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  • Writer's pictureNeha Erasmus

The Greatest Teacher

My father's death was the beginning of me, but the birth of my son was the becoming of me.

At my father's unexpected cremation (he being one of those rare North Indian Christians) walking amidst the fallen leaves and flowers in the wild Ngong Cemetery, I looked up to see smoke curling out of the chimney. For the first time I understood what 'ashes to ashes and dust to dust' actually meant. I looked down at the flowers beneath me, and realised, as flutters of ash fell from the sky, that my father was going to become a part of the leaves, trees and flowers around me. I'll never forget that my little sister, just seven at the time, started at the same moment, to pick up the flowers, gently and carefully, as we walked. She carried them all the way home, as if sacred. This was my first adult encounter with spirituality, and it eventually led me down a long and winding path, to teach spiritual philosophy. Born and raised by two middle-class doctors working in Africa, God and other such ideas were just a tad 'simple'. I had therefore been an aetheist /agnostic most of my life. When I started to understand things in a more spiritual sense, reading Swami Vivekananda's speeches and beginning to understand what God actually was, I was resistant, scared and very, very humbled. Spirituality is now a framework for my life, and truth and wisdom my constant guides. I have been practicing spiritual philosophy in all aspects of my life ever since, and I have read, listened, watched and studied teachings, which have been my sanctuary.

But I have learned more about spiritual 'being' in the last 10 months of my son's life, than in all those years. Zion is a constant teacher. He is a mirror for me to understand my state: when I am calm he calms; when I am agitated he is disturbed. He teaches grace: when I try to force something, he refuses; when I offer he accepts. Zion pulls me into the moment, into his world of wonder: how amazing watching the ants can be, or how pretty a little flower it. He teaches me conscious doing: it's not just about dressing him, but the care with which I dress him prevents him from protesting. It's not just singing to him, but singing from the heart lulls him to sleep. It's not just playing, but when I truly feel joyful I elicit gurgles of laughter from him. When I hold him before putting him down to sleep, I close my eyes, breathe slowly and deeply, and tune into that inner voice, the one that tells me 'you can put him down now, he's ready'. When I listen to that voice, everything happens exactly as I mean it to.

Zion helps me to experience life in a deeper way. He teaches me how to be present, totally and fully. When I dance with him I really, truly can let go and express mySelf. When I sing to him I feel the song and it changes my energy. When I enter the Garden of the Child (or Eden), I commune with everything around me and I remember how each moment is an adventure.

Zion has made me conscious and this consciousness is spilling over into the rest of my life. I find I can no longer be who I 'should' be. I can no longer conform to what I thought the world wanted of me. I can no longer waste time pretending. I am starting to remember who I am. This has opened up an entire world of possibility and unknown. Who am I in the world now? What do I want to do? What is it that is to come through me? Is it possible to be totally authentic and still have the practicalities of life work out? These are questions that are echoing through my head. If I follow Zion's lead, I won't worry about answering any of them, but just fully engage with each moment that life presents me, and make my way through the world in flow and co-creation.

Being a parent, we are repeatedly told that we have the burden of responsibility, to raise children, to be a role model, to teach them how to be in this world. But I don't teach Zion much and I'm not sure I need to. He, on the other hand, is teaching me everything - how to be present, how to express, how to accept, how to flow. Jesus knew this and taught it: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

My message to you is don't teach your children, learn from them.

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