CHANGING HISTORY: TOWARD THE ERA OF SACRED PARENTING.
DEAR FRIENDS-- This essay is taken largely from my correspondence with the late Alice Miller- the brilliant and courageous author and psychologist who discovered the existence of the "Inner Child" and almost single-handedly brought the reality of child abuse to the attention of the world.
Over the course of our exchanges I shared with Ms. Miller my idea of ending the human race's misunderstanding and abuse of its own children via a revolutionary spiritual teaching. She was deeply inspired and permanently posted our dialog on her website. It was our joint hope that this vision of a world beyond child abuse/exploitation- and the social ills such as war, interpersonal violence and widespread inner misery that directly stem from it- would strengthen the hearts and raise the spirits of of people today and the generations to come.
Why do we need a new set of teachings to free our hearts and minds and literally change the course of history? The answer is clear: The way we see and treat ourselves, each other and the world is most powerfully determined by a single factor- how our authentic selves are treated as children. Humanity's understanding of its core emotional and spiritual needs literally determines the fate of the world.
I was astounded when I first grasped the fact that no spiritual or religious tradition has been aware of- nor made central to its teachings!- this primal truth of human existence. It is both instructive and ironic, for example, that the basis of Judeo-Christian tradition- the Ten Commandments- demands that we honor our parents. And yet there is no divine command to honor and respect one's children! Which would amount to a far deeper understanding of who we are as human beings- and give birth to a far happier world- since children whose needs are warmly understood and respectfully treated will love and honor their parents with no need of a moral dictum.
Or again- in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions there are explicit prohibitions against doing harm to animals and even trees. But absolutely no clear teaching of non-violence toward the most helpless among us- our children. This is almost beyond belief- yet true!
From their inception to the present day our great spiritual traditions have completely failed to raise a voice against child beating and in fact all forms of physical/sexual/emotional abuse. For example, how sad that the religions of love (Christianity) and awareness (Buddhism) failed to love children enough to prohibit violence toward them specifically and in no uncertain terms. Or developed sufficient awareness to awaken people to the central impact of childhood in shaping our fundamental attitudes.
A worldwide evolution in compassion and understanding toward the developing child must be the guiding light of the next spiritual awakening that permanently ends the generational cycle of pain and the social ills that have stemmed from it through the millenia.
Like any "game changing" idea my fundamental proposal is simple- that which has the greatest impact on human existence must be placed at the center of human spirituality. Why? Because our religious and spiritual teachings focus our attention on certain aspects of life and experience- and away from others. For thousands of years our traditions have focussed our attention away from the deepest truth about ourselves. What we experience as children is by far the most powerful thing- for good or ill- that ever happens to us. Therefore our understanding of the path we all take- the child's journey into selfhood- and the positive evolution of the parent-child relationship has to become the living heart of our psychology, ethics and spirituality.
We must place our ultimate attention- and search for ultimate answers- on whether our path of growth wounds us or supports us, stunts our sacred aliveness or frees our limitless creativity and love.
In present-day Western societies, the religion-based prohibitions that forbid protesting against parental cruelty and injustice are losing power. This is a welcome development because there is one less layer of dread for the real self to overcome. The greatest fear, though, has always been fear of the parent's (not the Deity's) rejection and violence. Violence toward children- whether physical, emotional or sexual- is a fundamental betrayal. Rejection of the child's real self and the demand for its conformity to the parents/society's needs destroys the child's trust in self and in life. The resulting isolation and despair-- and the pain of a broken heart-- are what we deny the most.
Seeing the truth of one's own betrayal and feeling (in order to release and heal) your broken heart is a heroic journey. Ms. Miller asked me: " What can be done in your opinion to overcome this fear, to enable people to give up their denial about the pain in their own upbringing and thereby become more empathic parents?"
