Parenting and Spiritual Life
by Johanna van Zwet

Mom and dad are meditating. Eyes closed, they are quietly and rhythmically breathing in and breathing out. They are waiting to be transported to ever further reaches of the mind. And where are the kids? Well, they're tearing down the house!

Surely there must be a better way to live a spiritual life and raise a family at the same time. How can the practical world of child rearing be reconciled with the lofty realm of spirituality? You might argue that parenting is such a practical and busy occupation, there is neither time nor place for transcendent thinking. And that spirituality with its skyscraping concepts is too far removed from a parent's life. Well, here is where practical spirituality comes in. Practical means the translation of nebulous spiritual concepts into tangible objectives. You can bring spirituality to bear on many issues facing you as a parent today when you follow three golden guidelines, namely Turn within, Look for the spiritual reality in everyday life, and Express what you know to be true in your heart.

Turn Within

The arrival of children is one of the most defining moments in a person's life. From now on there are new players in the field, who will make sure that they are taken into account. The emotional strain of dealing with growing children on a daily basis can at times be overwhelming. Few have experienced heights of happiness and depths of despair of this magnitude and in this frequency ever before. Is there a place a parent can turn to, a place to retreat, to find new energy and vision?

That place is found within. The way to find peace of mind and purpose in the thickX-Mozilla-Status: 0009for strength and vision to come from within. It is there that you are connected to the Source of Life. You can consciously choose to open yourself to let Life flow through your inner being, outward, toward the people and conditions around you. You can accomplish anything that is asked of you as long as the life line with the Source of Life is vibrant and strong.

Not just parents can choose to do this, anybody can. But parenthood is a beautiful opportunity to develop inner life. It confronts you with the stress of an endless stream of demands, needs and chores, as well as offers you a first row seat to experience the beauty of Creation. You are bound to be too overwhelmed by the first part, the pressures, to even notice the second part, the beauty, if you do not find inner peace at the center of your being.

Turning within is the first crucial step on the path to practical spirituality. This does not mean that you leave the kids to their own counsel and retreat into your inner space. On the contrary. When you see in parenting an opportunity to apply what you know to be true, your children's needs will not impinge on your own. Instead their needs will become calls to turn within and consult your inner wisdom. Then, when coming back into the world with its daily occurrences and problems, you will be directed to do what works best for all involved. Guiding your growing children you are called to grow too.

Spiritual Reality

The next golden guideline for practical spirituality is to look for and recognize the spiritual reality in your everyday life. You are a three dimensional being. You are comprised of body, mind and spirit. These three levels of your being are not isolated from each other. Together they form who you are. You express yourself on the physical, mental and spiritual level, as do your children. To get clarity into parenting issues you need to include the spiritual reality in your view. Spiritual reality is the place where the spark of an idea originates, it is the world where intention plays a key role and where ideals are landmarks. Most of all, it is the realm where Love is recognized as the essence of Life.

This does not mean that a certain problem, like disobedience or whining, can be categorized as belonging to either the physical, mental or spiritual level. No, circumstances and experiences are integrated phenomena. The essence of an experience manifests on various levels at the same time. There are several mutually non-exclusive ways to look at an occurrence. Only for the purpose of appraising the situation, is it helpful to distinguish between the various levels of reality.

When facing an ordinary problem like whining or disobedience, you can let yourself be guided by what you know or sense to be the spiritual reality beyond the appearance of the problem. Reaching for a spiritual viewpoint and gaining spiritual insight helps greatly in obtaining and keeping peace of mind in the hustle and bustle that is a parent's life. It offers you a deeper understanding of any given situation.

Moreover, living with babies and children encourages you to look at yourself and your attitude towards life. Their rebellion and stubbornness are invitations to learn gentleness, kindness and self control. When their needs take precedence over your own personal desires, an opportunity to learn patience presents itself. Living with babies and children also opens the eyes to the wonders of life. Hugging them and witnessing their growth and development is a source of joy and gratitude.

Express what you know to be true in your heart

The third guideline for practical spirituality in daily life with kids is the expression of what you know to be true in your heart. The American mystic and psychic Edgar Cayce calls this: the spiritual ideal. A spiritual ideal is a thought that to you represents the highest understanding of truth and purpose in your life. It is the highest standard that you can imagine yourself to live up to. It is not an idea or a goal that can be attained and then replaced or forgotten. It is a thought belonging to the spiritual realm that is very private, and individual in the sense that it fits you perfectly. It is something you aspire to and at the same time already hold within you. By consciously reaching for it, you take the first step on the road to making that quality a conscious part of you. It will become the standard against which you measure the quality of your life.

Identifying your individual spiritual ideal opens the way to express in tangible form what you know to be true within you. To work with a spiritual ideal is to live it day to day. This means that you shift emphasis from outcome to intent. Your attitudes and intentions become the focal point, rather than some defined objective result. This is quite a change from the perspective the western world typically promotes, with its focus on size of bank account, social standing, possessions, good looks, etc.

