An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

A Short Story

In parenting, poetry, Story telling on August 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

693523-yellow-and-pink-flowers-against-blue-skyI ran into a stranger as he passed by,

“Oh, excuse me, please” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too;

I wasn’t watching for you”.

We were polite, this stranger and I,

We went our way saying goodbye.

But at home a different story is told,

How we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

My son stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked him down.

“Move out of the way,” I said with a frown.

He walked away, his little heart broken.

I didn’t realise how harshly I’d spoken.

While I lay awake in bed,

A small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger,

Common courtesy you use,

But the family you love, you seem to abuse.

Go and look on the kitchen floor,

You’ll find Read the rest of this entry »

In Loving Memory by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas

In Education, parenting, Relationships on October 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Reflecting on who to write about as a source of inspiration in my life, I thought about  how tarbeyah  as ‘nurturing’ and breadth of education may embrace many dimensions: upbringing by parents and within the wider family, schooling, institutional religious education, the transmission of community and civilisational values, role models of all kinds, including historical exemplars, and  the guidance, inspiration and blessing provided by spiritual teachers.

Out of so many sources of inspiration, how to choose one in particular? Well, I’ll go for my late Read the rest of this entry »

Talking to the Young: Honouring the Sacred Trust of Parenting By Jeremy Henzell-Thomas

In Healing, parenting on September 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

In her eloquent editorial in the previous issue of emel, Sarah Joseph, referring to the recent survey by the soap manufacturer Dove, sounded some loud warning bells about the anxiety, stress and low self-esteem experienced by girls in a culture increasingly dominated by false images of “perfection”.

My last article addressed the equally alarming problem of the abuse and neglect of the old in our culture, but in this issue, following Sarah’s lead, I would like to explore the rising concern about the welfare of children and teenagers in our culture. Read the rest of this entry »

Siratal Mustaqeem by Zeliha Akdan

In parenting on September 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Two years ago my son, who was 14 years old at that time, went to his friend’s house. They both enjoy gaming and sometimes spend hours doing so.This was one of those days where they would spend a whole afternoon gaming.

When my son, Ercan, came back home, he was agitated and told me Read the rest of this entry »

Listening to Shame

In Healing, Marriage, parenting, Uncategorized on June 28, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Water says to the dirty, “Come here.” The dirty one says, “I am so ashamed.” Water says, “How will your shame be washed away without me.” Rumi

A friend of mine phoned me a few days ago seeking some advice and to be consoled. He felt his son was wrongly accused of something by his teacher and was pressurised into confessing he was the culprit. Read the rest of this entry »

“Your Song”: Lessons from an African Tribe

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on June 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm

When a woman of a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, goes to the jungle with other women, and together they pray and meditate until you get to “The song of the child.”
When a child is born, the community gets together and they sing their song. Thus, when the child begins his education, people get together and he sings his song.When you become an adult, they get together again and sing.When it comes to your wedding, the person hears his song.
Finally, when your soul is going from this world, family and friends are approaching and, like his birth, sing their song to accompany it in the “journey”.
Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Innocent Moves: Managing Gifted & Talented Children

In games, parenting on March 28, 2012 at 2:33 am

Gifted children can often go unnoticed. Paul McCartney and John Lenon went to the same school in Liverpool with a few years of age difference between them. They had the same music teacher who didn’t recognise anything special in them. In other words, here’s a music teacher, who had arguably of the two great Musicians of the century in his class and didn’t notice it! Einstein is another classic example Read the rest of this entry »

A Question about August Babies

In Healing, parenting on March 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Parenting issue bothering you? Would you like another perspective on things? Feel free to email Farah at farahbenhalim@gmail.com. If you would like to remain anonymous please let her know. For her bio please visit the ‘authors’ page.

