Fatherhood: My Kind of Yoga

by Pripo Teplitsky

I just finished video chatting with my 23 year old son. I love our connection even though we are so far apart. Knowing that I will see him in a few months eases my yearning as he comes home from the Netherlands for the summer. I remember my father saying how much he loved spending time with me, and how I will one day know this feeling when I have a child. I knew I would, I just didn’t know how deep I would be moved, how my heart’s compass would always be calibrated in my son’s presence. My mind’s eye starts to drift back in memory about twenty years ago, as I close my eyes recalling  the story of how my understanding of this was realized in a moment of searching and in a moment of belonging.

I gently lifted his hand off the massage table and placed it in both of mine. I felt tears start to swell inside me.  His hands were those of my father's. I mean the same size, the same muscular and bone structure, his skin was smooth yet aging with the same strawberry blond hair on the back of his hand and knuckles of his fingers.  I wanted to just stare at his hands but instead found myself massaging the inside of them in the same way my father did to me as a small child to put me to sleep…the same way I lovingly touch and massage my three year-old son's hand to put him to sleep. That is the one thing my son connects deeply with to identify with his grandfather he has never known.  

"Daddy, touch my hand like Papa Shel used to do to you," he says while we snuggle up in bed at night just after the last bedtime story is read.

Wow, I saw it so clearly as I massaged this man's hand. This person I just met a half-hour ago, massaging his body, his eyes closed, not knowing the gift he has just given to me.  The next half-hour I open myself, my being, my inherent love and compassion to this man through my hands. At one particular moment, I slide my arm under his neck, reaching over his front side with my other arm and pull his side towards me to massage under his right scapula.  It is a position that looks like a cradle hug, a feeling of being nurtured and nurturing. Oh how we men need nurturing from each other but are so afraid of giving and receiving this love. We are taught that it is wrong to be vulnerable with each other, to be emotional and affectionate. We are told it is a weakness. I know that to be far from the truth. It takes great courage and strength to be vulnerable and show our emotions to each other. When we speak and act from the heart and not hold back,  well…that is a tremendously admirable and courageous feat.

At this moment in the massage session, I'm experiencing the full circle of fatherhood.  Holding this man in my arms, consciously knowing he is my client, yet at the same moment feeling the love for my deceased father and the essence of nurturing I give to my own son when I hold him in my arms. I know in my essence, I was able to hold and touch this man with compassion and love because of the countless experiences of being present and focused with my child in love and compassion.

That one encounter reaffirmed to me, fatherhood is my spiritual practice, it is my yoga.  It is my spirit, my true nature coming in union with my human experience through the expression called "father" with all its challenges and rewards.  I can choose to see the origin surrounding my fears, my strengths, my insecurities, and my love, right here in this experience and exploration of being a father.  Sure, I know I have lessons outside of this domain but what more fertile ground is there than to take my consciousness of parenting from the heart and reflect that in to my interactions in the world. Our work in the outside world is an important part of our life, but it is not what we came here to do.  We are here to learn about ourselves, and to give our true selves to the world. I am finding that being a father is not just one aspect of myself, one of my roles or responsibilities. It is a path, a journey of discovery to "who I really am."

I discovered this realization most profoundly one particular evening. My wife always puts Zander, our son to sleep for naps in the afternoon and I take the evenings. On this night I rocked, sang and lay with him until he finally fell asleep. I walked ninja-like out of the bedroom so not to wake him and proceed to head to my salvation, the meditation cushion. Mind you, after having a child come into your life, silence and contemplation time is a rare commodity. I had a very regular sitting practice before Zander was born and I was trying desperately to regain some kind of balance of parenting, and finding time "for myself."

Well, I had just sat for about ten minutes meditating on the words "who am I…who am I," and I heard his cries. Like I said before, I had the night shift, and I knew he would not put himself back to sleep easily as was our experience. As a matter of fact, I knew I had to get in there fast before he really woke up. He had been waking up in the middle of my evening meditations for the last weeks and now I was starting to lose it.  I stood up from my cushion and stomped my way into the bedroom saying in a low frustrating growl, "I'm trying to find myself damn it,"(a very spiritual response I'd say). By now Zander was wailing as I entered the bedroom. I felt my emotions boil in agitation but caught myself just in time to take some deep breaths before I picked him up. He was half crying and whimpering while clinging desperately around my neck. I lowered him on the bed and laid down cuddling him ever so close, feeling his breath on my face as I kissed away his tears. At that moment, a feeling of belonging overwhelmed me like I never experienced before. I mean, I got a taste of myself that filled my whole being like a radiant sun pulsating inside me. I found myself, right there at that moment, Now; I was the one crying, tears of life longing to be fulfilled. All along I've been searching for myself, my eternal essence by sitting on a meditation cushion, reading books or contemplating life's questions. That evening I found myself… in my child's tears. It was that simple.

About the Author

Pripo Teplitsky is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in relationship issues. He earned a master's degree in counseling/psychology at Goddard College and for 18 years he was a licensed bodyworker specializing in Esalen Massage. Pripo has worked with thousands of couples and individuals over the last 15 years helping to improve their relationships while cultivating healthier communication and intimacy skills. Prior to becoming a psychotherapist, Pripo was a project manager in Fortune 200 and 500 companies. His current speaking engagements and workshops are focused on various topics of relationship issues and emotional well-being and he has taken his experience and skills and have applied them towards what he believes are most meaningful in achieving an authentic and successful life. He is the host of the Podcast: Relationships! Let’s Talk About It.