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Mother Mary

Mary Elizabeth Barwick, wife, yogi and celebrated mother. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13th. Courtesy photo

Mary Elizabeth Barwick slipped a positive pregnancy strip in her husband’s stocking just a few Christmases ago. The following summer, the not-too-young couple welcomed baby Will into their world.

“Billy and I were married in October 2006,” Barwick explained. “I skipped my next cycle and guessed I might be pregnant. When I saw the strip was positive, I cried. And honestly, it was a selfish cry because I realized we would not be going to Italy as we’d planned. But then I was excited at the prospect of being a mother, and Billy was excited too. I think of my heart center as a lotus flower, and motherhood has opened another petal of my heart.”

That fall the Barwicks attended a James Taylor concert at Greenfield Amphitheater and Taylor sang “Sweet Baby James.” “I was holding Will in my arms, and Taylor held my gaze as he sang. I thought over and over, ‘He’s singing that song to us.’”

With her husband Billy singing and playing guitar for the band Shine, and the whole family loving music, young Will was singing Elvis tunes at age 2, which thrilled his mother. Now at 4, he sings The Beatles, which thrills his father.

A thunderous note of discord flooded the Barwick household recently when a plumbing fixture burst and the floors were destroyed. Will curled up on his upstairs bed and told his mother not to worry. Barwick, one of Wilmington’s most admired physical therapists and yogi masters, explained how her faith in God, yoga practice, physical therapy career and her own mother have helped balance discipline with compassion in handling difficult times and making important decisions.

As the only girl of three children raised on a country farm in New York by Joe and Charlotte Moran, Barwick learned discipline from years of gymnastics. Practicing five days for four hours daily proved a giant step in helping her seek internal higher ground.

“I’d fall off the balance beam five times and hurt myself,” Barwick said. “I’d feel crushed emotionally, but still try again that sixth time and finally make it. I learned to ride out emotional swings and stay focused.”

Perseverance with gymnastics led to a small scholarship at the prestigious Ithaca College, but Barwick was not happy and talked with her mother, whose previous MO was detachment. Utterly miserable, the young Barwick confided that she felt lonely and unwanted by her peers.

“My mom told me not to worry because some of her friends who were picked on in school and considered nerds went off to have great adventures in their lives,” Barwick said. “From that point on my mom really helped guide me. On a spiritual level, she is the most important person in my life.”

Mono hit the student during her first semester at Ithaca and zapped her energy so she could no longer compete in advanced gymnastics. Her father, a geophysicist, was also struck financially due to a recession. Determined to see his daughter finish college, he drove a semi-truck cross-country to pay her tuition. Barwick followed his lead. “I decided I’d taken my body as far as it would go,” she said. “Now it was time to deepen my spirit.”

At that time, she had a rare and numinous (presence of the divine) dream. “In my dream, I was in my backyard and the phone rang,” she said. “I ran but couldn’t get to it quickly enough. When I got inside, my mom had answered the phone and hung up.
“‘Mom, who was it?’

“‘It was God. He wanted to talk with you.’

“‘C’mon Mom, who was it?’

“Three times she said it was God, so I asked, ‘What did He say?’

“Suddenly, the dream evolved into an ethereal realm. I was told not to worry about my career; I would blossom into it. I felt petrified and criticized because I was told I needed to work on three things. At this point of fear, I was taken to another realm of consciousness, and I was no longer clear of its meaning, except I knew I had to keep working on myself at a spiritual level.”

Hearing about this unusual dream, Barwick’s mother signed her up for a workshop on body work and massage at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Surrounded by new friends, Barwick celebrated her 21st birthday there and said it was a life-changing experience. “I learned the spirit of yoga,” she explained, “the art of relaxing around my resistance. I learned that yoga wasn’t about doing the hardest postures. There was a whole other realm beyond that.”

With her mother also practicing yoga and encouraging her daughter, one thing led to another (Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, 1994; first yoga program coordinator for Appalachian State University, 1995) and Barwick graduated from the rigorous physical therapy program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Since ‘97, Barwick has taught for the Wilmington Yoga Center part-time and worked full-time in an outpatient orthopedic setting for New Hanover Regional Medical Center. After her publication in Advance for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine (August 6, 2010), the hospital awarded Barwick September employee of the month.

At present, Barwick continues to receive accolades from numerous people: her house repairmen, co-workers, clients, and especially hers husband and son. “We fly a lot back and forth from Wilmington to my parents’ home in Drummond, Montana, and Will loves to fly,” she said. “He says he wants to be a jumbo jet airplane pilot when he grows up. We read to Will every night and Billy is teaching him to play chess. Never underestimate the intelligence of a 4-year-old. Will has a little cheat sheet for every piece on the chess board and how it moves.”

So what is Barwick’s measure for the future of her son? “I wish contentment for Will,” she said. “I want him to be a giver, not a taker in the world. I wish for him compassion, strong spirit and faith to carry him through all the ups and downs of life.”

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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