*Enlightened Parenting: A Mom Reflects on Living Spiritually With Kids* is a series of 55 brief essays to help readers who want to make parenting their prime spiritual practice. Sections include attitudes you can shift (embracing faith over fear, being more in the moment when you’re with your child, not guilting them into doing what you want them to), actions you can take (adding a little spiritual celebration to their birthday bash, making sure the art hanging in your home uplifts everyone, enlarging your community beyond your immediate family) and ways parents can nourish themselves when they are so pressed for time. I wrote these essays over a number of years, because I realized right after I had my first child that when you’re a parent, you don’t have much time to meditate, do yoga, attend spiritual retreats or even read long spiritual books, so you have to bring your spirituality to what you’re doing in the moment, which is parenting.
2. How can parenting be a spiritual practice?
Anything you do mindfully and from a place of connection is a spiritual practice. The challenge for parents is that so many parenting moments can knock us out of connection–our child does something that embarrasses us, say, or we worry that they’re not going to thrive–so it takes constant reminders. But I’m a big believer that the most powerful spiritual practices are those we bring to our daily lives–it’s the reason my prior book, the novel *Downward Dog, Upward Fog*, was about a woman trying to stay on her spiritual path not by going to India or Bali but by working at her job and dealing with her annoying boyfriend and her horrible mother. Readers really resonate with that notion, because our mundane days are where we spend most of our life.
3. How do you manage having less free time after being a parent and what is that like?
Parenting, especially when our kids are young, is all-consuming. Things you used to love to do–for me it was doing and teaching yoga, attending a lot of spiritual lectures, and writing for fun–you simply don’t have time for. But instead of shifting completely into all the activities the kids want to do, it’s important to stay mindful about what keeps you centered and brings you your own pleasure outside of your child. I think it’s crucial that parents take a tiny bit of their very tight time to do something you were passionate about before you had kids: if it’s cooking an elaborate dinner, maybe make a complex entree one night a week, or if you love to write fiction, you may not have time for that novel right now but you can start a short story.
4. What advice would you have for someone who is afraid that being a parent will mean not having enough time or space to engage in spiritual practices like yoga or meditation?
Why not try doing some of those practices with your child? I adored doing yoga with my daughter when she was younger, and there are so many great books and videos that can show you how to keep the kids entertained. If your child can’t or won’t sit for a meditation, try a walking meditation outside. I also advise catching small snippets of time yourself to do a few short breathing practices–even if you have to do it in the bathroom, or while you’re making dinner.
5. What has been the biggest pleasant surprise of being a parent?
I think all parents are surprised at how much your capacity to love expands. Until you have a child, you can’t imagine how much it opens your heart. And that’s wonderful, because parents can use that even when their child is challenging them. When I lecture about my book, I have everyone close their eyes and envision how they felt the first time they held their newborn. When you bask in that feeling for a few minutes you remind yourself of that unconditional love, which you have the ability to bring into any parenting moment no matter what’s going on.
6. What has been the biggest unpleasant surprise of being a parent and how do you manage that?
As they get older, kids learn how to push a parent’s buttons. And when they start wanting things that are different from what we want from them–if they pick friends we don’t adore or make school or career choices we wouldn’t, for instance–it’s easy to get into conflicts with them. I remember how frustrated I was when my son was in the eighth grade and stopped doing his work. But they’re not you and they get to make their own choices in life–and we parents are happier when we remember that. (BTW, my son did finish eighth grade, and college, and is now a computer engineer.)
7. Anything else?
I end my book with a quote from the spiritual teacher and author Esther “Abraham” Hicks, that I think is a great message for parents: “Everything is unfolding perfectly, and as you relax and find ease, in your attitude of trust, knowing that well-being is your birthright, amazing things will happen.” In other words, it’s all good.