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Off late I have been trying to introduce my children, in particular my 8 year old son to spirituality. The age of reason has begun and he will soon be in his tumultuous teens. I hated my teenage years, but the one thing, I look back fondly on - is my introduction to spirituality, it helped me during that time, even now.
I am a Catholic and my husband a Hindu, so introducing "religion" in terms of "Jesus" and "Krishna" alone, would be unfair to our individual faiths. So that is when we decided, to go further and introduce them to "Spirituality" which includes the essence of all world religions and their role in this big world. Teach them how best to let their human spirit blossom in spite of fate!
I met with a young Brahmachari, who asked me my goals in wanting to be associated with his organization; I said I wanted my kids to be introduced to spirituality. We as parents do everything to be good human beings, (we fail sometimes) but being spiritual is another ball game. This wise young man asked me "Are you spiritual?" I said, sort of, maybe.
He said "You must be spiritual". Kids cannot be taught spirituality; they will catch it, when they see their house filled with it. I thought about it and it made sense.
To make this subject less esoteric and more practical I have a few suggestions. Believe me, in a secular country like ours, we have every chance to educate our children, about being spiritually conscious. India, is after all known for its spiritual wealth.
1. Visit Religious Places: Churches, Temples, Mosques, Bahai Temples, Gurudwaras, introduces children, to the concept of a God, a Life-Force that is larger than us human beings. You can lean on that force when the chips are down and thank it, when all is well.
2. Holy Texts: Keep copies of all religious texts, the Bible, The Gita, Gurugranth etc. Almost all holy books have children versions. It is nice to look at a book that might have the answers, if not at least lead you to the right ones.
3. Have a small altar of faith: Some of us have puja rooms and for those who don’t, I suggest that a designated place be allotted on the wall or a desk, where a picture of a God or a symbol of faith is placed. A feel good vibe around the house works wonders.
4. When your children feel happy or sad: This is where we as parents can step in and explain concepts like “Gratitude”, “Hope”, “Joy”. This is a chance to explain the effects of anger, envy, greed etc.
5. Introduce Silence: This is the most challenging part for me, I have not yet accomplished a 2 minute straight silence, but I know it will be good. So I have nothing more to write about.
6. Heroes: Introduce family heroes, my mother-in-law is blind and has successfully raised her children, my Mum is physically disabled but laughs. Explain how far, wide, resilient and enormous the great human spirit is.
7. Introduce Poetry/Song/Art: I am a poet and have seen my life take an upturn when I started to write. Just reading a “H W Longfellow poem, perks me up. Small poems or songs can uplift. Choose an art that makes you feel large and introduce that to your child.
8. Nature: Just a small potted plant can give your child an entire universe and introduce them to birth, death, sickness, vitality, old age etc. Basically, understanding and respecting the cycle of nature. Instead of a mall how about going to the small park and having lunch together amidst trees and birds.
9. Holidays: If its Diwali holidays light a lamp, is its Christmas, hang a stocking, if its Buddha Jayanti chant “Buddha Sharanam Gachami”. Festivals are so much more than just a holiday. It is more than new clothes and gifts, it is about reviving and celebrating the human spirit.
10. Parents: If you don’t believe in your spirit, in your truth, chances are, your kids might not see the beauty of their lives. So step back and see how lucky you are, to be parents who are educated and aware. You can try and give your kids a beautiful, grace-filled life with all its unfairness and uncertainty.
Please feel free to comment and give me any new ideas you might have.