Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness Curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others. Today I have a topic that’s very, very close to my heart, and it’s called conscious parenting. And I have Gulnar Virk joining me from India. She’s an awareness coach. She is a children’s yoga teacher. She’s an access consciousness practitioner. She’s also a Reiki and Pranic Healing teacher, and she’s a practising Buddhist. Gulnar tell me, what is wellness to you
Gulnar Virk: Wellness is these days quite the trending word, as is sustainable and slow life. And I think, thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all kind of discovered something that’s going on within us. But I think it’s more a state of being—finding that inner joy and happiness.
AB: We need a licence for everything, but we don’t need a licence to have a child. So tell me, what is conscious parenting? Explain to us this topic.
GV: Conscious parenting is something that came about when I became a mother. And in fact, my son was the first baby that I ever held in my arms. I was very scared of kids, to be honest. I’m not a kid person even now, but I’m obsessed with my child. I had no idea how to even breastfeed or have those sleepless nights. I mean, everyone spoke of parenting, and, oh, my God, just at the infant stage I’m talking of and then, of course, I reached the toddler stage. But I feel there are a lot of teenage vibes that he gives me. So it used to really baffle me as to how this little human had taken over my entire life? Having studied a lot in this space, I began, of course, my practice. I’ve been practising Nichiren Daishonin in Buddhism for more than a decade now. And apart from the practice that I have been following, and I made that an anchor to my life, I also got introduced to Access Consciousness. I studied Reiki. I studied pranic healing. I did everything under the sun to keep me sane while I had to stay up those nights, while I had to die for change or food, and so on and so forth. Now, when you talk about food, everything is available on the Internet. When you talk about breastfeeding, first of all, go to the doctor. And you’re kind of being given a little bit of a brief, but that connection with the child and whatever that he was going through, with his moods, with his feelings, whether he was smiling or whether he would get anxious, angry, or throw a tantrum, I think that journey for me was very important. And that’s when I realised that, hey, no one really teaches you anything. And it’s the connection that the parent and the child have. So conscious parenting means, for me, truly knowing what your child is all about. It’s also to empower your children with what they know, to let them question, and, most importantly, to just be aware of who they are without any judgement. All of us have so many judgments that we carry, and I think that rules our lives because for me, I had to keep going back to how my parents were with me, and when my husband automatically went back to how his parents were with him, it was how his parents were with him. So even when two parties are coming together here to raise this one creation that they’ve made, there are a lot of judgements and perceptions that you have. You have your own point of view. Everything kind of gets muddled up. And that’s when I realised that, no, it’s more about us following him. For me, I think conscious parenting is just observing your child without any judgement…
AB: And that, as you know, is very difficult because, like you’re saying, we all come trained that this is the way you should read, sit, eat, these are the sort of clothes you need to wear and that’s so difficult to do. What you’re saying, Conscious parenting, as in just no judgement, that’s so difficult. So tell me, what do you feel is a true conscious parent?
GV: We need to not have so many judgements and points of view as to how their child needs to lead his or her life. We have so many points of view that we believe this is how our child should be. Many parents strive to achieve their goals. So all the dreams that they couldn’t make or what life taught them, their experiences and dreams, are one package that is just handed over to your child and expects the child to say, “Okay, I got to live my life this way, but I don’t think that’s what a parent needs to do. You’ve had your experiences, and you’ve had your dreams. It’s not necessary. The child is going to take that up. There are these four factors that I also always keep going over again and again in my mind: who he is, what he wants to do, and just accepting whatever he gives back to me. The second is, of course, that I want to encourage him to a stage where I’m empowering him; that encouragement and empowerment are things that he’s going to take a long way. So tomorrow, when he comes back home, he’ll be dealing with life’s challenges. He’s going to feel that safety net. He’s going to feel safe. He’s going to want to bounce back. That is a very, very important aspect that most of us don’t follow in parenthood because we’re all about the dos and the don’ts, and that rules our lives. The last and most important point is also love. Because love and understanding have to be there. That is going to just give your child that platform of feeling confident to go and take on the world.
AB: That is so lovely. But tell me something like a lot of families will say, “Okay, this is our family culture; this is our family heritage. And sometimes, when you’re dealing with consciously trying to parent your child, like, the way you’re describing conscious parenting, they actually clash. So the choices that you’re told by your parents, as you said, by your grandparents, by your great-grandparents, might be different from what your child chooses. So how important is it?
