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.