Can you think of a greater gift for our children than the possibility of allowing them to grow up in a world full of conscious development and potential? You can do this, even if these wonderful options were not available to you as a child. As parents, we can give our children the gift of an awakened life.
How easy it would be to bequeath the gift of the awakened life if those who raised us were exemplary models of liberated self-confidence and insightful creativity; and if they raised us knowing that the evolution of consciousness and culture were the most important aspects of life. How easy indeed!
But, many of us were raised to unwittingly honor and respect limitations. And there is nothing wrong with this. Yet, your own awakening often reveals that the True Self and the universal ego-mind were seamlessly entangled without your even knowing. And after all, those who instilled self-interested drives in us did so because they loved us dearly, and only wanted the best for us. In most cases, our forefathers were unaware that those same conditioned ego-directives were also guiding their lives. The discovery of previously concealed conditioning is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as we remain aware of its presence.
Here is a simple guide to the evolution of awareness in our children with some suggestions so that you may respond to them from an awakened perspective:
Age: 0 – 1 year: Though in the early months, a child’s awareness is completely fused with physical reality, they quickly learn to differentiate between their own bodies and external objects. Physical boundaries are set. Also at this age children assume that what they feel is what the world feels. And, while the formation of self-organizing principle of the psyche – the Freudian Ego – is already underway, the ego-mind or separate self-sense has not yet developed.
Parental role: Support physical differentiation, appreciate the conflict the children may experience because of emotional fusion and give lots of love and security.
Age: 1 – 3 years: The emotional self now begins to distinguish between what it feels and what the world feels and realizes it’s not necessarily the same. Enter the ‘terrible twos’. This is also the first awakening of a separate self at the level of emotions. There is still no individuated sense-of-self, no ‘personal me’, at the mental level. That’s why when a two-year-old looks in a mirror there’s another child, not yet a ‘me’. Prior to the natural evolution of the separate sense-of-self or a ‘personal me’ in their consciousness, young children are very much at home in the present. This combination makes for a somewhat idyllic, albeit unconscious ‘now’. Young children will cover their own eyes to play ‘hide and seek’ because they are under the impression that if they can’t see us, we can’t see them. Since they can’t yet take another person’s perspective, their view of the world is the only one!
Parental role: Support the emotional separation of the self from its environment and appreciate that the little ones are now beginning to realize that they are susceptible to all the ups and downs of an emotionally sensitive being. Be aware also that your emotional states and/or shadow do not distress the child. And be sure to play lots of ‘hide and seek’.
Age: 4 – 6 years: This age begins the most critical time for awakened parenting. Now a mental self is emerging in the conceptual mind, which children will eventually identify with as ‘me’. Notice that children at the outset of this age range don’t look forward to events. This is because the child does not yet have ‘personal me-sense’ nor a concept of the future to put that ‘individual me’ in. And similarly, without a concept of a past and a ‘me’ in that past, there is no reason to regret. Starting around the age of four, a child’s attention will naturally emerge from an unconscious present and begin to grasp the past and the future as diverse ideas. It is at this same time that a ‘self’ appears at the level of the thinking mind. As children locate that image of ‘me’ in the emerging concepts of the past and the future, they can project the image of that ‘individual me’ into those concepts. So, children see a ‘me’ in the future and learn to imagine, anticipate and worry. They can also see an image of ‘me’ in the past and hence learn to regret.
Parental role: Continue to remain detached from the children’s passing emotional states and help them objectify their passing feelings. Constantly remind them that they are much more than just the current state of their emotions. This also helps them not to be completely identified with the ‘personal me’ as the center of their awareness. Later on, plant the idea of the Witness in the child’s awareness. The Witness is only aware of passing emotional, cognitive states, and the appearance of individuality, yet not at all attached or affected by these conditions. This can be done through tales or games. ‘You are not the cloud, you only witness the cloud’ for instance, can be brought all the way in to ‘you are not your thoughts’ or ‘you are not your emotions, you only witness your thoughts and emotions’.
Age: 7 – 9 years: This age continues to be a most magical time for children primarily because the self and the world are still not clearly differentiated yet. Early on, imaginary friends give children ‘special powers’ and help them do all sorts of ‘tricks’! Formal education now begins to advance their mental development. Also, children begin to develop more independence with their own friends and activities. The idea of a Supreme Being or creator of the universe soon appears and will solidify in the child’s awareness according to the cultural conditioning of the parents.
Parental role: Support the magical phase as passing and encourage cognitive development by active participation in that process. Begin to introduce children to other ways of living and thinking. Tell them about peers in other cultures who could be behaving in different ways because of how they are being reared. Show them different races, colors, religions, customs… so they can start to observe and appreciate that there are other ways of living beyond their own culture. Teach children that the creator of the universe is heavily influenced by their culture and introduce them to as many different mythic belief systems as possible. Continue to work with children on the objectification of emotional, cognitive states, and the self-image. Introduce the child to the practice of meditation to strengthen the witness.
Age: 10 – 12 years: Around this age children begin to be able to take the role of another person. This means that they can put themselves in your shoes and see the world as others do. This is a profound shift in awareness. Children can think about thinking and such abstractions as ‘what if’ and ‘as if’ can be grasped. Cultural values are also being infused because of growing interactions with other people and society. The lone ego begins to expand to its group, family, tribe, and country, not yet beyond.
Parental role: The key at this age is to introduce the child to the concept of shared values as a way of initiating and supporting long-term relationships. Values are usually passed down from culture to parent, and from parent to child. If you consciously identify your values and create consistency in living those principles, you can create a way in which the child can relate to you with great ease, no matter what the age. Relationships will be free from all unnecessary emotional, personal and psychological conflict when they are based on shared values for the sake of humanity. This also is a great time to introduce children to the shadow work of the Big Mind Process that will help them to distinguish inauthentic emotions for authentic emotions.
Age: 13 – 16 years: The most important thing to children now is how they fit in with their peer groups and the ever-widening world at large. Now they are realizing that their ego is not the only one in an ever-expanding world. Children are susceptible to repeating untruthful scripts that later may cause depression. For example, if one person does not like them, then they tend to think they are ‘unlikable’.
Parental role: Show them that just because they may be unpopular with one person or one group, this does not mean that they are universally unpopular. Teach children to be objective of the sometimes overwhelming biological urges of puberty and educate them on the radical changes that are going to occur during this time. Encourage activities and relationships beyond the sometimes restrictive socially acceptable norms. This is also a great time to introduce children to the works of such great teachers as Buddha, Jesus, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, Gandhi, Tolle, and to Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics and Evolutionary Enlightenment. Encourage the deepening of meditation and continued objectivity on the separate sense-of-self. Encourage your children to develop clarity on their values and then offer them an approach to major life decisions that includes a single hierarchy of values.
By affording our children the conscious development of body, mind, spirit and shadow, this practice will become inherent in their daily routines and perhaps they will pass this wisdom on to our grandchildren.
About the Author:
© 2008 Mick Quinn, All Rights Reserved
Mick Quinn is the author of The Uncommon Path and Poder Y Gracia and the founder of Choice for Enlightened Living Foundation. Mick’s work is quoted in The LA Times, Yahoo!, CNN Living, and Woman’s World. Gary Renard, the best-selling (Hay House) author said this book is informative and gripping. Raquel Torrent – Psychologist and founder of the Spanish Integral Association said, Mick Quinn’s style is clear and direct – like silence making music. Mick lives in Utah with wife Debora. For upcoming events visit: www.mickquinn.com