From Monkhood to Fatherhood
We have been in physical Isolation for over a month now due to COVID-19, and I can truly say that I’m mostly enjoying it very much.
Taking a few variables out of our family equation feels great. Less driving around to take all the kids to and from their friends and all the rest, no rushing for school, no extracurricular activities. It’s just us. And us is awesome!
In between all of the many duties of work with Rainbow Yoga and our animal sanctuary (Kindred Spirit Sanctuary) and homeschooling everyone, we have planted an amazing veggie garden, built a big ramp to jump with with our bicycles and a whole obstacle course to match, have cooked a feast every day and exercised a lot too.
Of course, there is a bit of a pressure cooker element here being all together with no reprieve for a prolonged period of time. In addition we are working very hard to move all of our business online which adds stress for us the parents, which makes the kids stress and in this cycle all of us a bit more reactive – Great time to hone on all my monk AND fathering skills!
Around age 14, I started practicing yoga and meditation. When I was 16, I became a Hindu monk, and I became wholeheartedly devoted to this path of yoga for 10 years.
During those years of intense practice of meditation, yoga and service, I gave my whole trust to my Guru. I believed in him, drank eagerly from his wisdom and followed his every word religiously. After 10 years of trusting someone else, I finally learnt to truly trust myself and I left the Ashram (Yoga monastery) when I was 26. However, the patterns (Mind/ behavioural/ mental) and (Mental/ behavioural/ mental/ emotional) grooves that this practice created within me are deep. Now many years after leaving the Ashram, sharing the knowledge I found there is my passion, and wonderfully, my livelihood.
BEING A MONK WAS EASY FOR ME. I ONLY NEEDED TO FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME. I HAD A LOT OF TIME TO INTROSPECT AND FIGURE OUT WHERE I STAND IN THIS WORLD. WITH ALL OF THE INTENSITY OF THE PRACTICE I DID NOT HAVE ANY WORRIES OR ANYTHING STRESSFUL TO CARRY.
These days, life is quite different.
Now I am married to a beautiful and passionate woman, we have four children, a house and international yoga business.
Wow – life is busy! Taking time to go within is scarce and being able to do one thing at a time is almost impossible. I am challenged, to say the least.
Though I love circus arts, and juggling is something that I like experimenting with, 24/7 life juggling is what I do now! I work to make it all flow seamlessly, without thinking about it too much.
Now, as when all of the balls of life are in the air, I find the following yogic principles helpful:
I try to maintain my values with everything. Family life is insane; to remain afloat amidst this storm you need to keep looking up to the moral principles that you are not willing to compromise on.
In our family, this is Ahimsa, non-violence. So regardless of what happens, we keep striving to communicate and act in a non-violent way. Starting from what we eat (we are all vegan), all the way to how we treat our toys, plants, and of course other people.
I need lots of this. After 10 years of being a monk I thought I had conquered anger. Well, no one in the Ashram knew how to get to me as well as my kids do!
Breathing helps us to not be reactive and explosive. Rather, pausing to take a deep breath helps us to respond to situations and people in ways that create positive effects.
We all come to our marriages and our family lives with baggage. We have learnt some things about the world before we got together, and some of those things apply to this new situation, while others don’t.
A lot of the things that I learnt as a monk do not apply very well to family life. Sometimes, the knowledge and tools I acquired in the past handicap me now. Expectations, of myself or others, which were relevant in the past can simply make me disappointed now.
I find that I need to keep reinventing myself to be happy and make others happy. Most importantly I strive to not get stuck in patterns and to take things more lightly.
Don’t try to control it all; you can’t anyway.
I try to do my best; I fail sometimes. I impart my knowledge and life experience to my children; some of it goes deep within them to shape them into amazing creative and compassionate people. While some other details (Like putting away their things) it seems like they will never sink in.
In all of this, despite minor challenges and setbacks, I trust that they will grow to be beautiful people that will make this world a better place.
Children don’t learn as much from words as they do from observing our behaviour, so being the best person we can be helps them to be their best, whole and beautiful selves too.
Amidst all of the commotion, confusion, noise and chaos of the the world and family life, I try to remember that I am still my own person and that I have a duty to myself to continue and to evolve.
It is easy to get caught up in life’s business and the events happening around us in the world, it is important to step back once in a while to practice introspection and reflection. To learn something new from your reality, and then come back to the family with a renewed attitude of inspiration. to give and be truly present.
By Gopala Amir Yaffa
Rainbow Yoga Founder