Parenting as Spiritual Evolution: A Conversation with Dr. Shefali
Shefali Tsabary, PhD, is an international speaker, acclaimed author, and creator of the groundbreaking Conscious Parenting approach—which Oprah Winfrey has endorsed as revolutionary and life-changing. Dr. Shefali’s blend of clinical psychology and Eastern mindfulness sets her apart as a leader in the field of mindfulness psychology. Her New York Times best-selling books include The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family.
1440: You say that “answering the call to look into the mirror our children provide for us is the hallmark of a conscious parent.” How do parents learn to recognize this call? What does it mean to answer it?
Dr. Shefali: The way I look at parenting is that it’s a spiritual and sacred journey for the parent to discover their true self. The traditional paradigm doesn’t look at parenting like this. It looks at the parent as being in charge, the one who is hierarchically more dominant, who is bestowed this child as a chore, to do unto the child, to raise the child, and to almost create the child into who the parent believes he or she needs to be.
The new paradigm, the conscious paradigm that I espouse, is the anthesis.
In the conscious paradigm, the parent recognizes the sacred purpose of the child’s presence in its life is to awaken the parent to discover his or her own conditioning, his or her own emotional baggage, and to heal that within the parent before the parent seeks to raise the child.
A conscious parent is one who understands that the first person who needs to be raised is the parent themselves, and only then can they endeavor to raise the child.
Now, how can parents recognize this call when most people are unconscious as to the sacred purpose of relationship, particularly the one they share with their child. Because of this unconsciousness, they may not pay heed to invitations that abound. So it’s only through pain and conflict, and disconnection that we, as humans, typically grow.
When most parents heed the call is when their children are in pain, or in trouble, when there are too many red flags. That’s when the parent seeks the therapist, and even then, they’re very resistant, and they don’t want to answer the call. And it’s only through a process of awakening that they begin to realize that what is happening between the parent and the child has very much to do with the parents’ own baggage.
The parents’ own expectations and projections onto the child are really cues and clues for the parent to go within to discover why it is that they have allowed a situation to occur, and the reason is often in the parents’ own inner wounding.
1440: Are we ever truly prepared for parenthood?
Dr. Shefali: No, we’re never prepared. We can be prepared on the phony base level of material, logical existence. We can have the house. We can have the room ready. We can have diapers, and we can have money. But you simply cannot be prepared because how can you prepare for meeting a stranger? You can’t. What will be evoked can only be evoked in the moment. And it’s very transient.
It’s such a great lesson in spirituality and evolution because it’s a moment-by-moment, ever-changing process that the parent can only survive and transcend if they are fully present moment-by-moment.
The parent/child journey is one of the greatest portals to spiritual awakening because it’s intimate, it’s biological (in most cases), and it’s moment-by-moment.
You are in charge, but you’re not in charge. You have to provide, but then you gotta let it all go. You need control, but no control. There are these indisposing dualities overlaying the moment, and every moment forces the parent to either wake up, or wait until the pain wakes them up.
1440: What about our expectations of family? Do you find that people approach the experience of parenthood with realistic expectations of themselves and their children?
Dr. Shefali: No, they don’t. And it’s tied into this myth of being able to prepare. People live in the material world, so they believe preparation is material preparation. They don’t understand that this is the most spiritual and emotional process of their lives, where they will be demanded upon to change moment-by-moment, and recalibrate every known notion of truth, every known idea of old belief systems.
In the old paradigm, parents enter the journey with heavy-handed expectations based on their conditioning, and they project this onto the child, without care of who the child truly is. In this process of projection of expectation, fantasy, inner longing, and inner incompletion, the parent misses who the child truly is. And this is how you create an inauthentic self in the child, who now seeks to match your version of who it needs to be. And that’s how all of us are disconnected from our true selves.