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The Art of Zen Parenting

Let’s begin with a meditation. Sit. Get comfortable. Pay attention. Now take a deep breath and as you exhale relax. Continue to do this until you have reasonably settled in. Continue to breathe. Now bring to mind your child or your children. See them as they are now. See them as they were when they first arrived and you held them in your arms for the first time. Take a deep breath. Relax. Now let that image go. Now call to mind You. At the youngest age you can remember. Continue breathing. Consider what you would have liked to have told to you by your parents that they never told you. Imagine them telling you that. Feel that. Keep feeling that. Take a deep breath. Let that go. Act accordingly!

 

I often tell people, “If you want your life to work get a dictionary.” When we look at the definition of “to parent”, we find, “to bring forth.” So many parents that sincerely love their children, see them as opportunities to live the lives they never had through their children. They invest hours and energy in trying to shape and form their children into their own image and likeness. This is neither parenting nor empowering. “To bring forth” means to “create a conducive environment for our children to become not who we think they should be, or even could be, but whoever and whomever they truly are.” My role as a father of a 7-year-old daughter is not to lay the groundwork for her to grow up and become me or her mother, but to “create a conducive environment for her to become more and more who she is.”

 

In our world today, we are witnessing an entire generation called “millennials” who are rejecting almost every one of the traditional institutions older generations consider to be important.  There’s a reason for that. While they are doing so however, it is also reported that such virtues as “loving-kindness, compassion, and benevolent service including the idea of being “one” or “interconnected” with each other and the natural world remains paramount in their planning on how they will live their lives. 

 

The Art of Zen Parenting begins with getting to really know who your child is, then learning how you can provide them with whatever they need to become who they truly are and not who you think they should be. I spend a lot of time “celebrating” my daughter; pouring a lot of affection, positive affirmations, interest, and attention on her. Yes, there remains the practice of discipline including rules and restrictions but, not to keep her from being my idea of “a bad kid”, but rather keeping her safe and empowered to arrive at her predestination—Her Self.

 

Take a deep breath. Now act accordingly.

 

I Love You, (Not who I think you are, You. Now doesn’t that feel better?)

 

Seijaku Roshi is an American Zen Master, parent, Buddhist Priest, author, life coach, keynote speaker and visionary pioneer on the principles of “authentic spirituality.”  He is the founder of The Zen Society and Abbot of Pine Wind Zen Community/Jizo-an Monastery, in Shamong, NJ. 

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