15 Nov Conscious Parenting by Shivaraj
by Shivaraj, November 2021
One of the reasons I joined the Ashram community was that I wanted to be a good role model for my three children, who I care about dearly.
I’m happy to report that Swami Shankarananda’s (Guruji) teachings have transformed me both as a person and as a parent.
My nine-year-old daughter and I have been close from the day she was born. I’ve always felt something special about our bond that is different from my relationship with my two sons. Her and I have similar personalities, we relate easily.
However, during Covid, I noticed a shift, a disconnect occurred.
She suddenly began to pull away from me and did her best to escape from me as quickly as possible! Our once authentic and lively moments of connection and conversations had become short and guarded.
She was often angry at me and I, too, found myself becoming frustrated with her. In my mind, she seemed to have become lazy and intentionally difficult, regularly breaking into what I saw as irrational, teary outbursts.
My response was to try to discipline her which only exacerbated the problem and drove her further away. Somehow, I had lost her trust, and I was feeling despair for both of us. I was facing my worst nightmare.
Guruji emphasises that a yogi views their troubles as spiritual opportunities. A negative reaction to a life situation is a flag that highlights something requiring self-work or our attention. Through Self-inquiry, we convert challenges into mysterious possibilities. When problems like this arise, we choose to take responsibility by meditating and asking questions inwardly like, ‘What’s going on here? Where is the feeling? Where do I feel the block? How can I uplift this feeling?’
To pose questions for another person is called Proxying. It is a form of inquiry that connects us to the thoughts and feelings of another. We make statements for the other person as if they were our statements.
Very soon I discovered that my daughter had been struggling at school. Through my connections with other parents I discovered a few of her peers had said some mean things to her. Naturally, this had upset her and was weighing heavily on her mood. In response to her feeling, I had over-parented. Metaphorically speaking, I was beating her up with my fear and my ideas of appropriate behaviour. Ironically, this had sprung from my fear of failing as a father. When I proxied her feelings, I realized that she needed my support and love the most, not my anxiety.
In meditation I felt her heart speak to mine. She wanted me to stop trying to work her out, to love her as she is, to lighten up, and play with her more. These insights resonated at the centre of my being. I could see the changes would heal our relationship.
So, I made love and acceptance the priority, and I’m now on the lookout for any opportunity to have some fun and to play! As a result of viewing a parenting challenge as a spiritual opportunity my parenting has lightened up, trust is back between us, I can feel it!
And the tell-tale sign that we are back on track? She makes it a priority to sit next to me on the couch!
As parents, the role of nurturing and nourishing another human being can be challenging, being guided by a spiritual perspective enables me as a parent to experience life in all its mystery.
Shivaraj with his daughter during satsang at The Ashram in Mount Eliza, in 2017.