An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Love has the power to overcome the dark by Farah Benhalim

In Healing, Relationships, Spirit, heart & soul on February 17, 2012 at 9:18 pm

It seems that as humans we are almost constantly being bombarded with one form of negativity or another, be it from our own children, our spouses, ourselves, the media or complete strangers. Last night, I had an interaction with a complete stranger who was unexpectedly rude to me and I was left bewildered carrying rather small package of negativity and I was left wondering what to do with it. Should I toss the package back in her face and inform her that I didn’t like the way she treated me? But then, I started feeling sorry for the lady, thinking this woman must be carrying so much pain from whatever she has experienced in life that she no longer has the grace to treat people with respect. So, instead I made dua for her, that may Allah swt release her from whatever is burdening her heart and the negativity that had been passed to me was released. This reminded me of a story of a woman who put with years of verbal abuse from her husband and finally was able to transform the relationship with the sheer power of love. She realized that he was functioning from a place of pain and so every time he put her down and belittled her she would completely disregard the comment and say I love you. As you can imagine this was quite difficult to do, but it worked. Love has the power to overcame the dark. But I also realise that at times we have to take different approaches and set boundaries and let people know when their behavior won’t be tolerated and other times when we feel that people are so toxic that you actually have to remove them from your life.

I’ve spent most of my life trying very hard to be the bearer of happiness and goodness. I was trying so hard to deny the darkness, that ultimately that is exactly what I achieved. I denied the existence of all the difficult emotions, not wanting to acknowledge what was actually there. Denying that I was angry or sad, just trying very hard to be constantly cheerful meant constantly pushing away any negativity. What I realise now, is that we must learn to patiently sit with and acknowledge whatever negativity that comes our way before we decide what to do with it. When we empty the invisible bag we have to empty it out in such a way as to not contaminate everyone around us and spread the negativity in the process. That undeniably, is the tricky bit. There’s no sense in acknowledging your anger and making sure that every member of your household knows about it too. I will be the first to admit that I’ve yelled at my children unfairly in anger, but will also stress that you can always come back from that and patch things up with your children. If you admit to your children that what you did wasn’t right and that no one deserves to be disrespected and if you ask them for their forgiveness, they will be more than gracious and actually be giddy with delight that their mum is apologising to them! But I quite enjoy that process because I want them to see me for the human that I am and that we can face negativity and be victorious and come to a place of peace and happiness again.

I think one of the key things when battling negativity is to keep the truth of things always in hand. There’s also no sense in giving your children a sweet just to stop them from crying (guilty of that too). Yes, you have may have apparently turned a negative into a positive, but it’s far more healing and revealing to actually sit your child on your lap and go into every little detail of what is actually bothering them and then helping them find a real resolution they feel content with. This is crucial. For me, this is the difference between raising a child who is able to delve in to effective problem solving when faced with negative emotions and a child who will grow up becoming addicted to something – running to the nearest comfort every time they are faced with an emotional irritation. It may seem hard to do, but the 2-5 min you spend talking to your child about their feelings is well worth it and you’ll soon develop a relationship with your child being comforted by the fact that you have access to their inner world and that they feel accustomed to opening up to you about all their little (well for a child, epic!) problems.

I’ve also come to realize that the clearing of negativity is a constant daily process – quite similar to cleaning your house. Everyday, the dishes have to get cleaned, the bathroom disinfected, the clothes laundered – it’s a forever continuing process- and it’s tedious. Every once in a while it’s nice to have an escape – to go enjoy the beauty of woods and have some rest and peace for a while. But there comes a time when we have to return to the work, the housework, the inner work and be ready for the bombardment. You may have wiped your heart of negativity one day, but be assured there will be a new film of dust ready for the cleaning the next. I’ve come to believe that this is the daily jihad, the daily struggle to keep our hearts clear and clean. So, Alhamdulillah for the five daily prayers, a perfect opportunity to check in with the irritations in our hearts and a perfect opportunity to ask for guidance and release of these very irritations. Group dhikr often puts me in such a beautiful and centered state and afterwords I would be determined to stay in that state, only to somehow be removed from it. I found this quite bewildering, but now I realize that the quest for peace is a continual process and a daily struggle and not simply a place of arrival.

