There's a sting in the tail. Take note!
Our outer and inner worlds are intimately connected. What is inside is
reflected outside, and vice versa. Our so called peaceful world is very
fragile, because we are often so very out of touch with our selves. Our
formal western education disrupts the divine presence which the young child
experiences quite naturally.
When I came to starting my own family, I
fell into a big empty hole, because I had all these intellectual ideas
about peace but no real experience of it. Consequently my children's early
family life was a big experiment. One of the first things I noticed (from
the moment my first child was born) and obvious really - was that I was my
child's first teacher. So he copied me in every way. My movements, my
sounds, words, and my moods. He was so in tune with me,
that I began to realise that he was my
mirror. If I was shut off from myself, so was he. My Joe was a natural
mimic and took me and my husband, and everyone else, including all the
adverts on the TV, off to a tee, right down to the intonation and
underlying mood. It was a subtle hint to me. If I wanted a happy child,
happy children, I had to dig inside myself, to my own natural happy state,
and function from that point of reference. I had to be careful what I put
out there, and what kind of environment I created around them - obviously,
I wanted the best for my children - I wanted to create a nourishing,
supportive environment for them.
Actually it was very hard going the first
couple of years, because I was working in the dark. I knew that a more
peaceful way was possible, but I really hadn't a clue how to begin. My
eldest was hyperactive, very intelligent little boy, and I admit freely - I
was often at the end of my tether! But you know, as Dame Edna Everedge, that well known Australian Super Housewife
Star once said "O Lord, When I'm at the end of my tether, I hope
you're on the other end!"
When there is a real longing, there is great
focus, and the energy of that focus brings about change. I kept searching
for answers. And they came in natural, simple ways. My second child was
prone to febrile convulsions, and hearing loss, I felt sure that we should
be looking at prevention rather than just dealing with the symptoms. One
day I heard about a Doctor who also practised
complementary medicine, muscle testing for allergies and food intolerance.
So I took my little boys along and
discovered they were sensitive to refined sugar. To cut a long story short,
that single discovery was a huge practical step towards self discovery. We
learnt to eat a natural, unpolluted diet that calmed the hyperactivity,
stopped the ill health in my second child, and brought an evenness of mind
and peaceful temperament to the whole family.
In time a whole spiritual path based on
inner peace emerged, and in time I trained as a Yoga teacher, teaching part
time, running the family business, and bringing up my three children. I was
always very busy, but also happy - and our home eventually provided a
peaceful resource for the neighbourhood as well,
where people could come and learn to meditate. None of this happened overnight, it took time and happened in small,
cumulative ways. Our family life has not been without its ups and downs
(who can avoid that in life) but each child has had the opportunity to be
taught how to face and handle life's stresses.
How can we create a peaceful
environment that will nurture, support and involve our children? How can we
touch peace on a regular basis and how can we communicate it and share it
with our children?
Creating Peace is possible and it is not
difficult. It is a skill like any other and can begin in the simplest of
ways. Lama Gangchen, a Tibetan Teacher who has
worked tirelessly for peace says in his book, Peace Culture:
"Peace is not just an absence of war;
it has many qualities. It is precious, beautiful and it is our natural
There is a big clue here on how to begin. We
begin with ourselves. With our own hearts. We can work for change in our
own inner environment, by healing our mental and emotional states. We can
create a peace culture in our outer environment through loving, peaceful
actions such as nurturing our physical bodies with nourishing food and
through our own peaceful thoughts and actions, and our children too will
Here are seven key things that worked for me
in creating a peace culture in my family life.
Our thoughts are formed from old traces of
experiences, old memories, actions and thoughts. All these eventually
repeat and accumulate to create habitual reactions, tendencies and patterns
of behaviour. Just a fleeting trace of a word in
our mind can call up vast realms of thought, speech and action, because
energy follows thought. So much thought kicks in via the back door,
unchecked and all those tendencies kick in unconsciously and repeatedly.
Thoughts cluttered by unchecked baggage are not n accurate barometer for
seeing things as they really are. We get a very personalised view of the world, coloured
by our own biases, for good or bad.
So. We can create a lot of peace simply by
becoming more conscious of our thoughts - we do have a choice. We can allow
our minds to drift on unchecked, or we can harness that energy and stop it
frittering away in negative emotion, for example. We can change our
negative thoughts to good ones. Eg when I first
get up in the morning, I can notice my mood. If I wake up grumpy, who is
responsible? Am I going to let it ruin the whole day?
