Parenting as a Spiritual Practice – Week 6
My reflections after week 6 of an incredible 8-week online course titled: ‘Parenting as a Spiritual Practice – an Integral Evolutionary Approach to Parenting’. For more details of the course, please visit: http://integralparenting.com/ref/heather/
In this week’s Parenting as a Spiritual Practice course, we have been looking at ourselves the parent in more depth through exploring our gifts, our growing edges, our inner work and the core practices that we invest in. In order for me to be an honest and trustworthy model and guide for our son Noah, I need to know myself – to know my strengths and weaknesses – and I need to practice being authentically present with myself.
Parenting as a spiritual practice means that I have to ‘walk the talk’ and do so with awareness, and this takes practice, patience, compassion and perserverance.
What I loved about this week was the focus on grounding the intentions of parenting as a spiritual practice in the real life through a ‘toolkit’ of practice-based suggestions that make a big difference to family life. This came as a gentle, loving invitation to practice some things that I am already doing with greater awareness and also to look at my parenting practice with renewed inspiration and with an expanded perspective.
“All change begins with awareness. We have to first become aware of what is before we can make any decisions and take any actions towards what we would like to become.” Miriam Mason Martineau
Self-awareness is where it all begins. I found this week’s practice of inner landscaping a lovely reminder of how to scan, notice and witness my inner conditions and pay close attention to the sensations, images, feelings, emotions and thoughts moving through me, before reflecting on how my inner landscape affects everything and everyone surrounding me.
It was beautiful to reflect on the moments in my life when I have felt most alive – moments that I have been “deliciously swept up” as Miriam says, embracing this beautiful life and feeling fully alive and connected with the essence of life itself. These moments include marrying my husband, birthing our baby, heartfelt singing with a late friend of mine, singing mantras, Reiki, firewalking and many more… I spent much time reflecting on these moments of connectedness, sacred moments, relational moments, moments of transformation and moments of growth, expansion and heartfelt gratitude, these are examples of moments where real magic was happening in my life.
“Remember the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.” Rumi
This week I’ve been taking more time to reflect on and notice my inner states. The more I notice, the better I can manage my response (rather than reacting) and evolve to become aware before I react. Noticing the ‘subtle signs of a storm rising’ has been a lovely lesson from this week. As Miriam so eloquently says, “state-shifting and choice-making are the doorway to inner freedom.”
By tracking down my state, uncovering why, when and where my mood shifted, I am bringing this consciousness into the light, gaining deeper understanding and perspective. When I acknowledge it and face into it more fully, I can then take the steps to shake loose from it. This requires a willingness to let go of my present state and dance into new one without resistance, something I need more practice at!
By choosing to reflect on my state and notice how I react, I hold the intention of choosing to respond with more awareness. State-shifting requires awareness before having the freedom to make a different (more conscious) choice and then it is my responsibility to do this, to think ‘what would love do?’ and respond from a place of consciousness. This practice grounds the transformative potential of parenting.
“Getting older in inevitable but growing up is optional.” Miriam Mason Martineau
Self-awareness leads to a place of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is about knowing myself and meeting myself more fully, so that I can be aware and attentive to how I show up with Noah, in order to meet him more fully.
In order to create more self-awareness we have to ask ourselves the question, ‘who am I?’ We have to get behind our own eyes (as well as the eyes of our children) because knowing ourselves more fully will allow us to take responsibility for how we show up as a parent.
The practice of getting behind Noah’s eyes and experiencing the world through Noah’s senses comes to me much easier than it is to get behind my own eyes at times, and one of my growing edges is to connect before directing myself. I am very good at letting my tears of futility fall, however I could be doing more to be to become more present with my own emotions and notice, witness and wonder with myself as I do with my child.
As we do with our children, we can watch, witness and wonder with ourselves – observing to see, appreciate and then letting things be. As parents we have the opportunity to continue to invest in our lifelong learning; we can take the time to be present with ourselves and allow our own presence to inform our responses and interactions with ourselves and others.
In order to bring more self-awareness, we must practice engaging consciously in supporting our own developing self-sense (through body, mind, soul, spirit and social wellbeing) and allowing ourselves to come home to who we truly are. Through this practice, it enables us to keep being and becoming a transformative parent.
I enjoyed considering the past beliefs that I’ve held in the background of my life and translating these to a positive, noticing the underlying attitude to life that I am passing on to Noah and consciously considering how I show up as his model, looking closely at how I relate to life, myself and others, as well as bringing awareness to the parts of myself that I feel uncomfortable with.
