By Sarah Calvert
I saw a woman wearing a tee shirt many years ago in a security line in an airport in Australia that read, “Oh no! I forgot to have children!” I had to stop and take her picture.
I felt like I was in the same boat. It’s for this reason that I was hesitant to contribute for this month’s blog about raising conscious children. I’m not actually raising children for several reasons, the main reason being that I don’t have the dude in my life right now with whom I’d want to raise them, and I never had the maternal calling so much that it pulled me towards having a child on my own.
That being said, I was a school teacher and camp counsellor for many moons before devoting my time to teaching Kundalini Yoga and creating music. During those years, I got many glimpses of how parents were raising their kids...some of those glimpses were beautiful, but sadly, many of them weren’t, at least in my experiences with teaching in the school system.
I won’t get into the whole description of how lack of respect starting at home was then passed on to the teachers. Nor will I go into the many crazy events whereby I was a recipient of some pretty serious verbal (and once physical) abuse.
I will, however, relay that when I spoke to parents whose kids were having issues, they were often quite defensive and would put the blame on me—that it was my fault their kids were behaving poorly. After many of those phone calls, I decided I could teach and serve in other ways, and left the public education system.
What I noticed is that so many of these kids were really crying out for some sort of routine and sense of stability. I know when I don’t have any routine I behave poorly: missing doing my sadhana, eating a bag of chips for lunch, having Netflix binges. Many of these children were being moved around from parent to parent with no real sense of schedule or routine. There was simply no discipline.
As a kid, I had the privilege of having routine with my schooling, my after-school paper route, piano lessons, practice time, dinner at a certain time, homework, connecting with mum time, then bed. I had discipline enforced on me with my piano lessons and homework, which of course I didn’t love, but it made me the musician I am today, and allowed me to see through experience that practice is valuable. Finishing things is valuable.
On the flip-side, my experience of working with kids in a camp setting has proven to be amazing in terms of seeing how important it is to raise healthy conscious kids. I recently attended a summer camp reunion up in northern Ontario in Canada; I attended it from the time I was eight until I was 22 and worked on staff.
We were celebrating its 100 year anniversary and people from all over the globe came back to be on Beausoleil Island to reminisce, reflect, share stories and songs, and give gratitude to the place that helped form us. The majority of the alumni have gone on to be successful adults in both their personal and business lives. Many are philanthropic and do acts of seva on a regular basis. Many are helping others in terms of teaching, healing and serving.
I wrote an article last year for the camp’s publication about how my life at camp helped to set a foundation for my spiritual life as a Kundalini Yogi. We started each day with “morning dip” in the chilly Georgian Bay, which of course, is akin to the cold showers Yogiji recommended so many years ago. We then attended “morning thought” around the flagpole, whereby a staff member would read a poem or thought that was spiritually oriented, and we’d reflect on this as a sangat.
The day was filled with healthy outdoor activity to keep our bodies fit, and there were times of song and rest. After lunch we’d have an hour to rest, which of course, Yogiji recommended doing after eating. Although there was no formal meditation at camp, there was a structure that encouraged mindfulness, activity, rest and reflection.
Without parents around, we had autonomy to grow without their conditioning, and to make our mistakes, learn, grow and thrive. We were able to “feel safe and secure in our own unique identities," which Yogi Bhajan said was so important for children, and we learned to communicate clearly and consciously. This, I believe helped to create so many healthy, strong kids—myself included.
That being said, although I don’t have children of my own, I do encourage my friends who have kids to send their kids to camp. My camp was a YMCA camp, with Christian values, but was non-denominational; my sister and I were Jewish, and there were many others with different backgrounds.
The lessons I learned there were in line with the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and the Aquarian sutras. I see the value in kids being together outside of the traditional school setting—in nature and being nurtured spiritually. I still go to camp...this year I went to Ladies Khalsa Camp in BC and felt like the routine of sadhana followed by learning, eating good food, resting and being in nature was so very valuable. Gratitude for camps.
Sarah Calvert is a Kundalini Yoga teacher in Canada and Nicaragua where she leads Kundalini Yoga retreats and creates “camp” experiences: www.sarahcalvert.ca/retreats A mantra musician, she’s also released two albums of Kundalini Yoga chants. For more information visit www.sarahcalvert.ca