I’ve been reading “The Conscious Parent” by Shefali Tsabary, PhD. This is one work of art! To distill the learning I’m getting from these stories and tenets of our collective psychology as parents: How we respond emotionally to the curveballs that we have attracted into our own lives lays the groundwork for our relationships with our children and their inner stories about themselves.
By becoming the witness to your own inner reaction to that which makes you uncomfortable, frustrated, even livid – you are breaking the cycle of unconsciousness and waking up in the moment so you have choice and power over your own reaction and response. Largely, we are deeply reactive to our unconscious past. It is through this manifestation of your powerful choosing that you will most effectively engage your children with wisdom, grace and a sense of stillness, and which will ultimately give you and them both, the gift of consciousness.
Parenting is an ongoing process of seeing the legacy of our own childhood. However it is accomplished, this process of inner awareness serves to allow us to rise above the Ego self – this is the little person inside each of us who just wants to be loved and who has designed all sorts of defenses and manipulative patterns to get that, or to prove to ourselves that we don’t deserve love. Once we give birth to our own children and begin our lifelong relationship with them, our Ego/child within sees new opportunity for bringing its triumphs and its complaints to the fore. This is where we sometimes find ourselves “becoming just like our parents”, or saying and doing things that seemingly come out of nowhere, or flying off the handle all of a sudden without warning based on the tiniest of details in our children’s behavior. More than ever before in our lifetime, while parenting, we are called to watch our inner landscape carefully and to slow down enough to craft our life artfully so we may have the impact that we vision is possible from our highest Self, rather than continuing to cook our relationship with our children in the muddy soup of our Ego and our past painful experiences.
Since we are all teachers for one another, we become conscious when we view life itself as a teacher, and welcome the teachings willingly. Engaging ourselves with the teachings and practice of Yoga, we may explore what it means to move from unconscious behavior to conscious behavior. What do you find when you cultivate consciousness, and then create a boundary with your child? There is no longer your Ego in the background driving the show. Instead, you enter into partnership with your child in each moment (each request, each observation, each action) quietly and through surrender to love. And, yes, you guessed it…..their behaviour occurs to you as you were asking for all along. And, of course, it is never exactly as you imagined it would be – because after all, you are co-creating life together!
The yogis teach that ‘consciousness’ is not a place we can attain, but that being in the practice is what brings Mastery – not necessarily a lifetime of Consciousness, yet Mastery of the process.
Ok, so asana, mindful pranayama or breathwork, meditation and deep relaxation are some of the cornerstones of a Yoga Practice that might also flow into a Conscious Parenting practice to shift our approach to partnering with our children. Yes – and yoga (As we know it in the West) is only one of many “ways” or paths. Because, ultimately whether you spend time on your yoga mat or at your altar, the purpose of that activity is fostering Awareness. Without bringing yourself awake, you submit yourself to the whims of others and the whims of your Ego. In one of Life’s great cosmic funnies, “surrendering” to the flow of life requires that we practice, rather than wander about aimlessly in our minds and in our outer reality.
Another doorway through which awareness and consciousness can be fostered and experienced for you, may be the teachings of one of the hundreds of organized religions, or through the experience of giving community service. It may be connecting emotionally with a friend or group of friends in a regular way to listen deeply to ourselves and others. Consciousness has many doorways or pathways. This fact shows us that it is not a westernized notion of Yoga Practice that is the kernel of truth, but it is the process of seeking your own Truth or connection with Higher Self, something greater, the Mystery, Loving Oneness, or GOD that is the key. The key to what, you ask? My answer: the key to engaging with the process of conscious parenting, and to living a spiritual life.