GV: It all boils down to not defining your children’s experiences or planning their life path. This is what you have experienced in your life. Our kids are not the way we were emotionally, either. In fact, if anything, I feel they’re emotionally more secure and confident, and they were born that way. That discovery of words within wasn’t there during our parents’ time. They were very busy with the external world. They knew that, okay, we have to bring in the bread and butter, send the kids to school, and educate them well. But that education has also come a long way. So true consciousness today would be to enjoy that freedom and let your child also be aware of what he or she is feeling and why he or she is feeling that way. A very small example here. When Irvan was two years old, he suddenly ended up feeling constipated. I ran from pillar to post. I went to so many doctors, and I wanted to know what was happening. One day I just sat down and focused on my breath, and I just began chanting. And I realised, how many blocks do I have as a parent? Or how many blocks do I have towards parenthood, the city that I’m living in, or the parenthood journey that I’m possibly enjoying with my husband right now? And I realised that the block was just a manifestation in the child. The day I started writing down all the judgements I had about my journey as a parent or how I felt things should be: he needs to go to sleep on time; he needs to read this… So all of those judgements, one by one, on that list, when I kept kicking them off, were completely gone. And he’s going to turn five next month. To date, he’s never had an issue with it. Looking at our children, and most of the parents of toddlers are teenagers, they have so much anger that doors are being banged with full tantrums happening at home. But my advice to those parents would be to just look within and see how much anger you have stored within your child, which is just manifesting what’s within him. It’s as simple as that. When you are calm, you feel that your inner peace and joy are intact. You see that change automatically happens in your environment.
AB: There’s something you said that I think is magnificent. Oneness of self and environment, working with the energy, working with your own energy and the energy of the universe—that will help the child. Okay, so, Gulnar, let’s talk about the process of becoming the ultimate conscious parent. What would you recommend as the steps to take to get to a place where you’d say, “This is good”?
GV: There’s no timeline; just give yourself some time to ponder what sort of parent you are. So are you the kind who’s always telling your child what to do? Are you the angry one, or are you the one who just lets the child be, which is me? Currently, it all boils down to your behaviour as a parent. So I say, let’s begin with that. Let’s see where you are. If there is a lot of anger, resentment, regret, or guilt, write down all of those feelings to see where you are. And that’s when we take them up one by one and try to break them down further to work on your qualities. And that is going to be the start of your journey as a conscious parent or as a conscious human being. Once you list down your feelings and start journaling how you’re feeling, that brings in a lot of awareness, and self-awareness today without judging yourself is the first step towards self-care. It’s the first step towards self-love. So let’s start small. Journal your feelings. And I think that’s where you know what to work on. And I love how my entire year goes, keeping my personal goals. But the personal goals are not that I’m going to achieve this. I want to overcome certain lower-life conditions that I have this year. I wrote down that I want to be fearless and have no judgments, and I think that is my starting point. But this is something that I have to win over myself. So what you have to do to win over yourself is bend down.
AB: Absolutely. And it’s all about you working on yourself. It’s not really about trying to work on that child, it’s you working on your own issues which will help the energy with which the child grows up. Isn’t this relevant even for grown up children?
GV: I think more so for the grown-up children, because we have so many mothers, in fact, who will talk about how kids are disrespecting books. If they throw books on the floor, they’re going to walk over them, or they’re banging doors. They started listening to too much metal, but my five-year-old has started listening to metal too. The first day, I was in shock, and I said, “Hey, you know, we listen to ghazals or we listen to all the, you know, Bollywood movies.” You know, I mean, the parents were sitting and they were trying to tell their five-year-old, so what were we doing there? We were trying to turn the child into another artist, but we got to let the child be. The journey has to be very organic for you, and you need to observe what the child is all about. You don’t know what feelings are being stored. You don’t know what he or she has taken from the parents. It’s all a culmination of the feelings in the environment. Another very interesting thing, which I think most of the spiritual gurus say kids will only observe. And I feel that’s absolutely true because my son has observed my father so much that the way he dresses and tries to conduct himself, it’s a shocker for me that at that young age, you observe so much that you’ve taken after certain things. So you never know what the child is going to do. But the key here is to let that child flourish and grow. You’re there only to guide them. You’re there, possibly only to correct the legal. No, those are the dos and don’ts. Yes, share manners. Yes, share the ways of life and the culture that you’re a part of. Introduce the child to everything, but thereafter, let him or her flourish.
