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Parenting as Leadership and Sacred Responsibility: Winter Perspectives and Practices

By Shannon Thompson

It is true. Our culture increasingly emphasizes consumerism over connection, and overindulgence often replaces the enjoyment of simple and sustainable pleasures. And yet, every year, most of us experience this time as one earmarked for celebration and anticipate this season for various good reasons. We anticipate the opportunity to spend time with family, the renewed sense of wonder the holidays bring, and the possibility of what will unfold for us in the New Year.

This year in particular, though, it is no wonder this season has stirred up a lot. 2012 has been intense and emotional. From the recent election to the state of the economy. From prophecies of apocalypse and talk of ascension to the uprisings in multiple countries. From gains in employment to indecision and inaction from global leaders around the environmental crisis. And just as we began moving into the homestretch of 2012, the shooting at an elementary school. In minutes, we became a people in the wake of a national tragedy. And this has struck a chord deep in our hearts because as adults, as parents, as humans, we know in our bones that it is our kuleana (Hawaiian for sacred responsibility) to always protect the children.

Parenting is a template for how we do everything in our lives – or it can be. At Shakti Rising, the women’s leadership and social change organization and movement I founded 14 years ago, we have a philosophy of embracing parenthood as leadership. This is not to be confused with the role-authority accorded to parents (as in, all parents are automatically leaders), because as we all know, many people who are parents are not leaders at all. However, what Shakti teaches and what I believe is that when we are willing to be awake and conscious in our parenting, we presence and embody a leadership that rises directly out of our kuleana. We step fully into the sacred role we have all been entrusted with to steward our own and the children of the world into the people they are meant to become. This is difficult, meaningful work, and the structures of our culture often make it even harder. Yet, hard work is worthwhile, and many things worth doing place us right on the razor’s edge of growth – most especially things having to do with love.

As parents and as leaders in our families and communities, this solstice and holiday season, with its mixed bag of emotions and energies, provides us with a perfect opportunity to grow in our parenthood and wrap around our families in new ways. Winter, in particular, is a time for slowing down, reflecting and renewing, so what if you followed these seasonal energies as they happen in you individually and in your family? What if your focus this winter was to renew as a family by committing to three ideas – rest, reset, recalibrate – that make up what we call at Shakti ‘practicing the pause’?

Rest: A period of time when your entire system is restored, energy is minimal and deep immune strength is built. It is characterized by non-activity, quiet and non-stimulation. Rest does not necessarily mean we have to sleep more or take long naps (although these are certainly essential aspects of rest, too), but what it does call us to do is nurture inner stillness.

Reset: You know, like pushing the reset button.? This is the return to the heart of who we are and what matters most, and it can happen in many ways. Try creating or participating in family rituals, having pillow fights with a lot of laughter or engaging in family talks where values, feelings and dreams are explored.

Recalibrate: This is about creating new rhythms and ways of being that strengthen who we are as families. An example is exploring new holiday rhythms. Perhaps this year instead of going through the usual motions, you create a simple family holiday gratitude practice or choose a key trait that your family works on together, like kindness or listening.

These three R’s are as simple as they sound, and frankly, are incredibly nurturing. One of the aspects of practicing them is discovering what each of them feels like and means to you, as parents, and what they mean to your whole family. Then, you can begin having fun exploring what practices bring these concepts to life for you.

While the practices are simple, the results are profound. They can help us transform our grief, overwhelm, anger, helplessness (and whatever else we may be feeling) into a living recipe of a life-lived-meaningfully, beautifully and one that honors our connections with our children, one another and the Earth and world around us.

What more could we ask for at a time like this?

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