I was brought up Jewish, in an East-Coast, pretty liberal tradition.
We learned that the Bible was full of interesting stories written by people at different points in history, and that there were fascinating characters we could learn from.
One of these characters was God. He changed and grew over time. But, in the beginning, he was a little bit like a kid who throws a lot of tantrums.
He could come crashing down angrily and punish people who were not giving him what he wanted (and yes, God was clearly a he)… or be quite forgiving.
Over the generations, God seemed to become a little more steady and kindhearted.
But to me, thankfully, none of those characterizations of God ever represented what I believed to be the true creative energy that makes up the universe – the power that I wished on every birthday cake to; the intelligently ordered world that beckoned me to trust I had a life purpose.
To me, even as a little girl, the universe always had wisdom and love in it. I always had this sense that we were all connected; and I believed that something about growing up makes us forget that sense of connection.
I cried on the eve my 13th birthday, because I thought I’d wake up feeling separate and isolated. When I woke up, I smiled because I was still there.
But that year, things got a little fuzzy. I started drinking and smoking, and I couldn’t remember what I’d been so worried about.
When I found yoga in my 20’s, it all came rushing back. The teacher talked about universal Consciousness, an intelligence within our cells, and the goddess Shakti who manifested in all of us simply for the joy of it. In this ancient body of thought, God isn’t just all around us, she (yes, it’s a she in yoga) IS us, in a unique form.
According to yoga, God is in the intelligence of the acorn becoming an oak, in the desire of a weed to squeeze through asphalt – and in our deepest longings that guide our way.
And eventually, when I had a child, I wanted her to experience that kind of loving, nurturing world. I realized that for her, I was god – the great Mother. That’s all she knew at first – I was the whole universe. She looked into my eyes to see what kind of a world she had entered.
So, I set out to embody the highest, most nurturing, loving energy I could for her. I put her in a love bubble. No matter what she did, I showered her with love. I witnessed her growth, I supported her, I let her have her path but secretly made sure it was safe.
My daughter didn’t cry much. She was a genuinely happy kid. And soon, she learned the word “no.”
I turned to offering consequences, so I could stay calm and loving no matter what she did: “ok, remember what I said would happen if you throw your food again? That’s not appropriate for the table so if you feel the need to do that we’ll have to go home.”
Once, I had to take her toy away for something. She cried. She cried some more. And then she did something that touched me deeply.
She walked over to me and cried in my arms.
At that moment I knew I was on the right track. I was able to console her in the midst of her pain which, in a way, I had caused. But for her this “pain” was merely just the consequences of her actions. It’s a little Godfather-y, but that’s the point: we are all-powerful to them. And we can still love and nurture them when they are misbehaving, or being people we don’t like.
If we, as parents ,accept that we are playing god for our children, and fully step into this role to embody our highest possibilities, we can help them feel at ease in the world.
Yes, bad things are going to happen to them. But ultimately, when they can see the world as a benevolent place, they can be courageous throughout their lives: they might reach out to connect more, knowing the possibility of support is out there; they might have bigger aspirations, knowing they have everything they need within them; they might trust their intuition more, knowing this universal intelligence is within them.
It’s not that I don’t show her the darkness in the world. We watch Stephen Colbert together and talk politics, and read stories in Time Magazine about the opioid epidemic.
But I also want her to know we are free to choose what we will focus on – all the negative ugliness – or choose to make our path a meaningful one.
When we are held in a loving container, we sense our greatest potential.
If I did one thing that didn’t royally screw my daughter up, it’s choosing to step into my highest Self every day. I did this by having a daily practice that connects and centers me. I sit down at my little meditation table with my head spinning, and I get up feeling more like the powerful, wise, and nurturing goddess, or “Ma”, that we all are.
I believe stepping into my own highest Self so I can come to her with an open heart requires a daily practice. No matter how enlightened we are, we don’t wake up as our highest Self or come home from work as our highest Self. We must connect to it consciously, each day, through a meditation or yoga practice that works for us.
She’s 11 now, and last night she said “Mom! I love you!” out of the blue. I knew that she was feeling happy and excited and safe, and in some ways it’s not me she’s loving, it’s the whole world she feels such a part of.
And that’s the highest achievement in my life: teaching her that she is an expression of something higher, something mysterious and wonderful, and that through this universal energy we are all connected to each other.