The Yoga of Parenting

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Yoga of Parenting

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Like most parents, my life can be neatly divided into two parts – the part before my children came along and the part thereafter. I held my newborn and felt my insides fall away into a space I did not know existed. When her sister arrived two years later, I did not anticipate this sense of falling away to deepen as it did. The perfect-ness of the world that each of them brought was akin to mystical experiences in my own distant childhood. Yet, these gifts were merely preludes for what has followed since. Every single day with them is a classroom where I grow as a parent, human and spiritual being.

Our children have never been ours to “own”. They may have our noses and our skin tone, but they are unique strands in the grand fabric of the universe without which its grandeur is unimaginable. There isn’t one strand quite like another. Our kids are not smaller versions of ourselves, waiting to be molded in our own likeness. Yet, this can be the default mode of operation in parenting. We may be so entrenched in our own views, our problems, our agendas, our interests and our ambitions that we may not pause to think if this mode of operation is conducive to the way these particular strands dance in the larger inter-connectedness of life.

Parenting gives us the opportunities to explore the peaks, valleys and crevices of our complex personalities. It is the spade that can dig out the inconsistencies that shade the subtle and confusing messages we pass on to our children. As an example, we might believe that happiness does not depend upon achievements. And yet, a strong emphasis in our parenting style can be on achievements or on distant goals of higher education, fame, wealth – the very things we believe do not provide happiness!

My children are my greatest teachers. They give me no room for inauthenticity and demand total honesty in all my dealings, even those that don’t involve them. They call me out on disparities, bringing my hidden conflicts to the surface. Their innocent eyes light up the dark places in my make-up where my fears and anxieties form the strings that maneuver the puppets of my expectations of them. In this new light, I find that my goals and objectives for them have little to do with them, and more to do with me. In every interaction with them, I am given the choice to continue along the horizontal paradigm of time and space made up of instructions, chiding, rewards, goals and consequences, or to relax into the vertical paradigm of surrendering to the mystery of the Now. Thus, the job of parenting is one that brings contemplation and inquiry to “real life”.

This series is about unfolding into the wonder of being via parenting. It is about the lessons my children grace me with on a daily basis in all facets of yoga – karma, bhakti, jnana and the rest.

Ultimately, the yoga of parenting is the yoga of absolute love.

Teaching Children the Art of Giving

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Yoga of Parenting

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Question: My five-year-old gets very upset when she gives gifts to her friends and they do not reciprocate in the same way. Any thoughts how to handle this?

Response: To
begin with, I am neither a parenting expert nor a child psychologist. I can give you my thoughts based on how my child’s behavior opens the door for deeper exploration of my own motives and actions.

It does not seem
wise to reason with a 5-year old who is crying or throwing a tantrum! It might be best to distract her with a favorite toy or activity. Avoid the temptation to buy her something, since the longer-term goal is to teach her how to give without expecting something in return.

Incidents like
these are beautiful pointers to our own minds and actions. Our children are much more likely to do what we do, rather than we say. Thus, if my child has the concept that giving a gift must result in a similar gesture from her friends, I need to look at how this I might be contributing to this behavior modeling. It is true that children are like sponges, soaking our ways of thinking and acting even when we think that they are not watching! It is in the tone of our voices, our criticism of others (or ourselves), our behavior with people in front of and behind their backs, our response to the world’s (and our own) shortcomings, what we really value and so on. It is also in the countless non-verbal ways we employ to express our approval and distaste of the world around us – the smiles and the smirks, the gestures of love and contempt, the laughter and the jaw tightening and the myriad reflections in the eyes. They mirror our behaviors perfectly.

Thus, in a situation where my child has the mindset that giving is an activity that results in a similar gain, I might be prompted to inquire deeply into my own patterns of giving – do I give with reservations and expectations, or do I give freely as an expression of joy and love? Giving does not refer to giving of gifts alone, but the giving of myself on a daily basis.

