This is a continuation of our conversation from last week, in episode 114.
PAM: Ok, we should probably move on!
Now we are unschooling with our children. We are pretty comfortable with knowing that they are learning all the time and we are reaching for connection more often than control. Like you said, there are always going to be moments where we react without thinking or where we have to step back for a second and re-evaluate, but now we are going to step more into the inner journey.
This next illustration is from a stage called, “Accepting our Nature,” and it’s called, “Joy.” For me, in reading that chapter I ended up getting to the point where I could accept my nature—knowing that when we were talking about things going wrong, when something happens and we are tempted to react differently or we are tempted to make another choice, this is not a failure, it is another moment for us.
And for me that was a stage where I learned the value of living mindfully; trying to take that moment so that I could have choices instead of reactions. And being able to accept that sometimes I would give into that temptation for a moment and when things were feeling uncomfortable, sitting with that for awhile to discover and learn about myself.
So that is what that whole accepting our nature is about and once I got to that point I really discovered that undercurrent of joy when we are able to accept ourselves. To me this is a huge piece of the journey and why I call my website Living Joyfully, because, to me, it all came to the joy, right?
So yes, your illustration!
HEMA: Yes, it all comes back to the joy. Accepting our nature.
When I met Ravi, he was a movie buff; I mean, he is a movie buff. He has the capacity to memorize big chunks of dialogue. In the middle of the day, suddenly he will become somebody from The Godfather, he will become somebody from some other movie, and I am thinking, how does he do that?
Anyway, along comes Raghu and I became more like, “I don’t think we’re going to be watching any more of these movies, I think we’re going to ration the amount of TV he watches because I have read here and there that TV is no good, blah blah blah. Fast-forward, he is two and a half, and every time we turn the TV on, Raghu’s eyes would light up and I was like, “Ugh, what, why? Don’t you see the joy of all the other stuff I want you to see joy in?”
Anyway, so moving forward now, I am just trying to set up that I had issues with the TV being on in our home. So slowly, as we came to this new understanding of things, by this time, there was a TV, there was a DVD player, there were these movies and films that the children loved to watch. Zoya would get up and say, “I want to watch Winnie the Pooh. Milk, Winnie the Pooh,” and she would take her milk or whatever she was drinking, and she would watch Winnie the Pooh over and over.
As she was watching it—as you might see in some of the photographs we post with this podcast—Zoya invariably would have her iPad somewhere nearby, she would have a drink or something nearby, and she would have Lego, art, chalkboards, maybe the TV going on at the same time, all of these different stimuli that she loved. So, Zoya being surrounded by all this stimuli, meanwhile I had Raghu who had just bumped into some friends, on a trip somewhere, I think it was to Abu Dhabi. He bumped into someone with a DS Nintendo, I think he was 6 or maybe 5 at the time, and I could see his eyes just shine.
I want to connect it back to this beautiful image of this child in the hammock with his headphones and he is completely at ease with himself. The people building the boat have just started building this boat, and that is another part of this whole illustration process with this book, that I felt like we were the heroes of our own journey and the journey was now gaining momentum, it was getting more solid. There was this boat that we were building, this boat of trust, a foundation, something that we can swim safely in as we navigate new paths, new journeys. I was feeling more confidence at this stage for sure.
I like how this illustration comes close to this paragraph on living mindfully and also sitting with discomfort to discover what to let go. I love reading your stories here, because I used to think that if my children were watching too much TV or were just watching shows on repeat like Zoya did, etc. I was not being a parent. It felt like who was I, to them? I was just beginning to dig into all of Sandra Dodd’s writing at that time, about all of the different ways in which we can learn and one of them was the TV, the computer, the hand-held devices, all kinds of things.
Now Ravi and I had never played a video game. The only thing I knew of video games was Donkey Kong, way back, a tiny little thing, nothing else. And I had this image of myself, because I would get worried if my children were watching those shows and if I was beginning to feel like, “Oh, I’m just going to take a shower,” so there was a part of me that was not able to trust that because I had read too much about how a TV was used as a babysitter. I read these articles and they were floating in my head, and I had to reposition everything because now I trusted my kids.
So, I’m like, ‘Wait, I do not have to think like this; I can sing to them their songs, as they are watching, while I was having a shower,’ which is what I did with Zoya sometimes. She would be outside with the iPad, she would sing the songs of whatever, Tiger, and I would be like, “I can hear you,” and all of a sudden, it was not “screen time,” it was not devices, it was just what is in front of us that engages us, interests us, and it began to ease up. I could see this amazing ability for me to sit with that discomfort of the media, in this case, and letting go of it because I saw joy. I could slow myself down, I didn;t have to be at the same speed as my child, I could spend time outside of the experience.
So the story about Raghu and the DS Nintendo, I think at the time, I think they call it 3DS or something, now, but at the time, it was just a DS. My brother-in-law very sweetly said, “Can I buy this for him?” He asked me because he kind of knew I had all those issues about how many movies my kids were watching, and he had known that from previous encounters. And at that point, I had changed enough that I was like, “Yes! That would be so amazing for Raghu.”
So, Raghu got it, he got two games, we come home, I think it was Ben Ten, do you know Ben Ten?
