(This is an excerpt from the book: Parent Like a Guru, which was written in 2016. It is available on Amazon.com.)
While many of us desire to parent as a spiritual practice, we sometimes get confused about what is spiritual – as in right-action, or right-thought, and what is not spiritual. The answers to this confusion will vary, depending on your religious training, your culture, and your family’s traditions.
My perspective is that we are all spiritual beings here in human form, learning by engaging in the direct experience with the circumstances in front of us. Just like in elementary school, we learn best when we focus on what is in front of us. And, when our teachers are clear with the intentions of the specific exercise in front of us, we engage more enthusiastically with our learning.
Take, for example, a kindergarten teacher, who says to her students, “Okay class: Today we are going to begin learning our ABC’s. When we know our ABC’s, we can begin to put the letters together to make words. And when we make words, a whole new exciting world opens up for us, full of imagination, information, and perhaps adventure. Who wants to learn their ABC’s?”
When we simplify the context of our reality, taking it down to elementary principles, we can become more engaged and excited about the learning that is right in front of us.
Gurus live a very simple life, because they know that’s all there is to do. They love, and they exercise their intelligence-muscles to realize and live into what is true and what is right-action, based on that truth.
To parent like a guru, living with your children, a partner and perhaps other people too, takes mindfulness to live into each moment as if there is something to learn – and, there is always something to learn, in every moment. Buddhists call this Beginner’s Mind.
Today, I’d like you to consider that, Love is not the same as compatibility. It’s not the same as getting along and doing what is right all the time. Unconditional Love requires NOTHING from another person, or from yourself, for that matter. LOVE Just IS!
Learning to live together requires each of us to see each person’s unique way of being in the world as just that – not good, not bad, not right, not wrong. There is no judging; only respecting and honoring people’s personal preferences, even when they are different from yours and you don’t agree with it. GULP!
Acceptance is a huge spiritual practice. Allowing is a huge spiritual practice – especially as a parent, because you have to distinguish what could be harmful or dangerous for your children, and what is the natural expression of their being, which, in essence isn’t dangerous, just different than yours, which feels dangerous to your ego-self.
One of my favorite books for parents is written by Rudolf Dreikurs, called Children: the Challenge. It teaches parents to use their intelligence-muscles, to consider each child’s own unique being in the world, and to respect their relationship with the world in front of them. It also teaches parents to allow the natural consequences of a child’s direct experience with the world to be the primary teacher.
This way, we parents, grandparents, and guardians respectfully acknowledge our children’s unique relationship with the world, accepting and allowing them to learn from their own experiences.
Our job then becomes that of mindful and wise stewards, who make room for the expansion of our children’s natural expression in the world to occur, with wise supervision present, every step of the way.
Just for today, notice your love for your children. You may have to take a deep breath and a few minutes to return to that presence of love, but it is there. Notice your style of guiding your children towards right-action, or right-relationship with themselves and the world. Notice your desire to pass on your style to them, and how you do that. (We all want to do this, so no need to feel bad or guilty about it.)
Just observe today what you need for your children and what you need from your children, and see if there are conflicts between the two. Give yourself some time to think about, and discern with intelligence, what is the priority of those needs. Just for today, practice noticing just this. There isn’t anything to do but to notice.
Only through the awareness of our thinking, our feelings, our body sensations, and our actions, can we consider the possibility of choice and change. So, doing nothing but noticing has the potential of creating transformation. I have no doubt about that!
(On YouTube, in September, the topic of my pre-recorded videos and Live videos will be Families and How to Live Together. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel so you can join me live and ask questions in real time!