of what you admire about her in your journal. Tristine Rainer in The New Diary notes: "By writing diary portraits of people who intrigue you, you enter their qualities in your book, in your space, and begin the process of recognizing and taking posesssion of those qualities."
- Mother of God
In Wrestling with the Prophets Matthew Fox writes: "What does God do all day long? Eckhart asks. God gives birth. 'From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. The essence of God is birthing. We are all meant to be mothers of God.' " Meditate upon this understanding that we are all meant to give birth to the Divine One. How and when do you do this in your daily life?
The most common word association with mothering is nurturing — and this practice is not limited by gender or any other characteristic. All of us, male and female, single or married, old or young, have the potential to give birth and raise something in the world. In a prayer written for Mother's Day, Pamela Spence Bakker used the following images. Choose those you most identify with and reflect in your journal or in conversation about which you identify with.
Some of us give birth to:
Some of us raise:
- flowers or vegetables
- our friends
- our parents
- our brothers and sisters
- interest in a cause
- money for charity
- our voices against injustice
- our eyebrows