How To Be A Parent
They tell you many things when you're about to become a parent – friends, family, strangers on the street. Everyone has advice for you, and this is lovely and all, but to tell you the truth, the best advice I've gotten about being a parent was that I shouldn't listen to any advice at all. Which is perfect, so I'll pass that right along to you.
But that would make a very short read indeed, so I will fill this out with more words, all with the plea that you ignore them and find your own path to parenting, which is more challenging and more daunting, but ultimately the only thing you can do.
Here's what I think:
You already know.
"Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." - James Baldwin, author
Of course, you will pick up skills and tricks through experience, and yet, you already have the foundation for what's needed to be a great parent. The source of right-ness and good is already with you; you need to tune in and align with it.
In being a parent and in every aspect of my life, meditation, and specifically my practice of the Bright Path Ishayas' Ascension, has consistently pointed the finger back at my own heart. Even though I was continually looking for someone to tell me what was the right thing to do, getting clear on my own knowing and intuition has always been the best advice.
When you tune in, you get so much more – and it's as simple as stopping, sinking beneath the endless chatter of our minds, and being awake to this moment in time, becoming filled with presence.
The key to it all? Be Here!
Here you can align with your inner wisdom and intuition. Here, you understand; you are clear, calm, creative and content. Here, you don't snap and fly off the handle; you have energy, are patient and can cope. Here, all the doubt and fear and negativity of your mind doesn't have the same hold over you.
Here, you can learn. You're open to more, not to wanting to be right. You don't compare yourself with other parents in a negative sense. You might take inspiration from those who seem to be doing it well, but you don't beat yourself up for any perceived failings.
Here, it's a simple matter of one step at a time. This, right now? You can do it. The future? Nope, impossible. Our little minds freak out too quickly. Too big, too much. Anxiety, overwhelm and overload. So bring yourself back. Base yourself here. Tune into this and see what is right in front of you.
The moment will show you. It will teach you and guide you. But to be taught, you need to make sure you're awake to what's happening. Showing up is the secret, and the secret to being able to show up consistently is practice.
Taking the time for yourself is the opposite of selfish
An inner practise – a daily ritual of diving deep into presence and awareness – means you can be the parent you know you can be, make the decisions you're proud of and can enjoy every moment of it.
We've all been told more than once, even by strangers in the street, "Don't miss a moment of this precious time". If you're going to listen to any advice, listen to this. Don't miss a moment of this precious time. Perfect strangers regret their absence as parents so much that they'll stop us in the street to make sure we don't make the same mistake.
The secret to being a great parent, the secret to a great life, is the same. Show up. Be in the same place as your body; be in the same place as your calm and clarity, your intuition and wisdom, your love and sense of humour.
Welcome to the rub
The fact is, you'll need an inner practice that gives you calm, clarity and patience because being a parent is hard.
It's relentless. There is no manual, and there is no auto-pilot switch. You will be knackered and snappy, and you won't have the time to do the things you want to do. You won't get the day off because you're sick. You can't have that blowout because the hangover will be all the worse with little kids jumping on your head at 5 am.
You will make mistakes, and you will raise your voice; you will throw things. You will find yourself doing and saying the things you said you'd never do or say. You will find it so easy to slip into regret and resentment and anger and guilt and anxiety.
You will be shown your issues. You will be shown your tendencies to over-think and over-control or to ignore and not engage. You will be shown all the places where you resist or make excuses or try and blame, where you worry and judge and fall into negativity. You will question your existence, your purpose, the meaning of your life.
All the easy things to manage when you didn't have kids seem to bounce into life so much stronger when you. Everything is in your face. You can't avoid any of it.
But perhaps that's a good thing.
"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?" - Rumi
Maybe Rumi was right? Perhaps life is trying to show you something? Maybe life is trying to show you that everything that happens to you, as a parent, is actually happening for you.
So that you can grow, so that you can be better, so that you can fulfil your potential as a human being, so that you can see with such clarity that everything you do is a spiritual act.
There's no way around it; Life is about growth.