We create a powerful reality with our
thoughts because energy follows thought. Lets
create a happy world.
Keep a journal. It doesn't have to be every
day - that can be a chore, but fairly regular. It helps to plot your
patterns and issues. Insights bring changes - you begin to see how your
attitudes have been shaped, and how they shape your regular thoughts. Shows
your triggers - and gives you a forum to explore and off load feelings. Can
also stimulate great creativity.
A friend told me that in the school she
works, each primary school child does a weekly mind map to explore their
week - what worked, what didn't and so on. This is teaching children a life
long tool which will help in all sorts of situations in the future, and has
the added benefit of alerting teachers to any difficulty a child may need
help with resolving.
Peaceful family and neighbourly
relationships, not family arguments. Peace really does begin at home, in
your own heart. Children are so attuned to us, to our states,
they pick up on all our subtle messages.
The bottom line is this. You just
cannot rely on someone else to make the first move. It really is down to us
to take responsibility, and the rewards are greater than you could ever
One of my in-laws seemed to dislike me from
the moment she saw me. I found it very hard to deal with this unsought
animosity. I felt like a victim, and had no idea how to handle it. In some
families, rowing seems to be a way of life; other families learn to shove
everything under the carpet. Both behaviours are disfunctional, and not very helpful for genuine family
peace. So for ten years I got upset and got my buttons pushed; and then I
got fed up. The penny suddenly dropped. I couldn't wait for someone else to
make the first move to repair the situation - I had to do it myself. She
did not have the skills to do it. I had to summon up some courage and deal
with my own attitude. So one Christmas I decided to act as if. To act as if
she was my most rare and precious friend and put my whole heart into it. I
cleaned the house for a week beforehand - because she was very tidy and I
was not!! I really wanted to welcome her. I spent all Christmas working
really hard and did all the cooking and the washing up without grumbling,
just watching my mind and withdrawing from the criticism as it started to
On the last day, about half an hour before
she was due to leave, she came into the kitchen just as I was putting the
last dishes away. "O Chris" she said, "You've done the
washing up again and I never even came in and helped!"
As my mind started to kick in with it's usual reaction, I stopped myself and thought 'no,
hear her out, give her some space. You've come so far - stay with it.'
"I just want to thank you for the most
wonderful Christmas" she said. I looked into her eyes. Her words were
meant, there were tears in her eyes. Her whole being moved me. It was a
very poignant moment for us both. The tears rose in my eyes too as we
silently and genuinely hugged each other for the first time. Since that
day, we have had the odd disagreement, the odd feather ruffled (we are
after all, human beings!) but there has never been any serious animosity
between us since then.
It really is down to us to take
responsibility, and the rewards are far, far greater than you could ever
3) Meditation // Chanting // Sacred
MEDITATION AND CHANTING. A natural
progression from reflection is meditation. It is helpful to practice
formally in the beginning - 10-20 mins to begin
with, sit or lie with your back comfortably straight,
and well supported if necessary. And then we watch the thoughts but don't
let them grab us. We just watch them. We keep the focus on the present, on
the rise and fall of the breath. As the breath becomes steady and even, the
mind calms down, the thoughts slowly trickle by, the peace envelops you, Consciousness comes singing in your soul. It’s a most
amazing discovery. Doing this when my kids were small was key. 5-10 mins a day in the
beginning, when the kids catnapped. It was when I didn't do it, that I
noticed the effect on me. Keeping the attention in the present, we
experience the presence of our own consciousness. We experience peace. This
peace habit then filters into the rest of the day - when we're changing a
dirty nappy, or the children are crying over something, we have learnt the
knack of keeping our balance - or at least, of regaining it quickly!!
I sat with my children too and led them
through simple meditation. I taught them how to relax their muscles - handy
later on when they were tense and sitting an exam. And sat with them
chanting simple mantras. Chanting really does open the heart - it expands
the thymus gland on a physical level, and helps to open the spiritual
heart. Of course, theirs were already open, but it helped me to open mine,
and to share their experience. Sometimes we sang the Sanskrit mantras I had
learnt, and sometimes we sang simple English ones. This was my particular way, I encourage you to develop what feels right for
SACRED SPACE/ It helps
to create a little sacred spot in the house where you can spend some
regular quiet time. It creates a good habit in you, and also the peaceful
vibrations start to accumulate there after a while, making it easier to go
back into your peaceful state. Put a candle and a flower there, maybe a
crystal; it can be ornate or simple, whatever calms your senses. It is
somewhere your child may choose to sit too, from time to time - if they are
upset, for example. When my children were little, our sacred space was
simply a corner in my living room. Later on, when it was more appropriate,
I was the original closet yogi, with a little converted cupboard at the top
of the stairs. As they got older, I would sit in there in an odd, snatched moment
during the day. It was a little haven of peace, a five minute time-out.
