Four Primary Principles of Conscious Childrearing
“Birth is shock. It is the primal incident. As an
incident, it is usually interpreted psychologically—in terms of its emotional-mental
or subjective impact. But its significance is in the event itself, the
sudden event of existence as the whole body. Birth is itself shock-vital
shock, a recoil at Infinity. Our life is a drama of subjective struggling
against an unbearable demand: relationship, incarnation, or love. We are
in the mood of recoil, contraction, and self-possession—not by virtue
of some inward and soulish pre-existence, but by virtue of birth itself,
the apparent independence of self all relationships imply. All that is
other implies the separate me. Even infants, growing adepts in the shock
of living based on birth, demonstrate this reflex, the self-sympathy that
dramatizes our suffering. There is no innocence, for all have been born.
The feeling of independence is the burden of living beings.”(The
Paradox of Instruction)
Birth Is Shock
If we are to serve our children, we must understand their
True Condition and constantly draw them to it. To do this, however, we
must also understand the condition they tend to presume, their fears and
habits of recoil, just as we must understand ourselves in order to grow.
In this way, children are not fundamentally different from adults.
Every action of the born being is that of Narcissus, the
threatened, separate one, and this is no less true in childbirth than at
any other stage of un-Enlightened human life. “The feeling of independence
is the burden of living beings.” All beings feel separate and tend
to act on the basis of that feeling. Practitioners of this Way must grasp
this most fundamental understanding and constantly apply it in service
to our children.
Adi Da points out that the universal drama of Narcissus
has its root in incarnation itself:
I have called this “Vital shock,” the shock
of birth itself. It is not merely the trauma of going through the birth
canal, but the trauma of realizing independent existence—which is the
case for all of you. And you not only have the sense of independent existence,
but at the experiential level you seem to be something that can be destroyed.
You recognize that everything with which you are related can be destroyed.
Everything upon which you would want to depend can be destroyed or taken
away from you. This basic recognition is present from the beginning of
life because each person is bodily existing.
(“The Great Lifetime Illumination,” The Laughing Man,
Vol. 4, No. 2, p. 21.)
This vulnerability overwhelms the infant and child, and
thus every child recoils from manifest existence to protect himself from
further shocks. Adi Da has called this recoil the first philosophical gesture
of the being. Its effect is much greater than any mere idea, however: it
fashions our entire existence:
Adi Da: When we look out into the universe, we
feel insulted, rejected, unloved. And so we make philosophy out of our
apparent independence. Thus, the primal event of suffering is not some
circumstance that happens to us. It is not an event within our objective
experience. It is not some thing that we conceive to exist in relation
to us, or over against us. The primal event of suffering is us. Our suffering
is not recognized as separation from something else in particular. It is
our own appearance, our own independent existence, and we interpret this
present event as separation on that basis. That interpretation is our first
philosophical gesture, the first time we say or feel “you don’t love
me.” (The Way That I Teach. pp. 145-6.)
This recoiling gesture of the being is true even of infants.
There is a great fear behind the persona of every being, no matter how
young, and we must not be naive about it.
Adi Da: Each child has a characteristic way of
expressing his or her awareness of this fundamental sense of vulnerability.
Some children feel emotionally separated from those who love them, and
this feeling is reflected in a chronic sense of somehow being poor and
unlovable. Other children express this basic sense of vulnerability through
the mechanism of doubt-they do something wrong and think they might lose
approval, they fear that their connection to life and love will be threatened.
Both these types of children feel threatened by human experience, mortal
experience, but each of them expresses it through a different response.
Both types are pointing to the same thing: They are both communicating
to us that they feel they can be harmed or that they are in a vulnerable
position. Everybody expresses this emotional state in some fashion. (“The
Great Lifetime Illumination,” p. 19.)
Adi Da makes it clear that this vulnerability is not something
learned through life experiences but that “the later shocks of life
in the form of pain or actual experience of separation only reinforce something
that is fundamentally obvious to the being from the moment of conception”.
