“The parenting paradigm that’s set up in mainstream culture is set-up to, quote-unquote, spiritually fail.” — Dr. Shefali
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Doctor Shefali Tsabary, PhD (@DrShefali) is an expert on parenting, having written several books, and most recently the book “The Awakened Family: How to Raise Empowered, Resilient, and Conscious Children.” She has spent her life learning from both Eastern and Western philosophy about the relationships between parents and children. A world – renowned clinical psychologist, TEDx Speaker and one of Oprah’s featured guests. Today, she sits down with Commander Divine to talk about the importance of parents essentially working on themselves, rather than trying to work on their children.
- We need to start recognizing that our children are just as human as we are, and we therefore have less control of them than we think we should—which is as it should be
- Both Western and Eastern philosophy, spirituality and psychology are needed to deal with the modern world
- real learning, unfortunately, often comes from great emotional pain
Listen to this episode to understand how to parent effectively by learning more about yourself.
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Hey folks. Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for your attention today. I will make it worth your while. That’s my goal anyways.
We’ve got a terrific guest today–Dr. Shefali Tsabary–author of several books on parenting such as the most recent one called “The Awakened Family: How to Raise Empowered, Resilient and Conscious Children.”
This is going to be a really important conversation folks, so if you’re a parent or you’re thinking about parenting, then pay attention. And pull out your notebook. Unless you’re driving. Then don’t do that.
At any rate, before I get started, if you’re really serious about accomplishing more than ever next year. Focusing more, really clarifying your purpose, your passions and aligning with that. And developing an unbeatable mind, then I encourage you to check out our Unbeatable Mind Summit, being held November 29th to December 2nd. In Carlsbad, California.
This is the 6th year I think, that we’ve run it. It’s an incredible experience. Over 3 days we’ll arm you with a total framework for achieving awesome focus and concentration and clarity around your future. And how to really zero in on achieving not only the material goals, but also, all of your inner domain goals. And trekking up those 5 mountains of physical, mental, emotional, intuitional and Kokoro–or heart/mind health.
So if you’re listening and you want to come and check it out, we have a special rate for you. And I think there’s only 30 spots left. The special rate–if you go to our website summit.unbeatablemind.com is POD300. POD300 and that’ll get you 300 dollars off.
And I’ve been saying this even though my team grits their teeth every time I do, this is the last year we’ll be running the summit in this format. We’re going to be shifting the format to more immersive training in the UM system starting next year. So if you liked the original format with motivational speakers and all sorts of fun stuff, then this is it. Come on out in November, December.
Okay. I mentioned a moment ago, my guest today is Dr. Shefali Tsabary. We’ll just call her Dr. Shefali. She’s an acclaimed author, she speaks worldwide. She’s done TEDx, and she has a lot of experience in parenting. And some bestselling books, and she’s been on the Oprah network multiple times. She works at the Kellogg business school as a teacher and a speaker at the Dalai Lama center.
She has her doctorate from Columbia University. And she’s from Mumbai, India. So she specializes in something that’s kind of near and dear to our heart. Which is kind of integration of East and West. Integration of Eastern philosophy and Western Psychology. That sounds a lot like what we’ve done with Unbeatable Mind, but we apply our integration toward vertical development and leadership capacity. And Dr. Shefali is looking at parenting.
So I just shipped my son off to college this morning. Devon is on his way to college, and I can tell you, the last 18, 19 years have been an extremely interesting experience. All you parents are nodding your heads right now. Parenting is hard work. And what I think is we often try too hard. So I’m really anxious to hear what Dr. Shefali has to say about that.
Dr. Shefali, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. And how are you?
Dr. Shefali: Hi. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to speak with you and your audience, so I’m happy to be here.
Mark: Likewise. We’re excited to have you. So why don’t you just give us a little bit about who you are in terms of how you got interested in child psychology, or parenting I guess… I’m not sure what the category be of research about parenting. What was your early childhood like? What were your parents like? How did you kind of come to be who you are? Let’s go there first.
