I have been reading Deepak Chopra’s book “The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents.” It has been a good read, so I thought I would take today to include his weekly suggestions on ideas to incorporate a little SPIRIT into parenting.
Here is a beautiful beginning he includes in his book: Everything flows from the infinite source, which is God…God is part of every child, connecting every child with the source. Since God creates everything, a child should be encouraged to believe that everything is possible in his or her life. Everyone can get in touch with the seed of God that is inside…Every day brings a chance to water that seed and watch it grow. When children feel small and weak, remind them that they are children of the universe.
Ideas for doing simple things each day of the week to put a little SPIRIT within your life.
Monday is the day of GIVING. Today we tell our children “If you want to get something, give it.” On Monday we agree as parents to do the following things with our children:
1. Invite them to give one thing to someone else in the family. Make it a practice as a family to have every member give something to someone else. These gifts should not be elaborately planned or worked over. Remembering to give a smile, a word of encouragement, or help with a chore is natural and simple. It is also likely to last, for simple giving within the home cultures the desire to serve.
2. Inspire them to receive graciously. To receive graciously is an art that cannot be faked. If it is more blessed to give than to receive, it is much harder to receive than to give. We receive ungraciously out of pride, feeling that we don’t need anyone’s help, handouts or charity, or out of some sense of discomfort. These are all ego reactions, and there is no need to have them once you realize that the giver is never the giver, just as the receiver is never the receiver. Both stand in for spirit. Every breath we take is a gift, and in that realization, we see that receiving from another person is a symbol of receiving from God. Every gift is a gesture of love that stands in for divine love, and should be received as such.
3. Share a brief ritual of gratitude for life’s gifts. A ritual of gratitude, shared by the whole family, is a nice way to acknowledge the gift of life. You might hold hands at the dinner table and give thanks, not just for the food but for all that has been given that day. Have each member mention one thing, such as “I’m thankful for the beautiful butterfly I saw on the way home from school.” “I’m thankful we are all happy.” “I am grateful to be able to take dance.” and so on.
Tuesday is the day of KARMA Today we tell our children, “When you make a choice, you change the future.”
1. Talk about some choice they made today. Talk to your children about one choice he or she made today. Whatever the choice–making a new friend, spending money on something, deciding not to play with A or B—begin to explore what happens when choices are made. You can begin to teach your children about the intricate mechanisms of cause and effect, of sowing and reaping. When a choice is brought up, gently explore it by asking questions such as “How did you feel about that?” “What do you think will happen?” “What will you do if this or that happens?” Choice is intimately personal, and as much as you might be tempted to try to control your children’s choices of playmates, activities, hobbies, school subjects, and so on, the best way to use your influence is to make your children into sensitive, aware choice makers. The fact that every action leads to the best result possible is a law known as grace. Grace is God’s loving organization of time and space. It allows us free will to do anything we want, and the results of our actions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, are brought back to us at the perfect time to learn from what we chose. In other words, anything that happens to us reflects a loving guardianship of our well-being. Life is a learning process.
2. Show them how our future was changed by a past choice we made. It is helpful as children grow older to tell them stories about the choices that affected your life. Instinctively children know that life is a quest; they may have to learn that the future depends on the choices they make, but emotionally they intuit that adults have made many important choices. When you talk about your choices, don’t voice them in terms of regret. “I did this wrong, so I’m going to make sure you never do the same” may be well intended, but your children are going to try a little bit of everything. That is inevitable.
3. Explain right and wrong in terms of how choices feel. Talk to your children about how it feels to make one choice over another. Childhood is the age when we first decide whether results are more important than emotions. Discussions therefore tend to take a familiar shape: “You won the game when you didn’t pick that weak boy to be on your team, but how did you feel when you looked at him? How did he feel?” Or “Your friends asked you to cut school, and now you’re afraid they’ll think you just suck up. But how would you have felt knowing that you weren’t where you should have been?” Or “You didn’t pick up your room when I asked you to. Did you have a certain feeling about that?” The critical factor in being a good choice maker is usually not the rational reason for doing one thing as opposed to another but how each choice felt. This is because, in spiritual terms, intuition is a subtler faculty than reason. Our hearts tell us when an action is right or wrong or in some gray zone of doubt.
In practical terms, what we do on this day is observe our immediate reactions and then ask, “Is this all there is to a situation?” Introduce the notion that every situation contains aspects beyond what any one person can see. How do other people see the situation? For example, how did the loser of a game feel if your child was the winner? How does your child feel when someone else hurts her feelings? Show that it is possible to empathize by putting the shoe on the other foot. [or the golden rule] Through these gentle instructions on witnessing how things work, you can make karma very real and concrete.
Wednesday is the day of LEAST EFFORT Today we tell our children, “Don’t say no–go with the flow.”