Ultimately humanity shares one spiritual ideal, namely the return to God (Spirit), or, put differently: "Oneness with God". Because this may sound too far removed from your daily life to be practicable, you need to create a statement that makes sense for you in your particular situation. This involves reflection and contemplation of the various forms Spirit expresses itself in our three dimensional world, such as: Love, Patience, Hope, Justice, Harmony, Beauty, Perfection, and so on. Take any of these, or another quality that speak to you, name that particular one as your temporary spiritual ideal. It's not set in stone. You can always change or adjust it later.

After defining your individual spiritual ideal you need to translate it into mental terms as well as physical terms. To make the spiritual ideal a unifying positive force in your life, you need to address your mental and physical realities as well. From the one spiritual ideal the mental and physical ideals flow naturally, and thus a framework is established that connects the inner world (Spirit) through the intermediary (mind) with the physical outer world and your relationship with your kids. That very connection is what makes a person whole. Living your individual spiritual ideal makes you whole and gives you direction.


As a parent you face a range of questions, problems and decisions you could never have dreamed of before. If you do not find a way to respond effectively to matters that come up daily, life with kids will overtake you and leave you bewildered and exhausted. The three guidelines of practical spirituality assist you in facing real life issues. You now have a set of tools at your fingertips with which you can transform lofty spiritual concepts into clear objectives in the parent-child relationship. Consider the following example:

Anita and her three year old daughter Eve love each other deeply and enjoy being together. Anita is a devoted mother and Eve is as healthy and bubbly as a three year old could be. This morning, as usual, Eve does not accept the clothes her mother selects for her and flings them to the floor. The clothes Eve wants to wear are totally inappropriate, both for the time of year, as for the activities planned for the day. They're both upset and close to tears when Anita finally tries to force the clothes over Eve's head. Anita is ready to throw in the towel, right next to the pile of rejected clothes, when she stops and pauses.

She decides to consider this recurring problem in the light of her framework of ideals. Her spiritual ideal is: To be a worker for justice and peace, and her mental ideals are: To be fair, and To trust my inner guidance. Anita comes to the conclusion that forcing Eve to wear her mother's choice of clothing is inconsistent with her spiritual ideal. She will not be tempted again to solve the problem this way. Through turning within and consulting inner guidance she is able to release her personal concept of the way Eve should be dressed. She recognizes the spiritual reality that Eve is her own person and that, within reasonable boundaries, she has the right to create her own world, in this case the way she looks. When Anita decides to apply her set of ideals, she lets justice (from: To be a worker for justice) and fairness (from: To be fair) point the way. The bottom shelf of Eve's closet will be reserved for a small variety of clothes appropriate for the current season. Eve will choose her clothes from this shelf and dress herself. Of course a three year old cannot match an adult's sophistication and Anita has a hard time holding back her comments. However, she is determined to live her ideals and she devises an affirmation to use each time she is on the verge of remarking on Eve's way of dressing. She mentally steps out of the situation for a moment and says to herself:

"I love your eyes, I love your smile
Those are all I need right now"

Then she waits until she has thought of something nice to say to Eve.

By responding in this new way Anita recognizes and respects her daughter's feelings as well as her own. By changing both her attitude and her routine Anita has effectively applied her spiritual ideal: To be a worker for justice and peace. She is able to express in her relationship with her daughter what she knows to be true in her heart.

Parents are flooded with issues like the one mentioned, every day. Whatever the issue you face, remember the three golden guidelines:

  • Turn within,
  • Look for the spiritual reality, and
  • Express what you know to be true in your heart.

Armed with these tools you will no longer feel at a loss in the face of trial and tribulation. Even though the problems you face will not vanish overnight, they will no longer be debilitating or make you feel inadequate. Now you know how to bring spiritual truth to bear on practical daily issues.

Turn within. As a parent you cannot afford to be cut off from the flow of life, from the flow of inspiration. You need a place to come back to, to find peace and feel renewed dedication. As your children develop their bodies and sharpen their minds, you are challenged to turn within for guidance and peace. As long as you keep the lifeline to your center strong and vibrant there is no reason to feel hesitant, disheartened or intimidated. Within is found the fount of life, from which you ladle out blessings to both your children and yourself.

Look for the spiritual reality in everyday life. Reaching for the spiritual perspective will change your outlook and attitude. Insight into spiritual reality gives you a fuller understanding of life and opens your eyes to new ways to grow as a person.

Express what you know to be true by applying your spiritual ideal. Living with your children can be a joyful, enriching experience when you are consciously connected on three levels: physically, by living together and sharing activities; mentally, through encouragement, guidance and planning; and spiritually, by loving your children and sharing with them your life's deepest truth, your spiritual ideal. Living your spiritual ideal forges who you are with what you do. When your heart's intent is made visible through the work of your hands you are on your way to wholeness.

Copyright 1997 Johanna van Zwet.
Ms. van Zwet is the author of My Kids Grow and So Do I: A Parent's Toolbox for Practical Spirituality. For more on the subject of parenting and practical spirituality, as well as information about the book, visit her website:

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