Dr. Shefali: Well I think my intentional journey really began when I chose to leave India and come and pursue Eastern mindfulness and Western psychology out here in California. And I did my Masters and began steeping really deep in Eastern mindfulness practices. Especially Vipassanna meditation, began practicing Vipassanna myself. It’s a form of insight meditation where you look deeply inside the nature of your own mind, and mind’s reality. And the reality of reality.
And while I was also studying psychology. And seeing clients and families, and seeing how our minds and our constructs really were the cause of suffering. And how our consciousness was the obstructer… or a lack of consciousness. And we were not living awakened lives. We were living lives that were pretty much reactionary and zombie like.
So when I became a parent, I began to see how I hadn’t learned anything. I thought I knew so much. And really began to have to apply the principles that I had been practicing on the mat, so to speak. How to detach from the ego of being the quote-unquote “Creator” of this child. Of being the owner and possessing and controlling. And really apply principles of trust and abundance and lack of fear. And living in one’s own divine essence so one could liberate the child to live in their divine essence.
So I began to see that these teachings were very difficult to apply in the parenting process. Because the parenting paradigm that’s set up in mainstream culture is set up to… quote-unquote… “Spiritually fail.” Because it’s set up as if the parent is in charge. Is the hierarchical know it all, be it all. And the paradigm demands obedience from the child and subservience.
And it was completely antithetical to what I was learning in my spiritual practice. So when I saw that I was full of ego and possession myself, I realized I had to do something about it. And there birth my work on conscious parenting. And teaching people how to divest themselves from the attachment to their role as parents. And thereby detach–not emotionally abandon–but just let go of their control over their children. So that their children could naturally unfold into who it is they were meant to be.
Mark: Of course. I love that as a practitioner and teacher of yoga for about 15 years, I completely align with all that. And yet it’s still very hard to do because of the structure and systems that we live in in the West.
To help our listeners really understand from your perspective… You said something that’s profound. That essentially we start the prima facie place to start from Eastern philosophy is that when your grasp and you’re attached to outcomes. And to the material world then this is the cause of suffering. And so the way to avoid suffering is to detach or to practice non-attachment.
And that’s what we mean by taming the ego or getting in touch with your higher mind. All that stuff is really powerful, and it’s completely antithetical to the Western model, which says nothing about suffering. And that we can avoid suffering just by attaining more… it’s almost like the opposite. Grasping more. That’s my kind of look at it.
How would you describe the major difference between Eastern and Western modes of just looking at parenting and development?
Dr. Shefali: Yes. You’re right. They’re fundamentally different. However, they shouldn’t be absconded and one shouldn’t reign superior. Because we’re living in a world that requires an understanding and invocation of both.
So the way I look at it is that the world is made up of very material, dense, form based experiences such as we become parents. It’s form-based. We have relationships. We buy houses. We have cars. We have careers.
So everything in this form-based world is about attachment to an identity. Identity as a parent. Identity as a high-achiever. Low-achiever. Fat person. Thin person. These labels. These judgements. This form-based world is dense and replete with these identifications.
And in order to kind of live here, and pay your bills, and eat your food, you kind of have to develop an adequate sense of self to feel confident. To overcome insecurities. And to maneuver this world.
So that’s where Western psychology is important, because it teaches you how to motivate yourself. And how to be yourself. And how to understand the psychological patterns that created the self.
So Western psychology is good… quote-unquote “good”–it’s effective to allow us to live in this form based world. But it isn’t enough. And that’s why we have Eastern philosophy to teach us wisdom of how to live in this world where there is a need to institute a self. But to have the wisdom that there is no real independent self.
And Eastern philosophy doesn’t really talk about avoiding suffering, but really teaches us how to transcend suffering. And Western psychology… I would say… is anti-suffering. It’s like you said… it’s going to do everything prosthetically, synthetically, artificially to avoid suffering. And Eastern psychology says you can’t avoid suffering. You have to learn how to transcend suffering.
So the fundamental differences are that Western psychology is about the self. Succeeding in a very attachment based world. Success and identities are very important in this world.
Eastern philosophy talks about the formless aspect of your divine essence which is beyond attachment. Which is beyond identifications. It’s something far greater and grander than we can ever imagine.
