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The Art of Blissful Parenting
Teaching Your Children How To Follow Their Internal Guidance
By Sharon Ballantine
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Sharon Ballantine
All rights reserved.
Discovering My Internal Guidance System
I came into this world a happy, optimistic child. Growing up, my family life and experiences progressed from happy and fun to less so — not unlike many people's lives. Even as a child, I always had a clear sense of what I wanted and what felt good to me, whether it was a person, an experience, or a material object. And despite serious losses and hardships, things always seemed to work out for me. As I got older, I came to expect that I could manifest what I wanted.
As a child, I had no idea about the laws of the Universe and how they were responsible for my ability to consciously regulate my wellbeing. What I did know was this: I had always followed my feelings in order to avoid what I didn't want to experience and to experience what I did want. It was how I felt about something that determined the outcome for me, and I never questioned the validity of my feelings. I innately trusted that if a decision or course of action felt good, it was the right one for me.
Why did I trust my feelings? When I was young, I thought just because I wanted something, I should have it. My life experience showed me that if I followed what I would much later come to know as my Internal Guidance System, I could manifest what I wanted if I had positive feelings about my desire. Depending on what the desire consisted of, and my beliefs about it, I could want it and have it manifest quickly, or want something and then be inspired as to the best and right way to get it. I learned that negative emotion, while important in our evolution, is resistance. It temporarily blocks our access to Universal wellbeing and everything we want. My inclination to follow what felt positive and good to me was an intuitive way of avoiding resistance and tapping into my Internal Guidance System.
By the time I was a young adult, I started to study the Universal Law of Attraction and other spiritual modalities. It soon became clear to me how I was able to have a certain vision and then have it manifest, sometimes so quickly that it made my head spin. I realized through my studies that all my life I had been unknowingly working within the Universal Law of Attraction and following my Internal Guidance System.
WHAT IS THE LAW OF ATTRACTION?
This governing law of our Universe states that thought is a vibration/energy that goes out into the Universe as a signal, and what you will receive in return will always match this vibration. For example: a high vibration/energy is one of appreciation, love, gratitude, and positive expectation. A lower vibration is one of anger, doubt, fear, and so on. After several seconds of thinking a thought — whether it is something you want and that feels good, or something you don't want and feels bad, the Universe will send you what matches this signal formed by your thoughts. This will come to you in the form of "like" thoughts, people, and experiences. In other words, your manifestations.
The Law of Attraction also teaches that what you continually focus on becomes larger and is ultimately brought into what you experience. Through practice, I taught myself to think about and focus only on what I wanted to experience, at least most of the time. When I found myself starting down the path of thinking about what I did not want, which resulted in my feeling bad and manifesting unwanted experiences, I practiced my way to better-feeling thoughts — ones that opened up my possibilities and helped me feel better.
I learned that I was in control of my life because I could control the direction of my thoughts, which determined what I manifested. I realized that with practice and intention I could turn my negative emotion into positive emotion by deliberately making a choice as to what I was thinking — and therefore, feeling.
If this all sounds a bit hard to believe, I'd like to pinpoint specific events and moments in my life that illustrate how I came to recognize my Internal Guidance System at work. Growing up, I had no idea there was such a "system" at play — only that something unseen was working on my behalf.
Growing up, I loved my parents very much. They both helped me become who I am today, not necessarily by overtly teaching me things but by providing me with the chance to witness what their lives were like. Although I always felt loved and supported by my mom, she was only able to be emotionally present to a certain extent. Even as a young child, I could see that she often felt melancholy, and I sensed that it was difficult for her when my dad was away, working in a foreign country. She worked full-time and was essentially raising two children as a single parent. She had little time to focus on herself, let alone invest in her interior self, engage in a spiritual practice, or teach one to me.
My dad got a job in Chile when I was four years old and moved us 6,000 miles from our comfortable home in the suburbs of Seattle. Our family lived in Chile until I was ten, when Mom brought my brother and me back to the US to continue our education. I thought it was strange that my father wasn't coming with us, but my parents assured my brother, Ken, and me that Dad would soon follow. It wasn't to be, and within two years my mom and dad were divorced. I was a preteen by then, busy with my life and activities. I remember missing my dad, and at times it was difficult because he wasn't present at school activities, holidays, and important celebrations. But it didn't feel terrible that he wasn't living with us day to day, because he was always available to me by phone, letters, and visits. As for my brother, he was a cheerful child, and the divorce didn't seem to affect him adversely at the time, as far as I could tell. We were kids and never spoke to each other about it.