For example, do I really give unreservedly to my spouse? If my concept of a strong intimate relationship is one of “give and take”, I can never teach my children to give. Give and take implies a barter more than an intensely intimate connection with my partner. Yet, this is the current popular psychology regarding marriage and partnerships. Magazine and newspaper columns pour out advice on “how to make your man do XYZ for you”, or “how to make the girl fall for you”. Notice how these strategies are more about taking than giving. Even when we do not overtly agree with such advice, the subtle undercurrent in intimate relationships can be one of expectation of the other or meeting the other’s expectation to keep the peace.  Often, we manipulate each other in subtle ways to get things our way. Giving in this context is always with the intent to bring about the desired outcome (which is sometimes innocently thought to be the “better” outcome for all concerned). This way of manipulating in the act of giving is picked up by our children even at subtle levels.

This behavior does not end at home, of course. It permeates all our interactions. At work and in the community, we give only when there is “something in it” for us. If there is no promise of a personal gain with our efforts, we are less likely to be interested in giving our time or resources. And this behavior is not only acceptable but expected in modern living! We are molded from an early age to focus on our own gains, albeit in civilized ways. Even service-oriented activities are performed to collect credit, earn praise or as material for college applications.

Question: Very true. So how can I teach my child to give?

Response: By learning how to give yourself. You cannot teach her this if it is not your way of being. Your child will smell you out if this is contrived, trust me!

Question: How do I learn to give?

Response: By digging into the cause of the behavior of “giving with wanting”. This behavior arises from a deep sense of insecurity and incompleteness, needing constant validation in exchange for every act of giving. Insecurity and incompleteness are the hallmarks of the ego (false identification of the “I” to be the body-mind). The ego is fragile by nature and employs every tactic in the book to feel more secure and complete. For the ego, giving is a disaster because it feels threatened by someone else having more. The natural reaction then is to expect something back in order to feel complete or good. But since this security is temporary and can never satisfy the ego’s desires, the feeling of having gained something feeds into the loop of fear of loss or craving for more. Fear and craving lead to further grasping and neediness. There is absolutely no way for the ego to curb its own desires, for craving is its very nature. The only way “out” is to step out of the false identification with it, and to discover who or what the “I” is. In reality, our true nature is of eternal-consciousness-contentment (sat-chit-ananda). When we discover this absolute completeness, expectations fall away and giving becomes an outpouring of this contentment.

Question: How can I learn to not expect?

Response: By minding your own business. In the context of giving, this means that your only job is to give as fully as possible. The moment your mind begins to expect something in return, ask yourself if you are still in your own business. When we begin to think, “he or she should reciprocate in some way”, we are in their business over which we have no control. Our thinking that someone should or should not do something has no bearing on what they will or will not do. It is not their action but our thinking that their action should be different that causes us suffering. Suffering is the result of war with what is.* The only business we need to be concerned about is ours. As the wise old saying goes, “do good and throw it in the river”. When lived this way, giving becomes an extension of overflowing completeness.

As our children begin to see this new paradigm of living and giving, they can be confused for a while and wonder how they must model themselves. However, as our own authenticity pours through, they can relax that this way of being is non-threatening to their developing sense of self. Through our own example of giving, they might glean the truth of St. Francis’ words, “It is in giving that we receive”.

*This type of inquiry is called “The Work” by Byron Katie. A powerful method of questioning our thoughts, “The Work” is beautiful in its simplicity and its ability to transform one’s life.

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Pushing Our Children to Succeed

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Yoga of Parenting

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There is no question that we live in a competitive world. It does seem like this competitiveness begins much earlier and is much fiercer with every generation. As a parent, I have often found myself in the place of too much or too little in terms of “pushing” my children to “succeed”. In my experience, inquiry into pushing my children to succeed is rich grist for the parenting mill.