But in order to touch that, you have to learn to transcend this idea of self as independent and truly cultivate inner awareness. And mindfulness practices that teach how to transcend and overcome the seductions of a very conditioned mind based on form.
So those are the fundamental differences. I know… it’s hard to explain in a few interviews. But…
Mark: (laughing) we’re not going to enlighten anyone on a podcast, but we can sure try, right?
So what I think I hear you saying is that Western tries to avoid suffering or to fight suffering. And Eastern wants to transcend it. And yet isn’t it also true that if you just seek to transcend… this is kind of confirming what you say. Why they’re both important. Because if you just seek to transcend suffering, then you still trail your shadow with you. All the issues from childhood up to your present moment are still trailing you and kind of dogging you, right?
That’s some scar that the yogis talk about. And they still kind of drop little bombs in your life. Which kind of become obstacles to transcendence. And so where Western psychology comes in is to be able to translate your past and to clear up the shadow self. While you’re in the process of transcending.
And that’s actually something that Eastern philosophy missed.
Dr. Shefali: Right. Eastern philosophy talks about how to handle the psychologies we’ve inherited. And how to penetrate the psychologies of those around us with awareness. With discernment. It teaches us how to recognize when someone is in their unconscious self and how to detach from that.
Western psychology teaches us how that psychology developed. And to recognize the psychological patterns in our own lives. So I look at Western psychology as teaching us the “What.” The brass-tacks. The tools of what makes us us.
And then Eastern psychology teaches us how to truly finesse the us. How to truly hone in on the bejeweled aspect of who we truly are. Because the Western self–the psychological self–is not who we truly are. It’s who we were raised as. Who we were brought up to be. Who we were conditioned to believe we were. Are.
But Eastern psychology says “Yes. In this lifetime this is how you were raised by your parents. To believe in this God and to believe you’re this color, this race, this creed. Okay, that’s your psychology. That’s the What of you. But it isn’t who you truly are.
So when you have both, you understand the isness of the form that you were raised in and the context you were raised in.
But then you learn to see beyond that with Eastern spiritual lenses.
Mark: Yeah. I love that. And that’s so important today. Recognizing the oneness–like you said–or the unity of us all, so that we have great care and concern for all humanity and all sentient beings.
While at the same time, appreciating and honoring all the differences. And boy, if we could teach that to the world, we’d be in a very different place.
And so I agree with you. And what better place to start than with parents?
Aren’t what you really saying is as a parent become aware of your true self–your essential nature, and through that you’ll become an effective parent.
It’s not so much like parenting skills, right? It’s more human skills become the whole person that you really are. And then the parenting kind of sorts itself out.
Dr. Shefali: Well exactly. So, again, if we look at it in the two lenses of the psychology and then the spiritual transcendent selves, we as parent bring in our very conditioned psychologies into the parenting process. And we put onto our children all of our psychological mishaps. All the misgivings, all the conditionings.
And we think that’s true. We think that’s real. We think that’s how the child should be.
But what we forget in that is the Eastern, transcendent lessons of the awareness that the child isn’t what my conditioning is. Certainly not what my grandparents conditioning was. The child is their own divine essential nature. So how then do I as a parent transcend that psychology?
First I have to heal and become aware of my own conditioning. I have to do the work to raise my own self, because most of us were raised by unconscious parents who were trapped in the mire of their own misunderstandings of what this world, this life, this self is about. This journey is about.
So have to heal, become aware, undo all the conditioning and all the layerings upon my true self. And embark on a quest to cultivate the true self. The true self is always there, it’s just buried under layers of the false conditionings where we were told how we should be versus allowing how we truly are.
And then when we begin doing that work as parents, raising ourselves… that’s why I say conscious parenting is about raising the parental self, before we raise the child self. And raising the child within the parent… that still lives in the parent, because the child was left un-nurtured.
Then as the parent touches upon their own divine nature, the parent begins to realize that this is an inestimable gift and treasure that they must help nurture and sustain within the child. And that’s where transcendent philosophies of Eastern wisdom come into play.
