A Gift of Grace: The Transformative Potential of Parenting as a Spiritual Practice

 

 

My reflections after the final week 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/

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“Each child offers us the invitation to start over, to renew, to undo, to let go of what was and to see what’s possible.” Miriam Mason Martineau

What a transformative journey this has been for me – an expansion of my heart and mind and an opportunity for stepping into greater consciousness in my role as a mother. These past 8 weeks have given me the opportunity to expand my awareness, to put the practices into action in my family life and to work towards a higher level of consciousness. This blog takes a step back to reflect over the journey and bring together the practices and the perspectives shared and explored within my previous blogs, to weave together the many threads into one dynamic tapestry.

“Weaving a tapestry and consciousness to the many facets of this unique experience of being a parent (and caregiver) to children and of an enabling love to manifest and come alive in that relationship, encouraging consciousness to evolve and intelligence to grow into wisdom.” Miriam Mason Martineau

Throughout the course, I was mindfully holding the intention of sprinkling more joy, playfulness, connection, laughter, presence and adventure to the soil in which the roots of my relationship with Noah are planted. What I love as I reflect back, is noticing these moments of connectedness within the day-to-day life of being a parent, the everyday magic that we’ve been sharing and how this has been flowing in abundance.

In taking the time to reflect on my own family culture – in how my parents parented – I have been able to discover gems from the past that I want to carry forward and choose that which no longer serves our family. I have been able to untangle generational shadows that I needed to let go of, which allowed me to face into the present and reclaim parts of myself that I didn’t realise had been repressed.

It is my responsibility to become a more evolved parent than my parents were, and this journey has facilitated this sense of renewal and deepened my understanding of the conscious, unspoken contract between my child and I.

I have entered into this unequal contract with Noah, knowing that I am responsible for nurturing the soil in order to enable another human being to become who they truly are, to step into their full potential. This is both a gesture of love and of great responsibility.

“You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you, for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.” Kahill Gibran

In my ever-growing integrity through my own journey as a parent and as Noah’s orientation to the world, I am embracing the unresolved, open approach of parenting as a spiritual practice.

Renewing my approach to parenting has allowed me to begin living in a way of parenting that is a first-hand, awakened adventure rather than a second-hand, habitual, hand-me-down version. Through lifting this bar of consciousness of what parenting could be, the tension between what was, what is and what could be (in all aspects of my life) has become ever-more transparent and I am now more fully embracing the transformative potential offered through parenting.

 

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This course invited a real sense of awakening into my daily life. After only 8 weeks of practice (which is nothing in the grand scheme of life) I can honestly say that I am already noticing that I can (and do) show up in a different way as a parent. I am now able to pause, take a step back and question myself, before choosing to respond and bringing more consciousness to where I am sourcing from within myself.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl

Parenting as a spiritual practice has deepened my understanding of the humble and powerful thread that underlies every single connection and interaction that I share with Noah. I am continuing to consciously nurture the soil of our relationship in order for him to be seen, heard, loved and connected. Viktor Frankl offers a beautifully invitation to engage in love as a choice, to press pause whenever we feel triggered and to take a breath and ask ourselves, ‘what would love do?’ I love this – I love asking myself, ‘what would love do?’

Treating Noah consistently with respect, dignity and integrity means I have been connecting before directing. Making a conscious effort to meet Noah on his level: kneeling down, making eye contact, smiling and getting a nod from him (before letting him know that I’m going to put him in his highchair for example). Many of these practices are deliciously simple, but still make a noticeable difference to our interactions and our integrity.

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“They may be little but they are real people, and they are complete with heart, mind, vulnerabilities and strengths.” Miriam Mason Martineau

Embodying mindfulness in our parenting practice requires us to step into our child’s shoes. When I sincerely seek to understand and look closer, I often discover that behind Noah’s eyes, there’s a real and valid reason behind his behaviour. Earlier this week, I thought Noah was showing challenging behaviour when he wouldn’t let me change his nappy; the reality however was that he hadn’t yet finished his poo (which I discovered when he had no nappy on unfortunately) and I was reminded about taking his lead and listening more deeply. I apologised for not listening to him deeply enough, I am only practicing after all.

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One of my favourite practices is of getting behind the eyes of my child: seeing the world through Noah’s eyes, feeling the world through Noah’s heart, hearing the world through Noah’s ears, experiencing the world through Noah’s body and understanding the world through Noah’s mind.

When I suspend my own subjective views and experiences of the world and I walk in Noah’s shoes, I am then able to meet him more fully. I continue to be inspired by his perspective, his experience. Life is genuinely magical through Noah’s eyes – it’s full of adventure and fun – and he shows me things I would never have noticed without this awareness and practice!