HEMA: Yeah, so this little Ben Ten thing, you put it in, he is playing on it, and very soon after he started playing the level, he discovered he could not go to the next level because he was not able to resolve this level. I sat there with him, thinking, ‘That is it, our unschooling is not working for me because I know nothing. Oh my god, this is it, it is broken down, we should never have gone towards these things.’
All of these fears, because I could not help this child and he was almost in tears because the way the game was set up was that you could not go ahead and he knew he had to go ahead. He knew this was not just this much of the game. I think also Raghu has an instinct—he has a gut instinct when it comes to games and technology and how it works and how a game should proceed and what you can look for, what are the Easter eggs in games.
He has always been like that, so that was my first enjoyment with Raghu of his video game passion that was very new at that time. He was in tears and I did not know where to turn because I had no friends who video gamed in India. Meanwhile I go online searching drastically, like ‘Oh my god, I have to do something, I have to fix this for my son,’ and I find cheat codes, so I am like, “Oh, cheat codes, yay!”
I told Ravi, and it is late at night, it is 10 o’clock, Ravi comes home and is like, “Yeah, here are the cheat codes you asked me to print out.” We still did not have an office set up or a printer, there were all of these stages right, at that point in my journey, with my children in India.
Raghu had fallen asleep and the next morning, I wake up and he was up already, he must have been awake at like six in the morning or something, and he was on the sofa, beaming with happiness and I looked at him and said, “My gosh, when did you wake up?” and he is like, “I did it! I did it!” and I am like, “What?” He said, “I did it, I got past to the next level, I know how to do this.”
And you know, that moment just stays with me because that is who he has been ever since. It is like when he gets into something, he just gets into it and I, from then on, knew that my role with him was to sit with myself. He was not the goal here—I want to word this better—I feel like he was my sign post. If I just watched him, worked with him, stayed with him.
I showed him the cheat codes and he said to me, “Yeah, I don’t need them!” and he was not even interested in figuring out whether the cheat codes were like, “Let’s see if this was the best way to do this,” you know. But no, none of that; he was on, and he knew what he wanted from that game. He has played some video games over and over just to get a different outcome. Just to hear the music at the end, and would be, “Do you know that if you play it like this, you can get that awesome music playing at the end?” He could go and play the music on YouTube or something, anyway, but no, it was the success of it.
PAM: The accomplishment.
HEMA: The accomplishment.
And for me, I know the story here of sitting with discomfort, to discover what to let go, is a different story for you, and as you said, wisely, it’s true, it is different for everybody. For me, when I read this, it took me right there. It took me to that moment of saying, “Ahhhh.”
So much relief, so much trust. And hence, I could walk that path with him, with much more confidence. I was like, ‘Okay, I may not always know where I’m headed, especially in a world that I was not completely aware of. I was not always as passionate about video games but I can walk it with him, I can learn along side.’
That took me further than ever before. I loved when you said to take a moment, you were able to take a moment to have a choice, to seek choices versus reacting and in that moment, I think I learned and I learned many more times with Raghu. By following him, I would always find choices because I had only one view of things, because, you know, too many layers, I had forgotten what it was like to be a child.
I think that it is limitless, that famous saying that I am sure somebody says, and I am sorry, I am not going to be remembering who to quote here, but “Ten impossible things before breakfast,” who said that…Pippi Longstocking?
PAM: I’ll look that up. [NOTE: It’s from Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland, said by the Queen of Hearts, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Pam]
HEMA: I think it was Pippi Longstocking, but maybe not, I don’t know. Zoya is like that. Ten impossible things before breakfast. All kinds of things, and I would be like, “Oh my God, do I have to now build a row boat? Do I have to do…?”
And no, I was learning that I could pause, I can take the lead based on where they are leading me. I learned a lot more because for the first time, I think when the video gaming entered our life and Raghu just embraced it, that was when I realized I am completely out of my depth. I was not able to keep up. I had a little one, who also needed me a lot, so I was not playing with Raghu in his video game worlds that would have helped me, slow poke that I was, to learn at his pace. And that was a big learning for me, I was like, “Ok, I may not always be able to keep pace with them.” Until then, you know, Pam, we were pretty much on the same page all the time. Suddenly he was in this other world, picking up all kinds of new things.
So, one of the big learning things that happened and has stayed until today and has just taken on different forms, is being available to just converse, to talk. With Raghu, it always worked for Raghu that just when he would enter the pool, he would just blissfully lie there or wait on the side and keep talking. It was funny, he would stop swimming and talk. Even today, like at night, he suddenly says, “Do you want to have a cup of tea?” And I go, “Okay.” That is my cue. It is like, ‘I am going to have a chat. He is going to talk.’ I get so excited and I just change my plans immediately because it is incredible what comes up.
PAM: I love that, because that is something I found too, that being open and available. That is just a way to approach our day, when they are looking for that connection, to be open to engage with them in that moment, to be the other part of that connection.
When they are seeking that, then that is when you want to be there for them. Because you miss so much if you try to put that on your own timetable. It is back to respecting them as a person and understanding that their needs are important. Treating their needs as important, just as important as your own.
Of course, over a lifetime, over years and weeks, there will be times when we just can’t. Maybe there is something that is going on that you really can’t stop, but it comes back to choice, right? To take that moment. Is that other thing really important? Does it need to be done right this moment? Because my child is reaching out and wanting to connect. Is there a way that I can be in that space with them right now?
