The biggest influence in my spiritual growth has been the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. His insights have helped me to redefine my personal and religious beliefs, as well as, recognize patterns within myself to reshape and guide me towards my life’s purpose. Through his works I have discovered the oneness of life. Tolle promotes being in the ‘now’ of life; fully present, to engage life as your truest self.
In his book, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” he discusses the concept of roles. He explains that at most moments in life, we are projecting ourselves into a role. For example: When you go into a store, you are playing the role of customer. When you are at your job, you are playing to role of your job title. When you are speaking to a child, you are playing a role. We shape ourselves in situations, to best mold what is expected and accepted. He points this out because, when you are playing a role, you are no longer being fully present with life. Rather, in those moments, you are filtering yourself through this assumed role, thus masking your consciousness, or soul.
In Tolle’s online series with Oprah, where they go through each chapter of this book in detail, he explains that parenting is a role that is also played. He is not implying that being a parent is not without very real obligations to tend to their children, but that often parents get lost in their role of mommy or daddy, and thus they are no longer living from a place of presence. Oddly, this presence is the greatest tool and gift we can offer our children to build human connection and understanding. It’s when we are operating from this place of presence, without ego, or roles, that we are able to tap into that patience, guidance, and resounding love.
Tolle states, “The all-important question is: Are you able to fulfill the function of being a parent; that is, without it becoming a role? Part of the necessary function of being a parent is looking after the needs of the child, preventing the child from getting into danger, and at times telling the child what to do and no to do. When being a parent becomes an identity, however, when your sense of self is entirely or largely derived from it, the function easily becomes overemphasized, exaggerated, and takes you over. Giving children what they need becomes excessive and turns into spoiling; preventing them from getting into danger becomes over-protectiveness and interferes with their need to explore the world and try things out for themselves. Telling children what to do or not to do becomes controlling, overbearing. What is more, the role-playing identity remains in place long after the need for those particular functions has passed… The role of the parent is still being played compulsively, and there is no authentic relationship… On the surface, it looks as if they were concerned about their child, and they themselves believe it, but they are only really concerned about preserving their role-identity. All egoic motivations are self-enhancement and self-interest, sometimes cleverly disguised, even from the person in whom the ego operates.”
So, what does parenting look like from a place of presence? It looks like listening; not merely hearing, but listening with a sense of equality between beings. It looks like removing expectation, or judgment. It looks like not projecting our adult desires onto our children. It looks like flexibility. Tolle describes it as, “As you look at, listen to, touch, or help your child with this or that, you are alert, still, completely present, not wanting anything other than that moment as it is. In this way, you make room for Being. In that moment, if you are present, you are not a father or mother. You are the alertness, the stillness, the Presence that is listening, looking, touching, even speaking. You are the Being behind the doing.”
The reason why presence as our way of life is so crucial, especially as a parent, is, as Tolle puts it, “The longing for love that is in every child is the longing to be recognized, not on the level of form, but on the level of Being.” When he says ‘form’ he is referring to our physical body and our manifested ego. He’s saying, without being fully present, we can still project love, but that feeling of true connectedness, of being understood, or recognized as your deeper self; that is true love, and that only happens when we live in the ‘now’.
I wish every Mother a wonderful Mother’s Day! May you embrace your presence, and be with those you love from that place.