I have always been an over-achiever. Competitiveness was the hallmark of my childhood. Only in retrospect and in the context of stillness was I able to see what that was all about. It was really an effort to “make up” for what I felt I lacked inherently. That sense of lack could never be filled, no matter how much I achieved. Achieving one thing drove me to the next thing in an endless loop. Without any overt pressing issues, my life came to a grinding crisis when I realized one morning a decade ago that nothing I could possibly achieve would fill this gaping hole. My whole life until then had been characterized by searching for the next thing that held the promise of respite from the inner critic that needed constant proof of my ability to succeed. Every “success” brought the much-sought respite, but it was always temporary. I thought there was some magical achievement that would provide permanent rest and silence the inner critic forever. That morning however, I realized that what I was seeking was the end of seeking. 

My children have been an integral part of the journey of discovering the end of seeking. By their very presence, they demand that I clearly examine my intentions as a parent. This is because the intentions behind my “encouragement” of my children were not always crystal clear. Of course, I had grown up with the concept that parents are supposed to know what is best for their children. Like every other concept, this too came crumbling down. Do I really know what is best for them? From a practical standpoint, yes, I know it is in their best interest to not play with fire or jump off a two story building. Beyond that, can I really know what the future might hold for them and whether their “successes” in grade school will ensure their happiness later on? How can I be so presumptuous when I don’t really even know what this evening will bring? More importantly, what is the true intention behind pushing them to succeed according to my definitions? 

When my children would display less then stellar self-motivation, I would notice myself lecturing them about my own childhood marked by dogged determination. I would find myself telling them stories about how fortunate they are to have the opportunities they have, compared to what I had while growing up. My children would shrink as they reluctantly listened to these stories that subtly insinuated them of being “not as good” as their mother.

Added to this predicament is the culture of expectations, be it at school or in extra-curricular activities. Competition can be very useful to bring out the best in our children. However, it is also one of those things that can become the bane of one’s existence. To succeed with a cut-throat attitude requires pushing down others in overt and vicious ways (albeit hidden under masks of politeness). It causes us to “help” our children in underhanded ways, such as concealing opportunities from other parents and their children, teaching our children to keep secrets about their activities to give them an “advantage” and so on. Strategies like these are considered fair and acceptable in the modern world, but are enormous blocks to inner growth and freedom from suffering. When we tell our children things like, “There is room for only one at the top”, we transmit our viciousness and pain of separation to them. They will grow up with this great burden and discover that they can never keep pace with expectations (theirs and ours).

We might justify our need for our children to be at the top and find nothing wrong with this approach. For two good reasons, such an approach falls short of wholesomeness. Firstly, life teaches us again and again that what goes up will come down. In the “real world”, nobody can be at the top all the time. Moreover, the top is a lonely place that needs to be claimed again and again with no respite. This was my predicament, where I longed for rest from the rat race. Secondly, the underlying issue with this approach is the distorted perception of “my” children versus “not my” children, which is an extension of “me” versus “not me”. The “me” is by nature fragile and insecure because it is an illusion. It does not have inherent existence and must continually resurrect itself in the form of pushing and pulling. Conflict is the result of this continual rebirth. Unknowingly, our children become pawns for the “me” to resurrect itself in new and conniving ways. The “me” shamelessly uses our children to feel good about itself.

The yoga of parenting leads us to question our motives for pushing our children to succeed. From my own experience and eyes wide-open approach, I find that it is my insecurity that drives me to push my children. When my children succeed, I feel good and validated for having done “my job so well”. When they do not, I feel like a failure and it hurts. I  transfer my pleasure and pain to my children, and they have to carry the unthinkable burden of “looking good for Mommy”. Throughout this mess, I fool myself into thinking that this is for their best interests and for their future. Mostly, I fool myself into believing that this is for their happiness, as if happiness can ever be equated to success! There is no question that I love my children, but when my self-interest becomes mixed up in it, I am treading in the muddy waters of self-deception. Ultimately, they might need an existential crisis to discover that none of this matters, and what they are seeking is also the end of seeking.

