Okay, so I admit it: I’ve been immersed in the study and practice of spirituality for decades. I’ve had a lot to overcome, tear-down, and then rebuild “ more like a renovation of my Absolute Truths. Why? So that I can have a greater sense of understanding of the workings of the Universe, its Divine nature, and how I participate as an aspect of the Universe.
First of all, I wish on no one the anguish of growing up within a religion that I experienced as void of spirituality. Perhaps my experiences as a child have led me to discover that I would love to ensure that all children possess some form of spiritual competency by the time they reach adulthood. I had none, and I’m pretty sure that, although my parents raised their nine children Roman Catholic, they didn’t model for us an ability to share their truths in a way that allowed us to explore, investigate, and to question reality “which, by the way, are all massive spiritual competencies. We weren’t allowed to question the tenets of the Catholic Religion; it was a sin to do so, which meant I’d probably go to hell. Case closed. Discussion over.
Looking back, even my own children rarely showed any interest in a conversation with me about spirituality, God, angels, death, life after death, …none of it. Perhaps they’d already asked their Dad questions about the subject. I do know they think about it; however, it’s just not something we talk about to this day. After all, what’s there to talk about? It might be that they know I have some biases, and they think I might try to cram said biases down their throats, like through writing blogs, . . . like this.
What is Spirituality and Why Cultivate Spiritual Competencies in Our Children?
Science now tells us that the Universe is completely made up of conscious energy, that it knows what it is creating. The Universe knows that it is creating, that it is creation and that it is created. That’s what science is saying. Many scientists also say, not only that the Universe is conscious, but that it is Divine Consciousness. That means that everything that makes up the Universe “ everything, is sacred. This is hard for adults to comprehend, much less the mind of a little child. So, how do we set the stage for dialogs that allow for curiosity and for questioning that which seems so incomprehensible?
I define Spirituality as the field of our reality that includes truth about our existence in this Universe, which is infinite and all potentiality. Because I’m a conscious being, I can explore and perhaps come to understand what is beyond understandable. Through curiosity, exploring and through direct experience, I can discover the Divine nature of everything, and I can choose to bring my best to all I do, because I choose to engage with the evolution of the Universe in a way that feels most respectful and honoring of all that is, which also includes me.
Some of you may have specific religious beliefs about God and all. Distinguishing Church doctrines from spiritual beliefs about the Absolute and all-present Reality can be an interesting exercise for parents, grandparents, and well, for all adults, really.
What are Spiritual Competencies?
Competencies are abilities, skills and aptitudes. Within the domain of cognitive functioning, we want our children to be able to develop competencies such as reasoning, thinking, understanding, comprehending, and developing common sense. In the domain of the physical world, we want our children to have the competencies of conscious movement, strength, agility, resilience, flexibility and dexterity. In the domain of emotional competencies, we want our children to express and release emotions, being respectful of other people’s feeling and expressions of emotions, and the ability to articulate what is being experienced as an emotion or feeling sensation. Accordingly, what would we then consider to be spiritual competencies, especially for children?
Trust, Faith, Allowing, Acceptance, Patience, Surrendering, Love, Letting Go…
Living in the present; living without fear; believing in a higher power; trusting in the perfection of the Universe; letting go of control; being open to the possibility that there is another way to look at things to assist in making sense of what is; the ability to question reality in order to come to a greater understanding; see the good in others; bring a sense of peace to oneself; choosing for one’s self what will bring the greatest good to all involved; generosity; kindness, dignity for all; seeing the bigger picture; and accepting that we can’t know how the Universe works but that no matter what the circumstances, it’s always working in the highest truth and the highest good of all. These are just a few spiritual competencies, off the top of my head. Every Religion and spiritual tradition bases their foundational beliefs on these spiritual competencies.
I know you’re thinking it: we all know a lot of self-proclaimed "religious" people who lie, cheat and steal. I wonder what they learned about spirituality, as children? I wonder what spiritual competencies their parents taught them?
Perhaps this is where each of us begins the process of considering spiritual competencies that are most important to ourselves, and those we want to instill in our children. As I write this blog, I’m asking myself the same questions, and I consider what are the most effective ways to impart these spiritual competencies to our children and our grandchildren.
Here are six practices that I consider fundamental in this process:
1) Discern for yourself what is true for you about God, the Universe, Life and Death. Ask yourself how you came to decide these things for yourself. Did someone tell you this, and so you believed them, or did you allow yourself to explore possibilities? Once you have some answers for yourself, decide what you want your children to learn and to believe. How do you want them to approach this whole domain of life that is so challenging to be with?
2) Ask yourself these questions: To what degree do I live according to my beliefs? How am I in integrity with what I know to be true? Am I a good model for my children? "How do I want my children to model their beliefs for their own children someday?
3) Having other people teach your children about life and death, God, love and all “ well, this doesn’t work. It works to teach religious theories, doctrines and principles, but it doesn’t allow children to ask questions of their parents, hashing out possibility of what is, what could be, and what is just a mystery to us all. In other words, be open to the conversation with your children.
4) As parents, we don’t have to have the right answers. It’s absolutely necessary to let our children know that sometimes we just don’t know. This way, they can see that they don’t have to know, have the right answer, or worry about having the wrong answer, and that they don’t have to know either. They can just live with curiosity and not feel bad about not knowing what is unknowable.
5) Like conversations about sex and other challenging subjects, the timing is all in the child. There is no right time for conversations about spirituality. They surface when the curiosity of the child ripens into that sweet moment when they ask: "Mommy, where did we all come from?" Be ready, and enjoy this exploration together.
6) Using guilt and shame, and the idea of sin to control your children “ well, most of us know what that was like. And, most of us are still recovering from this degrading and demeaning use of power. Explore corrective measures that are respectful and loving; they feel much better and work much better in the long run.
Many of us put off this discussion until well after our children have come to ignore any of our wisdom. We avoid and distract ourselves from this aspect of our human life, perhaps believing that there will be a better time to think about what is true for us, or waiting until we know for sure what to say. There will never be the right time to begin this exploration with yourself, your parenting partner and your children. Especially if you are a grand parent; talking with your children about their spiritual perspectives and how they wish them to be honored, is an important subject to broach, sooner rather than later.
The value of developing spiritual competency is that, when difficult times come to an individual, and we all know that they will come, perhaps having a perspective that includes a larger, more Universal understanding can help one "be with" the sometime unthinkable, horrific parts of life. It can bring peace and comfort in ways that we just don’t think about. I really believe this is true. Let me know what you think!
As a transformational life coach, I hold space for people to talk through these challenging processes. Please contact me if I can support and empower you to engage openly with the questions of spirituality, and how we are influenced by our reality.