Read the rest of this entry »

To Cry or not to Cry – That is the Question by Farah Benhalim

In Healing, parenting on March 10, 2012 at 4:29 am

I have a confession to make. The “agony aunt” is offering up an agony of her own. My ten year old son Read the rest of this entry »

“Happy Wife, Happy Life” by Tazeen Ahmad

In Healing, Marriage, parenting, Relationships on March 6, 2012 at 10:35 pm

“Happy Wife, Happy Life”
I once, heard this expression and laughed… It is only after raising 2 small kids, that I am understanding the full meaning of it…..

Increasingly, as I become aware of the mirrors our “mini-me’s” are; I realise that the tone, mood and peace of the home is predominantly, set by the mother/wife or lady of the house.

I guess as our external worlds are simply manifestations of the internal, it is any wonder that my own pleasant mood, attracts Read the rest of this entry »

Blog Project: Seven Habits of Happy Kids

In parenting, Religion, Story telling on March 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm

“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

Dear Readers,

I’ve been wanting to start a project and feel there is enough momentum on this blog to may be try one in the weeks to come. Recently I came across The Seven Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey.

1. Be Proactive. You’re in Charge
2. Begin with the end in mind. Have a Plan
3. Put first things first. Work First, Then Play
Read the rest of this entry »

Pity the Fool, Not the Child by Medina Tenour Whiteman

In Healing, Marriage, parenting on February 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm
There was a time, not so long ago, when I thought about my children and cried.
I remembered the harmonious idyllic world I had longed to create for them, in which they would while away their days in nature, playing with homemade toys and pine cones and things collected on one of our many sun-dappled forest walks, a rock-like stability underpinning their miniature cosmos, illuminated by a loving, calm, creative mother, protected by a strong, capable, dependable dad…

Making Little Reflectors by Farah Benhalim

In parenting on February 25, 2012 at 9:21 am

I had the most appalling weekend a couple weeks ago. I was stuck visiting relatives. I say “stuck” because despite being on good and pleasant terms with everyone I had felt completely disconnected from them. After our first meal, I was utterly shocked to find a prominent member of the family sit in front of the computer and put their headphones on. I was like, is this for real or am I imagining this? Aren’t we supposed to be visiting? I thought, okay, let’s try connecting with some other members of the family. Hey, how’s it going? How are you doing? The response was almost one of shock and confusion – as if he didn’t get asked that question very much. A shrugged shoulder and a murmur of some sort is all I got. So, I gave up trying to connect and thought, “Do as the Romans do” and dutifully opened up my laptop and surfed the net. Read the rest of this entry »

What Children Know by Farah Benhalim

In parenting on February 22, 2012 at 2:03 am

It’s strange and wonderous how children know things. Despite sleeping enough, I woke up feeling kinda pooey this morning. I was sitting in my bed trying to get my head screwed on straight when my four year old daughter Fatimah appears and sits in my bed and starts making the thikr of Astaghfirullah. She looks at me and says,”c,mon mama. do it too” So I did, and it was exactly what I needed. It was only toward the very end of the thikr that I realised that I had been carrying a burden of guilt in my heart that needed clearing. Subhanallah, children are truly a gift of Allah. I can’t count the amount of times my children have guided me, which begs the question, who is teaching who? I remember another time when my daughter Aminah looked at me and said, “Mama, do you know why Allah created us? He created us so that we could love each other”. A child’s heart is so pure that divine truth just seems to effortlessly pour forth. Granted, it doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, I become stupefied and awe struck at how such a small little thing can be a vessel of such wisdom. Just recently, I learned something quite important from my two year old daughter Aishah. She grabbed me very forcefully and repeatedly hugged me, then she grabbed my two cheeks, made eye contact and we started planting kisses all over each other. I was like, man, this girl knows exactly what she wants and knows how to get it too!

Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Godel, Escher and Bach

In parenting on February 21, 2012 at 12:47 am

Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one. Nietzche

The relationship between Godel, Escher and Bach continues to fascinate me every time I think of it. I don’t intend to give a comprehensive intellectual explanation here, a book by Douglas R Hofstadter of that title does it very well. I’ll just like to share my reflection on the metaphor it brings to my consciousness. Without getting too technical, Godel a Mathematician proved an incompleteness theorem. In Layman’s terms no system is complete; to prove it you have to go out of the system. Escher, drew pictures in which he seemed to capture higher dimensions flowing into each other on 2D paper. Bach has a composition in which if you take the tune, invert it, flip it you still get the same tune. In essence, they’re all saying the same thing in different ways; systems transcending the very structures which hold them. In the words of Einstein “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”. Read the rest of this entry »

Indian Cinema on Parenting and Education

In Education, parenting on February 18, 2012 at 11:14 pm

If you’ve had an upbringing by Asian parents, the chances are you were given three options when you were young: doctor, lawyer or engineer. If you’re lucky, some may throw ‘accountant’ in there too. In some cases there is no choice and you’re steered into being what your parents would like you to be- especially if they happen to be from one of those professions themselves. This is a stereotype of course. On results day, a typical dialogue at the breakfast table may take form as depicted below in the BBC comic Goodness Gracious Me.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Do You Manage a Screaming Child?

In parenting, poetry on February 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm

The Master was once asked by his disciple,
“What is the Buddha?” He replied,
“The mind is the Buddha.”
Another day, when asked the same question, he said,
“No mind. No Buddha.”
The disciple was confused:
“But the other day you said, ‘The mind is the Buddha.’”
Said the Master,
“That was to stop the baby crying. When the baby stops crying, I say. No mind. No Buddha.’”

Some children cry, others however scream. Its like this primordial longing of being separated from their source, they take in that moment to be a toy or an adult leaving the room. My two year old son, Owais, has such a scream. It happens a few times a day. It always seems to happen when I’m tiered or frustrated. So bad is his screaming that on most occasions I have no other option but to leave the room. It then takes me some time to recover. Today, I ended up addressing his cry with a poem. The least it did was to remind me of the souls yearning for the Divine. Read the rest of this entry »

Listening to my reed…

In Meditation, parenting on February 6, 2012 at 5:28 am

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of meeting at least three spiritual masters of the Islamic spiritual tradition. They embodied a spiritual state and tradition which is beyond any words I can use to describe here. As I reflect on each of them, they all have various abilities and qualities but I feel they all had one thing in common; When someone would speak, they would give their undivided complete attention and listen with their complete being, as the Prophet pbuh is reported to have done. So intense was their quality of listening, that I would often become aware of it when speaking. They weren’t just listening very attentively, they were listening with presence, with a higher dimension of consciousness and it was evident. In Islamic terminology they were infused with the Divine quality of Al-Samee’ (The All Hearing).

Read the rest of this entry »

… because of Love

In parenting, poetry on February 3, 2012 at 6:54 pm

There is a dervish I know, when ever we speak, no matter what the question, he some how manages to come back to the same answer: because of Love.

What does unconditional love look like? Is it possible? Have you tasted it?

I was reminded of it today when I heard this song by Celine Deon. For me, no other song captures the love we may experience from mentors, parents, teachers, guides better then this.

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s in the invisible bag we carry behind us?

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on January 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Some readers may ask what’s spiritual about parenting? I think today’s topic serves as an interesting look into child tantrums and adult ones too. We will look at what creates drama in families, especially dysfunctional ones, and how our state of consciousness has a role to play here.

In “a little book on the human shadow’ Robert Bly suggestions that when we were young we were a whole ball of energy “until our parents didn’t like certain parts of that ball”. To be love and accepted the child then begins to put parts of itself into an invisible bag that is carried behind us (in the unconscious). “we are told not be angry and so anger goes into the bag. If certain feelings are not allowed to be expressed in the family, even feelings of love and tenderness, they find their way into this invisible bag, which slowly grows full of one’s own energy, energy that has no place in the external world.” Read the rest of this entry »

Waldorf’s approach to child learning

In Education, parenting on January 29, 2012 at 10:35 am

By way of introduction,

I’m a Muslim born mother to two blessings, Ali (4 yrs) and Anas (2 in April) residing in Malaysia. I sought to live authentically and simply, and become less of me and more of an empty vessel made soft by love.