When we want our children to earn praise for being talented, smart, capable, strong and so on, it behooves us to question our motives. When we encourage lack of transparency in order to come out on top, we are placing “winning at all costs” higher than integrity. When we push our children to be recognized every single time they venture out, we are instilling insecurity and fear of failure. We can never teach our children graciousness, equanimity and the path to inner freedom if we are caught up in the drama of vicious competitiveness. When I sit with the question, “would I be at peace if my children turned out to be mediocre?”, the answer is a resounding yes. Where my children go to college, what sort of vocation they will end up with, how “on top” they will come out and how “successful” they will become will make no difference to who they really are or to who I really am.

The greatest gift I can give them is to impart the ability to see that who they are is beyond definition, wanting, grasping or needing completion. They are already complete, perfect and full. The highest mountaintop would still be a speck in the magnificence of their fullness. The respite they seek is here, now.

Image Source: Shutterstock

Teaching Children To Serve

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Yoga of Parenting

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My daughters are at an age where they are becoming more aware of the world around them. With world events being discussed at home and school, they are beginning to form opinions about themselves through this novel view that expands beyond the familiarity of parents, family and friends. One such world event has shaped their blossoming through its gravity. With the devastating earthquake in Nepal, the girls were shaken by the images on news media outlets. As it is with children in general, their kindness and concern were aroused and they began to ask what they could do to help. Having heard of a local organization founded by a dynamic doctor, they decided that they wanted to contribute to it and involve their friends in the effort. With some brainstorming, they came up with the idea to make this an art-based project. Under expert guidance by their martial arts mentor, they invited their friends and schoolmates to create art projects for an auction. The event raised a considerable amount of money for their first “service” project.

Through the whole process however, my concern was centered around their intention to serve. Two days after the event, the opportunity  to explore the meaning of service arose. As it happens, it is when I am driving them around that I have their undivided attention. The following is the conversation that ensued:

Mom (M): So girls, how did you think the Art For Relief project went?

Daughter 1 (older daughter, D1): Good.

Daughter 2 (younger daughter, D2): Great, mom!

M: How did you feel when you found out how much money you raised?

D2: Really good! Now there is so much money for Detroit2Nepal (the organization they raised money for) to help kids in Nepal.

M: Yes, that is true. I’m very pleased with how much you care. Did you feel happy and responsible that you made it happen?

D1: Hmm… yes.. I suppose..?

M (laughing): There are no right or wrong answers! It is okay to feel fulfilled when you do something for others.

D1 (laughing): Ok then, I do feel fulfilled.

M: So, can either of you tell me what the purpose of service is?

D2: To think about others and their needs.

M: Exactly! Just for a moment, can you both sit still and see what all your thoughts are about? Who or what is the topic of most of your thoughts? When you are meditating and thoughts come up, who do these “talk about”?

D1 (after several moments of silence): About me.

D2: Yeah, about me.

M: Yes! If you can just observe, you will see that all day long (and even in dreams), everything that goes on in your mind is about you and how you feel, what you must do to feel a certain way, etc. So the whole purpose of doing something for others is to direct your thoughts to someone else for a change. But, this is pretty tricky. Even when people do great things for others, the thoughts can still be about themselves and how it makes “them” feel fulfilled and good. Although they have genuine concern for others, the main person they are loyal to is themselves. Can you understand this?

D1: Yeah! So, if I do a project just so that I can get into college, that would not be real service, right?

M: Exactly! Not “real” service. Can you think of some more examples of “not real” service?

D2: If I tell all my friends how much I am doing for others?

M: Yes!

D1: If I want to feel better about myself compared to my friends?

M: Yes!

M: Good job thinking of very good examples. So what would real service look like?

D1 (after very long moments of thinking): Where I do something for someone even when I don’t want to or don’t like it.

D2: If I do something for someone even when nobody will find out.

