8/30/2009

Parenting



Unconditional Love contains both Yes and No.


Parenting is tricky. For years I thought I was in an advanced state of Buddhic non-attachment. Now I realize my parents put me in time-out and I'm still there. On the other hand, the children of blissed-out New Agers I know are mostly brats. And they're all named Ananda, which is depressing. Is the boy pictured here in time-out? Or is he a child of the New Age, whose parents allow him to urinate in my living room?

It really doesn't matter. However we parent them, our children turn out to be who they are. They manage to survive us, and they survive every new theory of parenting pretty much unscathed. So stop worrying about parenting and just be YOU with your kids. If your child is really a beam of God's light - and I hope you believe your child is a beam of God, or why bother to have a child at all? - then how can you diminish God in any way by sticking Her in a corner? Maybe God is a brat who needs a little discipline now and then, just as a jewel needs polishing to bring out the radiance.

My Guru Maharshi Mahesh used to say, "Mother is at home." It was one of his favorite expressions. It means that, no matter what happens, Mother is here and things work out just as they need to. To experience how deeply Mother is at home, WE need to be at Om. We need to be at rest in the Source. Then we can parent by just Being.

Don't fret about the when and how of parenting. There's no script. When Anna and I had our first child, people gave us all the latest parenting books. They made us neurotic. So we threw them away and embarked on the wondrous adventure of being unique parents to our own unique child. Which we already were.

The only parenting book worth reading is the one written in your heart, the one that is about your child and no one else's. And please don't practice Unconditional Love: not in my house. We had good friends who came to visit us with their toddler. They were playing Jesus-parent. The kid wandered around knocking over porcelain vases, dropping glasses of juice on our rug, and spreading grape jelly fingerprints on the living room walls, while mom sat there smiling blissfully. But her bliss was artificial: it was not in harmony with the environment. Real bliss would have said "No!"

Unconditional love contains both Yes and No. Unconditional love is not a practice. It is a state of Being that encompasses whatever practice is needed in the moment. Such love includes hugs and kisses, reprimands and regulations, or appropriate discipline. Love is like the clear pure space that contains the clouds, which come and go within it. Space remains still, but the clouds can get stormy.

You can BE unconditional love, but you cannot DO it. Why? Because all doing is conditioned and relative to what has already been done. Doing is the field of karma. Unconditional love is completely separate from karma. This is why Jesus taught, "My kingdom is not of this world." And, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." This sounds like a total cop-out until you discover that there are two realms: the absolute and the relative, the Purusha (or universal soul) and Prakriti (or nature). Prakriti is the mirage, Purusha is the still space in which the mirage dances. They are ultimately one, but in our daily experience, they are separate.

Unconditional love is always at rest in the silence of the Parusha. But Prakriti is an endless churning storm of conditioning, karmic action and reaction. What's this have to do with parenting? Well, it turns out that parenting is an advanced school for learning these truths: much more advanced than sitting in a cave in the Himalayas and meditating all day! The enlightened parent surrounds her child with pure Being. Yet simultaneously she performs the action appropriate to the occasion. The parent learns to BE unconditional love while DOING conditional karma. She does not confuse being with doing. For if one makes that mistake, either love diminishes or action is ineffective.

But, hell, we're not enlightened! We make mistakes all the time. The realm of karma IS the realm of mistakes. The truth is, if Mother is at Om in your heart, what happens in the realm of karma doesn't really matter. It's bound to happen. So let Heather have a frigging Hostess Twinkie once in awhile. Or stick her in the corner for two minutes. And don't worry if she hears somebody yell, "Fuck!" The field of karma is never the field of perfection. Perfection lies only within the heart, where Mother is at Om.

Your child will remember your little mistakes and laugh about them some day. How often my daughters tell me, "Dad, you were so worried about insanely small stuff. We thought you were stupid. But we knew one thing: no matter how many stupid things you did, you loved us."

I was a klutz, but my kids turned out to be perfectly who they are. Children are the most adaptable forgiving unstuck graceful beings on earth. THEY DON'T NEED OUR PERFECTION. And I guarantee you, whoever you want your child to be, your child will be somebody else.

Just be at home in the heart, Mother. Just be at Om, Father. Who cares if you mess up now and then? It's called humanity. Your children will forgive you. All that really matters is, YOU WERE THERE.

Give yourself some credit for just showing up. Give yourself credit for just Being.

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