Parenting As a Spiritual Path

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By Emma Carruthers

Life as a parent of two small children is not always easy. It doesn’t often look like a corn flakes ad, and it isn’t always easy to maintain equanimity and repose. However, as a long-time Hridaya community member, I don’t know how many times a day I reflect on my gratitude for the teachings and the years of practice I put in before becoming a mother. I have come to think of parenting as a spiritual path in itself—whether its end goal is self-liberation, who can say—but that is perhaps not designed to be the ultimate end goal of any path.
I have always been inspired by the simple Tibetan phrase that spiritual practice is about “traits not states,” that beautiful states of meditation are wonderful and very transformative, but ultimately it is the shift in personal traits that is a greater sign of progress on the path. And there is no better testing ground than parenting small children—whose demands, tantrums, and constant needs always come first above your own.

Motherhood and Self-InquiryThrough years of meditation and Hridaya Retreats, I developed patience, endurance, discipline, and deeper levels of compassion and empathy for others, though most importantly, acceptance for what is. It is through a daily practice of acceptance that I am able to ride the most difficult moments of motherhood and come out on the other side full of optimism. This, I believe, is ultimately the practice that has benefited me most through these years, and not only with my children.

Constant acceptance of what is and openness to it in life in general is the path I am on. I am also so grateful that I may be able to pass on some of these teachings to my two children and that they will live a life of greater ease with simple clues that I was not taught as a child. Patience, compassion for others, acceptance. These are the fruits of the path, and it is a long path that I am still walking.

–Emma is the co-founder of The Hermitage Silent Retreat Center, an oasis for solitary and dark room retreats on the stunning shores of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala.

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