Ten Spiritual Principles of Discipline

Wisdom I Learned from My Teacher, Avatara Adi Da


5. More potent (and empowering) than negative consequences

is the principle of attraction.

Consider the observation of Adi Da: "The secret with children, as with all human beings, is that everybody stays happy, ecstatic, full of pleasure. If you can find the pleasure or the free attention in a child, then you can redirect him or her. But if you confront the aberration that is present in the moment, they will not come out of it because they have a ritual [of self-preservation] to perform. It is the same with everybody. Therefore, the secret of living is to remain in a state of pleasure. That is your responsibility. The secret of living with others is to locate the free attention and essential pleasure in them and in yourself and redirect them to their sanity by that means." (Ice Cream & Shoe, 1983)

In short, if you stay happy, you will find the most economical and elegant way to draw others into that happiness. If you get unhappy, you will often find yourself in a power-struggle, where every attempt to discipline drives the student or child away from harmonious participation instead of toward it or you. If you maintain your happiness, not only are you attractive, you will easily find the fulcrum of your children's happiness to assist you.

For example, I remember coming into a household where a baby sitter and three-year-old Felix were in the bathroom, with Felix crying. The baby sitter was trying to use the strategy of exclusion to address some unhappy and unwilling behavior of Felix. I asked permission to intervene (the baby sitter was very grateful), and asked Felix, "Do you want to come out?" (He nodded "Yes".) "Well, then, first come to me, and let's take a breath together. You want to go back in the living room and play? (Yes) Well, let's take a really big breath, like this, and let go of the bad feelings and we can work it out. Come on, I'll help you. Ah. OK. Now, you wanna play some more? (Yes). Well, you have to share don't you?, and let Jordon have a turn too, OK? OK. Big breath, let's go."

In every case and inquiry, I anchored the child's attention with his object of desire, what he was attracted to. That principle of attraction was repeated and tied to the art of breathing until the emotional stability necessary for harmonious participation in relationship was nurtured forth.

In the classroom, good teachers use the principle of attraction, where learning is heartily invited, and their attractiveness creates a magnetic pole for the all students. Great classroom managers are powerfully gracious and perfectly serious, intimately helpful and full of challenges.

The principle of attraction can be seen in successes and appropriate rewards of all kinds, and by attending to this principle distinctly, the educator or parent can develop a great art of discipline. When adults help a child clarify what she or he wants, then they can direct the child to hurdle their difficulties to achieve their goal.

We need to recognize that challenge and demand are counter-productive when the feeling-being of our children is collapsed or hurt. We demand most effectively upon a foundation of safety and inclusion. Threats and idealistic demands often work against growth. While there are times when adults need to make clear distinctions and powerful requirements, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy of discipline we can apply to all situations. The more we call upon the principal of attraction, the more our childrearing will be attractive.

The principle of attraction also reveals the weakness in strategies that merely confront bad behavior. The dynamics of confrontation most often perpetuate the problem rather than solve it. "What is opposed is kept before us." fn Instead of abstract, unhappy, and unattractive confrontation, we need to acculturate in ourselves the basic disposition of "no problem". This is neither affectatious "la-la" nor starry-eyed idealism, and it is more than just a positive attitude. It is a reflection of real intelligence, where our deeper sentience intuits the luminous nature of life. Even where there are problems, it is "no problem" for you.