The call to start a family with my beloved husband lead my cautious nature to dive deep into that vast ocean of motherhood head first then heart. Searching lead me to attachment parenting and now Waldorf. Living in this modern world set adrift from the wise counsel of the past, a parent is in need of a Read the rest of this entry »

Could Television be Thwarting our Parenting Efforts by Rabia Saida Spiker

In Education, parenting on January 28, 2012 at 11:46 pm

When I was invited to contribute to this blog I felt a certain reluctance, because, frankly, I didn’t feel I was doing a particularly good job of spiritually parenting my own children. Really I can only describe myself as a slightly distracted parent, which I think in many ways has become the norm, and has therefore become socially acceptable and even expected. More than that- I wasn’t even sure what spiritual parenting looked like- I tried to give my children a taste of the spiritual by having them take part in dhikr and the prayer and having discussions with them about God and the universe- other than that I felt as long as I provided a safe environment, food, clothing and love, I was doing alright. I sometimes felt feelings of the inadequacy of my parenting and comforted myself that this was “good enough” parenting. After all, the last thing you need getting in the way of your parenting are feelings of your own ineptitude for the job. Frankly the exigencies of parenting had come as a surprise to me. My boys can be a real handful Read the rest of this entry »

How much instruction do children really need?

In Education, parenting on January 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Meet the ipod generation: A friend of mine came over to visit with his family for the first time. Our families hadn’t met before. My daughter and his son needed no introduction. They both happen to have their parents iphones and sat next to each other playing away. So much for social skills?! Maybe that was supposed to be their ice-breaker activity. A teacher I know of said she is using her third iphone as the other two were broken by her two year old son. Read the rest of this entry »

Mother Love of the Sufis

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on January 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

The first lesson that love teaches us is: “I am not, thou art.” The baby demands constant care and awareness and is indeed the little “king” or “queen” of the household. The mother loses self in serving her child.

Successful care-taking builds and strengthens a mother’s self image and her confidence in her own intuitions. As long as the mother nurses her baby she fills the link of oneness of heart, mind, and body. Weaning, therefore, takes place when the mother is ready emotionally for the separation. She places her child before herself or her own needs, Read the rest of this entry »

Child Rearing Wisdom of the Native Alaskans

In Education, Mevlevi Tradition, parenting on January 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

While walking out the front door with my daughter this morning, on our way to school, I smiled. I remembered a quote from my friend Saqib, who said “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” by Robert Fulghum. My daughter asked me why I was smiling. I said I remembered a friend. She said ‘was it uncle Saqib?’ Its amazing how much intuition and witnessing children possess. The question is, to what extent do we work with it and to what extent does it get obscured over the years over through conditioning and neglect?

In her book, Black Milk, Alif Shafak gives an amazing account a period in her life when she went through depression and lost her one passion in life; Read the rest of this entry »

Rising From Failure

In Education, Healing, parenting on January 18, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Yesterday Mohammed Ali, the legendary boxer regarded as the greatest by many, celebrated his 70th birthday. I used to have a massive poster of him on my wall during my teen years. Hi motto of ‘fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee’ reflected a wisdom and intelligence which challenges the all or nothing approach taken by Rocky. What made him great in my eyes, wasn’t his amazing dancing skills in the ring which he seemed to have lost after being banned for five years due to his refusal to go to war in Vietnam or his success against opponents like Sunny Liston or George Foreman which experts had predicted as impossible, or even his wit outside the ring but the fact that he was able to Read the rest of this entry »

Newtonian, Quantum and Spiritual Parenting

In parenting on January 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm

“Will you travel with me? Our destination involves both learning and liberation. It focuses on a process, not a goal to be produced; it is a matter of finding new meaning, not new mechanics. The enemies you face will break you open, so that what needs to come has a passage-way. You wounds will become an evolutionary threshold for the expression of who you are in your most natural divinely human, extraordinarily ordinary, authentic self’. No Enemies Within, Dawna Markova