1. Find the game in at least one task. The third element in the Law of Least Effort is responsibility. Children should also be taught that success and fulfillment come from inside, and it is only inside that matters. Each of us is responsible for how we feel, what we wish for, and how we decide to approach life’s challenges. The highest responsibility is fulfilled not by doing a huge amount of work but by doing the work of spirit in an attitude of joy and creativity. This is the only way that life without struggle becomes possible. Go with the flow…a taks that waits to get done until you feel relaxed and comfortable about it is a task well done. The exact opposite of this attitude is perfectionism. Perfectionism is rooted in fear and control. Set an example for your children by turning any task—vacuuming the rug, picking up their room, mowing the lawn—into a game or a source of stimulation. You can practice a song while taking out the garbage or make up a poem washing the dishes. Make up songs, games, find a way to reverse your own tendency to forget that life is meant to be approached as play, reflecting the divine play. The maturing process can be a numbing, even deadening process. To combat this tendency, find the game in your own activities, the joy as the heart of work. Show your own enjoyment to your children, and as soon as any task isn’t fun or the game grows stale, stop working. There’s no harm in a job well done, but a job done in an attitude of fatigue, struggle and imposition isn’t worth doing.
2. Reduce the effort it takes to accomplish something important. Your children are going to hear from dozens of people a day that things are hard, tough, difficult, a struggle, even overwhelming. Set aside a few minutes for the whole family to concentrate on reducing effort, strain and wear and tear. Talk at the dinner table about times when solutions appeared that were much easier than you thought they would be. The whole drift is to defuse the notion, which bombards us, that life is a problem. In spiritual terms, life is not problematic; only our attitudes toward it are. Nothing is more efficient than spirit. When you can invoke spirit, you have more chance for success than under any other circumstance. Spirit is creative fullness; that is why the Latin word genius also means “spirit.” In practice, invoking spirit means: Being in a good mood for work. Approaching tasks with relaxed confidence. Not straining or putting excessive demands on yourself physically (staying up late, working overtime, not taking breaks, not eating or getting enough fluids). Asking for inspiration; being patient until it comes. Not resisting changes in the situation. Not having to have your own way. Not assuming you know the answer in advance.
3. Look for ways Nature has helped us. When spirit, or Nature, does come to help with a task, its arrival is often silent and unnoticed. Help your children begin to notice–“Did you get a new idea today?” “Were you surprised by how easy something that you thought would be hard turned out to be?” What did you feel was inspired today?
Thursday is the day of INTENTION and DESIRE Today we tell our children, “Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.”
1. List clearly all our desires for the week. Today have everyone in the family make a list of desires for the coming week and post it on the refrigerator. (begin this when a child is nine or ten–younger children would just interpret it as making out a list for Santa). In guiding your children’s lists, ask prompting questions such as “What do you most wish for yourself this week?”; “What do you most wish for someone else?”; “What do you want to happen at school?” Try to avoid the tendency for the list to become a series of acquisitions [a new bicycle or a video game. Point out instead that the universe is always bringing to us rewards and results that stem from our wishes and wants. Wishes and wants are like seeds, and the things that happen to us are the sprouting of those seeds. Some seeds take a long time to sprout—a child inspired to play the piano can be planting a seed that grows for a lifetime, for example. Not all of these can come true at once. Each desire has its own season, its own way of coming true. Encourage your children to want happiness and fulfillment, the absence of conflict and struggle and other spiritual rewards as primary desires. But also encourage the sprouting of seeds that you see as valuable on any level—a budding talent, a good tendency at school or in personal relationships, being less shy or better at a certain game or subject. For younger children–help them understand by actually planting a bean seed and show them the miracle of germination. The metaphor of the seed growing is applicable at every age.
2. Release our desires for Nature to fulfill. Releasing your desire is not the easiest thing for children to grasp, especially if they have developed the habit of seeing their parents as the source of all the things they want. You can begin to teach your children the principle of patient expectation. That is, once you know what you want, you stay relaxed about it. The shallow, trivial desires will simply fall away, but those that are sincere and deep will be nourished by nature. Tell your children that desires kept in the heart come true faster than those we constantly broadcast by talking about them or putting demands on others.
3. Be alert in the present moment, where all fulfillment occurs. At any moment of the day, some desire is in the process of coming true. Old seeds we planted are bringing results, mixed in with the beginnings of larger results to come. The point is to make children aware that the universe (or spirit or God) is always listening; none of us is alone. We are constantly heard. A simple way to remain alert is to keep tabs on the lists you have put on the refrigerator. Ask your children to report on how each desire is coming true throughout the week. You can ask “Did anything really nice happen to you today?” and then point out how it fits into the bigger picture of the child’s list. Begin to see the good, be grateful, be alert to the blessings that are all around you.
