Friday, March 15, 2013

Learning is seeking answers to our original questions

Isha loves to drink raw coconut oil. One day last week, she went to grab the big glass bottle with a litre of oil in it to get a few spoonfuls herself. I said 'Wait, it is very heavy and oily. Let me wash my hands and get it for you.' She chose to ignore what I said and grabbed it anyways only to drop it right away! The bottle broke. One litre of oil was all over the bottle shelf.

My immediate reaction was to say 'Look what you have done! I told you to wait, didn't I?' Her face became small and she looked down on the floor feeling guilty. In that moment, I realised what I had done! I picked her up and gave her a tight hug. We sat down together for a while.

The moment I started comforting her, she loosened up. She began to make funny faces and get silly in order to humor me: the auto-response of a guilted person. I played along, was silly and funny with her for a while. Then I told her "I'm sorry I just yelled at you. I've dropped bottles too when I was young, and I sometimes still do. It's really ok. When something we did goes wrong, we don't need to feel terrible about it. What is important is to see what lesson we can learn from it. That's what is important. What do you think you want to learn from this?" She didn't say anything but liked to continue to be silly for a while. This time, I didn't stop her but didn't play along too much. She stopped being silly and hugged me for a while. "Sorry amma, I won't do this again. How can we fix this?"

We had to remove every single glass bottle (these were much smaller and lighter), wipe it, clean the shelf, place a new paper and put them all back. "Can you carefully pick up each bottle and place it on this cloth on the kitchen counter?" She felt good to be trusted with handling glass bottles. She did an incredibly focused and careful job of it. It took us a whole hour to do the full clean up. After we completed it, Isha said 'Yay! We fixed it. High-Five!' After that we never spoke a word about it.

That night, Isha came up to me and said "Amma, I want to tell you something. I'm sorry about dropping that bottle. I won't do it again." I said "What are you sorry about? What won't you do again?" She thought for a while and didn't say anything. I said "You don't have to always listen to amma. Amma might not know the right thing sometimes. The next time I tell you to not lift a bottle, what if you are actually able to lift it and I didn't know that you could do it?" She was visibly surprised to hear that from me! She thought about what I had just said for a long time. And then she said "I will stop and think about your warning and then decide to lift or not." I said "That seems like a good lesson to learn, to give all warnings a serious consideration!"

Though I felt right about what I had just said, I did feel uncomfortable about leaving it so open; leaving everything to her judgment. I quickly added "But sometimes I might also give you orders that you must just follow without questioning.  Of course I will do it only when the situation looks very unsafe or dangerous, like walking on a terrace without a parapet wall, or walking on a busy road. In those times I won't let you decide your own thing. Ok?" She agreed. We hugged and went to sleep.

I don't know how much she learnt her lesson of being careful. What I do know for sure is that she could not have learnt anything if I had told her what she had to learn or lectured her about being careful. Children don't need adults to tell them that 'breaking things is a terrible thing and that it is not ok'. They obviously know that and get annoyed to be lectured about something that is so obvious making them look so dumb! What I do know for sure is that she could not have learnt anything if her mind felt burdened with fear and guilt. When the mind is feeling guilty and fearful, all the mental energy is diverted towards self-defense and none is available for real learning. Learning happens only when our mind is free and we ask our own original question about what we just experienced, not what others experienced it as. Since she seemed relaxed and fearless and since I didn't lecture her, it is likely that she learnt something useful from her experience, whatever that may be!  

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Sw. Raaj Neeravo said...

If you really love the child, you will not give your ideas to the child. Love never gives any ideas, never any ideology. Love gives freedom. You will not mould. If your child wants to become a musician, you will not try to distract him. And you know perfectly well that being a musician is not the right kind of job to be in, that he will be poor, that he will never become very rich, that he will never become a Henry Ford. Or the child wants to be a poet and you know he will remain a beggar. You know it! but you accept it because you respect the child.

Sometimes it is difficult for you to accept the children’s vision – because you have lost it yourself! A child is trying to climb a tree; what will you do? You immediately become afraid – he may fall, he may break his leg, or something may go wrong. And out of your fear you rush and you stop the child.

The child wants to go out in the rains and wants to run around the streets in the rain, and you are afraid he may catch a cold or get pneumonia or something – and your fear is right! So DO something so that he is more resistant to colds. Take him to the doctor; ask the doctor what vitamins should be given to him so that he can run in the rains and enjoy and dance and there is no fear that he will catch cold or will get pneumonia. But don’t stop him. To dance in the streets when it is raining is such a joy! To miss it is to miss something very valuable. If you know happiness and if you are aware, you will be able to feel for the child, how he feels.

And I am not saying that the child has always to be allowed to disturb you. But out of a hundred times, ninety times you are unnecessarily disturbed. And if you don’t disturb him those ninety times, the child will understand. When you understand the child, the child understands you – children are very very responsive. When the child sees that he is never prevented, then once you say, ”I am doing something please...” the child will know that it is not from a parent who is constantly looking to shout at him. It is from a parent who allows everything. Children have a different vision.

They have their vision, their understanding, their ways. Try to understand them. An understanding mind will always find a deep harmony arising between him and the child. It is the stupid, the unconscious, the non-understanding people, who go on remaining closed in their ideas and never look at the other’s vision.... Children bring freshness into the world. Children are new editions of consciousness. Children are fresh entries of divinity into life. Be respectful, be understanding. And if you are happy and alert, there is no need to be worried about how not to commit the same mistakes – you will not commit. But then you have to be totally different from your parents. Consciousness will bring that difference.


Sw. Raaj Neeravo said...

Up to seven years, if a child can be left innocent, uncorrupted by the ideas of others, then to distract him from his potential growth becomes impossible. The child's first seven years are the most vulnerable. And they are in the hands of parents, teachers, priests .... How to save children from parents, priests, teachers is a question of such enormous proportion that it seems almost impossible to find how to do it.

It is not a question of helping the child. It is a question of protecting the child. If you have a child, protect the child from yourself. Protect the child from others who can influence him: at least up to seven years, protect him. The child is just like a small plant, weak, soft: just a strong wind can destroy it, any animal can eat it up. You put a protective wiring around it, but that is not imprisoning, you are simply protecting. When the plant is bigger, the wires will be removed.

Protect the child from every kind of influence so that he can remain himself -- and it is only a question of seven years, because then the first circle will be complete. By seven years he will be well-grounded, centered, strong enough. You don't know how strong a seven-year-old child can be because you have not seen uncorrupted children, you have seen only corrupted children. They carry the fears, the cowardliness, of their fathers, mothers, their families. They are not their own selves.