The more I consciously parent, the more I realise parenting is as much about my journey as it is about my children’s journey and our souls journey together. It’s an unfolding; an educational process for both of us– in the deeper sense of that word (Latin educere – to bring forth from within). In speaking to people and from my own experiences, I feel I have come across three different mind sets of parenting, broadly speaking, which I have termed Newtonian, Quantum and Spiritual. Read the rest of this entry »

Cultivating good character in our children

In Education, parenting on January 16, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Many books seems to be available nowadays on developing character. There are even bed time audio stories, which for me seem like borderline hypnosis, about developing qualities such as confidence, leadership and social skills. Let me ask you a question. What is the number one quality you would like in your child? Read the rest of this entry »

Reading with curiosity and imagination

In Education, parenting, Story telling on January 15, 2012 at 11:00 pm

A few days ago, I was reading ‘There was an old lady who swallowed a fly’ with my daughter. Her first question was why did she swallow the fly? I didn’t have a straight answer. As the story progressed, I realised how meaningless it became for her. So we decided to take a trip to the library and borrowed a dozen books this weekend. The more I read with her, the more I realise the importance of  pictures and how each page serves for some potential discussion. Today, she was able to turn the pages back and link two different parts of the story together which I thought was impressive. Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming a Creative Minority

In Education, parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on January 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

From Teachers to Educators – yes, that is the challenge, as you so rightly say. The role of spiritual community is also so important, for tarbiyah is traditionally understood as the totality of the educational process in family, school and religious or spiritual community. But there is also another dimension, and that is what might be called self-nurture. To move from teaching to educating requires that we foster the ability in our children to learn for themselves through the awakening and activation of their own faculties. I have referred to many of these faculties in previous posts and comments. The modern schooling process does not generally provide the opportunities to do so, partly because few teachers understand what those faculties are, and the curriculum has been progressively stunted, de-humanized and de-souled. The possibility that children may develop them are further diminished by a profoundly destructive popular culture in which they are increasingly saturated.

Given all this, there is a temptation to withdraw from the ‘system’ altogether and that is of course what drives the rise in home-schooling. This is understandable in many ways, and there is good evidence that can be advanced to contest the belief that homeschooled children run the risk of being socially inept, unintegrated in wider society, incapable of forming friendships, and the like. Homeschooled children often develop a strong ‘individual self’ because they are not driven by peer pressure and demands to conform, and that sense of self then serves to protect them from becoming conditioned later in life. I have a good friend whose children went to normal state schools, but she refused to have television in the house. Instead, she provided a library of audio books over the years. They developed sophisticated listening skills, conversational awareness, and emotional intelligence (dimensions of education rarely fostered at school) even if they probably slipped out from time to time to watch TV with their friends! It was always a pleasure to visit them, sit around a table, and engage in wonderful discussions. Immersion in great literature certainly enriches these capacities. In drawing us into their narratives, characterization, and varied modes of expression, great works of literature help us to understand the human condition in all its richness, complexity and diversity. That process of exploration and identification help us to develop imagination and psychological and emotional maturity, and to learn empathy and compassion, as well as internalize a more finely attuned moral compass. The same applies to all the arts, creative and expressive.

As always, there has to be a balance, so that protecting children from corrupted systems and cultures does not become an over-protection which handicaps them. The great historian Arnold Toynbee had some important insights in his 12-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilisations (A Study of History, 1934-1961). Toynbee believed that civilizations arise by the response of creative individuals to challenges presented by situations of special difficulty and that advances in civilization occur when difficulties are responded to in creative ways that are internal and spiritual rather than external and material. There are two essential and separate steps in meeting a challenge facing a civilisation: the generation of ideas by the creative minority and the adoption of those ideas by the majority. If either of those two processes ceases to function then there is a “schism in the body social”, social unity is lost and the civilization breaks down. In such a period of social decay, people resort to Archaism (idealization of the past), Futurism (idealization of the future), Detachment (removal of oneself from the realities of a decaying world), and Transcendence (meeting the challenges of the decaying civilization with new insight, as by a Prophet) which which can create a new collective spiritual bond or social order. Those who can provide such new insights become a ‘creative minority’ capable to transforming society and creating new civilisations.

