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Sage Advice for a New Parent

A custom I’ve encountered at baby-showers includes sharing advice with the new parents. The best advice I ever received about parenting came to me while I was a single mom raising my nine-year old son. I met my first spiritual teacher, Swami Muktananda and had two experiences with him that helped me recognize the essence of being a parent.

One day, on a visit to Swami Muktananda’s ashram, I was feeling quite overcome with the responsibility and burden (so I thought) of parenting. As I was drying my latest set of tears, my nine-year old came up and insisted that we ask Swami Muktananda for spiritual names. So we did. Swami Muktananda picked two names randomly from a nearby set of Sanskrit names, looked at them, looked at us, and passed them on. My name was the name of a river in India. My son’s name was the Sanskrit word for ocean. I felt the burden of parenting lift immediately as I understood this profound advice, given without any exchange of words:

Consider your child like an ocean: vast, without limits to its greatness, no end to its mystery. Think of yourself as a river. Rivers flow inexorably into the ocean. You are one of the rivers flowing into your child. The purity of the river keeps the ocean pure and clean. Your good intentions and virtues are all that are needed to keep your child thriving. Rivers get their water from the rains, from the heavens. As you are nourished from the divine, your child will be nourished as well.

Never forget, the ocean is always greater than the river.

A year later, as I was struggling to help my son through some personal difficulty he was having, again I got quite discouraged. My son and I both wrote to Swami Muktananda, who was in India at the time. My son got a very simple, practical answer to his dilemma, encouraging him to try his best to get along with difficult people. However, I got a very strong letter, which said, in effect, “Your child counts on you. If you get discouraged, he has no one to turn to.” The effect was immediate as I recognized yet another key to being a parent.

Your duty is to stay strong through all the ups and downs.

Somehow my son managed to grow up. When he was 23 and leaving to go to Africa in the Peace Corps, we both went once again to see my spiritual teacher, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the designated successor of Swami Muktananda’s lineage. I was quite nervous about my son’s upcoming trip. However, I was trying my best to be supportive and not be an over-protective mother. Gurumayi looked at my worried face with great compassion. Then she turned to my son and with great wisdom, eased the tension between me and my son as she said to him,

Remember, no matter how old children get to be, mothers will always be mothers.

May these points of advice from two great sages uplift and guide you as you parent the next generation.

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