So often you really can, there really is not that much that is an emergency. That is part of that joy too, I think, it is that release of all that burden and that weight that we carry around of all the things we think we are “supposed” to be doing.
HEMA: Oh yes, I found such relief, because I had this little one who was so physically active. Zoya was everywhere. Even today, we call it the “Zoya Breadcrumb Trail,” because if she has been in the room, you will know it. There will be tiny little creations.
Ravi found that the zipper that broke on his favorite jacket that Zoya wears a lot, because she likes wearing Ravi’s things—the zipper broke and Ravi had been struggling with it. Zoya, of course, found a little hack for it. Zoya hacks everything. She put a little paperclip, she put a little tape around it, it is perfect. If the tape goes away in the wash, she just puts it back, and Ravi is like, “She fixed my coat, my zip is back.”
It’s just the beauty of knowing that they are just always in the driver’s seat. They are driving and I am with them for the ride.
PAM: Yeah, and that was the piece of the illustration too that spoke to me, with him being in the hammock: being totally comfortable and ok with all their choices. That knowing that the choice to be quiet in that moment is absolutely their choice and totally their joy. You can just see the joy in the choice to be “doing nothing,” right?
HEMA: Yes, oh my God, yes. There are so many essays people have written about doing nothing, and I am like, “Oh my God, it is never nothing!” There is so much going on in their brains, in their thoughts.
There is this beautiful image you have drawn with your beautiful words in one of your books about Lissy being out on the swings for hours. I can never forget that image, yeah, I totally get that. I feel the power in those moments.
Zoya will often do this thing, wake up in the morning, then she will come down with her blanket and pillow, and she has had a full night’s sleep, but she will come down and then sit and spend a further two hours. She did this for years, actually. Zoya recently changed to breakfast as soon as she wakes up, but otherwise she would spend a couple of hours just zoned out. And then sometimes she would fall asleep, sometimes she would say, “I’m busy,” and I’m like, “Oh, ok.” And what she was doing was just completely in her own thoughts. It is a magical thing to watch.
PAM: It is, yeah. I remember I would always just peek out the window because she built her swing in one of the willow trees here, so I would just peek out and see some of the branches going up and down, when I would be like, “Where is Lissy?” And I would know, “Oh, she’s out there.” Or sometimes she would put her headphones on and say, “I am going out.” For hours, and you know there is important stuff going on.
PAM: Ok, our next one.
The next illustration is titled, “Compassion,” and that is the stage titled, “Cultivating Kindness and Compassion,” and I really love this stage, and it is about when you have so much that we have been working though, you start to realize that no, there is no right and wrong, there is a bigger picture to it.
We don’t need to judge those moments so much as right and wrong because they are where the person is in that moment. You know, go back to the swing, go back to the “doing nothing.” Even if that is how we see it, it is not how it is for them. Or they wouldn’t choose it. They have a reason that they have made that choice in the moment, so when you start to see that all these seemingly opposite things have purpose and have meaning and are all valuable, that is when all of a sudden you start to really appreciate the wholeness of things.
Then it comes back to that whole yin and yang and I just love the pulse and the flow. There is the word I was looking for, because when we were talking about this recently on the Q and A, too, just the whole flow of life and our sense of ourselves as part of the wholeness of things.
It was within there that all of a sudden, I had so much more compassion. Not only for my children and for all of their choices, but it started to grow to everyone—to my husband, to our extended family. I started to see them on their journey, I started to appreciate where they were. It could have been completely different from where I was, and it often was, but I could still now, at this point, appreciate where they were because I could see the bigger picture and the kindness with which I could treat people and the compassion that I felt just grew at this point. I love all the people that are in your illustration for this stage as well, and the boat that is coming together more.
HEMA: I love what you shared.
I feel the flow of everything coming together. It is a young woman—and initially, when I started this illustration, I kept thinking, ‘Ok, this has to be the grandfather, this has to be the dad, this has to be the mom,’ and the more I drew them, the more I was like, ‘No, I could change it for each illustration.’ It could be who they needed to be.
There are the personalities though: the playful mermaid, the child with the headphones and the long hair, who for me is who Raghu was for the longest time. He would always be on the periphery, he would not always join into big group play, he would rather watch.
I remember a long time ago, we met Sandra Dodd at her home one time; she arranged a festival called the Monkey Platter Festival. I think that was one of the moments that stood out for me as an indicator of times to come. Not that I thought of it like that, but it became an indicator of things to come.
We were all playing, I think Marty and Kirby, her sons, and even Holly, maybe, so everybody was there, we were playing with the parachute thing. There were lots of unschooling moms and dads and kids and we are all playing and Zoya was having a blast and the boys were throwing leaves up in the air with this big parachute sail and it was fall. So much awesomeness; it was a beautiful autumn day and all of a sudden, I could not see Raghu anywhere. Sandra pointed him out to me, she said, “Look over there,” and I was like, “Oh, I should go check,” and she was like, “No, no, you do not need to check. He is fine. I can see him, I have been seeing him for awhile, he is fine.” He was just sitting under a tree quite far from us and just sitting there and it was, again, when I look at these children and who they are in each moment, I can flow better overall.
I sometimes joke with Ravi that I am not sure who is coming down the stairs right now because it will be Zoya, but I don’t know which age Zoya, I don’t know which Zoya. Is it the Zoya in this frame of mind or that frame of mind? Because they change everyday. Overall you can say that I think Zoya is playful and Raghu is, you know, but really that is a disservice to all of the things they can be.