“Your greatest obstacles can become your brightest gems.” Miriam Mason Martineau
Shadow work was one aspect of the toolkit that really fascinated me. This involved looking at the layers, themes, emotions and reactive patterns that are difficult for me to access consciously (because I am unconscious of them) and the parts of me that have been repressed, denied and pushed away. This has actually allowed me to face into the present and reclaim parts of myself that I didn’t know had been repressed.
“If we don’t own our shadow, we are owned by it.” Miriam Mason Martineau
By having the willingness to look beyond the surface and knowing that the only way out of the shadow is through it has been a healthy opportunity for integration. The ‘3-2-1’ shadow process that Miriam teaches in the practice session allowed me to breathe into my own fears, letting them rise like a bird and fall like a leaf (without regret).
Through this practice, I was not only able to identify my shadows, but I immerged with an increased sense of compassion and a deep understanding from the inside out. It was a powerful opportunity to hold a new perspective, to transmute the repressed and to integrate the experiences so that I can continue to grow up. Through consciously taking a new perspective, I am practicing not taking things so personally, reminding myself that it’s always about more than me.
The Guest House by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
The key to making changes within ourselves lies in perspective taking, looking through an expanded perspective and immersing ourselves within this expanded context. This week I have taken more time to appreciate the incredible stars that we can see from our home on the Isle of Lewis and I have felt truly connected to life and to a greater universe.
“Not only are we in the universe, the universe is within us.”
This perspective taking is also about taking full responsibility for myself, having the willingness to face in to the truth and myself and responding with patience, compassion and perspective. I am acknowledging that I am a human being and a human becoming just as Noah is, I am continuing to learn, practice and I know that I have many growing edges. I would even say that I am beginning to soften my expectations of myself and know that I am doing ok, that good enough is enough.
Imagine that we were to nourish ourselves with same level of love, care and patience that we nurture our children with, imagine! The paradox between the degree of surrender that parenting asks of us, alongside the real importance of self-care challenges us as parents to consider how we might dance with this paradox gracefully.
I know that it is not a coincidence that during the first 15 months of Noah’s life I’ve been more ill than I ever have been previously in my life, including a couple trips to various hospitals, because prior to Noah’s arrival, I was my first priority. I am fully aware that the reason for this shift is that I often forget to give much priority to my own self-care.
“If we are to be present and nurturing to our children, we must first be present and nurturing to ourselves.” Miriam Mason Martineau
I am now consciously looking for opportunities to collectively flourish, where I bring self-care in to my life even when Noah is here. In this week’s material, it was really useful for me to consider more specifically which areas of my being I am tending to and those where I feel more depleted, giving consideration to the body, mind, spirit, soul and social wellbeing.
A beautiful friend of mine runs family circuits for mothers and children and I love this creative way to move with our children in a shared activity, with the delights and magic that emerges in these spontaneous moment. This inspired me and this week I have been doing my squats by throwing Noah up into the air and lifting him to the ground as I squatted which he was squealing with delight at. It made the whole experience magic and I feel deeply nourished by this spontaneous quality time together.
I am feeling more conscious of making this quality time a priority too. This week I had lots of work to do, however the opportunity to have a family day arose and I made the time to fully surrender to this opportunity and soak up all the magic of spending precious time with my two boys, doing my best to bring my essential self to the parenting and partnership.
In terms of self-care from a social wellbeing perspective, this is the aspect I probably struggle with most, which I’ve learned from my shadow work. I often struggle to reach out and ask for help when I need it and sometimes this means I end up in crisis (most often physically). Even though I have a wonderful ‘village’ alongside me on Noah’s journey, I know myself that I need to do more to reach out and notice the signs ahead of time.
Gratitude is another soulful practice that creates all sorts of abundance and happiness in our lives. It is a magical energy of change. Gratitude brings our attention into the present moment, and the deeper our appreciation, the more we see with the eyes of the soul and the more our life flows with joy. I find myself with more gratitude than I’ve ever been conscious of.
“The unthankful heart offers no mercy but the thankful heart will find in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”
Parenting as a spiritual practice is about bringing as much consciousness as possible to the ever-evolving and unfolding art of parenting and we must remember to go one step at a time. With greater awareness and through bringing consciousness into our parenting practice, we are committing to growing up and waking up for our children and for ourselves.
What we offer to our children, we should offer to ourselves. Through practice, patience, compassion and perserverance, these practices provide the transformative potential of awakened growth and awakened parenting and I rejoice at being part of this transformation.