Do you want to achieve emotional and spiritual enlightenment? Do you envy people who can go and sit on the mountaintop and meditate all day? Often as parents, we feel more like the woman on the left! However, as part of my series of tips on parenting, I want to highlight the capacity our children have for causing us to grow emotionally and spiritually. For many people, kids provide a much more powerful Zen training than you can get in most monasteries.
Have you ever been on a retreat, or even just on holidays, and felt incredibly serene, only to reenter the world and lose your cool? We all have. Learning in a quiet, peaceful environment to find your calm center is a completely different thing than in the mundane world of parenting! Yet given that most of us live in a world that is not like a retreat environment or a continuous vacation, learning to peaceful in the real world is much more valuable.
Have you noticed that some of your friends who don’t have kids are that much more rigid and less resilient and flexible? Necessity is the mother of invention (note, not the father!). So it makes sense that if we don’t need to become more flexible and resilient, we likely won’t. Yet as so many spiritual leaders teach us, accepting what is, even while moving to change the future, is the cornerstone of peace and enlightenment.
Now you may not be experiencing parenting as peace and enlightenment! I certainly didn’t the first few years. I struggled with rage issues, depression and general overwhelm. However, in learning to get to a happier place, I began to learn to accept what I couldn’t change. I also began to learn how to change things, usually by starting with how I was creating the situation that was driving me nuts!
Parenting has been the single most healing and exciting journey that I have ever been on! Yet the irony is to some naive souls, okay, a lot of naive souls, in the outside world, it is the least exciting thing I’ve done. When I worked at the legislature, or traveled by myself or lead groups in China or did tours in Alaska, those were what the world projects as exciting. Yet through it all, I carried a ton of baggage and did not evolve near as quickly as when my wings were clipped by parenting.
That saying only made sense to me after parenting. I learned that sometimes the most exciting journey is the one within, as we learn to overcome our personal internal mountains. My kids reflect back to me where I am doing well, and where I need to grow. Unlike the monastery where I can leave my troubles behind, parenting requires me to learn to navigate those troubles and to overcome them. Slowly over time, I am achieving more and more nirvana now, more and more peaceful, serene moments while fully in the world, dealing with the many things that could irritate or distract me.
Do you see your kids as your Zen masters? If you don’t, just shifting to that perspective can result in a lot of peace. You will approach your children’s problems and discipline issues from a much calmer, more loving perspective. Instead of seeing your kids’ behavior as bad, you will see the opportunity to reflect and learn from them.
How have you created the behavior you are seeing in them? I don’t mean that in a blaming way at all. Rather, how can you shift your energy and behavior so that your kids shift in turn. If you have any issues with being overreactive or getting angry, this shift will help you see your child differently, and therefore stop the anger before it starts.
This is one of the tips on parenting that I wish I’d learned when my kids were small. How do you accept the moment with your kids, and how have they caused you to become more peaceful and in the present? Share this post with your friends and family as well, and offer them the gift of seeing the gift in the mundane challenges of parenting!