M (teary-eyed): Yes, you don’t need to do big service projects. Whenever you put aside your own self-interest and jump in, it is true service. When you do something so that the other benefits (whether you win or lose), it is true service. If I say, “I do selfless service”, would that be real service?

D1: No, because you are still thinking about yourself.

M: Good girl! We can talk about this more later, okay?

D2: Okay mom. Can you put on some music now?

And so it goes. What is service, really? The whole purport of karma yoga is about service. It is the remedy for obsessive self-referencing, the universal human affliction. All our thoughts refer to the “I”, its likes and dislikes, its preferences, its fears and pleasures, its beliefs and notions and so on. This self-referencing is reinforced by parents, teachers and society, fed by competitiveness and rivalry, and nurtured by insecurity and separation. In Vedanta, this notion of the self to be the body-mind is known as “ignorance”, since this identification is a result of not knowing our true nature. This ignorance is dissipated through knowledge of the true nature of the “I”, that is beyond the body-mind (Self, with a capital “S”). Karma yoga is one “path” to Self-knowledge, and  begins with thinking about others so that the dualities of likes and dislikes can be mitigated. For a very long time, karma yoga is invariably tainted by self-interest – from feeling fulfilled to accruing “good karma”, from “doing good for society” to “spiritual attainment”, it is still about the “I”. Gradually, the self-referencing becomes more and more subtle, with many opportunities for self-deception. Eventually, karma yoga leads to exploration of the nature of the “I” through self-inquiry and other tools that cut through this self-deception.

True karma yoga begins with seeing through the “I” and that it does not exist the way it is thought to. The body-mind do not hold the “I”, but appear to it. The real “I” or Self is transcendent of body-mind-world and yet permeates and illumines all experience. In this dawning Self-knowledge, boundaries of separation blur and disappear as doing happens without self-interest. Service no longer makes sense as the old concept. Instead, the individual body-mind begins to be used in service of the whole. Individual concerns no longer plague decisions and actions; they merge into the flow of Life.

Selfless service does not happen through willing it, but by transcending the sense of “I” as the limited body-mind through Self-knowledge. Until then, service cannot be truly selfless, no matter how noble. As my daughters stated, selfless service is doing for others whether there is acknowledgment or not, whether it is recognized or not, whether it is liked or not, whether it makes us feel good or not.

Teacher’s Pet – The Tyranny of Favoritism

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Yoga of Parenting

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“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Ben Parker to nephew Peter Parker, also known as Spiderman.

We’ve all been there. We’ve been favored at times and not so much at other times.  Since favoritism is so pervasive, we’ve come to accept it as “real life” . We remain unfazed even when we see parents subtly (and not so subtly) favoring one of their children over others. “This is life”, we tell ourselves. We try to move on. Yet, we face favoritism again and again. Like when the teacher of a class passes your child over. Just because. Or your boss gives the other guy the promotion despite the fact that you’re more qualified. Just because.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence. When I was teacher’s pet, I wished for invisibility because the other kids resented me. When I was not teacher’s pet, I wondered what was so “un-special” about me. Now that my children are subject to it, the whole dynamic of favoritism hits home. Hard. When my child is passed up without being given a chance to demonstrate her talent or hard work, it brings up distaste and puzzlement. There are no answers or justifications on the teacher’s part. The dynamic becomes far more complex when the teacher’s kids are thrown in the mix, creating the perfect recipe for conflict of interest. Most teachers either have no awareness of the power they wield over their students, or blatantly abuse it. They’re either clueless about the damage they cause to fragile self-esteems, or frankly don’t care. “This is life”, they say. When asked why they prefer one child over another, they simply shrug. Just because.