I could apply that compassion to myself and to Ravi and to more people; exactly like you said, because you are right. I don’t know if I am making the right dot connections, but I think in my mind, it leads to the fact that I have learned, and this is today’s learning too for me, a lot of it.
When I am unhappy, when I feel out of my centre, I have to go back to myself. It is never about what is in front of me, it is never about the people around me, it is never about the issue, it is never about the fact that the car broke down, and everything is going wrong. It is always something inside that is actually just not able to centre myself. So, if I can go back inside and if I can bring up all of the little things that make me so happy and joyful and then I start to build myself up from it.
You have this beautiful little piece here right by this illustration that is called “Compassion,” in which it says, “Finding the magic in the mess,” and you have this lovely story about a big January snowstorm. Lissy, I think, is a teenager, and you had tickets to a concert. The number of times I have had situations like that where the pieces are not working, and somebody is completely resisting the rest of the family’s decision. This is the real stuff; this is day-to-day.
In our life, we do not have that way of thinking which is “Well, school said you have to do this, and you are going to have to…” you know what I mean, like, I am just bringing back school but it could be anything, it could be like, “And we think you must do…you know, this is the rule in our family.” Because you live outside of that paradigm, outside of that sort of thinking, you can just push the boundaries in all sorts of ways and then the magic begins to happen.
Zoya wished for the beach the other day, she just wished for the beach. And I said, “Oh, in winter? Okay.” I mean, you know, I am not always the best person in winter, so I am always thinking like, ‘Ok, the winter …’ So, I always have to catch myself, like, ‘I have nice warm gloves, I can get myself Starbucks, I can do this.’ You know, I make myself happy to approach winter.
But anyways, Zoya is all excited about the beach, she wanted her friends. And I am thinking, ‘Oh my god, now I have to call everybody,’ and I was feeling a little overwhelmed. This week was a bit overwhelming and I had a few too many things, so I was like, ‘Oh my god, now I have to get her friends together, but she is not wanting a particular friend, but wants the other,’ you know, all of these, whatever the factors are, right? Everybody has these conflict situations that arise and I just did not know how it was going to play out.
I just had to go back to myself and say, ‘Ok, what do I wish for Zoya? I want her to get what she wants, and I am not quite sure how it is going to play out.’ And I kind of soothe talked myself into a place of feeling that all is well. And sure enough, we had the most exquisite email fall into my lap, which of course existed—I mean you could say that it was already in your inbox you know, but no, you know how it flows and when you see the flow, then you just see more and more flow in your life. It is amazing, and the email just popped up like a little magic thing at that day’s end. Of course, it is not magic, it is real, it happened. There was an email about her photo club wanting to go to the beach and wanting to hang out with everybody!
We get almost 55 or 60-degree weather, we get just a few clouds in the sky, just to give enough contrast that the photos were beautiful. We get another 15 kids and adults, and we are all walking up and down the beach, there is driftwood and shells everywhere. It was exquisite. I could not have made this happen, you know what I mean, Pam? I cannot make this, this just happens. Yes, I can bring all the pieces and place, I can centre myself, I can make the environment, but then the magic happens. You just trust the next little step and the next.
You know, there is this beautiful book by Anne Lamott that I always go back to whenever I see the overwhelming aspect of housework or something which is crazy for me. A book that is titled, Bird by Bird, and I love that story, you probably know it, right?
It is this little story about her brother and how he was overwhelmed by a project and he had to submit it and it was the last day of the summer vacation and his dad looked at him and said, “Bird, by bird, buddy, that is all you can do,” and I am just like, “Yes! That I can do.” Okay, I can do all of it.
So, I love knowing that there is tremendous flow in this picture, everybody is doing what they need to do and somehow the overall is that we are all together. We are all flowing together, and there was this beautiful sentence in your book, and I have to identify somewhere, I am sure we can put a little quote from it later that talks about the subterranean current of joy. I just loved that sentence. It fit beautifully into this image for me, just kind of segued in, because that water flows into the cave and there is a fish and the bird and then the water comes out and the idea of flow and water obviously do play well together.
PAM: Yeah, I just loved how, like you said, everybody is just doing their own thing, but they are together, right? You can just feel such happiness, joy, compassion for each one of them, doing what they are choosing. There is just a sense of completeness that they are all there and they are choosing individually what they most want to do and it is just so beautiful, the way it all flows. It really is the right word, right?
PAM: And much of what you were talking about there, about how so much of this is our inner work, is a beautiful stepping stone into the next stage which is, as Campbell calls it the, “Ultimate Boon.”
We are now unschooling with confidence and grace and so much of what you were describing there is where you are getting to with this. Now, it does not mean perfect. So many people say, “I have to be perfect. Oh no, I did something wrong.” They throw out the baby, the bathwater, everything.
So much of this is inner work, but now we are to the point where it has happened enough times. We have seen the magic come out of the mess, we have seen it happen over and over and we understand now. We are really quite confident that we will come out the other side, even if we do not see how. Even if we do not see where that water is going to go when it goes into that subterranean area, we know there will be another side to it.
I love the idea that unschooling becomes a practice to us. We get up every morning and we see how things are and we flow with the day and when challenges come up, we know so much of it is often our work to do and we take that moment either to do some of that work, or to take stock, to make a choice so that we feel like we are in the flow rather than being directed from an outside current, right? Maybe that is a good way of saying it.