AB: There’s one question which comes up time and again. You know, the world that we grew up in is very different from the world today in terms of all this social media. There’s access to the internet. There is so much gaming, which you probably, if you aren’t experiencing already, you will as your son grows up, how does one navigate that whole environment?
GV: What is he watching on that? There’s also only so much that I can control. But, yes, when conversations happen, and if he’s watching something violent, whether it’s Transformers or something called Miniforce these days, that is a violent show. It gives him the opportunity to be that superhero. Of course, he calls himself Spider-Man, and everything is about fighting, winning, and taking over competition. I get that. But there’s a little bit of an educated platform that the parents have to develop here that, yes, you’re watching something, but when you watch that hours later, your mood is all about fighting or anger. Today, he’s very well aware. So the days he wants to be in that superhero mode, he’ll watch a TV show that will give him that much to probably ignite his imagination. But there are also times now where he’s sitting down and saying, “Mom, let’s watch Harry Potter.” There’s only so much that we can control as parents today. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves. What is he watching? What is he playing on an iPad? Make the child observe how he behaves. I think that’s the winner there. If the parent is in an observational space, they will observe and be in a position to tell. But if the parent is going to just sit back and say, “Oh my God, you don’t need to do this, how dare you do that?” That’s just going to bring more anger into your energy field. You’re just creating more room for arguments here.
AB: And I feel that it doesn’t just affect the kids; it also affects us. There’s such an information overload from every side, so even we get bogged down by it. And I think we even need digital-free days. Forget just the children. There are all these parenting books that have been written, and everyone has very different styles of parenting, and no one style is better than the other. But it’s interesting that some of the Western styles will actually have a time when the child is meant to nap right down to the minute and when they’re meant to wake up, which is very different, I think, from what you’re saying.
GV: My husband loves reading, and when I was pregnant, I had so many books on pregnancy, but I prefer watching a movie like What to Expect When You’re Expecting. And I think after the infant stage, there’s so much more information on how to raise children. You can’t just read and take that information. You can’t watch multiple videos, be it on Instagram or YouTube, and take that information. You can’t Google certain things about what I should do if my child is not eating or how I should handle him shutting the door on me, and the list goes on. I feel that if you’re taking all of this information as parents, why don’t you start applying it to your life and see the difference that you can make?
AB: Can we leave people with some tips and techniques that are going to help them in their journey during parenthood with children of all ages.
GV: To start journaling their feelings. I think that’s step one: journal your feelings 90% of the time in the day. Are you feeling angry? Are you feeling joy? Are you feeling a lack of something or a sense of belonging? It could be anything. The second most important thing is all the additional information that you’re consuming. Please learn to apply it somewhere to make a change within. If you’re just going to consume and there is no application, there is no change; you’re going to be at the same place where you started. So please get down to actually acting. And once you start acting on what you’re feeling and what you’re actually willing to apply to your life to bring about changes, you’ve got a winner. You will be a completely different person. If anything, I think you’ll feel relieved and just make better decisions. You’re a better person. You’re a happier person.
AB: So you’re saying journaling, awareness, applications and like we make mistakes, they make mistakes. And I think that’s fine.
GV: When you talk of food and education, these are the two things that every parent worries the most about. And teenagers—of course you’re worried about the group of friends that your child makes and the company that he or she is in. But I feel choices with a sense of responsibility are going to ground the child. And I feel those kinds of choices are going to go a long way. It’ll add not only that grounding that you’re looking for, but it will also discipline the child. Discipline and a little bit of responsibility are needed from an early age; it doesn’t matter if you’re one, two, 20, or 30; it doesn’t matter. But with these two factors and the choices that support them, you have a good, well-behaved child.
AB: That was such a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for being with us, the gorgeous Gulnar Virk. Thanks for joining us. Hope you enjoyed the Wellness Curated podcast. Please subscribe and tell your friends and family about it. And here’s to you leading your best life.