Of course, this disease of favoritism doesn’t restrict itself to the materialistic world. It’s especially rampant in spiritual circles, which are usually made up of all-too-human patrons. Spiritual heads wield exceptional power over members of their organizations; after all, they control these lesser mortals’ salvation! Often, these heads are fraught with the universal human flaw of being driven by likes and dislikes. Like when their own offspring come of age, they skillfully manipulate the organization to position them to pass the baton to. It hardly matters that there may be other, far more advanced members who may be much more capable of handling the responsibility. “This is life”, they say. And there is that less-than-satisfactory explanation again. Just because.
 
And then there are those rare teachers that are evolved beyond the human tendency to be driven by circular thinking. They are bestowed with the marvelous gift of being able to identify the tiniest of sparks in a student even when it is densely hidden from view. They tease out the best from every student they come in contact with. They understand the power they exert, and use it responsibly. Ben Parker would approve. They don’t settle for flimsy explanations like “This is life.” They transform the circles they live and work in. Just because.
 
I’m immensely fortunate to have been tutored by some exceptional teachers. They never gave up on me, even when I was ridden with self-doubt. They pulled me up and pushed me ahead, foreseeing a future for me that I couldn’t see myself. And I was not the only one. They shaped the unique destinies of all their students in subtly different ways. For all the teachers that dabbled in pettiness and favoritism, these rare ones stood steady and rock-like. They transformed every student they ever taught, whether they were teaching biology, mathematics or music. They understood the complex dynamic of favoritism – that playing favorites is toxic for group learning. They didn’t fall prey to the “just because”. The whole group benefited as a result of their wisdom and grandness of vision.
 
What happens with favoritism? You know, the way “life is”? While the favored ones soar from overinflated egos, the others merely resent it all. While the favored ones learn arrogance and acquire superior-than-thou attitudes, the others lose interest in the teaching even when they have talent or passion for the subject. While the favored ones will eventually learn humility (this is life, yes), the others learn to doubt themselves. Due to their own inadequacies, teachers create disharmony in communities and societies, perpetuating the helpless attitude of “This is life” and “Just because”.
 
What does this mean for me as a parent? I decided to talk to my child after she had been passed up in her activity in favor of the teacher’s pets. I asked her what she thought about it. She was ten years old at the time. To my surprise, she answered, “Well, I know I’m better than what the teacher thinks, Mommy. I’ll just keep working at it.” Bravo, I thought. She demonstrated an attitude that was far more balanced and mature than that of the teacher! Over the years, she has continued with the activity despite growing favoritism in the class. We talk freely about it, knowing fully well that the teacher’s dismissal of her talent means little in the grand scheme of things. She has learned to separate the grain from the chaff, taking in what benefits her growth and ignoring the rest. There will come a time when her unique gift will serve it’s divine purpose. How do I know this? Why, because this is really how life works! Life will take of us whatever it is that we were made for. No petty teacher, community or society can stop it. She (life) is the supreme boss.
 
And of course, this is such rich grist for the inquiry mill! When I fight it, and think that “it is not supposed to be this way”, I suffer. When I come into alignment with what is, I gain clarity. I see that this is how it is; this is not resigning to the situation, but accepting it. The difference between the two is that resigning to something leaves the residue of resentment; acceptance occurs in peace and love. Clarity is the key ingredient for transformation. In inquiring, I come to see why it bothers me. When scars of my own life surface, they are healed by the power of loving clarity. When I heal, I am able to be totally present for my child. When I am present, she learns to see that she is not who the teacher makes her out to be. She sees that she is beyond the pettiness of lessons, grades and preference. She senses her potential and begins to transform from within. In the increasing light of loving clarity, we both come to see the superfluousness of “me vs. the other”, “us vs. them”. In this light, we gain compassion for these teachers and wish wisdom upon them.  In this light, we learn to see the beauty of human nature despite all its flaws. In this light, we begin to see that we are complementing infinite facets of the vast universe.
 
This is life. Just because.
 
Image Source: Where Learning Clicks.
 

