I was asked a question by a college student recently, as we stood in line for a dinner buffet. He said, “Jenny, I just love your kids. They are so open and kind and so much fun to be around.” Then he asked, “If you could tell me one thing to remember later about being good parent, what would it be?”
I turned towards him, and looked him in the eye, and said, “Do your own work. Don’t be afraid to look inside of yourself. And even if you are scared, do it anyway.” Turning inward towards ourselves can be liberating and sometimes terrifying business. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
As parents, we want what is best for our kids; a positive self image, a wonder and desire for life, a solid foundation to stand on as they navigate life’s challenges, a kind heart and so much more. But do we foster these qualities in ourselves as parents? Do you ever hear yourself saying, I am too busy to spend time with what lives within me, or I am no longer creative now that I am grown or all of the many ways in which we avoid ourselves.
Here it is, plain and simple, we can only lead our children as far as we have gone into our very own interior lives and the power that lives there. We cannot fake that teaching, we live it if we commit to it. It is not about being perfect or raising children that are not human. It is just the opposite –– it is about teaching our children to be fully human and fully divine by living it. We become the teaching when we do our own work. And the only way that I have found to look myself in the eye and heart is by the grace of something much, much bigger than me.
My children haven’t been wanting to attend church for the past year. I asked them the other day why, and my son responded that God is in everything he does. There is no separation for him.
I don’t tell my children this and if I try, they roll their eyes and say “Mooooommmm.” They know that God is in everything because when they wake up in the morning, they see their father standing in the front room with his arms outstretched in the practice of Qi Gong. My daughter sees me leave the house every day to be with my teachers and the practice of yoga. They see us light candles in the studio and sit in meditation with others.
This is the truth of the matter: we can only teach our children who they truly are by being who we truly are.
And this is easier said than done. When we turn inward there are monsters in that forest. This is often why we avoid it and in doing so, teach our children to avoid it. The path that we commit to in that forest does not matter. It is the commitment to it that they see, not necessarily the path.
I am confident that my children will have different ways of staying close to their souls. They may look nothing like mine or my husband’s –– and they shouldn’t. They are different people. But I do know they have been raised with a knowing that there is something bigger than all of us that includes us. It hasn’t been shoved down their throats or bullied into them. Thankfully, I never had that experience growing up and neither did my husband. We just simply know now that there is no power greater than the breath of life and we live devoted to it as best we can. We do this because it saved our lives and continues to save us everyday. I can’t imagine being devoted to anything else really.
So, if you are wondering what is best for your children, taking care of yourself is.Being honest with who you are today and allowing yourself to receive a little love from what breathes you everyday.
It seems simple, but those of you who face yourself with the help of grace know that is isn’t necessarily; at least not always. So, today, take a step that brings you closer to you and the life that breathes you. Find a teacher, start a practice that puts you in contact with what is uncomfortable within you, go on retreat, be silent for a day, be vulnerable. All of these things teach your children that it is safe to be who they are by committing to knowing thyself. They learn by living it and you are their guide. So let’s do it not only for our children, but because this is our one precious life to lead. Let us lead it as consciously as we can.
Edited by: Lindsay Friedman
Jenny Finn is a licensed social worker and embodiment educator living in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her family on an urban farm. She is the director of the school Soma-where body meets soul, dedicated to sustainable living through the integration of body and breath and the language of creative expression. To learn more about this work, please visit www.somamovement.org. Jenny is seeking her Ph.D. in Sustainability Education at Prescott College where she is devoted to studying the power of the breath and its teachings.