Mom seemed to be in survival mode. She liked to drink wine in the evenings, which was when she shared many of her unhappy childhood memories with me, usually over a frozen TV dinner. She never mentioned Dad or the divorce, so I never knew if her sadness was related to that. As a teenager, I remember feeling bad for Mom. She had grown up in a dysfunctional household and felt powerless to improve her life. I knew that even though our own family did not live in perfect harmony every day, I didn't feel powerless myself, and I had learned that I was in control of not what happened to me, but my reaction to it. By witnessing Mom's lack of personal power, I either knew innately or decided at that time that that would never be me because I wanted to be happy in the long term as well as in the present moment.
Soon I was involved in dancing, baton twirling, and Girl Scouts, and it was at this point that I first started noticing how well things went for me when I was happy and having fun. I got what I wanted when I felt this way, and in this manner, I learned to manifest my own happiness. Over the years, I would actively learn to cultivate this feeling of happiness.
Most kids are masters at having fun. It is what they do. Having fun made me happy! Any kind of fun, such as being with my friends or doing an activity that I enjoyed. I think my gift as I matured was in identifying my quality of life when I was happy and having fun, versus my quality of life when I wasn't. Clearly, things didn't f low well and get me what I wanted when I felt bad and negative, but they sure did when I was feeling good. For example, if I wanted a certain something or a particular reaction from my mom, I realized that believing I would get it and focusing only on that outcome gave me a huge advantage, as opposed to being pessimistic or demanding toward her. I came to notice that my manifestations were a direct result of what I was thinking and expecting.
What I now know is that it is generally easy for kids to be joyful because they haven't yet learned to get in their own way. It comes naturally for most children to expect to receive what they want. Early on, I was able to notice the difference between positive and negative expectations and use that insight to my advantage.
I also discovered that, try as I might, I could not force situations to go my way. And let me make this perfectly clear: I am a person who likes things to go my way. I was somehow able to see that things f lowed when I was happy and wasn't trying to force the issue, whereas things didn't go my way when I pushed against a situation over which I had no control. In those early years, I didn't know how to redirect my thoughts; that is, I didn't know how to feel better by choosing happier thoughts. I only noticed what I was manifesting based on how I was feeling.
After my parents' divorce, I had the chance to more closely witness my father's sense of optimism. He came to see us every year, and we would also visit him in Chile, which led to interesting adventures on the other side of the planet. Despite being a workaholic, Dad always felt joyful to me. He was always positive and had a passion for life that I could easily relate to. He took life's difficult situations in stride. He got up, dusted himself off, and moved forward smiling. Dad inspired me with his joyful outlook, and although he endured a number of very difficult physical problems during the last five years of his life, his attitude was always positive. Whenever he took my brother and me out to dinner, he provided us with life lessons along with whatever we chose from the menu. He coached us and gave us general advice about how to succeed in life. I don't recall his specific advice, but I remember gobbling it up like it was my last meal because it felt good to be with him and his words resonated with me.
I never thought it was a bad thing that Dad didn't live with us because we maintained our loving connection 6,000 miles away from each other. Without a live-in father figure, and with Mom busy trying to support our family, I had more freedom than most of my friends. In fact, I was horrified at their lack of freedom. Unlike me, they had to be home at a certain time and report their whereabouts. They were forced to answer to two parents, account for their actions, and follow fairly strict standards. The list of restrictions seemed endless.
In contrast, my teen years were spent in total blissful freedom, and since I was a good kid with good grades, that also worked in my favor. Don't get me wrong, I did check in at home and Mom knew where I was ... most of the time. But growing up with such freedom laid the groundwork for being able to depend on myself for direction. I didn't have anyone telling me what I should do and when, so I got to choose for myself, making my own decisions. Again, how I felt about something when I considered doing it or having it determined my choices and experiences. And this sort of parenting myself helped me to learn to look within.