PAM: We can just choose in each of those moments to live gracefully with the others around us. In your image, which we called “Grace,” it really epitomizes that feeling that you are ready for this voyage of life.
Does that align with what you were thinking about that image?
HEMA: Oh yeah, I love this image because it completed something for me. I think you had once asked me whether while drawing this, how were the illustrations helping my journey, you know? The act of drawing it out, it is a visual representation of much of what we have been experiencing. I had liked that idea of, ‘Yeah, how am I growing as I am drawing?’ I think it helped me take stock in a real way. It is like, ‘Oh yeah, this feels really good, you know.’ Like sometimes you forget because you are unschooling, you are just alive, and it is not a thing anymore, it is just what it is.
I have never been anti-school, you know. Zoya has tried out a co-op, she has tried out a small playschool, she has tried things along the way and she has gone for as long as it met some need for her, and she has left it. It is not that we forget that we are unschooling or something, it is just that this is just life, it is just living, yes.
A funny story that happened was two years ago. Ravi came home all excited and he said, “You know, I have this project I have to finish, and for that I have to go to London, and it is so cool that we get to go. I can expand it—we can have a weekend on this side, a weekend on that side, make it a nice ten-day trip.”
He was talking to me and the kids, and saying, “And you know, you Hema, you can do all those things that you were saying Zoya wanted to see the…. blah blah blah,” something and he was so excited, and the kids are looking at him, and they are saying, “Okay…” and he is looking at them, saying, “Aren’t you excited? Could we do this? When should we? I just have to fix the dates.”
He starts talking and they are like, “But we can’t go,” and he is like, “Huh?” And they say, “Uh no, taekwando, have you forgotten? Like, what is up with you?” And he is looking at me for confirmation, because he is not always with us all the time on this journey. He catches up all the time, but he is also his own beautiful self and he is looking at me, thinking, “Wait, we started this journey so that we would be free to roam the world, right? What happened here?”
And I am like, “Ah, yes, here on the flip side. You know, the part where they get passionate about things, that is what is happening. You know the other side of things where you know, you actually love something so much that that is what you do.” It is not like I am giving up on London, I just do not need to choose it.
And it really hit me and Ravi that day, like, look at this incredible life, you know? Ravi was, of course, bummed and still remembers and says, “You guys stopped me from going to London.” But he was amazed that the passion takes you to these heights where you are on a journey. So anyways, I thought it was ironic that here the boat was built, we are ready for the journey, but we are not going anywhere, we have taekwondo. Stay. So, I thought it was funny.
Yes, this is the boat, sometimes you put an anchor in and you stay wherever it is. Sort of a metaphor and also, just a symbol, maybe, of the fact that we are in our boat, in our heads and we are always moving. It is not a physical thing, sometimes you do not see all of the pieces come together physically even, and you will find things connecting months later even, sometimes and say, “Oh, remember that phase where so and so was continuously watching these videos? Guess what? She is actually interested in this thing that segues into that,” and it is amazing.
PAM: It is a trust, right? That comes up at that point; you just totally trust that the things they are choosing, even if you don’t quite know why now, that you trust that it has value for them because they are choosing it and they are free to choose—they are not choosing in reaction to other things.
They have these choices in front of them and they are choosing it, so there is a reason, whether or not you see it. That is the beautiful thing, that so often when you look back you can see the connections between things, you can see why it was important to them in that moment, but you have to wait until you can see that bigger picture. So often it is in the bigger picture where you see the connections, not in that tiny microscopic moment.
HEMA: Right, and you know, at that point, I had tried to explain to Ravi why the taekwondo was so important, I remember both of us trying to justify, “Wow, they made this choice.” Sometimes I didn’t know whether they were going to continue with taekwondo, and there have been many more moments where my children have given up.
Oh, did you say that in your book? I love that…I am going to have to remember who said it, but in that movie, “Stuart Little,” I think, the cat says, “Well if more people would just give up, we would have fewer wars,” or something. [NOTE: It is from the Stuart Little movie: “I’m telling ya, Stuart – if more people gave up, there’d be fewer wars.”] And it just stayed with me, like we can just give up. We can just take it easy, we do not have to fight it. And I love not having to control the outcome.
They say there is grace in the everyday. One of the lines in this section, “The people in our lives continue to learn and grow and change, so we need to stay in tune with the rhythm of our relationships.” There is another one in the same little segment, it says, “When I am stymied, trying to figure out how to come up with a plan that meets the needs of everyone involved, it looks like me openly asking my children for their suggestions, knowing that they too will consider everyone’s needs. They are full members of the family and they often have a fresh perspective and some pretty great ideas.” I felt like that because the kids looked at Ravi and said, “You’re welcome to go, you should have fun!” and I liked that.
Could we just state here once again, what stage we are at with Joseph Campbell’s way of looking at this stage? With the illustration.
PAM: Yes, so this stage is “Unschooling with Confidence and Grace,” and this is the “Ultimate Boon.” So, this is the reward, but so often in stories, they are represented by a physical reward, you know, they get the Holy Grail. In our inner journeys, it is the grace of gods, basically. But you discover you do not need to steal the grace from them; it is that you come to a point in your inner journey where you have the grace of gods.