 

Discipline: A Paradigm Shift

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Yoga of Parenting

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“Mommy?” The owner of the small, subdued voice peeked in. I paused in kapothasana, “Yes, baby?” She invited herself in and perched by my yoga mat. I waited patiently, noting that her hands fidgeted nervously. She cleared her throat and asked softly if she could have her phone back. This was going to be a lesson in discipline – for us both.

She had lost her device privileges a week earlier for being exceptionally sassy and disobedient. Now, I had the merciful mommy sense that this here was a big moment. I uncurled from the pose and sat on the mat as she proceeded to justify her reasons for wanting the phone back. I asked her if she recalled why she had lost access to her phone. She answered truthfully that it was because she had misbehaved. I asked her if she had learned anything from this exercise. Hesitant and unsure of what she was supposed to say, she responded, “I learned that I must listen to you.”

Here was the perfect example of parenting ridiculousness. Neither of us was really sure what she was being punished for! I had hoped that she would learn to behave in ways that promoted harmony in relationships. She saw it as a punishment for not obeying my command. As we sat quietly, I noticed that she had stopped fidgeting. In the profound stillness that had descended upon us, she and I became as one – sparks of sensations, breath and mind arising and subsiding back into stillness.

The clarity of the moment lent itself to seeing that in the default mode, discipline is a war of wills. We learn early on from our own caregivers that there is a “right” way to behave and to interact with others. That becomes the lens through which we judge ourselves and the world. Our own innate wisdom becomes veiled by the voices of our mothers, fathers, teachers and friends. We do things in certain ways just because we have been instructed to and not because we are guided by our own inner light. We foster the same dysfunctional patterns in our children when we hold them to our standards without giving them a chance to figure it out for themselves. We don’t allow them to ask questions because we were taught not to question our caregivers. We take this non-questioning to be a sort of virtue, when it is really lack of curiosity and blind acceptance of dogma. This blind devotion to dogma becomes the basis of discipline.

Behavior arising from such discipline is always forced, rooted in ignorance and not conducive to authentic, joyful living. This was very true for me. I “grew up” finally when the voices in my head belonging to parents and teachers lost fuel and died. In this radical growing up, I needed nobody to tell me what to do. In this vast inner freedom, I am fully responsible for my own thoughts and actions. I know that nobody can make me think or do anything; nobody has that power. When I surrender to the stillness within, I become invincible, authentic, joyful. I live guided solely by the guru of the heart.

As we continued to sit still, I knew that the greatest gift I can give my children is to free them from me, from my voice in their heads. I want them to discover their guiding light and let it take over their lives. I want them to wake up to true authenticity. Threats and punishments wouldn’t be useful for these goals. It had to begin with honesty on my part – I told her that I was wrong to give her the impression that she needs to obey me (or anyone else) without question. I invited her to tell me why her behavior at times may not be conducive to harmony. She thought for a minute, responding that when she acts impulsively, she feels bad later. When she argues without purpose, it causes tension and unease. I asked her to tell me what might happen if she paused before acting or speaking. She thought aloud, stating that if she didn’t act out immediately, the reaction might go away. Bingo!

We agreed on a plan of action. From her meditation practice, she knew how to bring her attention to her breath. Simply noticing the breath is a powerful way to step out of the mind with its conflicting thoughts and emotions. When we bring attention to the breath, we allow the mind to subside into stillness and for fresh, unconditioned action to arise. When the mind rests, the inner light shines through. The breath can teach us the difference between response and reaction. We become our own gurus.

We practiced this together. I asked her to bring up a thought that induced fear – a spider in her room. As she did this, she noticed that her breath had changed pace. As she continued to notice her breath, it quietened and the fear subsided. I encouraged her to find her breath before beginning a task, during a test and during anxious moments of the day. She promised that she would try, and agreed that I could remind her often. I returned her devices after we hugged for several long moments.

This change in the “discipline” paradigm will take some getting used to. It will require me to become still in the moment to see clearly that the purpose of discipline is to allow my children to be true to the goodness that already shines in them. It is not about them following my truth, but living their own.