Okay, then. What is spirituality? As defined by Wikipedia, it is an “inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being…”. Other spiritual teachers of our Times say the basis of living a life infused with spirituality is developing and nurturing gratitude, forgiveness and love. Check out some of these opportunities to grow with Mastin Kipp (thedailylove.com), or Gabrielle Bernstein, author of Spirit Junkie and May Cause Miracles (gabbyb.tv). And….many of us think with our intellect that this is what we are doing. When we order our children to get their clothes on, or reprimand them for not brushing their teeth ‘properly’, or tell them that we’ll take something away from their life that they enjoy if they won’t do as we say, RIGHT NOW, are we actually being loving, grateful and forgiving? Maybe we are, but are we doing so consciously without attachment to the result, or said another way, without the NEED to control?
Then, the practical side of me asks – if parents the world over are grappling with how to get compliance and create boundaries and to ‘discipline’ their children, yet they find themselves using bribery, threats and stern voices as often as hugs, loving touches and expressions of pride toward their children, then what needs to shift for consciousness to emerge?
What do we ‘do’ differently when we are awake, conscious, practicing presence? To me, we are in a relationship with our own selves, our minds. Through engaging some of the activities in the teachings of classical yoga such as “letting go of attachments” and “being of non-judgmental mental space” or “non-resistance”, we gain access to acceptance, gratitude for “what is” and an emotional state that is based on giving love, being peace and sensing that we possess the capacity to deal with anything, and to be co-creators in a life we want to live. As parents, we know deep down this is essential to the wellbeing of our children as well. What most supports their healthy and integral intellectual, emotional and spiritual development is feeling held, feeling safe, feeling secure in a world where change is constant.
So, if we parents “feel secure”, we can beget this feeling to our children, and thus awaken consciousness for the lot of us. To be secure, the practice of yoga and consciousness work teaches us to learn how to accept ‘Insecurity’ and ‘Change’ as constant friends. How do YOU welcome these elements of our lived experience into your version of Life? Share with others below in the comment box, please!
Yogi Bhajan, the teacher who brought Kundalini Yoga to the western world in the last 50 years, exalted the inner sense of conflict as life’s greatest teacher. In 1994, he said that the inner conflict we often sense is healthy and serves a purpose for growth, that our personal growth relies on “solving” it. For a meditation to empower you to resolve your inner conflict go here.
This is also supported by the words of Jesus in the Gospel according to Thomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
So, as conscious parents, we cannot do life over ‘for’ our children, nor can we control how they will perceive and interpret the outer reality we share with them. We can partner with them as equals in a process of awakening consciousness together.
Showing up for your children with your own commitment to your consciousness-raising practice (just like establishing routines and rituals for their morning, meals and bedtimes) serves to imbue your shared life with a sense of sacred awe, and affects their very cells with a biochemical blueprint of patient self love and self discovery. This, in contrast to the competitive version of “success” that many facets of our western culture force upon us.
Teaching them that ‘Myself’ is not a static thing, but an ever-evolving Presence living in their bodies (partnering with their bodies and emotions as = Mind) is giving them the gift of curiousity about their inner world. Through your own inner practicing and listening (or praying) as a parent, you show up as a human who is prioritizing the creation of beauty, the discovery and allowing of your own vulnerability and the emphasis on love to be ever present.
Maybe Yoga is not the main doorway for you! Do you do this reflective Consciousness-raising Practice through ritualistic daily physical exercise, dancing with intention and grace, or volunteering in community service, or in teaching? Perhaps you create spiritual family time, or bring your full passionate self alive in daily work (housework, career work, etc.). Remember, if you bring your full self to your outer work, and leave your inner world unexplored, you are probably acting out of unconsciousness or auto-pilot a lot of the time at home with your family.
Fear fizzles in the face of vulnerability and raw, real truth-telling. Being honest and loving with your children, being forgiving of your own mistakes and those of others, and of “life’s apparent mistakes” (which are really opportunities for growth!) is a tremendous gift to their inner reality, which is the lens through which they will see themselves for life.
Let us find some more Cornerstones of Consciousness and share them with each other! Join me in community Conscious Parenting practice on Tuesdays at Parent-Child Yoga, or at one of my Thursday classes