It is what we have been talking about, where you have done this inner work, you understand and have this feeling of wholeness and kindness and compassion and just grace and you are able to treat people in your lives as whole people, as other people equal to you, regardless, because you can see where they are on their journey.
HEMA: Yeah, the grace of the gods, the grace of the taekwondo gods, the grace of night conversations.
Zoya was telling me about this YouTuber just last night, we were in bed and she was showing me videos of this woman, Lily Sing, and I said I want to know who Lily Sing is. She is this famous YouTuber that Zoya has been watching and she laughs like crazy when she watches these videos, so I know it is really good. So, I watched a couple but I wanted to know more about her life and her choices and she says to me, well you should just watch the one where she draws her life out. So, she takes me to that video and it was an incredible video.
This connection with Zoya, the connection with the fact that there is the grace of finding so much of the world through my children. For me, at this stage, I’m at that space, almost like, “Show me the world, children!” Because before, it was colour. This is like—what do you call it?—IMAX. This is the IMAX world. It’s in full blown 3D. And I like their view of life, it’s so fresh!
PAM: So, the next stage. now we have gotten, in Campbell’s terms, the “Ultimate Boon,” that is our reward, and then now it is returning back from your special world to your ordinary world. It is that trek back as you start. Sometimes there is an escape—I always think of Indiana Jones, you know, he gets his reward and then he has got to run away because the gods are trying to get their reward back that you have stolen or something.
But on an inner journey like that, it is our way to start moving back more comfortably into the real world. We always call that the real world. But so often there are different ways for some people. I know for awhile that we were comfortable in our world, but then there were times, eventually, when I noticed that the kids wanted to do more. They wanted to some more activities, they wanted to be out more, out and about doing things.
We started to see family more and with the journey metaphor, so often what we are doing is now this kindness, this compassion, this grace that we have and that has now expanded from just our unschooling lives. We see the bigger picture of life and this is how we can live in the world. These are the kinds of gifts that we are now bringing back with us to the rest of the world.
They just see us in action, as we are out and about. When we go to girl guides or when we go just anywhere out in the world, we are bringing our new relationships. So often people would comment, if we were smiling and I am having fun with the kids. You are just out and about in the wold, in a different way, and these are part of the gifts of unschooling that we are now bringing back with us and that is the title of the next illustration of yours, “Gifts.” Now we are in the boat here and there are a lot of gifts around. I love the view through the porthole too, because now we are getting a glimpse of just an ordinary life in action. It is beyond the unschooling itself and now we are just in the world, right?
HEMA: Right, so now we are sailing along, and enjoying the contact with the world in a new way. I love this image of through the porthole window. Its a big image of gifts, of layered learning, of nuances, into connectedness. I love that Raghu helped me by adding that the bird cage should be with a wide-open door so the bird is free to play and roam around.
The little girls spirit was Zoya’s spirit, moving around, being engaged, near her mom. This image represents the interconnectedness of everything in my mind. The inner world and outer world. Everything is connected. And this is revealed to Ravi and me thru the breadth and depth of the conversations that our children engage in. Nothing is really sacred in our house. Or at least we try to be very open-minded to all kinds of topics. And we see the learning now as all-pervasive.
Raghu built his own gaming PC a few years ago and I felt like he had just completed a mini version of a small lifetime of experiences within that project. There was the negotiations with us about budget, we got into the history of PCs, design sensibilities, posting on PC builder forums, saving money, earning money, comparative shopping, mood swings, furniture arrangement and how to include Zoya’s needs, intense research, waiting for things to happen, patience involved and engaging others to help when he was struggling with a decision, watching endless online builds till we felt confident, cooperation with each other as other changing family needs emerged, etc. Its a pretty rich environment all along thru this journey and I hope this image gives that idea.
In this image, the rich visual display of this child’s work space/room gives an idea of the diverse learning going on. The mom is peeking in perhaps after a day of swimming and conversations and games and a visit to a friend’s home. She feels the contentment of the child immersed in some current passion.
This might be me bringing over a drink and Raghu might finish a game and show her a YouTube guitarist playing a 10-string electric guitar. And you tell him you have never heard of such a guitar. And he shares more about this new area of interest. And this leads to a conversation about the School of Rock movie; on to Babish and his latest ‘cooking from movie meals’ episode. Could we perhaps visit that music store we visited in Auroville (India) all those years ago where I think my parents bought Raghu a Shankha (conch shell) and you can blow on it at the beginning of an announcement of war or at sacred ceremonies. And that might lead to the beef ban in India still in effect. Which might lead to India and how it feels sad to be so far from a country we used to live in and remembering something from our life there when we lived there, far from a country we used to live in. Perhaps we go back to the guitarist who has finished his piece and we watch a different one by him online. It’s a continuous process of engagement with each other and our own inner worlds.
And the gifts! So, Raghu and Zoya have been going to taekwondo for 2.5 years and closing in on their pre-black belts. Often when I’m at that dojo, random parents whom I don’t know personally, who have been watching Raghu and Zoya, because they are there a lot, they will come to me and say, “What do you do with them? I’ve heard they are homeschooled. How are you getting them to be this attentive, or this committed and engaged in learning and how are they so well behaved?”
