Elizabehth Lesser
Photo: Courtesy of the Omega Institute

When it comes to nurturing, you may think mothers have the market cornered. But as Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the wellness- and spirituality-focused Omega Institute, knows, anyone with a beating heart can cultivate it.

I'm sitting in a café in Sausalito, a continent away from my home in New York, wondering if all the relaxed California folks can hear the blaring sirens of my thoughts: "Did I remember to tell so-and-so about such and such at work? Did I pay the Visa bill? Can I still do that conference call tomorrow, and finish the blah-blah-blah by the end of the week?"

And what powerful wave has washed me up on this shore? What tsunami had the strength to tear me away from my workaday compulsions? Mother love. I've crossed the country to await the birth of my first grandchild.

Aside from gravity, I don't know if there's a force as strong as the pull to care for one's children—even if those children are all grown up. The social observer Harriet Rubin has come up with a word for this force: mamisma, "femininity defined by mature and maternal qualities." But one need not be a mother, or even a woman, to be motivated by mamisma. It's available to anyone who values the power of the heart.

Mamisma is not to be confused with machisma, which is the sister of machismo. The world does not need patriarchy to be replaced by matriarchy. It needs mamisma. It needs women to harness their hearts and drive the chariots of love into the center of town. It needs men to choose empathy over aggression. It needs each of us—and especially the most powerful among us—to put away the drive for ego power and take up the banner of protection, inclusion, and care. I have hope about this. Over the decades, I've seen mamisma gaining strength. I've seen it in my husband, a jock from West Texas who harnessed mamisma when he became a single father to his 5-year-old son; I've seen it in business leaders who are beginning to include the needs of their people in the bottom line; I've seen it in young women who want to redefine power itself, to change the rules and the priorities and bring the totality of their intelligence into their work and their relationships and families. And now I'm seeing it in my son, poised to use the power of love to pave a boulevard of opportunity and joy for his own baby.

So here I sit, in a strange café, gripping my cell phone, awaiting a call. If anyone asks, I'll say mamisma made me do it.
— Elizabeth Lesser (Find out where Elizabeth discovers power in her own life)


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