How Do We Learn From Others Yet Remain Authentic When It Comes To Parenting
With Katie Rushing
Which neighborhood should we live in? Public school, private school or homeschool? What do we create time for in our home? What activities should we choose? With whom do we spend our extra time? What traditions do we make priority? Screen time or no screens at all? Bus, carpool, or no carpool? Which pediatrician is right for us? Should the kids go to summer camp? Big birthday bash or small family gathering? Pets or no pets? Spray sunscreen or lotion? Absolutely no sugar or I-don’t-have-time-to-worry-about-sugar? White bread, wheat bread, or gluten free bread? Does he need a tutor? Should we go to church? Where should we go to church?… Should we raise chickens?
If there is one variable that is constant in the ever-evolving landscape of parenting–it is change. While we might have a loose grasp on some type of routine, our circumstances will evolve from day to day, sometimes moment to moment, and as that happens… the questions arise. The weight and impact of those questions will vary. While some decisions made might be of little consequence in the long run, others potentially have a heavier impact on the quality of life for ourselves and our families.
…the precursor to practicing is observing.
If you are reading this, chances are you have had a newborn baby placed in your arms. Or maybe you have helped your high school graduate decorate his or her college dorm room. Whatever chapter you find yourself in, you have had the opportunity to learn how to do what it is you are required to do by practicing. It is essential to recognize that the precursor to practicing is observing. As humans, we like observing. In fact, our brains seek a visual explanation in order to make sense of something new. The neurons in our brains that process visual images take up roughly 30% of the cortex. Observe. Then try. Adjust. Repeat.
When it comes to our own journeys, how do we navigate the questions we face to find our authentic answers, and what do we observe in order to get there? We have the wonderful privilege of living in the fourth largest city in the country. Here, over one hundred forty five languages are spoken. Cultural diversity runs deep in the heart of our hot, humid, and friendly home of Houston. We also live in a hyperactive digital age where we carry these little machines in our pockets that love to project images for us whenever we want to access them! Be it by way of Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, blogs, vlogs, or podcasts; you name it, with the swipe of a finger, you can find it. I wonder how often we look outside of ourselves to find the answers we seek?
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are eight limbs of yoga. The goal of practicing the Sutras is to still the mind in an effort to connect with the divine, to remember our true nature, and to connect with our truest selves from within, rather than by reaching out to accomplish this. The first limb of the eight is called (in Sanskrit) Yamas, which means the rules or moral code. The third Yama is Asteya. Asteya is non-stealing of another’s property through action, words, and thoughts.
It is a fine line we can walk between observing to learn versus observing to duplicate.
To bring Asteya into a physical yoga practice one might apply this principal in terms of not comparing oneself to anyone else in the room. Clearly, in order to learn the practice of yoga we initially learn largely by observing, by watching, another’s practice. Again, our brains are happy making sense from images. If that is true, then it makes sense that we could possibly latch on to what a pose ‘should look like’ as we deepen our practice. This is where our choice comes in; it is a fine line we can walk between observing to learn versus observing to duplicate. When we observe to duplicate we fail to connect with our own truth that is trying to emerge. Instead, we look outside of ourselves to find the ‘right’ answer and thus run the risk of distancing ourselves from who we truly are.
While it is in our nature to observe, it is also in our nature to live our most authentic truths.
Could the practice of Asteya pertain to parenting and answering the questions we find ourselves facing? If we choose to, we can be bombarded with images of ‘what life looks like’ or ‘what parenting looks like’ simply by glancing at our phones or other screens. If nothing else, the idea of Asteya might provide some relief and some accountability when it comes to cultivating a ‘non-stealing’ practice in parenting. While it is in our nature to observe, it is also in our nature to live our most authentic truths. In fact, it is our responsibility. In my experience, this requires actual effort. That effort could be setting boundaries. Or learning to discern when we find ourselves in a moment of comparison or a ‘non-asteya-like’ frame of mind and remembering that we have a choice. The choice might be to go down the rabbit hole or to take a breath and re-align. One choice feels right, the other does not.
So, whether it is planning your summer vacation or deciding on that pet iguana the kids have been asking for, perhaps there is always an opportunity to put search engines on the back burner for a moment and give yourself, your truest guide, a chance to be seen, heard, and honored. In doing so, you not only respect yourself, you also contribute to the beautifully diverse community of practicing parents that we are all so fortunate to be a part of.