They think I’m controlling my kids. Its very hard to explain that this journey from control to connection and beyond has been going on for years. I’ve been guilty of control, but my children teach me a lot. They are so good at catching me when I am off my game and this is really a wonderful thing to have as they grow older. Of course, most of it is just work I’ve done because I can sense that the way I’m being with them is not working for them.
So, a parent might ask me how is it that my children are so motivated? It’s hard to explain to them that my children are motivated internally, not because of some external prop or that I bribe them. They can choose to leave the dojo when they feel done. If another interest calls them, staying true to their inner voice, which they are always attuned to, means that they are always intrinsically motivated and passionate about enjoying their activities.
Raghu got his job in fact and works once a week because of his relationship with his dojo instructor. He has been working for several months as an assistant to his instructor at a local after school taekwondo program. It came about because he respects his instructor and vice versa. There is this admiration between them.
So, the side story there is that Raghu chose to spend a big chunk of his earnings towards a gift for his Dad on his 50th birthday. He did not have to do that. He said he wanted to do this because Ravi had supported him for so long with his taekwondo—the kids go 5 days a week. I think Raghu really appreciated that and felt like gifting something really special to his dad. Something that his dad would not normally buy for himself. And to drop in a bit of interconnectedness, Raghu loves to study alcohol and shares this passion with Ravi. And hence the gift was of course a very rare single malt.
And back at the dojo, my kids are trusted with back office duties, they are appreciated there and its wonderful to hear from adults that my children are appreciated. They enjoy having conversations with my children. Adults will just come and tell me that. And I can see that this is because my children are on this kind of a journey. And this process happens again and again. It gets repeated. Like old fashioned candy videos—you can’t believe you can stretch even more, and then you do. And its incredible the gifts that are revealed because we are willing to walk this path and see and appreciate the gifts.
So, the whole journey itself is the gift. That is the really now what I love saying to people.
PAM: That’s such a great point, because you mentioned earlier that so much of the day-to-day stuff that we see as amazing and different, because we have seen different. To them, it is just life, right? It is just them choosing what they are doing and it is beautiful. And it is just because of life. Very rich. Rich is a great way to put it.
Ok, we are at the last stage, we made it! Campbell calls it, “Freedom to Live,” after, you know, mastering the two worlds, how we are just free to live our life. This last illustration we have called “Flow,” and I call that chapter, “The Flow of Our Unschooling Lives,” because we are at the point where we are growing and changing, living and learning, being and becoming.
What we have discovered that is constant in our life is change, right? And we’ve got to the point, again, to say, not that things are perfect, but that we know things will flow. Things keep going. We will find a way through things. And the last Q and A, we talked quite a bit about how it is not about balance, because balance is us trying to control things—us trying to keep all of those balls in the air versus the flow of our unschooling days and just seeing where they go. And you have illustrated that beautifully in your drawing.
HEMA: Thank you. I feel like this image is almost like, the only possible conclusion at the end of all of these illustrations. Like everybody would have been growing this. Like, of course we are all out on the ocean, of course we are sailing along.
PAM: Our intuition is there.
HEMA: Oh my gosh, those little cloud people, I adore them. I also love the raft. I love that that came to me because I like the raft. I like the idea that we can all be together and just be ourselves. Somebody could be sitting on a fish, swimming in the ocean, you know?
Anyways, so there is this line that you write here, it says, “But as we come to appreciate change as our lifelong bedfellow, we soon recognize it everywhere. It is the sparkle of possibilities; it feels like a weight has been lifted. And we are able to appreciate the moment.” I love that sentence. And there were so many moments when I was reading your book, it gave me so much relief. I understand that a big part of it is to take us through the hero’s journey, but I was already feeling like a hero then, like, ‘Oh YES, I got this!’ So good.
PAM: That’s it, you are the hero throughout, yes! This is you being yourself. Being that person in every one of these moments. It’s not you becoming a hero, it’s the journey as the hero.
HEMA: Oh yes. You know that line that you write here, because change is the biggest constant here, and it does not bring fear anymore. It just brings like, oooh, possibilities. You know, I can always take a pause. I do not want to have to rush headlong into change, but I can rely on so much more now that I have walked further along the path.
It is funny; for the longest time, Ravi and I, we had our little private joke, and I would even share it. I think I did share this with some people, and Ravi would come home not knowing what the next big change was, because years ago, I shocked him when I came back from the naturopaths’ office and said to Ravi, “All right, Raghu is going to get to eat whatever he wants, and we are not going to be sending him to school anymore, and we are going to be homeschooling.” And he is like, “Uuuh, ok.” and he looked like, “Um, that sounds pretty interesting, what is going to happen, exactly?”
I think I shared a couple of articles and spoke a little bit, and he is in. I mean, I want to take a moment to say that for him, because I feel like these partners in our life, you know, and some of us are single parents, and the single parents, they have their own kind of partners, their children, the extended family, and friends. I feel that the flow for me is to be with everybody.
It’s like, not that I take responsibility for how everybody’s journey turns out, but that I feel that connection, and I love that Ravi would come home and be like, “Ok, another change is coming,” and I am like, “Yeah!” and he would be like, “Uh, ok. I am behind it, let’s do this,” and you know, I really appreciate that. That many times the vision of this image, Pam, was in my heart all those years ago, because this is what my instincts said felt good, I just did not know how we were going to get there yet.
PAM: Yeah, how to get there.
