04/07/2015 10:05 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2016

Parenting With Presence: An Eckhart Tolle Edition

A note from Susan Stiffelman:

The following excerpt is from my new book, Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition.)

Writing this book was a labor of love, in large part because of Eckhart Tolle's loving support and encouragement. He went through every bit of the book with me, providing an insight to illuminate an idea, sharing a story that added a special touch, or talking over a passage to give it greater clarity. I learned so much from him, and was deeply touched to see how much he cared that the material in the book be of value to the parents who read it.

When we are present and engaged with our children, life is more joyful. Our kids are more cooperative, we feel more deeply connected, and day-to-day life is easier. It is my hope that parents will find Parenting with Presence uplifting, inspiring and highly practical. Again and again we discover that living with greater presence allows our hearts to expand and our lives to be sweeter. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

Being Happy

An Excerpt from Parenting with Presence by Susan Stiffelman

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I once wandered into a New Age bookshop in Kansas City and picked up a little blue book called Discourses of Meher Baba. I actually had no idea what a discourse was, but the first line stayed with me for the rest of my life: "Say, 'I do not want anything' and be happy." As young and inexperienced as I was, this idea resonated all the way down to my bones; I knew it was true, even if I wasn't entirely sure I understood what it meant or how to go about embodying it.

Countless luminaries have said the same thing -- that the key to happiness lies in freeing oneself from desire. When we are at peace with life just as it is, we liberate ourselves to experience true joy. I believe that with all my heart.

This does not mean we should raise our children to drift through life without honoring the nudges and longings of their spirit. Yearning is often the language of our deepest self, prompting us to develop our unique talents and gifts. It is a matter of maintaining a balance between what Eckhart Tolle calls being and becoming. In his lectures, he explains that if we're too focused on becoming we lose the ability to enjoy the present moment, falling into patterns of stress, anxiety, and never feeling fulfilled. But if we only stay in a state of being, we are not very effective in the world. Eckhart describes this as going below thought, explaining that if we abandon all striving, we can actually lose a sense of alertness, which is part of being present. We need to maintain a balance between being and doing for life to be enjoyable and fruitful.

But living in a culture that tempts us with an endless parade of things that promise to make us really happy makes maintaining that balance easier said than done. And raising kids who don't desperately want one thing or another? Quite challenging. Our children are bombarded with the promise of popularity, approval, status, or pleasure if they can acquire something that is usually just out of reach. "If I just get an A on that test... If Cameron tells Caitlyn that he does like me... If you guys would buy me a newer iPad with a better camera..."

This calls to mind a survey by Pew Research Center in which, when asked what they aspired to be, 81 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds responded that what they most wanted to be was rich. It isn't easy to counteract the impact of advertisers that make it seem as though life without x, y, or z just isn't quite up to snuff.

But happiness cannot be bought. In my psychotherapy practice, some of my most despondent clients grace the covers of magazines, own homes all over the world, and live seemingly idyllic lives, frequently photographed frolicking in the Malibu surf with their stunning spouse and picture-perfect kids at their side. Few would guess that they limp through their days depressed and brokenhearted, or that they attempt to manage their unhappiness with drugs or alcohol. Everything looks great from the outside -- the shiny red apple -- but inside is a worm, eating away at their soul.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the finer things in life, and many wealthy people live gratifying lives filled with love, joy and purpose. I just want to highlight that worldly success and happiness do not go hand in hand. The elements that contribute to a fulfilling life go far beyond what money can buy.

When we understand that happiness is not something we can buy, we become more at ease with our children's complaints when they can't have something they want. But rather than criticizing them for not being grateful enough, we should help them navigate through their disappointment, validating their feelings and guiding them toward acceptance.

# # #

I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt of Parenting with Presence. If you'd like to read more, please look for the book at your local book shop or online booksellers. I have created some bonus gifts for those who order the book, available by clicking here

Excerpted from the book Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids ©2015 by Susan Stiffelman. Printed with permission of New World Library.


Susan Stiffelman, MFT is the bestselling author of Parenting with Presence and Parenting without Power Struggles. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a credentialed teacher, and the Huffington Post's weekly "Parent Coach" advice columnist. She lives in Malibu, California where she is an aspiring banjo player, a determined tap-dancer, and an optimistic gardener. Visit her online at