Parenting and SpiritualityVitality Magazine December 1, 2010
One of the highest goals we can pursue in this lifetime is to discover our true natures so fully that we never forget. The one mystical experience that is most helpful in achieving this transformation is a spiritual breakthrough traditionally called enlightenment. But is a spiritual path with this goal in mind suitable for busy parents? The answer is an absolute “yes.”
Many people think that a spiritual path with this goal in mind is only for those who practice asceticism and celibacy. But these are in no way preconditions for the path to enlightenment. It is possible to experience parenting as a source of continuous spiritual growth and ultimately, a path towards awakening and creating a life of total spiritual fulfillment and liberation.
You do this by practising the very same things that anyone on a spiritual path must practice in order to become more enlightened, only you practice them in the context of parenting. Below are some suggested practices to help you transform your consciousness in order to become a more spiritually awakened, mature, loving, and ultimately liberated person and parent.
Be present: If we want to progress on the path to enlightenment, we have to make it a central focus to get more in touch with our true selves. One of the simplest and most direct ways this can be done is by learning to live more fully in the moment. We do this by slowing down, learning to breathe more deeply, and allowing ourselves to experience the present moment with all of our senses. This simple practice helps us to enjoy the magic of the present moment more fully, which also begins to free the natural creativity and spontaneity of our spirits or true selves.
It is especially easy to forget to be fully present when we are with our children. How many of us are actually thinking about other things instead of giving our full attention to our children when they need it? Do you look into your child’s eyes when she is talking to you? Do you really listen to her tone of voice, as well as her words? Do you tune into her whole being, body, heart, mind, and soul? Making this kind of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual connection with our children not only assures them that they matter to us, it simultaneously put us totally in the present moment with them, which helps clarify the shared presence and awareness of both your own and your child’s true nature.
Practice silence with your children: During moments of deep stillness, we can experience the mysterious nature of our true selves most powerfully. Children can also learn to quiet their minds and go within to discover their true natures – that hidden treasure of pure being found deep within us all.
Take time to sit quietly with your children every day. This does not have to be introduced as some lofty practice of meditation, but simply a quiet break during the day. For your children, it can be as simple as colouring or drawing in silence. Or introduce them to meditation using a guided meditation CD. Meditation reminds children how to get back in touch with their deepest selves, which is the storehouse of our full potential. Children who practice meditation perform better in school and bring more intelligence, love, creativity, and awareness into every aspect of life.
Make personal reflection a priority: At the end of every day, set aside some time to sit in reflection, both with your children and alone. Use this opportunity to review what happened during the day. As you explore specific situations, pose questions like: How do I feel about what happened during this situation? How do I feel about what was said? Did I say what I really wanted to say? What did I mean to say? What was good? What was not so good? If I could revisit this situation again, what would I have done differently? By taking time for this kind of reflection, you also teach your children how to grow personally and spiritually at the same time.
Spend time in nature: A walk in the woods is one of the easiest ways to remember that the same consciousness within you is also the source of everything around you. This mystical communion with nature is also very accessible to children. When you go for a hike, encourage your children to see nature as something sacred. They are very receptive to the idea that the many wonders of the world – the rivers, rocks, grass, clouds, trees, sky, and animals, including people – are all connected to each other.
Cultivate intuition: Family life runs so much more smoothly when we take the time to listen to our intuition. We get in touch with our intuition by pausing before we act to focus within, and by listening to the still, small voice of spirit and turning that advice into action.
We all access and experience our intuitive guidance in different ways. Sometimes we get a gut feeling about things or feel a nudge to change something. Sometimes we clearly hear the voice within, while other times we see complete pictures of alternate scenarios. No matter how we experience this sixth sense, our intuition is always available, urging us to move our lives forward in the most ideal way. All it takes is a willingness to trust that what we sense is indeed valid, and then take action to support these insights.
On a practical level, following your intuition will lead to less frustration for you, more happiness for your children, and greater harmony in your home. Children can also be encouraged to hone their intuitive abilities. Doing so will allow them to solve their problems on their own; forge a deeper, more loving connection with themselves; and lead happier lives.
Practice compassion: One of the most important things we can do to grow spiritually is to practice being more compassionate. Practice being compassionate with your children, and teach them the right way to love by your example. When you treat your children with compassion, empathy, and respect, they learn to treat others the same way, and they learn self-respect, too. Moreover, they’ll quickly discover an important universal truth, which is that when we think kindly and care about others, the universe gives back, quite often in surprisingly wonderful and magical ways.
Understand the law of karma: There are no coincidences in life. Every event is the result of some prior action, thought, feeling, or belief. When we accept that everything happens for a reason, our lives make more sense and we become better at dealing with life in an enlightened way.
Children can also learn to understand that what they put out into the world comes back to them. When children are encouraged to see things in this way, they make meaningful connections about the events in their lives. They also learn to take responsibility for those situations that they’ve created, and they grow up to become more mature and responsible human beings in the world.
Be diligent: Between working, preparing meals, driving to after-school activities, and cleaning the house, most parents feel that they have little time to themselves. But the more stressful and chaotic things get on the outside, the more important it is for us to go inside and reconnect with our true selves. If we make the effort to do so, this place of pure being is a treasure trove of inner qualities like intelligence, love, creativity, and awareness. One of the most eternal truths is that everything we need in life is already available inside us at every moment. It just takes a bit of practice bringing all of this untapped potential out so that it flows more freely through us.
Parenting can become a spiritual journey as long as we intend to make it so. All spiritual journeys require self-discipline and practice. The practices described above are some simple pointers and reminders to help you stay connected in order to make progress on the inner journey home. The actual mystical experience of enlightenment may be a long way off for some, but it is important to remember that parenting with this goal in mind also has enormous benefits along the way and is well worth the effort, both for you as a parent and your children. You become a more consistently loving parent, learn to respond with more compassion and wisdom, and raise children who develop into consciously aware, thoughtful, and confident human beings.