"Conscious Parenting: One Woman's Perspective"   by Shobana Nuland, LMHC

As I begin to consider what I might have to share about conscious parenting, I am overwhelmed with the enormity of the task.  When I began parenting I was blatantly aware of the absence of healthy parent-child relationships from which to learn.  Certainly there was no place where one might go to discover how parenting can be a vehicle to catalyze our spiritual awakening.  Sure, there were books and classes from which to acquire basic communication skills and Dr. Spock was always there to help get rid of fevers and rashes, but there were just no models which viewed the family arena as a place to further our soul's journey.

Even today I find there are still very few models of conscious parenting.  I listen to both friends and clients struggle with issues so reminiscent of my own journey as a mother.  How do I guide another soul?  How do I take care of my children's needs and not deny my own?  How can I heal mistakes I've already made?  How can I bring spirit to such earthly service?

There certainly are no easy answers to these questions.  What is certain is that we can learn and benefit from each others experiences.  In the native American tradition it is believed that true power is wisdom that comes from remembering our personal journey and sharing the gifts of that learning with others.  It is with deepest regard for the wisdom of these ancient ones that I share a piece of my own journey as a parent.

Like so many of us in the late sixties, my spiritual awakening had begun.  I was actively studying eastern philosophies and exploring altered states of consciousness.  While adding yoga to my daily rituals, I was painstakingly removing sugar and chocolate from my diet.  Most significant though was my consistency with meditation, for I feel that this particularly, was my doorway to expanded consciousness.

One morning after a deep meditation, as I was walking through my home. my newborn son's bedroom grabbed my attention.  As I stood in the doorway of his room, my body filled with the energy of unconditional love.  Simultaneously an awareness came from the core of my being, "This child does not belong to me.  He is a child of the universe.  I am here to guide him until he is capable of doing so on his own."  Yes, of course I was his mother and he was "mine" but now the transpersonal was undeniably true.  From that moment on, I became acutely aware of the genuine nature of what it meant to be a mother.  In The Prophet, Gilbran beautifully speaks to this soul lesson:
"Your children are not your children.
  They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
  They come through you but not from you,
  And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you."

When we are given the gift of awareness, I believe we are then responsible to that truth.  Once I received this new knowledge, my relationship with my children changed dramatically.  Although daily routines appeared to be the same, the "I" going through the motions was quite different.  I was no longer simply a mother to my children, but rather a soul companion with them.  For me, this meant we are here to learn from one another; to learn about setting and honoring boundaries for healthy personality development in the context of unconditional love and freedom.

The basis for much of the work I have done on myself as a mother has been to discover the many ways I have been unwilling to allow this freedom.  Ultimately, the work has demanded that I give up control.  It has required an on-going commitment to self that even today, keeps me searching the realms of my consciousness to discover hidden agendas and expectations that I have of my children.  Once we clearly perceive that our children are not extensions of ourselves; that they might not necessarily become what we hope them to be, guidance and nourishment can come from a place of non-attachment.  In essence we are then capable of "letting go".

What does letting go actually look like?  The form will vary, for each child and each situation is unique.  If a child is having difficulty making friends at school, letting go might require giving up the need to have that child be popular.  It might mean letting go of a need to rescue; or it might entail letting go of pride in order to clearly evaluate what it is about the child that might indeed offend others.  Regardless of the specific resolution, what is essential is a willingness to look honestly at ourselves.  This requires examining unconscious motives and patterns that come from our own childhood.  Though not an easy task, the rewards are invaluable for contained within this exploration are the seeds of forgiveness and self love.

I had one client, a very highly motivated young woman lawyer, whose ten year old daughter was continually "making a mess" in the house.  Making a mess consisted of using household items with which to be creative.  The daughter would take sheets and blankets and build forts with them.  She would use pots, pans and dishes to have an imaginary banquet for her friends.   She would rearrange outdoor furniture to build a city of the future.   And as with most children, clean up time was not particularly efficient, which created even more friction between mother and child.

As the mother began to evaluate her own childhood, she came to realize the rigidity of that environment.  Her parents were very analytical and valued the intellect and order above all else.  Using guided imagery to journey inward, the client experienced both the sadness and anger of her own inhibited inner child.  She realized how much of her creativity and spontaneity had been suppressed because of her parents' values.

This awareness made it possible for the client to objectively re-evaluate her daughter's behavior.  She came to appreciate her child's great capacity for play and creativity.  With time, this mother was able to encourage and even support her child's creative imagination.  In addition, the client began to take time from her busy professional life to discover her own playful inventive nature.

In observing our unconscious patterns without judgment, the space is made for healing to occur.  Compassion for the human struggle in which we all share allows for an honest relationship with our children.  The ego's guise of superiority gives way to the spirit of unconditional love.

My daughter and son are as different as one could possibly imagine.  Their talents, abilities, needs and life desires are as opposite as night and day.  It has been an immense challenge to honor their individuality and not make comparisons.  It has been equally challenging to work through my limited perceptions and permit their genuine nature to emerge.  My strength and direction has often come from that truth which revealed itself to me so many years ago while peering into my newborn son's bedroom.  That event was the catalyst for my doing some very deep soul searching.

I now know that the task is not to bring spirit to the family setting but rather to uncover the spirit that is already there.  The soul bond that exists between parent and child provides the commitment needed to take this journey.  The potential gift every child brings is the freedom and love that come from allowing another to be their own unique self.  To realize unconditional love with your children is the purpose of parenting. 

Did you like this article?  Send it to a friend who you feel might benefit from reading it. 

For more information or to make an appointment, call Shobana Nuland, LMHC   206-546-5390


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