Once or twice I was caught out when one of them answered the door to a neighbour - they all chorused - "oh yes, Mummy's
upstairs, sitting in the cupboard!"
4) Subtle energy work
To clear the clutter, we can do energy work.
Together with meditation these are powerful tools. Healing and energy work
act like a scouring pad, clearing out the old stored up traumas and psychic
debris and re-tuning us to the divine within. Energy work is, a modern set of practices which support our
meditation, using the vibrational base of the
practices of a spiritual tradition; there are many such systems, from Huna
to the empowerments and healing practices of Tibetan Buddhism.
Regular practice helps us to heal our
bodies, emotions, minds and spiritual levels of ourselves. Then we don't
dump our reactions and emotions on those around us. We take responsibility
for our mental states. Our children don’t get dumped on either, and are
shown how to handle those raw emotions when they come up, because they see
us responding, instead of reacting.
5) Spending conscious time with our
as involving them in our personal practices, we can teach our children to take
responsibility for their issues by involving them in such activities as
family council and so on.
TOGETHER. Sit down WITH our children at least one meal a day together -
without the television on! Community activity develops connection,
continuity, social skills like listening and tolerance, sharing time. Have
time for their stories and issues.
WALKS / ACTIVITIES. We can go out with them for walks - spend time in
natural surroundings- so that they connect with and develop respect for
Nature, trees, can feel the grass under their feet, and appreciate the sun
etc. Get them involved in growing plants, give them a little
responsibility! Do fun things and take up personal challenges with them - I
learnt to Roller-skate at the grand old age of thirty six!
6) Support practical initiatives
SHOPPING. Practice ethical consumerism - use recycled paper, recycle
bottles, choose to walk instead of always taking the bus and so on! It's
healthier for the body, and actually moderate exercise is important for a
peaceful body and mind.
Finally, give a little in charity. This does not necessarily mean money.
Time is also precious, and again children learn through our example to have
consideration for others in our community - like doing the shopping for
someone who is house ridden, or even simply going in to listen for an hour.
Even a smile can give so much to uplift another's day. It develops
gratitude and appreciation for what we have, and also brings a peaceful
attitude. In fact, we can bring loving attention to everything we do.
PRACTICAL INITATIVES to protect and nurture our environment, and peace
initiatives. For example, supporting the proposal for a permanent Spiritual
Forum at the United Nations.
7) Developing our own personal Code
These points helped to develop my own
personal code of ethics, and they worked for our family, and my children
now carry them as their own quite naturally as emerging young adults.
love. Teaching through your own personal actions that even if you don't
always like what they do, they are always loved.
Children feel secure about the adult world and they can trust you.
Not the sugar sweet kind, but the kind that will teach sensible boundaries
of behaviour, and help develop an internal sense
of discipline and regularity in their lives, together with loving
No bias towards adults or favouritism of
To receive respect, we have to give it to our children. How can they learn
to show something they have had no experience of? Children need respect
from parents and of course, they also need it from their teachers -
something often forgotten. This also includes patience for their point of
view and level of understanding!
Give truthful answers.
Don't make promises you can't keep - those made should be honoured.
to our children, being fully present with them. When they are little it
isn't always easy, of course, they want you NOW. They want a story NOW,
while you are getting their lunch!! So I would always pick them up and give
them a hug, and say something like "I can't read to you right now,
because I'm cooking for you, but here's a hug and shall we read together
afterwards? Nearly every time they were quite satisfied, because they felt
they had been heard.
As we learn to stay in touch with our inner
peace, our outer world begins to reflect it back to us. This cultivation of
peace then spreads out in a cumulative, ripple effect in our relationships,
with our children's friends and in the environment around us. This is the
sort of non-formal education we just don't get in school, but it should be
on every curriculum. If we took care to make this happen, we would have a
highly empowered, highly creative and fulfilled, peaceful society…
Let's take responsibility for creating a
peaceful world for our children. Now, more than ever before, we NEED to hold that peace inside for ourselves and our world. The great and gentle St Francis prayed "Make me a channel of your peace." This is for all of us, not just for saints! We can ALL do this. What a difference it would make!
As Lama Gangchen declares:
"Peace with everything and
everything with peace. Please."
© Chris Deefholts 2000