15 October, 2015
Like many young people when I finished secondary school I had no idea about what I wanted to ‘do’ with my life. I had been taught from a young age to seek outside of myself to gain knowledge and form identity.
I was accepted to Victoria University’s law school and – without any consideration of what life would be like studying or practising law – I signed up. My father, a successful banker, had often told us growing up that if he’d been given the chance of going to university he might have studied to be a lawyer.
I felt a sense of pride in accomplishing something my father saw as a top profession and thought how much pride my parents would take from telling people I was studying to be a lawyer.
Unfortunately for my parents I did not last one year at law school. I was out making new friends, partying, discovering Daft Punk, not to mention it was achingly boring reading about the legal history of New Zealand and the government. God, I roll my eyes now even thinking about it.
So I changed to an English Literature and Film Studies, subjects I am eternally passionate about. However when my studies had finished the question of what do you do with a BA in English plagued me. The Labour government was offering scholarships to go to teachers college for students with English degrees.
Although my Dad has always supported me, I remember very clearly a conversation I had with him about teaching, he said it was a thankless job, paid poorly, suffocating in bureaucracy. Even while I was studying to be a teacher I would tell people “this isn’t really what I want to do, its just an ‘in-between’ job.” Even though several senior teachers told me I was a very effective teacher, my five-year career was plagued with indecision, unhappiness and tension. I was working from the firmly established, unconscious belief that teaching was not good enough.
Now before I go any further let me say on the scale of ‘Dads’ my Dad is an outstanding one and I don’t hold him accountable for the decisions I’ve made, positive or negative. However I can look back now with hindsight (in which we all have a degree) and know that some of my inherited expectations were not healthy – although, I definitely learned from them.
Many years have passed and now I am a parent. As a yoga and meditation practitioner I have studied the subject of consciousness and how this can influence our relationships with our kids. Even though children today have more (materially speaking) than kids have ever had before, I think it’s fair to say that some children are also the most unhappiest they’ve been.
Pharmac figures show an average 10 per cent increase in prescriptions of mood-stabilising drugs for children aged five and over compared to five years ago. Around New Zealand there are more than 5000 kids in foster care – not all in healthy, loving conditions. These days children are more prone to depression, compulsive disorders and anxiety than ever before.
And this begs the question: why?
We can blame external forces like psychology, the government, big pharma, education systems or the media, and to some extent yes those external forces do have a part to play. However at the end of the day it is the endurable power of the relationship we as parents nurture with our children that will have the most transformative effect on their lives.
It is time for us to sit up, pay attention and start parenting differently. Moment to moment. Nothing glamorous, just helping get them up in the mornings and off to school, being present with hobbies and creative aspirations, and teaching them how to cope with their constantly evolving emotions.
What I’ve experienced and learnt in my own life is that we inherit emotional baggage from our parents. It is what Eckhart Tolle refers to in The Power of Now as the ‘unconscious pain body’. ‘The stuff’ that holds us back from being who we are authentically meant to be.
Of course our parents didn’t do this to us consciously out of malice! I’m sure like my parents, your parents loved you and wanted the very best for you. The fact that our emotional stuff is ‘unconsciously’ handed down, generation after generation, is what makes it difficult to acknowledge and then release.
Recently my son Theo who is 18 months old stood up at the kitchen table and emptied a glass of water out on to the table. Water rushed through the newspaper, mail and the edges of my brand new laptop. My partner was jimmy on the spot and quickly grabbed the laptop out of harm’s way. Before I could even think about how to respond I had let out a huge gasp of shock and shouted “No! Naughty boy why did you do that!” – he got such a fright from my reaction that he started to cry ~ and I felt Guilt. He doesn’t know about the value of laptops, all he knows is that water glides and forms puddles and feels wet and strange. I apologised and we had a cuddle on the couch to resolve our differences.
In that moment (and many others) Theo has shown me my unresolved emotional ‘stuff’. My pain body. In this way, Theo has become one of my greatest yoga teachers. I didn’t need to go to India, live on an ashram and meditate with the gurus. Having children has been the greatest learning experiences I’ve ever had. When you believe your children are acting like devils and you become hysterical in your attempt to control the situation, chances are they’re not being that devilish but have activated a long-held wound within yourself.
Many of us live with a severe inner critic and we are constantly acting and parenting from a place of ‘not good enough’ or lack. This is where the revolution needs to take place.
If we want to parent consciously, with consistency, designing clear boundaries and demonstrating leadership we need to see in ourselves that we are whole, complete and worthy. Just as our children, when they come to us, are whole, complete and worthy.
When we project ourselves outwards searching for our identity we will look to the Maserati, the corporate corner office, to our address, to where we graduated, to the wine bottle, to spouse one, two or three, to where we attended school or university. We are severed from a sense of truly being and are totally consumed by ‘doing’.
Let’s start by turning down the expectations we have for our kids. This idea that you can have a hobbie but you must excel at it, university is the only way to be truly successful, you must be perfect in school, you must always be in a good mood, your friends should be like this or that, is constantly defining an impossible level of what ‘winning at life’ looks like.
Parental evolution is the solution here. We need to demonstrate to our kids to lose freely, laugh loudly, and most importantly have no fears in the ambition of chasing their dreams. Where does this work start? It starts with healing ourselves, accepting that we are only human and letting go of the stuff in the past that is not useful for the present.
What does your yoga look like today? If you’re interested to develop a consistent home meditation and yoga practice, please get in touch by email email@example.com or review coaching, courses and workshops I currently have available @ A Yogafied Life. I work with woman all over New Zealand, in person in Auckland, and elsewhere via Skype.