“When we adults think of children there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live, a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the question, “What are you going to be?” Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, I’m not going to be anything; I already am.” Professor T. Ripaldi

Taking the time to breathe in and fully appreciate the beauty of our children through observing them, seeing them, appreciating them and letting them be has also been a simple and profound practice for me. I have been watching, witnessing and wondering, without interrupting Noah and through this, I’ve been noticing so much more. Consciously letting our children be, and not interrupting them when they’re engrossed in self-regulated moments creates opportunities to observe precious moments of self-development.

Often I then see Noah respond to me delighting in him, and I experience his sense of being fully seen, fully met, knowing that I am fully present (and available when invited). Having that beautiful ‘yes lets’ approach when your child is inviting you to do something and to listen with your whole body and being; listening through and around the communication, softening your gaze and looking for what emerges in the moment, what is spontaneously inspired and the truly precious moments of soul-to-soul connection that emerge as a result.

Today, as we were exploring in the outdoors, I was consciously having that ‘yes lets’ approach and letting Noah choose our adventures, including putting our hands in muddy puddles and delighting in every sound or sense of a nearby animal – almost exaggerating these moments creates new magic in the everyday mundane (like seeing a dog) and what a delight it is to experience more magic rather than more mundane.

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I am conscious that we as parents’ are responsible for the initial imprints in our children’s hearts, minds and bodies, and this is simultaneously presenting opportunity and responsibility. In our journey of parenting as a spiritual practice, our role is to co-create with our children, a way of being in the world that has an awakened and authentic perspective. I want Noah to grow a full heart to share, a thoughtful mind to engage and resourceful hands to touch the world with. For this to be possible though, I must model this to him through me. As I said in a previous blog:

Never before have I wanted to be my best self with such consciousness as I dance on the edge of great opportunity and responsibility as Noah’s mother – as his gatekeeper, guide, model – and so much more.

“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

Parenting as a spiritual practice has invited me to practice greater self-awareness, self-respect and self-care; to model an inspired, open-minded, positive and proactive relationship to life; and to listen to the future potential of me, my child, and our family, making conscious choices and enacting these. It also means that I have to ‘walk the talk’ and do so with awareness. This takes practice, patience, compassion and perserverance.

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. Imagine that we were to nourish ourselves with same level of love, care and patience that we nurture our children with; self-love takes practice, as does self-care. I now know how important self-care is for me to be the best mother I can be.

The practices that I have learned throughout this course have provided the transformative potential of awakened growth and awakened parenting and I looking back, I rejoice at being part of this transformation. The key to making changes within ourselves and our families lies in perspective taking, looking through an expanded perspective and immersing ourselves within this expanded context, through awareness.

Beyond the practices of the course itself, we as a family have created our own. For example, Kevin came up with the idea of ‘an active hour’ which is an hour that both of us are entitled to everyday for self-care. We set aside time to exercise (I also do yoga, meditate and breathe…) this time is so precious and I know how essential it is for my emotional wellbeing, as well as my physical. To ensure that this happens gracefully, we usually plot in the times on the family calendar to work around commitments and ensure we honour this ritual because we consciously know why we need it.

“If we are to be present and nurturing to our children, we must first be present and nurturing to ourselves.” Miriam Mason Martineau

I have been learning to hold my aspirations of more conscious parenting with grace and this in itself has required me to have a graceful relationship to growing up and showing up for Noah. I have loved being immersed within the creative process of this course and of parenting, as I feel my way through, learning and making mistakes as I go.

These 8 weeks (and indeed these past 16 months) have been a demanding and dynamic journey. Approaching parenting as a spiritual practice requires me to consciously make time and space for the practice, to remind myself on a daily basis to be present and dig deeper and to understand that there is always more that I can do, that I am a human being and a human becoming, as Noah is (and everyone).

“The present moment contains the past and the future. The secret of transformation is in the way we handle this very moment.” Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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Parenting as a spiritual practice is about lifting this bar of consciousness, bringing awareness to the gap between where we are at now and where we have the potential to be in the future and bringing in this consciousness whilst we are dancing at the edge of the unknown, continuing to wonder how we can hold this tension between these two places – of being and becoming – with grace.

This conscious approach to parenting has enabled me to more fully understand that I can hold the two perspectives – of being and becoming – simultaneously. I am already there and I am still arriving. I am absolutely a good enough mother and a good enough wife and there is always going to be more that I could do, and more that I could learn.

The path of parenting and the path of spirituality have now merged for me; they have merged together beautifully, into a path of awakening: increasing my love, my wholeness, my compassion, my consciousness, and unfolding all of me and all of my child. This is a journey and I feel deeply nourished, stretched and inspired after a dynamic and demanding 8 weeks.

I am an imperfect mother who is practicing to be more conscious, more present, more alive within our family, as a mother and as a wife. I am doing this from an expanded perspective and with an open heart. This has been a deeply joyous discovery, as I am dancing at the edge of the unknown and willing to listen deeply, to keep growing up and showing up and to co-create a conscious family culture, breathing in a new sense of adventure and discovery to my life with Kevin and Noah.