So one of the challenges for us as teachers (whether as parents, institutional educators, mentors, or whatever) is to provide the means to counter the negative effects of schooling and cultural conditioning without falling into that radical pessimism and disillusionment which leads to what Toynbee calls Detachment (retreating to the forest, setting oneself apart, withdrawing from society).

Wisdom of a dervesh: lessons in the school of love

In parenting on January 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm

maktab e ishq ka dastoor nirala dekha

uskao chutee na mili jisnay sabak yaad kiya

In the school of love, strange indeed were the ways I saw

The one who had learned his lesson wasn’t given leave

– Jigar Muradabadi

Have you ever spoken to a dervesh? These are remarkable beings often hidden within society, who have washed their hands of their false selves and are in surrender to the Divine- difficult to point out or recognize-they don’t crave attention or acknowledgment but go about their work quietly.

Today I happened to speak to one. He reminded me of the lessons in the school of love. I don’t mean the sentimental emotions, shallow romanticism or what ever image we’ve been offered by the media. I mean the love that cooks our souls and makes us ripe.  This is what the Dervesh told me:

  • Children are intuition and witnessing; they will learn what see – even that which you try to hide from them
  • Children will live out, now and in later life, what you model for them
  • You may not feel love because you’re not allowing yourself to be loved
  • There can be no harm done by giving more love
  • How often do we try to mold our children to what we wished we could be-rather than support them in their journey of self-discovery
  • Children need and environment in which Love rules and is reflected in the adult relationships around them. We cause harm to our children if we put great effort in showing them that we love them, but create an environment around them that is devoid of love between ourselves and our spouses, parents, and other significant adults.
  • Give your love unconditionally to the people you love, even if you feel they are cold towards you or not reciprocating
  • Many of us are wounded children in adult forms.
  • Do you have any doubts about your love for your child? Know that your parents felt the same towards you.
  • I had a poor relationship with my father and carried resentment towards him. Now I know he was just human and I wish I could be half the man he was.

Little tigers: dealing with doubts and fears

In Healing, parenting, Story telling on January 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

“Our doubts are traitors and we lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt” Shakespeare.

The above is my favorite line from Shakespeare. I’ve used it a number of times to put my doubts into perspective. Currently, I’m exploring children’s stories which contain wisdom, teachings for character building and spiritual principles. I realise everything I want to teach my children has to be lived through example for it to be meaningful for them.

Last night we read ‘Tiger-Tiger, Is it true?: Four questions that make you smile again’ by Byron Katie and and Hans Wilhelm. The four essential questions which are the basis of Katie’s work are explored from a child’s perspective on a bad day; ignored by parents at breakfast, no friends to play with at play time & not liked by anybody. The four questions and turn around show Tiger-Tiger that it was his thinking all along that gave him this perspective and in fact the opposite was true in reality– so they investigate: a paradigm shift is created.  The four questions Katie suggests we ask, are

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without that thought?

Followed by the turn around with examples.

These are not questions addressed to our intellectual minds (intellectual as in our rational minds and not in the higher sense of the word) – there is little point in asking the questions unless you can sit with them in honest inquiry and allow the answers to surface. In a reply to a question on why the person doesn’t feel a shift Katie wrote: “To simply turn thoughts around keeps the process intellectual and is of little value. The invitation is to go beyond the intellect. The questions are like probes that dive into the mind, bringing deeper knowledge to the surface. Ask the questions first, and then wait. Once the answers have risen, then do the turnarounds. The surface mind and the deeper mind (I call it the heart) meet, and the turnarounds feel like true discoveries.” They offer a sort of Socratic reasoning which cuts through our defensiveness and conditioning to penetrate to our essence.

Maybe children with their open minds and hearts find the work easier than adults (who often find it difficult to get out of their heads) ? Katie has done this work with children and teenagers.  Here is an example of the type of dialogue that can cut through layer of mind and allow us too see, with clarity, what IS as it IS.