Learning from Pain
Mark: You know, I just finished 12 days of our teacher training for our program called Kokoro yoga, and everyone in there was profoundly impacted by the training. And I kept hearing kind of a common theme and that is they all felt like they were on the leading edge, and that everybody in their universe around them, back home, was completely clueless or disinterested in learning about true nature. The essential self. God consciousness. Whatever nomenclature you want to use for the Eastern concepts of ultimate reality.
So where does a listener even start in just gaining a foothold or an experiential understanding of what it means to be a conscious parent?
Dr. Shefali: Yeah. It starts, I think, from pain. You know, we human beings somehow only need to learn or feel like they need to learn from pain. I wish it were not true. And I wish we would learn from just the wisdom, the beauty around us, in this life.
But no. We don’t. We only learn from pain. And it can’t even be just a little pain. It has to be like gross, on the floor, rock-bottom pain. Apparently… this is what I see in my office.
People come to me at the last minute, when things are in a crisis. But thank goodness they come then. Because many people don’t even come then. They’re so adhering to what they believe and their righteousness that they won’t even crack open then.
But at least, I’ve found, that if you have sufficient pain–so I’m a great worshipper of emotional pain, because I know that it’s only then that we’re going to crack open. Because our conditioning is so rigid. And we’re so… we hold onto our conditioning with such dear life. We cling to it.
So how does one start? Through pain. Hopefully that’ll crack one open. And if it doesn’t crack one open, then we just wait for more pain. No rush, no hurry. We’ve been here before, we’ll come again. If somebody’s not waking up, it’s okay. Don’t panic.
I’ve learnt in my practice, when I think that people are about to get the lesson, and I’m getting all attached to their getting the lesson. And so excited thinking, “Now this person is going to learn.”
And then nope. The loop is back in motion, and they’re back in the cycle. It’s okay. This is the nature of awakening. It takes a long time. It takes a lot of readiness. And it takes a lot of intellectual power, wisdom, discernment. Lot of emotional stamina.
So it’s okay, you know? I think many of us on the spiritual path sometimes get superior. And we get on our own soapbox. We get impatient. I know I’ve done all those things.
But now I kind of just wait, and I’m patient. And I’m really not even waiting for the next moment, because whatever’s happening to us in this moment, is the way it’s meant to be. Because it’s the way it’s happening. It is what it is.
So we just have humility for it, and allow people to unfold when they’re ready. So when they’re ready, what they will naturally gravitate toward is the answer to the question, “Did I have anything to do with the creation of my reality? Was I part of this?”
And because that takes so much humility. To turn the spotlight within and say, “What do I need to learn here? What does this experience showing me about my unhealed parts of myself?”
And it’s when the spotlight is turned, that’s when learning can begin. But till that doesn’t happen, then we just allow the person to experience, experience, experience. And one day when they’re ready, it will turn. It cannot be imposed by someone else. You can try to inspire. You can try to guide. But you can’t get attached to your role as the awakener. I’ve had to learn this lesson many times.
Mark: Yeah. I agree with that 100%.
So you said… I’ve got a quote from one of your books, “We need to keep our kids who they are, and the rest will follow.” So what do you mean by that? What’s the job of a parent, basically? From your perspective?
Dr. Shefali: The main job of the parent is to keep cl3eaning out their own internal terrain. To keep checking in on their own emotional energy. Asking constantly, “why am I reacting this way? What is really triggering me inside?”
There’s nothing on the outside that can move me to such an emotional upheaval, so what is it within me that cannot tolerate what’s happening right now? Why can’t I accept the as is? What about my child do I not truly accept? Why am I conditionally accepting my child? Why am I conditionally loving my child? Why am I not able to reach a place of transcendence? What is it about me that doesn’t feel whole in this moment so I project my own anxieties on my child?”
It’s these questions of deep internal penetration that of course only the true spiritually inclined will tend to ask. But that’s what I challenge parents to do. That every experience is about a reflection of their own needs. Their own anxieties. Their own projections. And they gotta reign that in, because we’re cluttering our children and burdening them with all our stuff. And they don’t even have a chance to find out who it is they are.
And how do we know this is true? We know it because of our own lives. We’ve only just in our 40s started a glimmer of “Oh my goodness. I’ve been living a lie. I’ve been living a fake self. I’ve been living to the tune of my parents. I’ve been living to the tune of the institutions around me.”
