Step 1: Spirituality for parents

I attended the graduation ceremonies of Charity First scholars last April 9 at the Trinity University of Asia Theater in Quezon City. This annual affair celebrates a milestone in the scholars’ lives as they move on from a nurturing community into the “big bad world.”

Most of these scholars have already gone through hellfire, and Charity First Foundation gives them a new lease on life with free college education, values formation seminars (absence from which could cause expulsion from the scholarship program). Scholars are also required to pay it forward by volunteering at Charity First community service programs.

On this 15th anniversary celebration, their keynote speaker was former senator Leticia Ramos Shahani, a woman I have long admired. Shahani’s talk was not about religious spirituality but of the innate spiritual powers in every human being. Her speech resonated with me personally as my husband and I continue to find ways to help our children become respectful, responsible and caring adults. As I mentioned in a previous article, it starts with the parents. I want to exercise what I learned to become a better mother.

The power to withdraw. Withdrawing lets us step back from situations, and gain a clearer perspective. This is something new to me, but makes a lot of sense. I think, like me, parents are often in such a hurry to get a million things done, we forget to withdraw from the world a little bit and gain a better perspective. What is important in our lives? Is there a way to compromise so we accomplish what is required of our work, but still allows us to focus on the most important people? For this week, I have decided to go to swimming lessons with the girls and do my work there, instead of at the office. Here or there, the work gets done and the girls appreciate my presence. With daily interactions, withdrawing also means getting to see more sides of an issue before reaching a verdict.

The power to pack up. Pack up all negative vibes and just let go. It is about making peace with everything negative in our past. The graduation ceremonies always feature one graduating scholar who would tell his life story as an inspiration to others. This year’s representative was crying as she told the audience how she eventually forgave her father in 2013. Once she became a scholar, she realized that events that don’t kill you really do make you stronger. If this woman could overcome all the adversities in her life – her mother left when she was one, and eventually died; her sister was killed by a rabid dog; her last remaining sibling passed on as he was graduating from college. If she could make peace with her terrible past, then we could definitely let go of our own baggage.

The power to tolerate. Like the powerful bamboo, we bend with the wind of challenge and adversity. With tolerance, we also gain strength where little could faze us. All parents are familiar with this feeling – challenges and adversities to myself do not deter me. But, anything hurled at my children sometimes paralyzes me. Many times, my fears on behalf of my children could become overwhelming. I feel that standing still and bending with the wind could help me see things a little more clearly. What am I afraid of? How do I fight my fears?

The power to accommodate. Shahani’s powerpoint included a line that says, “Living with each other becomes a thing of ease and happiness.” Sometimes we feel that people throw curveballs at us and we then conclude that these people are the enemy. But when we are more open and more gentle with how we view others, then we may see the person’s many other sides. The power to discern As life is full of choices, and our choices shape us, it is crucial that the choices we make are the right ones. Should I take my doctorate degree now? I’m 10 years overdue according to my former 20-year-old self’s time table. As I look at my own reasons for wanting to take up further studies, I am not sure that my heart is still in it.

The power to judge. But, sometimes, the choices are not clear cut. What if the two choices for action are equally honorable? Ultimately, we decide on the best option that will benefit ourselves as well as others. I wanted to take my PhD because it has been in my to-do list for a decade. Taking it now would be a good decision, but at the end of the day, who benefits?

The power to face. How can we make the right choice if we are not even honest with ourselves? We need to face our own shadows, which is probably the most difficult action to take. When I yell at the girls to be quiet in the car, what am I doing? I have to be brutally honest with myself and admit that I just want quiet. This is not discipline, but just for my convenience. So instead of yelling, I touch their faces to get their attention and say in a soft voice, “indoor voice please.” They will follow for a few minutes and then forget again, but then they’re kids and become engrossed and super excited with whatever they are talking about. When we see ourselves clearly, then we can look at others with understanding as well.

The power to co-operate
. Cooperation is the culmination of all powers. It requires that we use all the other powers to be free from ego, jealousy, anger, greed. Once we are free from all hang-ups, then we are freer to contribute to humankind.
As I shared this with my husband, we agreed that we will strive for these powers with the goal of becoming better parents to our children. This is step one.

Learn more about these powers and living a spiritual lifestyle through Brahma Kumaris. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 28, no. 22 (April 19-May 9, 2016): 7. Leticia Ramos Shahani photo credit: Lila Shahani (