As many of you know, I recently participated in a book group exploring themes of ‘conscious parenting.’ What, you might ask, does this mean? There are so many solutions. So many methods. So many paths. So many books on the subject. A baseline from which to start: “Children must learn to live from a spiritual point of view…They must learn how to live ecstatically in the feeling of God (Divine Reality). Children should enjoy a feeling, breathing relationship with the Mystery.” – Adi Da
Below are several insights on my continual path of translating spiritual practice and intention into parenting a toddler. For me, conscious transcends ‘mindful,’ ‘thoughtful,’and ‘well-educated,’ into the realm of questioning how I can raise a being who is attuned to subtlety, interested in spiritual growth, not bound by the ceaseless churnings of ego – and ultimately interested in living a life of service rooted in the experience of love.
As parents we have the opportunity to help cultivate this capacity for a direct feeling-intuition of the Divine Reality under all circumstances. Whether you believe in a “God” or not, this is not the point. The point is to raise children who will become happy, sensitive, responsible, sane and caring adults. The point is to raise children who will not be addicted to suffering and selfishness, instead attracted to embody qualities of integrity and Grace.
The nuggets below were inspired by Adi Da’s books and serve as small portals for me in making daily parenting decisions.
- Develop a Feeling Sensitivity. How can I encourage Rowan to feel, full bodily, into his experience? How can I encourage him to use all of his senses? How can I bring him into a profound, felt relationship with his surroundings in the midst of so much cultural and literal noise? How can I encourage a feeling-based experience of reality versus a material based experience? In nature, we can use all of our senses. We can touch, smell, listen. We can talk about emotional states and the subtle nuances of rain, air, clouds, colors, distant sounds. At 3am when he is awake and doesn’t want to sleep, we can sit quietly on the porch and register together the different texture of night compared to day. We can say hello to the birds.
- Develop A Sense of Self that is Greater than the Physical. How can I help Rowan become responsible for his energy state or emotional state? How can I teach him self-awareness and also attunement to others? He is naturally sensitive to a baby’s cries – how can I encourage that sensitivity rather than distracting him from his discomfort? Early on we often teach our children to look the other way, rather than sitting with them in understanding pain. When we notice sensitivity, we can create teaching moments. We can become more sensitive ourselves.
- Foster Human Intimacy, Intimacy With Nature and Intimacy with Mystery. Let these priorities serve as ballasts. Prioritize relating to people and the natural world more so than relating to objects (toys). Stay in relationship, always. When reactivity or anxiety emerges, check in on the intimacy thread. Make meaningful eye contact over and over again…Widen experience to include other species, and eventually a greater mystery of Life. How can reverence and a sense of the Sacred imbue everything?
- Learn to Relax Deeply. We live in a world where nervous systems are taxed and the stressfully vital is revered as ‘normal.’ How can I teach Rowan to self-regulate amidst constant invitations to spin out into a type of cultural mania? We can take deep breaths together. We can slow down. We can slow down again.
- Feel Your Body! We start the day saying hello to the body from head to toes. I massage him. When he is frantic, I remind him of his feet and belly. When he is upset, I remind him to breathe.
We can begin by establishing and maintaining a sense of calmness, equanimity and sensitivity. And, most importantly, we must continually ask ourselves whether we are embodying the lessons we wish to impart. What does our state convey (more than our words)? What parents can transcend creates space for children too to transcend.