My son has developed a neurotic habit that worries me and my wife quite a bit. What should we do?

To the extent that you are free of the attachment to how it ought to be with your son and with your identity as a father, with being able to be a father perfectly – I’m not talking about abrogating responsibility for safety and survival, just about not getting lost in fatherness – you can see him as a being who is living out a certain incarnation in which this neurotic pattern is showing. By contacting that being behind the neurotic pattern, you can help him drop it when he’s ready to drop it.

My understanding of the way a child grows is that you create the garden, you don’t grow the flower.

You can merely fertilize the earth and keep it soft and moist, and then the flower grows as best it can. You create a space with your consciousness that determines whether the neurotic pattern gets deeper into that child or whether it’s seen as something that can be cast off when the time comes. If you define this being as “my child who has this habit,” and that’s the major reality of the relationship between you and the child, that’s catching him in the habit. The minute you see him as a soul who’s incarnated in this situation in which he’s working through this stuff, he’s free to drop it whenever he needs to, because you’re not attached to his having it or not having it.

It’s an interesting one, because people get guilty that they’re not doing enough about their children, and they tend to get caught in this sort of predicament. You don’t change your wife or your child. You just keep working on yourself until you are such a clean mirror reflection, such a supportive rock of love for all those beings that everybody is free to give up their stuff when they want to give it up – your wife, her anxiety; your child, that habit. You keep creating a space in which people can grow when they’re ready to grow.

The predicament is that a child and a parent may be at very different levels of evolution in terms of their ages of being.

A child could be much older than the parent, or much younger than the parent, in an evolutionary sense. There are many old beings being born into this culture at this moment. They have been looking to take birth in a conscious environment, so that some of you have babies that don’t particularly want to be incarnated because they’re almost beyond it. They’re just doing some little clean-up operation.

The minute we do a “take” of beings as souls rather than personalities and bodies, we don’t cling to the incarnation that hard. We understand its function, and we don’t demand that the incarnation be other than it is. We understand that births are consciously chosen to work out specific karmic necessities, and we don’t get as lost in the melodrama on this plane.

It’s very interesting how you deal with problems and suffering depending upon which plane of consciousness is the dominant theme, although you never forget the other one. A strong consciousness keeps it all going at the same time. You do everything you can to help your son feel more loved, calm, supported, and ready to get rid of the neurotic habits – and at the same moment, you are not attached and you understand that it is the karma of this being that is being lived out, and you work on yourself until you are a perfect environment for that being to do what it needs to do.


– Ram Dass, excerpt from Grist for the Mill: Awakening to Oneness


Image by Leonid Mamchenkov via Flickr