When I was asked to write a blog about how yoga has helped me as a parent I declined wondering if yoga had helped at all. I was not in a good space. I felt nothing really helped me in my struggle as a parent. I had been separated from the mother before the birth of our child and it was very difficult to see the baby as much as I wanted to. I felt my rights were violated, I felt frustrated and I felt bitter. I started to understand how people and nations fight to defend their rights. My anger turned inward and isolated me from others. I experienced what is called the dark night of the soul, and I began to question everything including my own sanity. How could it be possible for someone who has been practicing and teaching a spiritual discipline like yoga and meditation for the last 10 years be unable to find peace and understanding in order to have a hand in raising my child full-time? In my despair, I lost my passion for yoga. I did however keep my meditation practice regular and continue to teach yoga classes as this was my main source of income.
A week after the request to write a blog, I thought it over and accepted to write something. I realized that yoga had indeed helped me but not in how I had initially believed it should have or in the way I had thought of yoga and parenting.
At first thought, yoga was the asana practice (physical part through postures and stretching), and unfortunately my practice ran dry. I had reached a plateau. Having taught asana yoga since 2006 and at times up to 13 classes a week in gyms, studios, and at the corporate level, my practice seemed to have run its course. I started loosing the joy I first had when I began many years ago. Thankfully, there was another yogic path I had discovered that sustained and inspired me in my darkest moments.
The yoga of devotion known as bhakti yoga became my main spiritual practice. Singing mantras with others in gatherings known as kirtans and creating music to accompany these sacred chants gave me the fuel to carry on. I recorded my first album entitled Birth of Ganesh and every month I would offer kirtans sometimes to as many as 30 strong voices. The energy, the joy, the upliftment was exactly what I needed to remain hopeful and positive. Apparently we are all in a vibratory state along with everything else in the universe, and the sound that yogic mantras and music in general makes somehow shifted the frequency I was in. It simply made me feel better when all else failed. I realized that when you feel better within yourself you become better equipped to deal with your challenges and handle your responsibilities. That is how Bhakti Yoga helped. It provided me an avenue to unleash my creativity by composing songs, release my emotions by chanting with others, and inspire me to a better future with sacred music.
With a faithful practice of devotional singing that lifted me to a higher vibration and carried me through periods of difficulty and doubt, I now have a stable relationship with a little 2 year old girl that brings so much joy in my life. I would like to share a couple of videos of her growing up. The song featured in the latest video is a mantra and a children's song I put together and recorded with a few of my lyrics halfway through. Nell-Anne, my daughter, has a way of touching my heart and reminding me of how magical life can be. The song is a testimony of how music and sacred mantra can bring you the inspiration to carry on.
Yoga philosophy in harmony with other spiritual teachings tell us that there is a greater purpose, a big plan, a higher self. When I was stuck in my little mind, the ego, I felt anger and bitter. When I stepped out and trusted in the bigger picture through devotional singing combined with meditation, counseling, and a little help from my friends, I found comfort in ways that kept me going. I still feel unsure at times about how things will turn out but I know all is unfolding exactly the way it ought to be. As I raise my consciousness, so does things around me change. The proof is that I found a beautiful home at an opportune time where I can bring my child and enjoy fatherhood with her. To see her growing up healthy, happy, and full of life is very satisfying. It also warms my heart to hear her chant the songs I have been singing to her since her birth! I have much to be grateful about. Shared custody is soon to happen and I can now reap the full joys of parenting.
I would like to close with a Christian prayer that brought me solace during the most difficult times. I have known it since childhood, and the words resonate well with me. I sometimes amend the words here and there to fit my yogic worldview. I provide these extra words in parentheses below with the traditional prayer. I believe the prayer is very devotional and in harmony with bhakti yoga. Through devotion, our inner vibration rises and our consciousness expands. And through the chanting and repetition of the sacred names, our passion is fueled. The prayer begins by praising the name of God as does all the sacred mantras in bhakti yoga. Both the Christian prayer and bhakti yoga highlight love and forgiveness which make healing and personal growth possible. These characteristics are the quintessential human qualities that nurture the human heart in the face of suffering.
Our Father who art in heaven
(Our Mother who art the earth)
Hollowed by thy name
(Through your many names and forms I sing praise)
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
(Let my higher divine self influence and inspire my physical/mental body)
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us
Lead us not into temptation (ignorance) and deliver us from evil (ego)
MJ Ganesh (Marc-Joseph Chalfoun)