How can sankalpa be used with children? How can we avoid projecting our own desires onto children and how can we help them to be aware of the difficulties in relationships with parents?
Rishi Hridayananda: Sankalpa is one of the greatest things that we can do for ourselves. As parents we hold the key to this new generation in our hands and in our hearts. Our children follow everything we do and say, their ears are highly tuned to how we act. When your children are fifty, sixty or seventy years of age they will be acting just like you do now. How do I know? Because I am doing it myself.
The best thing you can do for your children is to teach them yoga nidra and use our guru, Swami Niranjan, as the greatest example for your inspiration. Turn the yoga nidra cassette on in the evening when you come home from work or school. Let your children hear it and see you practising it. That's the way to teach them. If you can do that, then your children will grow and learn and they will be inspired to practise yoga when they are older. Then when they have children they will be practising as well.
Sankalpa is perhaps the greatest seed that we can place in our inner consciousness. It comes to fruition extremely quickly. If you put your heart and mind to the task, it becomes easy because it is also enjoyable. Children love it and it helps them to pass their exams.
Swami Yogabhakti: Sankalpa is certainly the absolute weapon against anxiety and fear. When children are preparing for exams, for instance, and also hearing about life as adults present it, about how hopeless the world is today, about unemployment and not being able to find a job even with a degree, then sankalpa is very powerful. You tell the children that if they are truly who they are, they will find their place under the sun, whatever the conditions, whatever the parents. If you tell them to be confident and repeat, "I know I can do it. I know I will succeed," they will succeed. If you give children self-confidence through a sankalpa, then they will find out who they are and what they have to do, and they will manage throughout their lives.
We have been taught by our guru that a person has to choose their own sankalpa. Therefore, we must explain to school children of eight to eleven years that they have to select their own sankalpa, keeping in mind the fact that they are endowed with inner light. Then they should close their eyes and listen to the tiny little voice telling them the right sentence, which they will repeat in their heart. Usually when children are told to close their eyes and listen to that key sentence or that strong word, their faces light up because they hear the little voice inside dictating the sankalpa. That is how we deal with sankalpa in the classroom at school.
Dr Rishi Vivekananda: When our youngest son was three or four he was always running onto the road. We had no fence around the house and were very worried about him. So at night when he was asleep I would go and whisper in his ear, "Now, Peter, when you come to the edge of the road you must stop and make sure there are no cars coming." I said this three times for about a week. The sankalpa went into his unconscious mind and may have saved his life because he is still alive. After a week he would come running across the footpath and just stop at the side of the road and look down at his feet. He could not work out why his feet had stopped. That is sankalpa!
Swami Niranjanananda: Swami Sivananda used to say that children are lumps of clay and you can mould them in any way you want them to be. This is true, but unfortunately we have not been moulded properly and we lack the understanding of how to mould others properly. Although Swami Sivananda's statement is correct, we cannot apply it. Instead of working with children, as a first step I would recommend that parents work with themselves. It is the general tendency for parents to become the judge, jury and executioner of their children whenever they commit any kind of action. The child always sees the parents as the authority. The parents are the authority figures and the child is always a victim of that authority. No matter how much you may love your child, that image is always there.
The first point yoga suggests is that you should change yourself and try to become a friend to your child. Friendship has a very big influence on the life of a person and the life of a child. Children will listen to and follow what other children say because there are no barriers; they see each other as equals. Even when they are grown up, the concept of equality between friends matures. You remain friends with those who were your friends in childhood and you avoid those whom you placed on the pedestal of authority. If you see your high school teacher walking down the road, you will avoid that teacher if you can. If there is no way of avoiding the teacher, you will say hello but your legs will be shaking. So the first effort that parents have to make is to become friends with their children.
Secondly, after you have become friends with your children you have to encourage them to express their positive nature. As an example, a true story comes to mind about a family who had a small child. Whenever the parents wanted to go to the movies they would tell the child a lie, not that they were going to the movies. But intuitively the child knew that his parents were hiding something from him and he began to rebel against their instructions. It was an intuitive response. Adults function at the level of intellect, but children function at the level of intuition. Therefore, they are able to pick up many things intuitively which adults try to hide from them intellectually. They know when someone is telling them a lie and they know when somebody is telling them the truth. They know when somebody is trying to control them and they know when somebody is trying to let them be free. Their responses are different, their expressions are different, their eyes are different, their smiles are different in every situation.
Once you have become friends with your child, if you are able to encourage them to express their feelings by being truthful with them, then you do not need to have a sankalpa especially modified or made for children, because they learn by example. We all learn by example, but we cannot sustain the example in our lives for long due to our conditioning or our belief or our lifestyle, whatever the mentality, whatever the reason. But children learn by example and they live by example. So being truthful to your child will automatically bring out the best in them.
Thirdly, if you feel the child is inhibited in some areas of his or her nature or personality, such as shyness or an inability to interact with other children of the same age group, having difficulties relating to people, having some form of insecurity or inhibition, having difficulties with study, with concentration, retention and memory, then you can begin with simple sankalpas which encourage positive expression in the child's life. One very broad and basic sankalpa which we generally give to little children is, "I am creative." It is very simple. Give your child this sankalpa and also give your child the opportunity to become creative in life, because it is no use giving a sankalpa without giving the opportunity. If you give a sankalpa then you also have to give the right opportunity.
So, from my perspective, it is the parents who have to do the hard work, not the children. Children simply have to be encouraged to express themselves.
Aube, France, April 1997