HEMA: So, there were a lot of steps, but this was already there. I feel like sometimes a vision, you know it is like, “If you build it, they will come.” I love that whenever I don’t feel things are working out for me, I often go back to that space of saying, ‘What inspired me to walk this path? What was that?’ And it always takes me back to images like this. That feeling, not just the image, but the feeling behind the image, you know that flow. The idea that we can all be ourselves and shine.
PAM: I just love that. I love that you are talking about how you had this in your heart, in your soul before you started, and it was all about how to get there. Because in the illustration, you have written, “Follow your bliss,” which was Campbell’s, right? That was his phrase to help you get to this place, that you knew this place was your idea of bliss but that the journey was about how to just keep taking that step toward it. I just love that.
So many times when people talk about following their bliss, the thought is that, “Oh, once I find that one perfect thing, it will be so easy.” But bliss—I’m sure, the way Campbell meant bliss—it was not that this was going to be easy for you. That all of a sudden everything was going to align when you found the one right thing. It is because it is something that is meaningful to you, so that you will tenaciously fight your way through, on that road of trials; through the tricksters, and the monsters and all the obstacles that come up along your path, to get to this place of kindness and compassion and grace. This place that you can get to on your journey—and much of it is an inner journey. I just love that.
So often you think, when people talk about finding your bliss, it is like finding the one thing you just love and everything is going to be easy. No, I do not think that was his point, or is the point at all. It is that this is going to be a journey, this is going to be challenging, there are going to be things in your way, but when you have that burning kind of vision, you will keep going.
We see it in our children all the time, right? Back to your video game story, with Raghu waking up in the morning and getting through it. He was going to stay at it. And that was something that I learned from my children. I learned growing up with school that you needed to get to the right answer, and you needed to get there quickly. If I could not get there quickly, I stopped doing it and I changed my path, because the goal was the end point, not the journey.
HEMA: You say that often in your books. I love that, the journey. Oh my gosh, and yes, just to be with it moment to moment, it’s thrilling. It is a pretty thrilling ride I am on.
I am very excited that I had this opportunity to live life like this, and thanks also for this opportunity to draw for your incredible book. I felt very honoured and thrilled that I got an opportunity to see all of this.
I want to mention at this stage, in all the illustrations, I hope the readers notice that there are empty spaces. The globe, in number nine, in “Gifts,” is empty, the poster behind the child is empty. The boat does not have a name on it, purposefully. The big boat, the one the family builds. And the reason for that is so that people can fill in what they want. Maybe the waves in “Joy,” which are not put in, like I have not put in all the strokes for the ocean, could be people’s words. They could be little words that people feel as they read your book, because, like you said, there are gazillions of combinations here: the kind of person reading the book, the kind of experiences that person has had, the children they have, their personalities.
I love that you have made this book into this workbook colouring book because it gives people the opportunity to play with their thoughts as they come up and put them into these illustrations, to doodle them out, draw them out, for whoever likes that kind of visual engagement.
PAM: Yeah, that was something that has become so important to me. Something I love so much about this project is the print book version. Like, the illustrations are absolutely amazing, and I think are a totally fresh window onto the journey, so even in the ebook, with the illustrations, I think it adds so much value for the reader.
The idea with the print book, to me, is it goes back to when the kids were little. I looked it up and I bought it back in 2006, the Dragonology book. Do you know that book? It was his journal as he was discovering dragons and learning all about them and everything. We always just loved that book, and that was kind of how I started seeing the unschooling journey book, that there are lots of lined pages, and blank pages in there, for people to document their own journeys along side the examples that I talk about. Alongside your illustrations, the spaces that you left for people to just make it uniquely their own. I just love the way that that has all come together and just thinking about how each book out in the world will be different from every other one.
HEMA: That is exciting to me.
PAM: Because everybody can make it their own and yeah, I just love that.
Well, this has been probably a record-long episode, but I think it was totally worth it, number one, but number two, it was just so beautiful to hear all of your stories and the inspirations behind the illustrations from you, and to just weave it all together into that bigger picture. I thought that was just so valuable and I hope people have really enjoyed listening.
I want to thank you so much for taking all this time to speak with me, Hema! I have been looking forward to this for months because I knew when we were finally getting close to being done and getting it out there, that we were going to do this, and I have been excited about it for months.
Before we go, where is the place for people to connect with you online?
HEMA: I suppose Facebook seems to be a good place, but also I am actually restarting my blog that I kept on hold for a few years when the children did not want me to write so much about them out there, and did not want me to share as much. Now they seem to be like, “Oh sure, you can share that,” and I am like, “Oh, I guess something shifted,” and I can write more, so, I suppose my blog is a way.
PAM: Yes, I will put links to that in the show notes, and your art website.
HEMA: Yes, my art website, which I am very excited about. I am working on it. It is coming along, and I am just very grateful for the opportunity to talk like this. I was nervous and the only thing that kept me steady when I got ready for the talk today, was to just go back to who my children are, and who Ravi is for me. That kept me going.
And the book is very exciting, Pam, thank you for writing it, and for sharing. And for all that you share online, Pam. It is an incredible website you have. And the work you do, I know, is talking directly to people’s hearts, across the world, so yeah. Thank you.
PAM: Oh wow. Thank you so much, Hema, and thank you again for all your work.
I am so excited for people to be able to pick up the book and see your illustrations and make it their own. That is awesome.
Have a wonderful day!
HEMA: You too!