Reflections on the Living Discipleship Program
November 1, 2013
On the level of duality, it is more than a balancing act as a single parent to raise children, meditate, work, run a household, and serve. However, in the inner reality, it is an experience of ever-new joy, expansion, and communion in God. For all I give to God is returned in the form of energy, inspiration, and guidance.
I came to Ananda in the complete spirit of willingness. That’s what Master and Swami said to do and I stuck to it. Like many new people at the Village, I wanted to take part in everything. In part I wanted to “show” my willingness and appreciation, not in an insincere way, but sincerely from my heart because I was so grateful to be here.
And, knowing that our path is one of meditation AND activity, I was eager to help out and receive the challenges. Over time, I began to feel some disharmony because I was struggling to make time for my family within all my other activities. I said to Master, “I know that challenges are a blessing, and I accept them willingly, but please teach me how to live and how to be a good parent. Teach me how to use discrimination for the highest good of all. Change me.”
When it came time for Living Discipleship and I was faced with leaving the girls at the Village for three weeks in a fairly new environment, I first accepted it with calm determination, but as the time drew nearer my determination wavered as the tide of strong emotions came in. It felt like someone was injecting some unnatural substance into my body and I was having an allergic reaction. But, I tried my very best to do what was being asked of me.
For weeks, my turmoil did not cease. I spent a lot of time talking myself into it and asking for help from Master to send guidance and trying to feel calm in meditation. I sought wise guidance from others. But, I did not feel calm, in fact as time grew closer, if anyone asked me about it, I would bubble up into a break down of tears.
Many people told me to try to bring my energy up to the point between my eyebrows and transmute the emotions. Others said, to give the children to Master and not to worry about them, Divine Mother would care for them. I wanted to do the program and have the opportunity to go deeper in Master, but part of me just did not feel comfortable with the arrangements for the kids to just stay on at Banyan House without a consistent care-giver the girls felt comfortable with. Finally, one of the teachers, seeing that I was breaking down called the director of the program and simply said, “I don’t think Premi can do the program.”
When summer came, and the opportunity arose again, but this time in cooperation with the needs of my family, I was ready. Everything just worked seamlessly this time around. In fact, an “angel” from Ananda Assisi arrived at the Village to help in watching my children and driving them to and from the retreat every day. The girls spent the nights with me except during seclusion.
The girls were able to attend classes and yoga – sitting in the back reading or close to me. They ate dinner, spent the night in Happiness Lodge, and also came to breakfast. They were able to experience the program in a way that was suitable for them. After breakfast, I had my ‘angel’ friend pick them up and take them to the village for the day. Now, I thought, I was able to feel very comfortable that the girls were in good hands and I could completely let go and focus on God. But, as is usually the case, the lesson we think we are learning are always much deeper than we can at first fathom.
The retreat is like a magnet. It seems to pull little thorns of ego out of you. Even my daughters experienced this and went through transformations of their own. In one child, feelings of insecurity of not being loved enough by me arose. She has a deep connection with her spirituality within and was able to practice bringing in Divine Mother as reassurance when these emotions come and go.
My other child, too was going through a difficult time. In fact, she had been secretly suffering and praying for my help – which, though she was unaware of it, called for my growth and God’s grace to assist her. Also, my angelic friend who was helping me with the kids was able to to give me meaningful, feedback about the girls as she observed them in the hours they spent away from me.
I discovered, during this time, that impersonal love is so key to parenting. I did not understand what Swamiji had meant when he said in a letter to me last winter to just keep giving the children to Master, because I understood that statement as a passive act. However, as I discovered, impersonal love is not a passive state, just as meditation is not a passive state, it takes a great depth of energy, it is a love and patience deeper than the ocean, in fact it is Divine.
In all things we do, we seek to be channels, but in dharmic parenting it is very important. I was able, during this time, to look into myself and discover in which areas that I was micro-managing the children that does not support their growth. I reflected on the inhibiting tendency of parents to worry over all their children’s mistakes and faults. I thought of the other extreme: leaving them to the wolves of delusion as I just go about my merry way meditating without a care for their growth.
Since I came on the path, I have been working towards adapting our family lifestyle to be in attunement with our Guru’s teachings and the Education for Life philosophy. However, because of the time spent at the retreat, I was able to come to the conclusion through my own experience, that as parents, we should develop the ability to deeply observe the children without attachment.
We should also develop our ability to control our reaction to events and chose our words carefully. We should give the children clear boundaries; work with them from where they are. We should not be attached to our parenting mistakes and be examples to our children that it is OK to make mistakes, it is the quality of our energy that counts.
And, we should ensure that from a young age “our” spiritual life should be inclusive of them on terms they can relate to. Not in outward activities alone, but in bringing God in loving communion with each other, as a family unit – setting time aside for the activities and interactions that are appropriate for them as individuals.
Finally, at the end of each day, as Swamiji said so often, we should build a bonfire in our minds, go through our day, and throw in all our attachments. This can even be a family activity done silently together. In this way (and in ways I am still learning), I learned, I can best serve the souls who have incarnated as my children.
I was deeply inspired at the last Satsang when Jyotish spoke of the importance of creating an environment that welcomes families and aids their transition to life in the community on all levels from finances and housing to spiritual living. And again the inspiration came, at Spiritual Renewal Week, when Naidruva spoke of Swamiji’s compassion, non-judgement, and kindness.
I would like to help in this effort. I am grateful for the great, great blessing to be here with my Ananda family, to all those who acted as channels to help us be here, and I wish this same opportunity for all willing souls.