As householders, our children are the purest expression of ego. As such, they offer the most direct path to yoga —the integration of our individuality with our universality. We give birth to children to provide continuity for our individual existence. Yet in this act of acknowledging our mortality, we begin to embrace our immortality.
If as Patanjali tells us, yoga is the progressive quieting of the mind (yoga chitta vritti nirodha), every parent of a teenager can attest that children can challenge this quieting to a greater extent than almost any other situation, circumstance, person or thing. If we can maintain equanimity in the face of sibling squabbling, we are steps closer to full liberation. Children hold up the most direct mirror to our current evolutionary state, calling upon us to cultivate authenticity and integrity in our thoughts, words and actions.
Yoga is the awakening of involved detachment, and children provide us with the opportunity to embrace this paradox. We may be able to relinquish our attachment to a job, a material possession, a partner or even a core belief, but it is unlikely that we can relinquish attachments to our children. We can however release our attachment to the way they live their lives rather than the way we think they should live their lives. They provide us with a living understanding of the Gita’s insight that we have control over our next action but not over the consequences of our action (II:47). Seeing and accepting our children for who they are, rather than who we’d like them to be, nurtures the seeds of unconditional love.
The practice of asana cultivates strength, flexibility and balance. These are qualities essential for conscious parenting. One of the most important components of our parental responsibilities is to teach our children how to manage their boundaries. This is the soul of yoga—living impeccably as a skin-encapsulated ego while knowing that at our essence, we are an unbounded, infinite field of awareness. As our own awareness expands, we spontaneously recognize that everything, including our children, is consciousness in disguise.
From this perspective, our understanding of and relationship to ego changes. Rather than the words “my” and “mine” implying ownership, we recognize that the ego is more accurately declaring, “I am choosing to assume temporary responsibility for enhancing the well-being of this object of attention.” If we can see our children in this light, parenting offers a direct path to unity. If we can see all children, young and old, from this level of awareness, we become the living embodiments of yoga; we become true yogis.
Dr. David Simon is the medical director and co-founder of the Chopra Center for Well-being located in Carlsbad, California.
If you are looking to deepen your relationships and learn the basics of authentic communication (with yourself and others) take a look at this online course – Transformative Communication – an easy and life-enhancing approach for better relationships.