(“The Great Lifetime Illumination,” p. 21.)
He also points out that this recoiled emotion is not as profound as one
might think; it is founded only in the sense—the presumption, not the
reality—that we are separate.
Fundamentally, it is not our experiences in particular
relationships that tell us we are not loved. Some people do not love us,
surely, but nevertheless we are simply, always, and already philosophically
disposed to believe that we are not loved. It is our interpretation of
existence, not on the basis of any relational experience we have had with
other human beings, but on the basis of our apparent independence itself.
Our sense of independent bodily existence means separation to us, whereas,
you see, it is really only the sense of independent bodily existence. (The
Way That I Teach, p. 146.)
The child’s search for love and unity through internal
and external means, though less dramatic than adults’, is no less active
in him or her than in grown-up seekers. There is only one way out of this
round of contraction, reaction, and seeking, and that is to Awaken to the
Condition, and not merely the potential in Nature, of the individual—to
rest in That which is Prior, in which we already and always inhere.
Adi Da: What human beings must realize is a condition
of Unity with What is Alive, What is Life. Every child and every adult
must become stably and emotionally involved in the dimension of Reality
in which things that can happen in the more obvious human or manifest dimension
of our physical and outer-directed consciousness do not have the consequences
that they seem to have when we live in our primitive fear-consciousness.
We must awaken to a fundamental emotional sense of being connected to the
Reality that does not kill us, that does not separate from us. We must
awaken in such a way that we basically do not feel threatened by human
existence. This is fundamentally what religious consciousness is all about.
(“The Great Lifetime Illumination,” p. 19.)
This unthreatened consciousness is the spiritual disposition
of love, trust, and surrender-the faith presumption. It is this unthreatened
consciousness that we must cultivate in our children, and because the ego
does not love, trust, or surrender, we must transcend ourselves in order
to serve them. From conception onward, our bodily, mental, and psychic
approach to the growing child affects what he will learn and what he will
presume about life. The relaxation, release, or healing of vital shock
and the threatened consciousness in children is what we must constantly
serve. They are utterly dependent upon our intimacy with them to transcend
themselves, to be vulnerable and to feel. Our true intimacy with them nurtures
them and requires them to give up the lie of separation and betrayal that
holds them back from the possibility of a spiritual Way of life. Thus,
children are healed only through “re-bonding” with Life.
We are all faced with the difficult demand to remain vulnerable
in relationship, to incarnate as love, and children must feel and be served
to meet this demand in terms they can understand. This is the only way
that they can be prepared to meet the tests of this world with two sides-both
pleasurable and painful—and use the unique opportunity for self-transcendence
that a human birth represents. Therefore, children need a life in which
the “dynamic of growth” is consistently present: nurturing intimacy
and the demand to constantly go beyond oneself. Our culture is based on
the expectation that children can and will mature through all the seven
stages of love. For this to occur, they must receive this lesson continually:
Only the Mystery grants one the strength of heart, mind, and body required
to fulfill the difficult demand of real life.
* * *
This manual of study covers four major principles that
must be understood if parents are to bring their children the radical disposition-one
that does not reinforce the egoic adaptation. None of these principles-intimacy,
discipline, attraction, and sex and body-positiveness—are separable in
actual practice. By applying them, our tendency to focus on the “problem”
that children’s dramatizations appear to demand us to solve is undermined.
This free and Happy approach is our test, our sacrificial service to children,
so that they may live a truly religious life and remain always free to
be Happy. The fourth principle-transcendence of sexual neurosis-has received
relatively little attention in the culture. Adi Da points out “that
sex-negativity is the primary life-negative message that children get.
His “Life-positive, body-positive, sex-positive, Happiness-positive,
and in every sense positive” (“Our Defense of the Body
in God”, The Lesson, Vol. 4, p. 211.) message educates
us in the free acceptance of each child’s bodily pleasure and native urge
(Back to Four
Primary Principles of Conscious Childrearing Table of Contents)
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