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Mindful Parenting

Somewhere between the lullabies and your child's first driving lesson, parenting becomes your spiritual practice.

By Stephanie Renfrow Hamilton

Bedtime had a sense of purpose as well. Bo remembers singing to Josh from his cache of personal favorites, folk and pop songs like "Mr. Bojangles," "Sweet Baby James," and Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." The point, he says, was to begin and end each day with a tender, sacred moment so that it turned full circle into one seamless event. He adds, "There is no way to replace such times with things that don't take as much time."

Being Here Now—Even During Chores

Last summer, Marcia Miller, who teaches Integral yoga in downtown Columbus, Ohio, made an announcement to her students in one of her quarterly newsletters. She had to cut back on some of her classes so that she could have more time to do the laundry, she wrote. This chore was a metaphor for all the little things we do that we think are "less important," she explained.

Her point was a logical extension of her karma yoga teachings, suggesting that everything we do is worthy of our full attention. "If, when you're folding clothes, you're really there for the task, you're creating harmony and a sense of order in the home," she tells me by phone. "There's a huge difference in the emotional life of your family if you can find your underwear in the morning."

Marcia says she's received more positive feedback about those few paragraphs in her newsletter than anything she'd ever written. "When I am home with my children, I assure you that they do not care if I can do 10 deep backbends in a row. They do care that I am present both physically and emotionally to create a safe place where their needs get met," she reflects. Those needs include enjoying a mom who is calm and loving, who can organize the household decently and sing them their lullabies at night. The loving calmness that her boys value so much, she points out, gets cultivated during her morning asanas. "In essence, daily life is a mixture of the simple (laundry) and the sublime (bedtime kisses and songs), and the practice of yoga can help with both."

For some parents, the struggle has less to do with interweaving the simple with the sublime than with finding time to juggle the parenting and the practice. Is this a true dilemma or is it more likely the agitated worries of a divided mind? Even moms and dads quite far along in their spiritual development have different ways of answering that. But many paths lead to this simple truth: As long as we carry on our child-rearing with love, respect, and our full attention, our needs to be good parents and our needs to practice are being met. Marcia, for instance, recalls the time when one of her students, a mother with two young children, told her that she would have to drop class for a semester because she didn't want to miss her kids' bedtimes too many times a week.

What a perfect karma yoga posture, Marcia remembers thinking. "She was doing absolutely perfect yoga by not coming to class. I told her, 'It's more important to put your kids to bed than it is to do headstands.'"

Bo Lozoff offers a similar point of view. "When you have children, there is no more important spiritual practice than being a parent." The notion that our practice is something that we only do with other adults needs rethinking. It's a false distinction, he says, adding: "Only a paranoid culture would make us keep such a ledger or speak about having to give to our kids and take for ourselves separately."

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Reader Comments

Lynne Golodner

This is a lovely article, and I'm so glad you contribute it to the conversation. I've just launched workshops, Parenting Without a Map, which show parents how to Be Present in their parenting and with their children in order to create their own map in the moment, every day. And I am so fortunate to work with Karma Yoga in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where family yoga - from pre-conception onward - is now part of the regular schedule. The world is awakening to the truth!

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