So we don’t want this to happen to our children. We want them to as quickly, as closely as proximately turn the spotlight to themselves. And they don’t have to wade through layers and layers of conditioning before they discover who it is they truly are.
Mark: Mm-hmm. So we don’t want to look at our kids as an object to be fixed or to be trained. We want to allow them to flourish in their own unique self, unique identity. And the way that we do this is to work on ourselves. So that we can remain unattached and connected to our higher self.
Dr. Shefali: And open. Open to receive who our children are. Because everyone is so unique. So shoving them into boxes and putting labels on them doesn’t allow the experience of their true self to emerge, to unfold.
Mark: Yeah. Now one of the things… I’m probably skipping ahead a little bit, but this can’t possibly be a linear discussion. What’s coming to me is the role of technology and social media and YouTube. And there was a tragic incident in San Diego just a couple days ago where this young–like 17 year-old kid–who was like a 15 minute of fame YouTube star. But he earned enough money to buy himself a Ferrari or a Maserati. And then all of a sudden his next video didn’t have the flair. And his followers started dropping off. He started to get really agitated.
And he lost control. And he took his Ferrari out the other day and sped down the highway, and drove the wrong way. And ran into a mother and child. And they all 3 died. It was just horrific.
And the parents, of course, are just destroyed. And I’m sure they’re wondering, “What did I do wrong?”
But that was society. That was technology, you know? How do we combat that?
Dr. Shefali: Yeah, you know… it is a modern era plague and it is nauseating because we’re seeing that children are moving away from deep, connected relationships and they’re having these virtual relationships.
But it is the as is. And we’ve participated in it. We’ve co-created it. We are sometimes the perpetuators of it. So we as adults need to see our role in it, and remind ourselves that inter-personal connection and presence. And solitude and quietude are the key ingredients. So we can’t now control our children, especially if they are in the throes of this peer culture. But we can certainly embody the quote-unquote “right” actions, the right ways of being around them. As much as possible.
Every generation is going to come up with its own plagues. But I do see a trend of us moving toward further mechanization, further isolation. It’s alarming, and I hope it doesn’t continue. But how to stop it without blind resistance. You have to stop it through enlightenment. Not through hatred, or antagonism. Or…
You have to create consciousness around it.
Mark: Right. I agree. And I think what you said earlier is probably appropriate. When the suffering… and the pain and the suffering get to be extreme enough then there’ll be a backlash at a much broader, societal cultural level.
And also you know, for all the listeners to begin to embody and begin to live by example… or to show your children through example that you’re willing to take time in silence. To disconnect from your iPhone. To spend time in nature. To meditate. To be quiet and have conversations with your kids as opposed to all be pecking on your iPhone at dinner and stuff like that.
Just leading by example. I think that’s been one of the main themes. Be the change you want to see in your children.
So, let’s talk about some practical issues. So I imagine when you start to work with parents that you have some practices or some tools to help them slow down and turn inward. Could you describe what that process is like? What does your path look like to get people to slow down, and turn inward to begin to connect with their deeper nature?
Dr. Shefali: Well, typically, you know, the families we work with in this model–and I’m actually just launching a coaching institute next year to help coaches train parents how to turn inward. Where we just constantly help them shift the focus from the outside to the inside. So homework assignments, meditation. Journal writing. And constantly giving them ways to pause, to take it slow.
It’s a practice. It’s a way to create a new mind. Because the old mind is reactive. The old mind is full of fear and anxiety and scarcity.
The new conscious mind is about abundance, trust, unfolding. But also taking action where necessary. But inspired action. Not reactive action.
So teaching parents to shift from control and punishing and reaction and threats. And yelling and screaming and shaming and guilting. To empowerment, resilience, compassion, connection.
And it’s just a process. And every parent does it differently. Some do it deeply. Some do it superficially. But every step is a step in the right direction.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Do you think that everyone should be a parent? I mean, do you recommend that people think carefully before they decide to have kids?
Dr. Shefali: Yes. Are you kidding me? Yes. I do not think every parent should be a parent. And maybe I shouldn’t have been a parent either when I became one.
