An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Everyday Blessings – The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on April 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I’ve come across some amazing blogs and books on parenting. All written by some very talented  parents! None for me have really put my instincts to rest until now! Recently, I came across a book called Everyday Blessings – The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Job Kobat-Zinn. In the first chapter three essential things were identified which resonated within me.

a) There is an inner work to parenting as our children’s state and our state are interdependent

“The best manuals on parenting can sometimes serve as useful references, giving us new ways of seeing situations, and reassuring us, especially in the early years of parenting, or when we are dealing with special problems, that there re various ways to handle things and that we are not alone. But what these books often do not address is the inner experience of parenting. What do we do with our own mind, for instance? How do we avoid getting swallowed up and overwhelmed by our doubts, our insecurities, by the real problems we face in our lives, by the times when we feel inwardly in conflict, and the times when we are in conflict with others, including our children? Nor do they indicate how we might develop greater sensitivity and appreciation for our children’s inner experience. To parent consciously requires that we engage in an inner work on ourselves as well as in the outer work of nurturing and caring for our children.

We know that unconsciousness, in one or both parents, especially when it manifest in rigid and unwavering opinions, self-centeredness, and lack of presence and attention, invariably leads to sorrow in the children. These traits are often symptoms of underlying sorrow in the parents as well, although they may never be seen as such without deep experience of awakening.

b) Parenting is not easy- we learn on the job!

“Parenting is one of the most challenging, demanding, and stressful jobs on the planet. It is also one of the most important, for how it is done influences in great measure the heart and soul and consciousness of the next generation, their experience of meaning and connections, their repertoire of life skills, and their deepest feelings about themselves and their possible place in a rapidly changing world. Yet those of us who become parents do so virtually without preparation or training, with little or no guidance or support, and in a world that values producing far more then nurturing, doing far more than being.

People who choose to become parents take on the hardest of jobs for no salary, often unexpectedly, at a relatively young and inexperienced age, and often under conditions of economic strain and insecurity. Typically, the journey of parenting is embarked upon without a clear strategy or overarching view of the terrain, in much the same intuitive and optimistic way we approach many other aspects of life. We learn on the job, as we go. There is, in fact, no other way”

c) We each have to find a way that is our own

“Parenting is above all all uniquely personal. Ultimately, it has to come from deep inside ourselves. Someone else’s way of doing things will never do. We each have to find a way that is our own, learning from all useful sources along the way. We have to learn to trust our own instincts and to nourish and refine them. But in parenting, eve what we thought and did yesterday that ‘worked well’ then, is not necessarily going to help today. We have to stay very much in the present moment to sense what might be required.”

Almost every paragraph in the EB book strikes a chord with me. I feel it will be an important book on my shelf in the months and years to come. Although it is a rich a book on mindful based approach to parenting, I feel the Islamic spiritual tradition has much to offer and yet to produce in this area. Since we are living in a unique moment in history, which has its own challenges, I feel all the more our need to collaborate, connect and support one another. This blog is an attempt to creating the space to do just that – God willing.

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  1. When we decided to start a family I began to look for books that address the inner aspects of parenting and lo and behold, this is one of the first book that came into my hands. What a blessing!

    The author said that being a parent is like being on an extended retreat. That was a light bulb moment for me. All these years I’ve been looking for ways to ‘develop’ myself and here I am in the midst of parenting is the perfect opportunity to work on myself–and what a lot of work that is!

    Yes, parenting requires us to cultivate mindfulness. Our spiritual tradition calls us to be aware of a greater presence in our lives, the Essence that allows us to connect ourselves to the source of all love, compassion, and wisdom.

  2. When we decided to start a family I began to look for books that address the inner aspects of parenting and lo and behold, this is one of the first book that came into my hands. What a blessing!

    The author said that being a parent is like being on an extended retreat. That was a light bulb moment for me. All these years I’ve been looking for ways to ‘develop’ myself and here I am in the midst of parenting is the perfect opportunity to work on myself–and what a lot of work that is!

    Yes, parenting requires us to cultivate mindfulness–our children’s spirit depends on that. I find that our spiritual tradition calls us to be aware of a greater presence in our lives, the Essence that allows us to connect ourselves to the source of all love, compassion, and wisdom.

  3. Thank you for sharing these excerpts. They truly are great and every line struck a cord with me as well. Parenting is a spiritual journey of self discovery and self knowledge. What we aim to teach our children we are still learning! No one can teach you more about yourself than your own children, that’s why they are such a blessing!

    • I feel parenting is a privilege. Its an opportunity to serve, to nurture a soul entrusted to us. From Kabir Dede’s reply to an earlier post, it seems clear that parenting on it its own isn’t a spiritual path per se. If taken us such, I feel there is a danger in it becoming a pre-occupation with ourselves. The prophet pbuh said half the deen is in marriage. But then that’s not say marriage is all about the individual and his/her deen, in my humble opinion. It’s a privilege to have a good companion and to be one in return. By good, i don’t mean perfect, but one in which we can accept, understand and love each other with all our imperfections – just as we are.

  4. Yes, parenting is a priviledge. In our tradition it is said that the children has rights over us. Thus parenting is a responsibility which requires us to transcend our personal limitations to serve selflessly. But as much as I aspire to be selfless, my capacities I observe, have its limits. How then to expand this capacity to serve selflessly? ie. to give and give without snapping half-halfway–no matter how much I love them? Ouch 🙂

    This question is foremost in my thoughts these days. As for me, it boils down to nurturing ourselves through the caring of our mind, health, social relationships, and our spiritual connection to God. I read somewhere that in order to give generously we need to do so from a cup overflowing. To do otherwise is to invite resentment and burn out.

    Since we have this beautiful space to support one another as parents and caregivers, how about we share the ways we cultivate this capacity to love and give ourselves off generously to others in the hopes we may take what is beneficial with us on this blessed journey?

    Thank you all.

  5. Thank you Asma,

    Can I invite you to write about children’s rights over parents and also one on generosity.

    My own reflections are;
    Parenting needn’t be a heroic effort. To be a good mother/father one needn’t be a mother Taresa/Mandela. Even our relationship with a spiritual teacher, as spiritual as it is, needs to be realistic. The teacher is human- he/she has limitations. Kabir Dede once said you know a Shiekh is right for you when who you can love him with all his/her faults. So setting up this criteria of being selfless, to serve and give and give – makes me wonder if that is what parenting really about or even achievable? My view is lets start where we are.If we wait till we are over flowing, many of us will never get started. We needn’t be saints. My children soften my heart and for me that’s enough. Lets engage children with love, knowledge and service. The three need to be balanced.

    Kids will push our buttons. It will teach us but its not about us exclusively – or else the whole thing becomes a self-centered activity. At th same time this seems to be, for me, the litmus test for dervishood. Kabir Dede once described a dervish as a person you can trust as a baby sitter. I agree, we do need to take care of ourselves in every possible way to be of use to others. We need the oxygen mask on ourselves first. May be its a spiral curriculum – we travel vertically by coming back again and again to where we started. May be more then a privilege- it is a work of love.

  6. Insha Allah, it is an honour. There is much for me to learn too and hopefully share in this space.

  7. Amazing post and I absolutely agree.. I hope that your blog can create more awareness, because it is much needed (Insha’Allah).

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