Tag Archives: sraddha

Faith in human-being-ness

My parenting has had to shift a lot over the last few weeks. I’m still cooking and cleaning, I’m encouraging (and sometimes enforcing) good personal hygiene habits among family members, but other things are changing. This change is unsettling to me. I keep having to ask myself — How much śraddha, faith and trust, do I have in the process of being-a-human? When I ask that question, I come to find that I have quite a bit of faith in humanity. But the second, and harder question comes next… Does that trust apply to my children?

My girls want to be in charge of what they do and how they do it. Nora, my 11-year-old, has been sleeping on the floor of her closet for 3 weeks. Hazel, 16, died her hair bright blue and cut bangs. She wanted to cut herself a “modern-mullet” but thought better of it just before scissors went to the back of her head. Both kids want to wake up when they are ready and do school work at their own pace. They carry their laptops all over the house and into the back yard. They want to eat gross snacks. They want to dance instead of cleaning the kitchen. And when they talk to me, they don’t want advice. They want me to listen to the ideas that are bumping around in their minds and to give them the space and the time to work things out on their own.

I can’t say that I love all of the choices the girls make, but when I ask these questions about belief and faith, the śraddha is there. Hazel and Nora are capable of doing their school work and if they forget something, it’s going to be okay. It’s okay to sleep in a closet for a few weeks. It’s okay to have a dance party instead of doing the dishes. It’s also okay not to explain all the ways they could navigate the challenges they face. I don’t have to say all the things that I may want to share with my kids. They don’t need me to teach right now. They need to learn for themselves.

These days, a super-important part of my yoga practice is listening to my girls without my phone in my hands or an agenda in my back pocket. I see that the more I listen to them, the more space they have to figure out what their own inner voice is saying. There are lots of impulses and identities that drive a tween’s and teenager’s decision making, and it isn’t always the voice of intuition or true-self that wins the debate, but sorting through those voices is part of the process of being human. I really need to remember that because if I can, then my girls are going to come out of this pandemic knowing more about how they feel when they eat a bag of flamin’ hot chips or forget a school assignment. The songs and the drawings will be of their own inspiration. They will feel their own śraddha growing as they learn to trust the still, quiet voice within each of themselves.


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It’s easy to have faith when everything is going my way

Thomas Prior‘s heart-racing photographs from the National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec. — Click image to check out more fireworks photos on wired.com

I’ve noticed that when things are going well, then I have no problem having faith in the order of the universe or believing that the direction of life is guided by a higher power. I can embrace the principle of Īśvara-pranidhana: we aren’t in control of everything that happens and yet we are held. The tapestry is bigger than the small part I’m seeing. I may not understand how things will work out, but they will. This is all very comforting during times in which I’m already quite comfortable.

When things aren’t working out the way I think they should, or something ‘bad’ is happening, then a very different mode kicks in. I become afraid. I start fretting and worrying. I read, read, read and think, think, think about whatever it is as if knowing more about the situation will change what’s happening. Then I begin to spin my wheels about what I am going to do about it. It reminds me of a time I was in Mexico and happened upon a saint’s festival in the town’s plaza. When it got dark, these young men put on what looked like back-packs made of twigs and then took a match to them. There were fireworks on these backpacks and once lit, they shot out blasts of sparkling white lights, causing parts of the backpack to spin furiously and for a few seconds, they lit up the whole plaza. The young men ran around, and we all screamed and cheered because it was exciting but also because we were afraid that they’d light themselves, or us, on fire. These were a glorious, emotional few seconds and then the fireworks were all used up and the show was over. That’s how it feels with me.

There’s no śraddhā or faith here. I forget all about universal goodness and comfort and the support I feel the rest of the time. I forget all about the bigger tapestry and I narrow in on the little part that doesn’t and can’t possibly fit in with anything else. I’m not plugged in to an infinite energy source, I’m burning through something limited and small. This shift makes hard times worse because even if I read and think and act out with every second of my day, some things aren’t within my power to change. Trying to change these things causes more grief and further extinguishes śraddhā.

Śraddhā and Īśvara-pranidhana, a sense of faith and trust, are comforting in the good and easy times. In order to connect with them during difficult times, I have to be willing to let go of this mode where I flail-around attempting to control things that are beyond me. There are certainly things I can do, but changing the outcome of an election, or curing someone’s cancer, or putting an end to a Syrian tragedy aren’t within my power. I have to be willing to accept that I’m not in control. But there’s more.  There’s also remembering that the power that is at work in the good and joyful moments is also working in the difficult ones as well. I’m finding that this takes a lot of trust to loosen my grip and find the feeling of faith in the order of the universe or believing that the direction of life is guided by a higher power even when things are difficult and scary.  It’s a different than something that burns fast and then burns out. It’s like moving into the flow of something that keeps offering light in a steady enduring way. Love. Faith. Trust.

We passed through the darkest night of the year and now welcome the growing light of the season. May we all bask in the enduring light.

Lots of love to each of you,