I believe that as we grow up, we consciously and subconsciously decide whom we want to be based on what we are experiencing. As a child, I was living some of what I wanted and some of what I didn't want. Witnessing those parts of my mother's life that didn't feel good to her helped me to clarify how I wanted to feel and live my own life. It didn't feel natural for me to be unhappy. So when I observed my mom's unhappiness, I wanted to support her but not share in those feelings. In contrast, my dad was a generally happy person who experienced hardships. I witnessed his decision to initially feel bad about his situation but to quickly find his way back to feeling good. I saw him do this by turning his focus away from his problems and continuing to make plans for his life — which, it was evident, he felt was a really good life.
MY BROTHER, KEN
In our childhood photographs, my brother, Ken, is bright-eyed and usually smiling or laughing. We were only a year and a half apart and had such fun growing up together. In our teen years, when I was out having fun and living life, Ken spent the majority of his time at home, even though he had no restrictions put on him by our mother. Freedom just wasn't as important to Ken as it was to me. He seemed content to be at home with his music, at school, at work, or sometimes with friends.
At about the time he entered puberty, I noticed a change in Ken. He was no longer a happy-go-lucky kid. He was a very accomplished young man, an A student, and he also possessed extraordinary talents. He played several different musical instruments, even though he couldn't read a note of music. I watched him as he listened to songs on the radio or on an album, then picked up one of his instruments — the drums, piano, or guitar — and in a matter of minutes was able to play the song. Ken was so gifted at piano that he was asked to accompany the singers at school. When he chose his music, it was often wild, jazzy songs that used every key on the keyboard. This routinely resulted in the school needing to have the pianos tuned, since Ken played on them with such passion!
The change in Ken seemed to be a sullenness that wasn't there in his childhood, a quiet introspection that none of us guessed was depression. He never did drugs or got in any trouble whatsoever. Although he wasn't very social, he had several good friends. It was during his mid-teens that Mom came to me one morning and said that Ken had confided in her that he had considered suicide.
Soon thereafter, Ken started seeing a psychologist, but I never noticed any marked improvement. Even after he had been going for a few years, he didn't seem any happier. To make matters worse, our mother had been battling a debilitating illness, and when Ken was twenty and I was twenty-one, she passed away. Since Mom and Ken were very close, I was worried about his emotional wellbeing. Dad flew up from Chile for my mother's funeral, and it was then that he asked Ken if he wanted to live in Chile with him. If he moved to Chile, Ken would be able to play his music and have a nice life. Ken declined Dad's offer, which surprised me.
At the time, Ken was going to a community college and had a full-time job in the office of a sports club. I think he chose to not live with our dad because he didn't feel as close to him as I did. So, our father returned to Chile. With his financial backing, Ken and I remodeled the upstairs of the small house we'd inherited from Mom. I had moved back home, having recently returned from spending a year in Chile with Dad, and the house felt so good and updated. But Ken didn't seem to find joy in the remodel, or anything else, for that matter.
As I had done many times over the past several years, I tried to talk to Ken about making the choice to be happy. I told him I felt happiness was a decision, and I gave him examples of how I saw and found joy in the little things in life. This was the best way I could explain at the time for how one can go about finding happiness, as I had no knowledge yet of how to explain our Internal Guidance System. I wanted to believe that my brother was able to make the choice to choose joy, but I came to see that maybe it was out of his control. During our conversations about happiness, he seemed to genuinely want to be happy, but he couldn't maintain the feeling for very long. I believe there were only certain things that made Ken happy, and music was one of them.
A year after Mom died, I married Mark, my high-school sweetheart, and we initially moved in with Ken, to the house he and I owned. Mark and I lived with Ken for four months. Then we got our own place. On the weekend when Mark and I moved to our new house, my brother killed himself.
We had come back to the old house to get a few last things and found a long letter from Ken on the kitchen table. It outlined what to do with all his things. I had already started to think that maybe Ken's depression had been out of his control. As often as I had tried to coach and support him, I never felt he was able to choose to move forward in a happier way.
Excerpted from The Art of Blissful Parenting by Sharon Ballantine. Copyright © 2015 Sharon Ballantine. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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