Interview with Oprah’s Favorite Parenting Expert Dr. Shefali
In 2014 after the release of her first book, The Conscious Parent, Oprah Winfrey acclaimed Dr. Shefali Tsabary first book, THE CONSCIOUS PARENT, “the most profound book on parenting I’ve ever encountered.” Dr. Shefali has also done TED talks, and speaks on the subject of mindful parenting internationally. She’s an incredible woman with such insight. She is part of Oprah’s Super Soul 100 and a shining thought leader.
Dr. Shefali invites parents who desire a more conscious, mindful and connected relationship to themselves and their families to her EVOLVE summit the weekend of October 21st-23rd, 2016 at the Broad Street Ballroom in downtown Manhattan. EVOLVE is a summit centered around Dr. Shefali’s groundbreaking conscious parenting and mindful living teachings. Guest speakers include world-renowned teacher and author on ADHD, Dr. Ned Hallowell, Elena Brower who will teach mindful presence, Aric Bostick who trains hundreds of parents and teachers on how to connect with kids, Roma Khetarpal who is leading a grassroots movement in the L.A. education system and master teacher on the art of self-care, Suzi Lula.
We caught up with Dr. Shefali to learn more about her inspiration and upcoming conference.
What set you on this journey to become the leading mindful parenting expert? What inspired you?
As a clinical psychologist, I have the privilege of working with hundreds of families on a daily basis. As I delved deeper into each family, I began to notice a trend: children were feeling disenfranchised, misunderstood and alienated by their parents despite their parent’s best intentions. This made me question if love was simply enough. And I realized that it was not out of a lack of love that children felt lack of worth or resilience, but instead, because of something else. What was this? The level of consciousness on the part of the parent. What this essentially means is that we parent our children from a vast degree of unconsciousness, proportionate to the unconsciousness of our early childhoods. This unconsciousness creates emotional “baggage” so to speak that we now pass onto our children. It is only to the degree that we become conscious of this emotional baggage that we can unburden our children from carrying its weight. This is what conscious parenting is about – the process through which the parent releases the child from carrying their emotional baggage so that the child becomes free to live in accordance with their own essence. My mission is to set our children free so they may live lives that are whole, empowered and liberated.
You’re a mother, and you’re also a daughter, I’m curious, what was your own upbringing like?
I was raised by parents who were fairly well-attuned to my emotional needs. I grew up empowered to be my most truest self. This set me on a path at an early age to help others live this as well. I have always known I would live my life in a healing role for others and help them out of suffering.
Are there default practices that your parents used when you were growing up that you steered away from when you became a parent? What are the practices you share in common in your parenting?
I grew up with parents who were pretty mindful around me. Nonetheless the rigidity of a hierarchical and patriarchal culture (India) prevailed ingraining detrimental and claustrophobic belief systems around what it meant to be a woman in today’s world. I spent many of my adult years detoxifying from these belief systems and learning to create a new set of beliefs upon which I based a new identity. In my own parenting I have been extra conscious to not burden my child with rigid cultural expectations and have taken care to allow her to be as free from these as possible. Drowning out the voice of culture – no matter how toxic – is never easy, but it allows us as parents to see the child before us without the impositions places on how they “should” be – which often has nothing to do with who they really are.
What is mindful parenting? How does one know if they are parenting mindfully?
A mindful parent is on a path of self-awareness and growth. They practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation to allow themselves to sit in daily stillness and enter a state of greater awareness. This journey is not about reaching any particular destination or having your child become any one particular person. It is about attuning to yourself and your child in the present moment and allowing the creative potential of this relationship to unfold and transform both involved. If a parent finds themselves continually reactive and agitated, chances are they are not in a mindful state within themselves.
One might argue that it’s easy to parent a “good child” but what if you have a child with challenges, one who requires more time, energy and patience, how do you advice those parents to stay the course?
Yes, this is true indeed. It is always easier to parent a more readily-compliant child. For those parents with “challenging” children I ask them to question why it is that they are being challenged and take a serious look at the reasons for their triggers. When they perform this simple act – of turning the mirror inward – the onus that was on the child to change and be perfect suddenly shifts. Now the parent realizes that the reason they were finding the child challenging in the first place had nothing to do with the child and perhaps, all to do with themselves. When the parent begins to observe the reasons for their judgments and reactions toward their child they discover that the reason this child rubs them the wrong way is because they are triggered because of something that occurred in their own childhood. Unlayering these reasons allows the parent to discover all the ways they were emotionally wounded from their childhoods and an opportunity to heal these wounds.
We saw you in action at the Super Soul Sessions in LA where you spoke to the audience about parenting. Do you find that parents who are new to your philosophy feel guilty about their parenting when they get acquainted with your whole child approach?
Guilt is a common emotional reaction, yes. However, I urge parents that guilt paralyzes us further and makes us even more self-absorbed. When I show parents that ALL of us are swimming in the same unconscious waters, they are put at ease and begin to move out of guilt and into inspired action. They are now moved to undo the generational patterns and create new ways of being and relating so that the next generation of children grow up with fewer emotional problems than we did.
It’s a joy to watch your child grow, but also it can come with growing pains. They assert themselves and want to create distance and autonomy. What is your advice for those of us with teenagers?
Teenagers should assert themselves and desire greater autonomy. This is developmentally healthy and essential. We feel threatened by teenagers when they do this because of our own unresolved issues around being needed, depended on and having control over our children’s lives. When we are fully connected to ourselves, we will not feel the need to “use” our children or need them to need us. We will be fully able to release control and let them learn to fly.
Tell us about your upcoming summit in NYC- Evolve?
I am holding a summit in NYC on October 21-23 at the Broad Street Ballroom. Over 300 parents will gather together in an effort to deconstruct this journey and elevate themselves in a greater state of consciousness and mindfulness. Together we will explore ways to better attune to our children and enter presence so that we can move them toward empowerment and resilience. Your readers can attend the conference at a 15% discount, using the code 15OFF
What’s one piece of advice you can share with our parent’s-to-be?
The greatest advice I can give parents-to-be is that this journey is the most spiritually regenerative experiences they will ever be on — provided they are willing to use the lessons to catapult them into greater awareness and presence. This will require them to move away from archaic paradigms of parenting and into more mindful approaches as those outlined in my books.