by Ayn Cates Sullivan, Ph.D.
There is a natural brilliancy and intelligence that is operating through each of us that knows the unfoldment of our true nature. It is alive and embodied within each child as much as it is in the parents. When I asked my thirteen-year old son if there was something he thought was important about parenting he replied, “Kids don’t like to be told what to do. When they are told what to do then they break the rules. When they choose their own path then they are empowered.”
Most of us have been taught that we need to fit into our society, listen to our teachers and authority figures, and be a good person. My young son was clear that what we really need to strive for is to be ourselves. In truth, the thought of being ourselves terrifies most people because they have no idea who they are outside of the labels family and society has placed on them. When we really engage our minds we do not study at school, we inquire into the nature of what is presented to us. At this crucial moment we become more confident about being ourselves because we realize we are always changing, ever-renewing and always creating ourselves. Curiosity switches on the luminous brilliancy within us.
When we start to become curious about who we are and what is happening in the world around us, then something quite extraordinary begins to reveal itself. We discover beauty in simply being who we are and realize that the unfolding now naturally creates what is needed in each moment. We don’t have to make ourselves overcome our faults, since the personality is simply a program that we run off. We can shift our focus from stories that limit us, to presence. When we turn our focus onto the light of inquiry then there is a release from what binds us, and we find that there is a natural intelligence within and surrounding us from which we are never apart. Illuminated parents guide in their children towards the intelligent design of their soul.
Recently I pulled my car to the side of the road to take a phone call and was listening to the life events of a young friend who had turned his face towards the light and had completely transformed his life. I could hear the lilting happiness in his voice as he told me how much he loved college and his new career path. He had made a shift from suffering to a life of gratitude. He was now very curious about what was unfolding in his life and excited about discovering more about who he is and how he can create from the place of inquiry.
As I listened to him I noticed a young woman walking slowly down the sidewalk in front of a child of about five years of age. The young boy was on his belly on a skateboard and I thought perhaps he was pretending to be a turtle. Marveling at how enduring the mother was, I was reminded that children teach us patience. We can be in meditation when we are with our young children and simply delight at how they are growing. Sometimes we are forced to inquire into the part of us that wishes to go more quickly when the moment requires something else of us. Parenting is humbling, yet it is the most important work we will ever do.
Right at that moment the woman turned and started yelling at the child for being so slow. His response was to ball up on the skateboard and stop making any progress. I put my hand on the door ready to jump out to rescue the child. They looked at each other for a moment, and then the child continued his slow progress on his skateboard behind his mother. I realized that this was just their pattern of relating and they were both accustomed to it.
I am not criticizing the woman for her actions, because we have all had moments when we simply could not bear another and I have no idea what news she had just heard or what was occurring in her life. I write it as an example of what happens in family dynamics every day. Part of learning the art of inquiry is to make a decision not to blame others for how we feel. This is an enormous leap in consciousness for what we are saying is that we are taking full responsibility for our lives and giving up the need to play the role of victim/perpetrator. We are choosing to simply be with all of our thoughts and feelings exactly as they are arising. As we observe our words we might choose to refine the way we engage with others. We might notice that what we think, say and do has an impact not only on ourselves but also our friends, family and the world around us. When we speak harshly to another we create disconnection, which is the opposite of what parents really want for their children. When we choose loving intelligence then we also select alignment and connection.
Illuminated parenting simply involves awareness of the present moment and all of the feelings and thoughts contained within it. If the woman walking with the child had been familiar with the art of inquiry she might have chosen to ask the child a question such as, “What does it feel like to travel at turtle speed?” Or “What does it look like from down there?” She might also have closed her eyes and explored slowness herself, perhaps feeling the wonder of the moment that the child had probably been engrossed in. When we move deliberately and consciously life slows down and engages us. We can feel our muscles, the pulse of our heart, the currents of air and the intelligence of life around us. When we override this with our agenda or our need to do or accomplish something, then we might miss a great opportunity to simply be alive. Children invite us to slow down, notice the world and play in this great cosmic adventure called life. We might decide to try getting on our belly on the skateboard and seeing what life is like from that perspective and why that is lighting him up so much. We have a chance in each moment to choose awareness. Whatever is happening, we can turn toward the light and inquire into how we can engage more thoroughly and be in the present moment. When noticed, the now unfolds like a beautiful and mysterious flower within and around us.