The fact is that being a parent, like everything we do in life, is not so much about the outside, external world. It's not about our little ones or our partners – it's all about us. When it's about us, everything becomes a chance to master our inner worlds, to master our unconscious reactions, negativity and fear. Everything becomes about how we create heaven or hell for ourselves. It's not caused by what's happening but by our reactions and our choices to it all. Here, every single thing becomes a chance to honestly know the truth of our soul and fully show up to life in complete awareness, presence and unconditional love.
Parenting is indeed all about us – and seen from that point of view, how wonderful is that? What a thing to be involved in! None of it is wrong; none of it is a mistake. All of it is so you can be polished bright so that you can shine. Everything is so you can be an authentic lighthouse for your little ones – and everyone around you.
My fathers' voice
The truth is, you make a real impact – whether you're totally unconscious or fully awake. You make a difference. The question is, "What kind of impact do you want to make?".
"But I'm just one person", you may think, "What can I do?".
The first time I heard my father's voice come out of my mouth, I was horrified. I've taken vows as a Bright Path Ishaya monk. I was really and genuinely attempting to be an aware, intentional, conscious parent. Yet, here I was with exactly the same words, the same tone, most probably the same body language as my dad expressing through me to my daughter. If my voice wasn't even my own, obviously, I wasn't as free and aware as I thought I was.
It was one of those moments that truly woke me up. I was unconsciously repeating the past in the same way my father had likely done. And most probably as his father had done, and his father and his father before him. No wonder the world is so slow to change.
But passing on the limitations and hurts of our past doesn't have to be inevitable. By awakening to our old programmes, by seeing what we unconsciously do and say and pass down to our kids, we can do things better.
This is how the world is changed
We've tried forcing people to live and see the world as we do, and that has never worked. The only person we can change is ourselves – and this is no small thing. When we step into a higher state of Being, we affect so much.
It's easy to feel like we are one, small, isolated individual – but we are not. We are a vast web of people that spreads throughout time and space. It's not just wishful spiritual thinking: science is seeing this in the data. The field of epigenetics is showing how events in our ancestors' lives affect our genes today. Trauma – say from war or famine – that individuals experienced generations ago directly affects our physicality and psychology now.
"You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean." ― Alan Watts
Who we are and what we do, right here and right now, impacts our whole web of people. When we change, the entire web changes. We directly affect history by changing ourselves. An enlightened world comes from enlightened people.
Every spiritual path worth its' salt has known this and instructed us to look within: "To heal the world by healing the self", as the Ishayas put it. By doing this, the world shifts beautifully.
Parenting is a real opportunity to heal, to live as your higher Self. You can step into true freedom by consciously embracing your choice – first of all, to be awake, to be the fullness of who you are, and then align with what the moment, and the people around you, need.
Our effect as parents is way more significant than merely our words and actions; what we do. We're called human beings for a reason. It is our presence that genuinely speaks louder than words. It's our walk, not our talk, that has an impact.
Our presence is known, our kids feel it when we're fully with them. And they're excellent imitators. When we're worried, stuck in our heads, they worry and are stuck in their heads. When we're calm and content, they are calm and content. When we're secure and stable, we become a solid anchor they can rely on in a chaotic, changing and scary world. We teach them how to be – and by aligning with presence and being and showing up completely, we have the best foundation for being a great parent. Here we can do it "right".
So nurture your connection with your sense of Being, with presence. Practice, so it's easy to remember. It's not selfish. Sure, time is precious, but by making time to go within, you come to the fullness of yourself. When you're at 100%, everyone wins. When you're not, no one does.
In the busyness of being a parent, many things can get forgotten. By putting your own spiritual oxygen mask on first, what is truly important won't be. You won't be left, stopping people in the street, regretting the moments you missed and the opportunities lost.
To steal Gandhi's statement, you become the parent you wish to see, the one you wish to be. You realise it's not so much what you do, but how you do. It's not so much about doing the right things but putting all your presence behind the things you do. You become a real role model because you base all the things you do on vital, alive, and present Being. That's the best way to live life, full stop.
Go within or go without
As it is said: Go within or go without. That holds true for you and your kids.
I can't think of any better advice for being a parent, for making a powerful difference. Make a stable relationship with the truth of your soul. Fully showing up is the best foundation for any parenting. Add whatever tricks and knowledge and psychology on top of that.
You can probably ignore most other bits of advice, but not this. Go within, or go without.