The answer is simple but it requires individual bravery and the loving support of others. To develop the depth of empathy that children need and deserve, parents must open their hearts to the pain of their own struggles as children, including the many forms of subtle (guilt/shame/manipulation/abandonment) and gross (spanking/sexual) abuse they encountered. They need to "clear" themselves of their own pain and negative conditioning. By doing this they will see how to avoid or stop treating their children in similar ways. This process both multiplies their natural love for their children and guides their actions and attitudes. Over the years I have assisted many parents in achieving this.
It is far past time that we ask ourselves: What will it take for millions of parents and other adults to do enough of this work to permanently awaken humanity? Currently only a few take the journey. Why? Because the pain is daunting, able therapists are few, the cost in time and money are great, and society simply doesn't encourage it. Society isn't even aware of the damage being passed down the generations- and the clear connection between emotional and physical violence in childrearing and the plague of war and injustice that no prior spiritual awakening has been able to stop.
This is why we need to think in terms of a worldwide movement-- a true spiritual revolution. The necessity of stopping the cycle of violence must become "common sense" in every society and every culture. Although it may take centuries for the transformation to permanently take hold, I know that we can and will achieve it.
We need to grow a worldwide movement to end the misunderstanding and abuse of children and usher in the era of "sacred and conscious parenting".
The thoughts I will share with you next are a work in progress. They are by no means definitive, complete or my final words on the subject. They spring from my vision of ending the centuries of misunderstanding and suffering of children around the world, thereby sparing future generations the pain of broken lives and the destructiveness of war, poverty and injustice. Imagine with me now a worldwide movement to heal ourselves, protect children and usher in the era of Sacred Parenting. A world where our natural love and goodness would be free to realize humanity's universal dream of peace.
This dream is written on our hearts because we are meant to achieve it. In real-world terms, what would such a movement need to take root and flourish? I will attempt to answer this question below.
As John Lennon once sang- "You may say that I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one....." I hope you will join me in this quest and by imagining the birth of a better world bring it closer. LOTS OF LOVE-- BRIAN
Notes on a Spiritual Revolution:
To mobilize and grow a worldwide movement to end child abuse and spread Sacred Parenting, the teachings involved MUST be invested with spiritual power and meaning. That is, they must be taught as sacred knowledge and proclaimed as essential both to individual happiness and our collective salvation. The revelations about children's basic rights and needs are as fundamental a shift in humanity's awareness and ability to succeed as Moses' Ten Commandments, Jesus' teachings on love and brotherhood and Buddha's doctrines of compassion and the Eightfold Path. The Sacred Teachings on Love and Childhood, offered as a path to end unnecessary suffering and ensure the victory of peace, joy and love, will reach deeply into the hearts and minds of millions who want to protect children and heal the world.
The Movement to End Child Abuse and Teach Sacred Parenting will need:
1. A vivid revelation of the nature and scope of child abuse.
2. A compassionate and clear understanding of the effects of "parenting in error" on both individuals and civilization as a whole.
3. A clear and loving understanding of the fundamental rights and needs of children.
4. The development of self-help organizations -- the Movement's "sanctuaries" -- where parents can learn "positive parenting" skills and discover how to identify and end their own dysfunctional patterns. "Positive Parents/Parents Anonymous/Conscious Parenting/Sacred Parenting".
5. To make alliances with existing religious and spiritual institutions by defining the eradication of child abuse in terms of their own values and mission. When understood in depth, the Teachings on Love and Childhood are in deep alignment with the original purpose of every religious and spiritual tradition. These teachings -- because they center on what everyone holds as most sacred, our children -- can unite humanity across all cultural, religious and political boundaries.
6. Media Presence -- Regular appearances of effective spokespeople on television, radio, and the internet. Establishment of Movement-sponsored media outlets devoted to
a.raising awareness of children's fundamental needs and rights
b. educating the public about the nature of abusive attitudes and behavior
c. spreading the skills and attitudes that comprise sacred/positive/conscious parenting
d. advising people about how to stop abusive patterns of attitude and behavior.