Sunday, May 29, 2011

GUEST BLOG POST: The Spiritual Path of Parenting by Vimala McClure

An entirely different picture of "family" is emerging. Most of the paradigms we have developed over the last millennium are no longer viable. Because our family structures, our values, and our experience of family will continue to change, it is particularly important for us to understand that being a good parent and raising healthy, responsible children requires us to be grounded in the deeper meaning of the role of parent. We need to be able to change beyond what may now seem possible to us, and the only way to achieve that is to develop a firm rooting in the spiritual dimension of parenthood.

What I know without any doubt is that bringing everything I came here with, every iota of strength and wisdom, every drop of love and loyalty, everything I have to the task, the mission, and the gift of bringing up two souls to live their own lives and fulfill their destinies is the most important thing I have ever done, or ever will do. I don't expect this singularity of purpose from others, but because of it I have been able to pay close attention to the dynamics, the secrets, the lessons of real parenthood -- much more closely, I believe, than many academic experts who observe interactions in artificial environments and offer theories on what is healthy or correct in formulas that rarely work. What I attempt to do, rather, is to go deeper into the idea that parenthood is a mission, however large or small a part it plays in my life. From that perspective, everything I think about parenthood changes. It is no longer a series of problems to be solved. It is, instead, an important part of my personal growth and my spiritual path.

Where there is pain there is tension, and that tension creates more pain. Therefore, tension is the opposite of relaxation, probably the most important quality we can develop as parents. When we apply relaxation to pain, it diminishes. Underneath tension is its root -- fear. This is the key, the essence of the spiritual discipline of yielding; the release of fear. Fears and worries assail us at every point along the path of parenting.

If you are beginning on that path, let me tell you the truth: it never ends! Until the day we die, our children will produce, in a never-ending stream, the triggers that create anxiety in us. Some of these fears and worries are justified — such as the toddler who wobbles toward an electrical outlet. But most of our worries are neither justified nor helpful.

How we handle our fears determines how they impact our relationship with our children. Our intuition, if it is strongly developed, will help us understand what is truly worth worrying about and what is not. Much of what we concern ourselves with, especially with our first baby, is not really worth the tension and anxiety we create. Try to cultivate your own relationship with your Higher Power, so that you have a "parent" to guide you and to which you can take your worries before you manifest them unnecessarily.

We can't predict our children's lives or destinies, and if we love them we will always be there, accepting and validating them. We will be better parents, healthier role models, and happier people if we learn how to relax. One Tibetan master described it as "letting your mind sink into your heart." Fear hardens us as we try to hold on to the familiar. If we are fearful, we want to stop the flow of time and change. But the cessation of change is called death.

Yielding to the flow of change is essential for life. Acting out of fear, our inner "juice" slowly dries up and, like a dead tree, we are easily broken. If we wish to continue to be full of life, we must learn to relax and yield, to flow. Like the young tree, we will be flexible and strong, ever growing, with abundant youthful energy. If we cannot relax, we cannot listen to and truly hear our children, and we miss their messages, misinterpret their needs and wishes, and lose touch with who they truly are.

Acceptance is the hallmark of many Eastern teachings. To let tension go without effort, become aware of tension and accept it. This is an example of Taoist "doing by not doing." If we worry, we tense up and restrict the flow of chi or vital energy. Let go and breath deeply to enhance the flow and allow yourself to accept things as they are.

Author Melodie Beattie says, "Acceptance is the magic that makes change possible." We are able to make the space for change if we accept and validate what is. From this place, for our children, we can be blank slates, mirrors upon which they can test their truths and know that what will come back is acceptance and validation. Working with our children goes on forever. Our children are our spiritual teachers. Who knew!

VIMALA MCCLURE is the author of The Tao of Motherhood. She’s also the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Based on the book The Tao of Motherhood: 20th Anniversary Edition © 2011 by Vimala McClure. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

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