I see a ‘spiritual’ education providing children the space to explore awareness (through breath for example), presence  and the development of their higher cognitive faculties through introspective work such as Katie’s.  In one school I know of, set up by a spiritual community, student would start the day with a minute of silence through the monitoring of their pulses by touching their wrists – counting 60 beats. How we can use of imagery and symbolism of wisdom stories our tradition is filled with, leading to introspective work, remains to be explored. – And it may mean parent and child working together with each other as mirrors for each other.

If your thoughts are a rose,
You are a Rose Garden;
If your thoughts are a thorn,
You are fuel for the fire.
Rumi

may it be love

In Education, parenting on January 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm

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.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Khalil Gibran

We live in exponential times. Fifteen years ago, mobile phones were the size of a brick, I didn’t know what an e-mail account was and we used an A to Z map to get to places. Who could have predicted what we carry around i our pockets today.  In another fifteen years the growth isn’t going to be as unpredictable. The path here inst linear but an exponential curve. It’ll be more unpredictable then we can currently, with all our technology, imagine. Yet, as Ken Robinson reminds us, we have to prepare our children for it. That question is on the minds of educationists and their desire to reform education from a model that’s rooted in the industrial age to one suitable for the information age. May be what is needed is not a reform but a complete transformation of education. Its interesting to see institutes, still dominated in hierarchical structures with managers still taking authoritarian approaches to managing people (by wanting to throw their weight around), are under pressure to use virtual learning environments, interactive whiteboards and online websites in their institutes to meet the government requirements and the growing pedagogical needs of their students. Students who take to collaborative approaches to learning  rather than the chalk-talk vessel filling approaches. What such institutes are asking for is a total shift in working culture for effective teaching and learning to take place; i.e to outgrow their old skins. “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:2.

Yet today, we as parents, face the similar dilemma -unless we can bend in His hands. I was reminded of Khakil Gibran’s words today when I tried to get my daughter to do something simple: To come and sit next to me so I can explain why Owais, her 1 year old brother, should be given 2 minutes on the computer. I realised she has a mind, heart and soul of her own and unless I am in tune and work with that, by being in tune and centered within my self, I may run the risk of obscuring, at the price of conformity, her original self.

“You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

I don’t know what the answers are about raising children for tomorrow. A tomorrow we can’t imagine with all the challenges it will bring. May be you do? (Please comment).  We may not be able to give them our thoughts, but we can give them our love – and our tradition is just that. If love is our center and the context for everything -then may be this essential timeless ingredient will hold us, transform us, enliven us and open our hearts to each other and to the Divine. In the words of Mevlana Rumi

Love is from the infinite, and will remain until eternity.

The seeker of love escapes the chains of birth and death.

Tomorrow, when resurrection comes,

The heart that is not in love will fail the test.

Ashq Olsan – May it be love

Are children always punished by rewards?

In parenting on January 4, 2012 at 10:47 am

Time to confess – I have an issue, like many parents, with getting my 5 year old daughter to eat properly. As parents we’re concerned she’s under weight. She has always been a poor eater taking very long to finish even half her plate and is very specific about what she eats. She doesn’t like milk with cereal for example nor does she like ketchup with chips! So this Christmas, we decided to experiment with points and charts. (magnetic princess chart available from Mothercare). She was in charge of giving herself 4 points a day for having breakfast, lunch, dinner and milk before bedtime. We didn’t insist she finishes her plate so long as we felt she ate her tummy’s full. At the end of the week she gets a reward which was a surprise she keenly looked forward to. (I took her to WH Smith to choose something. She chose Cinderella books) I also verbally rewarded her with expressions such as ‘mashallah’ (God has willed it) when she would finish eating. Outcome? Well, I must say her eating took structure and she looked forward to rewarding herself. I don’t intend to continue this point system in the long term but it has made me think about how parents can cultivate intrinsic motivation and how best to facilitate the journey from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation if one decides to take that route? Alfie Kohn raises the point of praising children verbally or rewarding them for doing good works can create in them an unhealthy dependance for approval.

