November 25th, 2022
Guest writer for Wake Up World
Dirty diapers, being woken up in the middle of the night, a house full of screams and squeals, food splattered all over the walls, toys strewn chaotically over the floor, no more late nights out, no time to read books…What could be enriching about raising children? Isn’t personal development just one of the many things we sacrifice when we have kids?
This is why priests and monks have always been celibate. To be spiritual we’re supposed to live apart from the normal world, in monasteries, forests, or in the desert, meditating and praying in solitude. Nothing is meant to divert us from our spiritual practices—least of all a family, which takes up so much of our time and energy.
In India, there is a tradition that spiritual development belongs to a later stage of life—roughly after the age of fifty. First we have to live through the “householder” stage, bringing up and providing for our children, and living a worldly life. But once our children are grown up, we can turn our attention to the inner world. We can start meditating regularly and living more quietly and simply.
However, many parents find that—far from hindering it—bringing up children furthers their development. Seen in the right way, parenthood can itself be a path of personal and spiritual growth.
Part of the reason for this is that children naturally possess some traits that we associate with growth. Mindfulness is a good example. Most people would agree that to be more mindful and present to our own experience is a very positive trait, which enhances our lives.
Children are naturally mindful. They always live fully in the present. They don’t spend any time worrying about future events or mulling over past events, feeling anxious or resentful. As a result, the world is a fantastically real and interesting place to them. As the child psychologist Alison Gopnik puts it in her book The Philosophical Baby[TM1] , “Babies and young children are actually more conscious and more vividly aware of their external world and internal life than adults are.”
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