I would like to finish by sharing a creative reflection of my journey, through a poem I wrote. However, first, I want to offer my gratitude to my husband Kevin for being alongside me in this parenting journey and for nurturing and loving Noah and I unconditionally. I want to thank my parents for helping shape me and my blessed perspective of the possibility of parenting, without you both, I wouldn’t be on this conscious journey – there are no words for the gratitude I have towards how you have taught me, stretched me and loved me from birth to rebirth.

I want to thank Miriam, for this course, for this journey – for the wisdom and practices shared and for holding a space for this expanded community to grow together. I want to thank Noah’s village – his grandparents, his Godfather, Auntie Ciorstaidh and Auntie Alex and some of my closest friends: Joanne, Carly, Veronica and Holly for being alongside us in this choice of conscious parenting.

Finally, thank you to each and every one of you that has read and visited my blogs, you have made this discipline of blogging much more worthy and I have deep gratitude for you spending your precious time listening to what I have to say. I hope that it’s been worthwhile and that some of it resonates and inspires your own journey.

With love and light,

Heather

Parenting as a Spiritual Practice: A Gift of Grace

By Heather Baillie

 

Yesterday I was wandering along two paths:

The path of parenting and

The path of spirituality

The night came and went;

In the darkness – when the stars shone and dreams were lucid – the paths merged.

 

I woke today and found myself on the path of awakening

Facing into the weathers of what was, what is

– From gale force winds

– To the calm sea breeze

The ebb and flow maintaining the natural rhythms

Highlighting the paradox

Whilst opening my heart and my mind to the possibility

Of what could be.

 

I dared myself to make this journey,

To climb the mountain

To embrace the opportunity, the possibility, the adventure

To make new choices, consciously

I said to myself,

‘Yes, lets!’

 

As I climb, I catch sight of a rainbow

In the ever-widening circles, an amalgamation of light:

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet –

Transmitting an array of hope, joy and promise

Ever-expansive,

Ever-growing;

Bridging a gateway to heightened awareness.

 

In the ever-widening circles, an amalgamation of light:

I understand

I see

I speak

I love

I do

I feel

I am

– A human being

– And a human becoming

Forever whole and forever growing

Already there and yet to arrive;

Indeed, a paradox.

 

I pause for breath,

As I do, I kneel on the ground

Noticing it has been raining, with water feeding the soil beneath me.

Tears of futility nourishing

The fertile ground

The ground in which seeds are planted

The roots of my relationship.

 

On his level,

I meet the eyes of my darling child

A sweet smile exchanged between us

A nod –

Our invitation to connect before direct;

I am the guide, the gatekeeper, the model

I am my child’s compass on this mountain,

– The agent of futility

– The angel of comfort

On this journey

In relationship with Life.

 

On the rocky edge of the mountain

Suddenly I am stuck;

With my child watching me attentively

I ask myself:

‘What would love do?’

My awareness carrying us, I inquire within

Paying close attention to where I source from within myself

Inviting self-awareness and compassion to be alongside me,

As trusted friends

Knowing that I too, am still practicing, and

I choose love.

 

As I climb

I notice the perspective changing –

An incredible, expanded viewpoint!

I pause for breath and

Replay the scene as I internally scan

Feeling the emotions, finding the words

Speaking them consciously,

Words of Love:

I am a Child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars

I have a right to be here

I have a right to integrate this experience – all experiences

And leave nothing behind.

 

On the mountainside,

With a view of growth and transformation before me

I watch, witness, and wonder

As the wild poppies bloom!

From crown to root, embodied integrity

Cherishing this moment of soul-to-soul connection:

Soaking up all of the magic.

 

In the amalgamation of light and love

Knowing I am journeying

With evermore consciousness than those who came before me

And creating a renewed invitation for those who will follow, for

Behind my child’s eyes, I see

Behind my child’s heart, I feel

Behind my child’s ears, I hear

Behind my child’s body, I experience

And behind my child’s mind, I understand.

 

The clouds rise with the birds

And the mist disappears gracefully

Now, at the top of the mountain

The perspective is somewhat breath-taking;

The magic is tangible and

I am cracked open to a degree of excruciating vulnerability, embracing both

– The opportunity

– And the responsibility

On this dynamic and demanding journey

To my home within

Where there is no arriving

But forever birthing of self.

 

I invite you to dance with me on this edge of the unknown

In the simplicity beyond the complexity:

in Love!

Dance with me, with we, with us,

Through this joyous journey,

This joyous discovery up the mountain

As I ‘walk the talk’

Hand-in-hand with the future

Growing up and showing up,

For the footsteps that follow

For the imprints I leave behind

For the legacy that lives on

Through my darling child.

 

Yesterday I was wandering along two paths:

The path of parenting and

The path of spirituality

The night came and went;

In the darkness – when the stars shone and dreams were lucid – the paths merged.

I woke today and found myself on the path of awakening

Ready to climb the mountain,

Again –

A gift of grace!

 


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