In October 2011, I was fortunate to attend a spiritual retreat in Turkey. In a sohbet (spiritual discourse) between two outstanding spiritual teachers of our time, Kabir Dede and Shiekha Nur, it was mentioned how students (adults) often have a need for approval, sometimes unconscious, which the teacher will not give as it reinforces that aspect of the  lower nafs (ego). The teacher will however give love to the soul of his/her student.

Coming to think of it, I know many friends who would often do something clever or wise and expect praise in return. In a few cases their need for approval is self confessed. May be I seek it to some degree too? Having gone through an education system, unlike Shakespeare or Tagore, which uses quantitative labels to differentiate and later becoming a teacher in one, I certainly see Alfie Kohns point. The best of students are intrinsically motivated in the subject, even though some teachers teach to the test because of pressures they themselves are under to produce good results. However, this begs the question, can extrinsic motivation with its structure and a rewards create space for intrinsic motivation to grow?

Is imagination more important than knowledge?

In Education, Mevlevi Tradition, parenting on January 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm

“Why is it that in creative writing courses today, the very first thing we teach students is write what you know. Perhaps, that’s not the right way to start at all. Imaginative literature isn’t necessarily writing, who we are or what we know or what our identity is about. We should teach young people and ourselves to expand our hearts and write what we can feel”. Elif Shafak

The paragraph above has give me, somebody who thinks in pictures, numbers and symbols, the courage to set up a blog and write. As a parent I feel. I feel authors like Elif Shafak, who have immense levels of creativity, have much to teach us and remind us through their imaginative story telling. But how are we to expand our hearts and express what we feel. I must confess I was poor at both verbal and written expression until I sat in sohbet (spiritual discourse). I don’t claim to be particularly good now but I think I’ve improved a great deal. The first thing Kabir Dede asked us to do when to speak was not worry about grammar or sounding eloquent- “speak from the heart” he said. For his own teacher, Suleyman Dede, didn’t know any English nor did Kabir Dede speak Turkish. Yet they got by; teachings were transmitted, hearts understood and souls were cooked. In sohbet students are asked to listen non-judgmentally with presence. Isn’t that amazing? listening opens up a space both inwardly and outwardly! Mevlana Rumi reminds us of the importance of listening:

“Since in order to speak one must first listen,

Learn to speak by first listening”

Rumi

Today I found my daughter having a wonderful conversation on her toy phone with a police man. I listened attentively, as she used words I didn’t know she knew. She ended with “bye now, you too”. I asked her what she was talking about. She said she was phoning the police man because, Owais, her younger brother was being naughty.

Later I reflected on this incident and I realised what an active imagination children have. How much of it gets nurtured and how much gets covered by ‘things they are supposed to learn’ which has its place too but often at a price. Ask a class of year 7 if they can ‘explain what it feels like on the moon?’ and a dozen or more hands go up. Put the same question to year 11 and less then half a dozen. What went wrong in those five years? The goal of secondary and sixth form teachers nowadays is, from my experience, to create independent learners and thinkers. May be a way to start is give space to their inquisitive minds and imagination while they are young. How can we expects kids to be creative if they’re imaginations haven’t been given its due importance? Didn’t Einstein devise his theory of relativity with thought experiments such as ‘what the would the world look like if I sat on a beam of light?’ To complete the quote on imagination “Imagination is more important that knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand”. Albert Einstein. .

Stillness heals

In Healing, parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on December 31, 2011 at 4:12 am
Today, I felt I had glimpse or taste of spiritual parenting, which I would like to share with you. My 1 year old son fell from the sofa, banged his head and started crying. I picked him up and embraced him. We sat as I rubbed his head comforting him with soothing words. I then remembered an amazing clip I had watched by Spiritual Literacy called “the bird who needs to be silent”
As I remembered that stillness within, I didnt feel the need to speak nor let him go on his way too early –
I was just with him, present in the heart space, unconditionally, until he was ready to get going again. To my surprise he fell asleep. It was an amazing experience and maybe one of the greatest gifts we can give to another- to be totally present, unconditionally, with all ones being and love.