But there’s no “shoulds” you know, and I’m not abnegating everyone’s core right to be a parent. Dare we say that people should look at themselves a little bit before they dare to raise a child? You can’t say these things, because people are all prickly about their right to be a parent.
But really, we don’t have a right to continue this unconscious malaise without at least looking within. It’s no joke. It’s not as if we need to procreate for the survival of the species.
I mean people really have told me that when I say that a whole generation should technically just stop having children. Now, of course, do I really mean it? Do I really seek to enforce it or control it? I just pose it as a rhetorical idea of let’s just think about this insanity that we all think that we should have children.
First, no we should all not have children. We’re all not fit to have children. We first need to heal our own tragic childhoods. We need to become aware of the great responsibility that this is. We shouldn’t just have children because it’s on the conditioned checklist of how to be an adult.
We need to pause. We need to really ascertain if we need to. And then you know, no it’s not for the biological well-being of the species. In fact, for the biological well-being of the species we all need to like, shut the shop down for a couple generations. And then the species and the earth will thrive again.
So we’re overpopulated. Overpopulation leads to all ills of the world… I mean, many ills of the world. And overpopulation comes from the core ill of the world, which is ignorance. Mental ignorance.
So we should really think, you know? I even ask parents the reason they had children. They all start laughing, because I do it with compassion, but I poke at them, and I show the irony. Because every reason that a parent gives that they’ve had children is for their own self.
Mark: That’s right.
Dr. Shefali: Because “I” wanted this and “I” wanted that. And so I’m like, “Okay, you’re now seeing that it’s all selfish, then how are you also at the same time allowing yourself to believe that it’s a selfless act.
So every time you cook for your children, you should say “Thank you” to them. Because they allowed you to feel worthy and important and have an identity. So why are we constantly telling children that they should be grateful to us? No. They didn’t ask to come. We pulled for this energy… now of course, they pulled for this energy too.
But I’m just talking on a colloquial level, we’re so high and mighty. Acting as if the children owe us something. No, they don’t owe you anything. They didn’t ask for this.
It’s such rubbish. And we just propagate this because we know we’re guilty of such heinous actions and thoughts against our children. So we pretend as if we’re so righteous.
So we’re not real… we’re not raw with ourselves. And my task is to blow the lid off this righteousness we have as parents. It just is frustrating when I see that because it perpetuates violence against our children. It perpetuates us shaming them and all in the name of love. And all in the name of caring.
No you’re a control-freak and you need to see that. Or you’re completely unconscious and you need to see that. Or you’re guilty and you’re putting that guilt onto your children and you need to see that.
So it’s time to just wake up, you know? And using our children as pawns is unconscionable so that needs to stop immediately.
Mark: That’s… you’re just describing a cultural shadow or a cultural story loop that we have to have children. It’s survival of the species and stuff like that. It’s just a story. It’s a meme that’s been going on for a long time.
And you’re right. I think that this is kind of a fun conversation… and some people probably skewer me for saying this, but why not have a parenting test? And if you can prove to the world that you’re not going to raise the next sociopath or narcissist then go for it.
Not many people would be able to pass that test in today’s world.
Dr. Shefali: Well it’s really not about what you’re going to quote-unquote “create” or “produce.” it’s really have you done the inner work yourself? We ultimately have no control. Our kid might be an ax murderer tomorrow. I don’t know. Maybe something will flip in her DNA. I don’t know.
That’s her path and all those who come in her way. And hopefully I’ve taught enough empathy and connectedness. But again, we can’t control the psycho-social, biological, neuronal interaction in another human being. The way to really thwart evil and ill in the world, is to work on ourselves.
So that’s the key. So how many hours of meditation have you done? How many hours of inner work have you done? How many self-help courses have you taken? How many books have you read on your psychology and self-help? That’s some thermometer. Even to drive a car we have to know the signs and the techniques and the triggers and the road maps and the direction inputs in a car.
We know nothing about our psychology when we become a parent, you know? So that is the abysmal, unconscionable reality. And people feel they have a right because their biology allows for it. But no, it’s a moral obligation. Not just a biological, impetuous right that you have to enact, you know?
Mark: Right. That’s fascinating.
