The year my daughter was three was one of the hardest of my life.
I loved her with all my heart. And at times, I hated being a parent. The seemingly constant conflict left me crying on the phone with my mom. It was a really hard time.
Looking back, I can see how it was a crucible of learning for me. In yoga, this is called tapas – accepting challenge as help for purification. But mostly I wasn’t accepting it – yet.
I had an important routine of peace in that time. I sat in meditation and practiced at least 5 minutes of gentle yoga most mornings. This daily practice watered the seeds of awakening in me. Over time, it helped me bring mindfulness into all of my day. That wouldn’t have been possible without filling my cup first.
In my mindfulness tradition there is the path of the monastery and the path of the householder. I have a lot of gratitude for the monks and nuns. They practice peace for all of us. But I have discovered that the householder’s spiritual path can be just as powerful.
As parents, we have an opportunity to wake up to who we are. We can wake up to the way we affect the world. We can wake up to the way our long ago formed habits create our reactions today.
Our children show us all of this!
It’s funny, as we grow into adults without children, we can think we’ve really figured the important stuff out. Then we get into parenting and suddenly – whoah, where did all this come from? Where did this anger come from? This frustration?
If we are lucky enough to have encountered mindfulness practices, we begin to stop blaming our children for our difficult feelings. With mindfulness, we realize that the anger and frustration come from inside. We can have the self-compassion to own it.
In the path of the parent, all that stress and frustration we feel is important. Those feelings are signposts. Please don’t numb or ignore them. Please don’t stuff down those feelings.
Go into them and start to understand them. Where do they come from? What is triggering that anger or frustration? How is the child within you feeling challenged?
Those tough feelings, coupled with the encompassing love of our children, is one of the most powerful catalysts for spiritual growth there is. When we see it from this perspective, we can be grateful for the hard parts. They challenge us to grow.
While I wouldn’t want to re-live that year when my daughter was three, I’m now grateful for that time. I would never have learned so much without it.
In the path of the mindful parent, everything is an opportunity to practice and learn. We can look at those challenges without judgement and self-recrimination. For both parent and child, if we are acting badly, we are feeling badly inside.
When we start to look beyond “behavior” to the feelings – in both ourselves and our children – true sea change can begin. This deep looking and deep listening lead us to true understanding – making the path of the parent one of powerful transformation.
Do you see parenting as a spiritual path? Start the conversation! Please share your insights in the comments below.
Your path to mindfulness begins with self-care. On May 19th we will be running the last session of the Daily Practice immersion this year. Don’t miss this chance to nurture your home practice! I hope to see you there. Click here to check it out.
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