Friday is the day of DETACHMENT. Today we tell our children, “Enjoy the Journey”
1. Talk about the “Real You” The ‘real you” is a fascinating topic at any age. Children already feel an age-old attraction to the otherworldly. Stories of God, heaven and angels are told to children almost from the cradle; fairy tales create a similar world that children accept as imaginary and yet more real than the world around them. With this in mind you can talk to your children about the Self in understandable ways. Here’s the kind of fable, for example, suitable to tell younger children: “Everyone has an invisible friend who looks after everything they do. You have this friend, and so do your brothers and sisters, and so do Mommy and Daddy. God sent you your friend. Your friend isn’t in heaven like the angels but right here, in your heart. You know what your friend’s name is? Just the same as your name, because your friend is really part of you. When you love your toys or me or anything else, your friend helps you to feel that love. So you always want to make sure you pay attention whenever you feel sad or angry. Shut your eyes and ask your friend to remind you that we all love you very much, so you must always love yourself. That’s what your invisible friend is here to tell you, always.” The Self is a person’s soul, which looks down on all events in this world with perfect peace and joy. It is one’s connection to God and heaven or to the field of all possibilities. Your Self is never hurt or confused; it always loves you; it is always near. Children will be reassured to hear these things, even though it will be a long time before they believe them completely. God is always with you leading, guiding, loving. You are always connected in spirit.
2. Show them that uncertainty can be good–no one has to have all the answers. Uncertainty can’t be wished away; therefore its deeply valuable to come to terms with it, to realize that there is wisdom in uncertainty–the wisdom of a Creator who want to keep reality fresh, new and ever-moving toward fulfillment. How do we communicate this to a child? Young children love surprises, and this is the day to fully indulge your delight in surprising them. Unexpected treats bring joy to giver and receiver, and they need to have no better reason than “I just wanted to do something different”—after all, thats the only reason God needs. At older ages, uncertainty can seem to be a problem, since it implies a shifting world that is difficult to cope with. Teaching your children to let go and enjoy change as it comes is important, as is direct confrontation of hidden anxiety. With children of five and older, asking if something new is a source of fear is appropriate. All you need is a simple opening like “I know you haven’t done this before. Is it a little scary?” Also remind yourself not to act in front of the children as if you know everything. Always put your own uncertainty in positive terms. Instead of saying”I don’t have an answer,” emphasize that there are a lot of answers and the fun of life is finding out how much you have yet to learn, no matter how much you already know.
3. Teach them to feel balanced about loss and gain. You can begin early to teach your children another way, to look inside rather than to outside things for happiness. This is where the lesson of loss and gain come in. Treating loss on the material plane alone isn’t satisfying to a child. To say, “Don’t cry, Ill buy you another doll,” is just as shortsighted as to say the opposite, “It’s your fault for losing it, you’re not getting another.” Both statements assume that the doll/plane is the source of happiness, You are going to have to decide whether or not to replace something that’s been lost, but the larger issue is that the doll doesn’t matter. Make children feel secure and loved no matter what anyone has or doesn’t have. Thus loss can be a reason to reinforce the notion that “the real you” is all right no matter what. Allow the grieving over loss to occur—you shouldn’t stand in the way of emotional expression—but put it in perspective: “I know you feel bad now, but it’s only a thing, and you are here for much more important reasons than the things you own or don’t own.”
Saturday is the day of DHARMA Today we tell our children, “You are here for a reason.”
1. Ask each one, “Where are you right now?” This question is your way of exploring your children’s own ideas of their purpose and progress. One’s dharma is one’s path, which translates into several components: Where I think I’m going. This is my vision. How I plan to get there. This is my work on the path. How far I think I have gotten [my present level of awareness]. What I think is holding me back [present challenge or lesson] It is good to have your children learn to be aware of their paths. The youngest children have an instinctive purpose, being happy. But as soon as a child is old enough to set goals 9after age five or 60 measuring progress towards a goal is a necessity. “Where are you? How are things going? Are you getting close to what you want to achieve? If not, why not?” With these questions in mind, parents can begin to encourage each child to feel an intimate connection with life’s purpose day in and day out. You can also broaden this topic by asking, “Where are we as a family?” It is a life long process to become patient and make peace with the notion that every person is just where she needs to be.
2. Encourage their unique talents and abilities. Making a child feel unique means making him or her feel uniquely wanted. Having a talent is one thing; feeling that the universe welcome it is another. Uniqueness without love is barren and very little different from loneliness. Today you can sit down and list each child’s talents, having your children participate, in order to reinforce the notion that talents are given to us by spirit for our happiness and fulfillment.
3. Invite them to perform an act of service. Invite each child to do something kind for someone else. however small the gesture might be. Picking up litter seen while taking a hike, opening a door for an elderly person, helping younger siblings pick up their room—these are as valuable as charity work. The inner meaning of the gesture is what you want to teach. When you serve others, you remind yourself of your duty as a loving child of the Almighty. Duty is a synonym for dharma, and the word covers duty to society, duty to oneself, and duty to God. Your duty to society is to serve others; your duty to yourself is to unfold spiritually; your duty to God is to participate in the divine plan for humankind’s higher evolution.
Lastly…remember the Innocence. Innocence is the knowledge that you can guide children but never control them. You must be open to the person within every child, a person who is bound to be different from you. In innocence, this fact can be accepted with a peaceful heart.
There is more, so much more to his beautiful book, so if you have the desire to read it—do. There are so many angles of parenting, so many lessons to learn, so many jewels to hold within learning. I pray for you as parents that we can all hold our children tight and give them the love they need and remember the innocence they are born with. Help us to teach them, help us to pray for them & in the end be the parents we were meant to be to these little gifts that we were given.
Peace to you. -Heather