Recently, I was reminded of an old practice called Exchanging Self with Others. Just as it sounds, it's an empathy practice that calls you to place yourself behind the eyes and heart of another, to see and feel what they might be experiencing.
Remembering this ally came about spontaneously as I was nursing Rowen one day. I took in his face and his body language and began to imagine the emotions and sensations he might be feeling. The taste of breastmilk - beyond sweet nectar - the feeling of being connected and held close to my bare skin, cuddled in my arms. I gathered he was experiencing deep security, nourishment, and love. These qualities then began to arise in me and they touched the place where baby Jessica still lives, somewhere in the tender depths of my heart.
In that moment I felt that my infant self was having Rowen's experience, that I was simultaneously loving and nourishing both my son and the little one inside who has her own needs and hurts.
Suddenly, karma took on new meaning and time collapsed, I could feel the past, present, and future equally alive in this single moment. For the first time on a bone deep level I understood that giving is truly getting. My current self, present as Mother, was tending my son and my infant self equally, which was actively shaping a new future for both of us as I learned how to love and connect more deeply through this moment of healing.
I see clearly now how I parent in a way that is how I would have wanted to be parented, and that I have the power to repair the past through the ways I choose to care now. By reveling in all of those moments where I can feel into Rowen's experience a shift has occurred, and I feel my inner child being nurtured and tended back to a place of greater trust and a feeling of safety, which further empowers how I mother today.
I realize that giving and receiving exist in tandem. But, if I drop into the experience of another and let the love and energy I share be experienced within myself they may even happen in the same moment. That is shear joy.