Mark: So you were trained in Vipassanna and I find that there’s a lot of confusion out there. And people really just don’t know how to meditate. Just sitting… I mean, it’s beneficial to sit and listen to a meditation app… Something like Focus, or At Will or some guided visualization.
But it’s still kind of incomplete. It’s lacking grounding in my opinion in terms of helping people to find success early and to be drawn inward. How do you teach meditation to your clients?
Dr. Shefali: Yeah. I talk about its unglamorous aspects. How it will not “make” you anything. Because everyone who comes to meditate wants it to make them feel better, and look better and eat better. And become more successful, and happier. And I just shoot that all in its belly right away. And lambast it. And go that’s not the point of meditation. It’s not to do a quick meditation, it’s not to become efficient.
There is no goal to meditation. In fact, if you have a goal to meditate, you’re going against the grain of meditation.
The point of meditation is to become aware. To become enlightened. Which means to cultivate and develop the power of your mind to observe itself. Meaning you no longer are mired in the seduction of your monkey mind, your crazy, reactive mind. You’ve now developed the capacity to enter that energetic space of witnessing your mind. To become a witnesser. And when you touch this other space of awareness, you then touch upon your eternal awareness. Of who you really are.
So that is the point of meditation. It’s not to become more of your unconscious self. It’s to discover how unconscious you are and what your true essence is.
Which is something beyond mind, right? It’s mind above mind. Mind beyond mind. It’s not to control the mind, it’s to become aware of the mind that’s beyond the mind.
Now, all of this sounds very flashy and confusing because it’s something that you have to practice. So it’s very hard to explain this. You have to experience this.
And it’s somebody who seriously has awakened to this understanding, that the world is an illusion–those people will be ready for the true art of meditation.
And the rest of the people will benefit from the superficial techniques of meditation. Which is the, you know, “How do I focus? How do I not get anxious? How do I count one to ten? How do I get from A to B without losing my keys?”
Those are the superficial techniques of meditation. Keep calm, keep calm. Breathe. Count to ten. Say a chant.
Okay, that’s really good too. But that’s not the real deep purpose of awakening oneself. So there’s different levels, and people can choose to penetrate their mind at different levels. And I’m not knocking the other techniques down. But those are different techniques compared to what I believe to be the true purpose of meditation.
Mark: Right. And of course the yoga and Patanjali teaches us that most people–I mean there’s very few people who can go from zero to hero in meditation–and so we have to prepare the mind and the body. And so we do some movement and we eat healthy. And we learn to sit quietly. And then we practice the Pranayama, and then we learn to concentrate.
And that stabilizes your attention. And with the stabilized attention, then you can turn that attention from outward to inward. And then we can begin the process of meditation.
So what’s the… I guess you must maybe assess each individual and see kind of where their mind is at? And then do you deploy a tool based upon where they’re at? Or do you start everyone in the same place?
Dr. Shefali: So I teach meditation online. So I’m blessed that I have some format to invite people to join. Because people need a format. And I believe in the power of community, so I’ll either ask them to join my meditation classes, which is structured. We meditate together every week.
Or I invite them to go to a local community meditation place. And begin learning the art of sitting and getting aware of one’s breath. And learning to watch one’s thoughts.
Now people tend to veer toward different kinds of meditation. But the one I teach is Vipassana, which is simply but profoundly tuning inward without the use of any adornment, techniques, strategy, chant. It’s just about observing one’s own mind.
And the revelations that come from this practice are enormous. You do begin to understand the true nature of your reality. That everything is impermanent. There’s no point in clinging or craving. The minute you do, you’re creating a false attachment to something that is illusory anyway. And you begin to see how you cause your own suffering, by getting mired in this constant spin cycle of reactivity. And it helps you break out of it.
So when you’re with your child the next time, and your child says something really antagonistic, and you’re about to pounce on your child–this practice will teach you take a pause, to stop, to ask, “How can I have compassion for my child? How can I see my child for their experience, without getting personally intertwined?”
So it allows you to slow down to watch. It’s that watcher that you develop. You develop this persona–it’s not a false persona, but this new awareness, this new energy of being a witnesser. And that is so powerful. It literally can change the fabric of your daily existence.