As I started allowing myself to acknowledge my darker emotions it became less scary and more normal and if you allow it, it can be a great source of self-knowledge. But as you begin doing this, you will inevitably come across stuff that hasn’t been cleared out from ages ago – so be forewarned!
By the time you’ve cleared out the old stuff, you’ll be only left to clear out the daily stuff. By that point, you’ll be so light, you’ll have a hard time keeping yourself from floating away!

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  1. The stories in our personal lives may carry a bit more then just the reasons for our misery or identity. They may contain an element of the Sacred. What you have written is from the heart and contains a wisdom based on experience that sometimes ‘experts’ miss. It isn’t the size of a book, yet contains enough for years of reflection and work. It has also reminds me as a reader today the power this initiative of Tarbeyah can be, if a few of us start sharing from our hearts. Thank you, thank you, thank you…!

  2. “When we empty the invisible bag we have to empty it out in such a way as to not contaminate everyone around us and spread the negativity in the process.”…

    This is so true, so true, so true. There is no use in running away from our shadow – try as we might it will always be stuck to our feet. And coping with the underbelly of our feelings is a continual process; if we let it slide we get a backlog, as if we pretend the dishes don’t need doing for days at a time.

    Clearing that negativity sometimes seems to be quite straightforward for a small child (mine are 4 and 2, almost). Something sweet to eat, a sleep, a cuddle, a walk outside, or just a good ole’ scream…It’s us adults that have a harder time doing it. As the hadith goes: Have you ever seen a person who went into a river and came out of it still dirty? Salâh washes you of sin (self-harm) like washing it away with water. (I paraphrase…can’t remember it verbatim).

    My confusion is that according to Caveboy’s teacher, in the Steiner philosophy children under 7 shouldn’t be engaged in logical, analytical thought, therefore we shouldn’t be discussing our feelings with them – and God forbid apologising to them. I have made many mistakes in my mothering journey and if I haven’t apologised, I’ve always asked for my child’s forgiveness wordlessly (much like the tradition of Ho oponopono). Yet I would also love my children to grow up being aware of their feelings, knowing what they are called, and being able to say ‘Mama, I’m sad’, or ‘Mama I’m angry’, instead of wrecking a toy or relationship and not understanding why. How many adults are still in that childish state of non-self-awareness?

  3. In those moments when negativity threatens to spill onto others, I find it extremely helpful to connect to an inner wisdom by writing it all down on paper. It helps me to clear the space, so to speak, and allows me to relate to others without contaminating those near and dear to me.

    But in all honesty it has been some time since I uncapped my pen and bare it all onto the pages of my journal. So I would also like to reiterate with others here on the immense benefits to be found in practicing mindfulness during the five daily salat, and basking in the silence of the early mornings which helps keep my emotions on an even keel, especially since periods of quiet contemplation is so elusive what with my chatterbox 4 yr old being around me all day and with the almost 2 yr old following suit, bless those sweet souls 🙂

  4. Medina: Hmm, I think I can understand where your son’s teacher is coming from. From my understanding of Steiner, he observed that the mode of learning for a child under 7 is largely via movement and imitation (I feel like a broken record now…). In order for a person to be aware of their emotions and feelings and be able to reflect consciously he or she needs to go through the individuation process which only really begins at around the age of 9. Before that the child is still living naturally, at one with the world. They have yet to develop their own sense of “I” and this only comes through the slow accumulation of time and experience. Before that Steiner believed that as adults we need to allow our children to become immersed in their dream consciousness, absorbed in their play and unfettered by our own adult consciousness.

    In light of this, children learn to harness their own emotions by
    witnessing the adults around them struggle to transform their dark
    emotions, be it anger or frustration into tangible, positive actions. As parents we can channel their strong inclination for imitation by being a model of emotional health (the key word is in the striving, not perfection!) and engage their need for movement by physically and lovingly guiding these children to make things right again.

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