When I first became a mother, although I had made the effort to learn as much as I could about caring and feeding a baby, I was ill equipped to be a parent.
I wish that as my husband and I raised our children, we had some spiritual wisdom about life, the purpose and nature of relationships, and how to use it to parent our children.
Recently, I came across some precious guidance on parenting in a series of Facebook posts by my teacher and spiritual master, Swami Tejomayananda.
His deep wisdom forms the basis of this article. You will find that some of the pointers given here apply to your other relationships as well.
The problem of “I-ness” and “my-ness”
Swami Tejomayananda, or Guruji, as he is respectfully addressed, begins the topic by speaking about the problem of “I-ness” and “my-ness.”
“I-ness” refers to your ego, of insisting that things to be in a way that please you. And “my-ness” refers to a sense of possessiveness and attachment to what you think belongs to you.
Your ego and possessiveness are the root of all stress and conflict in your life.
When you start thinking that these are “my” children and they have to behave in a way that “I” want them to, that’s when you are asserting your “I-ness” and “my-ness.”
Naturally, problems arise because no one—child or adult—wants their individuality and freedom suppressed or controlled.
Parents spend a lot of time and energy worrying about their children. Guruji points out that you only worry and feel anxious for your children, and not for other people’s children. It’s because you think that they are “my” children.
If they are praised for behaving well, or are doing nicely in school, you’re happy. If they are criticized or are doing poorly in school, you feel unhappy.
You see your children as belonging to you, and thus a reflection of yourself. This is “I-ness” affirming itself.
Guruji explains that we are really only concerned about our own image.
We need to let go of expectations of our children and allow them to explore their own uniqueness and talents.
They are not here to make us happy or to live out any of our unfulfilled desires.
Parents are like gardeners
Guruji asks us to see ourselves as gardeners.
A gardener does not create the seeds, and nor does she make them grow.
Her role is to carefully nurture the seeds by providing them with the right conditions—proper soil, adequate water, sunlight and nutrients.
In the same way, as parents, we must lovingly nurture, support, discipline, and guide our children. Then, we must let go of all expectations of how they turn out. We can only have the satisfaction of having done our best.
Guruji advises us that this doesn’t only apply to parenting, but also to how we perform all our actions. Putting in our best and then mentally detaching from the outcome is a discipline that helps us grow spiritually.
Everyone belongs to God
Parents do not create or give life to their children. God does. As such, everyone belongs to Him.
We can consider parents to be the providers of the material that make up the physical bodies of the children. But when thinking deeper, we realize that even the material cause (food) for the physical body of the child ultimately comes from God. God alone has created the fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts etc. that we consume.
Guruji tells us that God, who took care of the baby’s growth, development and well-being in the womb, will take care of the child even after he or she is born. A pregnant woman only carries her baby; she has no clue on how to make her baby grow and develop all its body parts.
Parents have this erroneous notion that they are taking care of their children. It may appear to be so but really speaking God is the enabler and the real protector.
After all can anyone humanly take care of a child at all times, places and situations? Only the One who is everywhere, Omnipotent and All-knowing can do that. We need to remember that and have faith in God.
Family members are all individual souls who have come together as a result of their common past karma. However, each soul has brought along a unique agenda to fulfill in this lifetime.
To explain this, Guruji gives the example of passengers on a plane. They all have come together because of a common karma—they all want to travel on a particular day and time. However, each passenger has a different purpose for his or her trip.
We are all travellers in the journey of life. We share good and bad times and then like passengers on a plane, get off at various places and go our separate ways.
As parents when we take care of our children, we should remember that our children are not ours, and that we are merely instruments of the Divine.
God alone does everything and He/She alone is our true father and mother.
Surrender expectations and have faith
To parent effectively, we have to let go of expectations of our children. These expectations are expressions of the disease of “I-ness” and “my-ness.”
Letting go of these aggravating thoughts, we free ourselves (and our children) of much worry and tension.
We can then see ourselves as facilitators whose role is to provide the right nurturing and environment for our children so that they are able to fulfill their unique life purpose.
Guruji tells us to have faith in God’s loving care and protection. He tells us to always remember that our children belong to God and that we ourselves belong to Him.
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