Mark: I agree. Yeah, I love that. That was really well said, and the metaphor I like to use is that you become the mountain and the stories–your thoughts and emotions–become the clouds just drifting by.
Dr. Shefali: Yup. I say you stand on the platform, and the trains go by, and you don’t hop on the train. You know, different ways to explain the same thing.
Mark: Yeah. Nice.
Wow. Fascinating. And so important, so important. Simple in a sense, but not easy. Especially for most people because we’re so busy, and most people think they don’t have time to meditate and to do these practices.
What do you say to that? I mean I think personally that this stuff gives you all the time in the world once you start…
Dr. Shefali: Of course, of course. That’s the… again… the conditioned mindset. That I need to have time, and there’s a saying that if you only have a few minutes a day you should think about meditating and if you don’t even have a few minutes, then you definitely need to be meditating.
So something to that effect, that it’s an illusion that you don’t have time. And the reason you’ve bought into that illusion is because you don’t meditate. And the minute you meditate, time kind of suspends. It elongates. Because there is infinite time. It’s our distractions, it’s our ruminations. It’s our constant whirling, spinning emotions that keep us on this hamster wheel. Life is infinite, time is infinite. Space is infinite. Love is infinite. Money is infinite.
You just have to tap into that sense of inner abundance and the reason we don’t is because we’re cluttered by fear and scarcity. And it’s only meditation. Only the practice of meditation that will teach you to let that go. There is nothing else in the world that can teach you that, except your own understanding of the illusion of it all.
Mark: Right. That’s profound.
So in a closing kind of appeal to our listeners–as if you were on the last one minute of your TED talk–what would be your appeal to the parents who are listening?
DR. Shefali: Well, to everyone really–is that this life/incarnation that we’ve inhabited is for the purpose of becoming whole. We were whole, we were snatched from wholeness, because of the conditionings of fear and scarcity and separatism. And it’s our obligation to ourselves to return to a state of wholeness.
And every experience really, can be an invocation really to go deeper into our false selves and discard it. Slowly but surely. And as we discard the false self, we illumine with the true self. And that is our essential nature. And that’s what this entire incarnation is about. It’s about discovering more and more who we are, without the vestiges of fear and without the masks of falsity and duplicity. Of separation.
We are one. And the moment we realize that, all fear subsides.
Mark: And the moment you realize that is also the moment you can allow your children to be who they are, right?
Dr. Shefali: Absolutely. They are shining with who they are. And we’re constantly battling them to become who they’re not. And who they should be.
So the moment we pay homage to our true-self, we would naturally allow and in fact, fight for the freedom of everyone else to be their true selves.
Mark: Wow. That’s terrific. Thank you so much.
And you have a website… is it drshefali.com? That’s where people should go to find out more?
Dr. Shefali: Yes, yes.
Mark: And your next book… is the book out yet? The Awakened Family?
Dr. Shefali: Yes. It’s been out for 2 years and it’s been on the Oprah Supersoul, and the New York Times Bestseller…
Dr. Shefali: Yeah. It’s my last book as I now know–I mean I may change my mind–but it’s my last book on parenting. My daughter’s now almost 16. It’s not like parenting is over, but I’ve had enough. I’m like, “Okay. Done.”
Mark: Well, each book is like giving birth in and of itself.
Dr. Shefali: Exactly. My next books will touch on other aspects of the human existence.
Mark: Oh great. Good for you. Well I look forward to that.
And tracking your progress. Thank you so much for your time, and let us know if we can help out with your work at all.
Dr. Shefali: Thank you so much. Thanks to everyone.
Mark: Yeah, thank you Dr. Shefali. It’s been an honor.
All right, folks. Wow. You’re going to have to listen to that one a few times. Especially if you are a parent or thinking about being a parent. And it comes back to you… just like everything else. I mean, we are creating this world and we experience it with our mind, so why not learn about the mind and the true nature of reality.
Makes sense to me. And I know it makes sense to you, or else you wouldn’t be listening. So thank you very much for being who you are. And doing what you do. Stay focused. Do the work every day. And forge that Unbeatable Mind.
I’ll see you next time.
Mark Divine out.