Lyra L’Estrange: Living the connected life
Lyra L’Estrange is a gentle and wise woman who embraced a spiritual understanding of life at a young age. Compelled to educate and support adults through some of life’s challenges, she has recently become a Parenting by Connection instructor. It’s all about really listening to your children and your self, and fostering deep connection and understanding, which amounts to a life of unconditional love. I spoke with Lyra in her beautiful home in Robertson in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
Jess: Can you tell me about your background? Where did you grow up? What were the forces and influences that you feel shaped you as a young person?
Lyra: I was born in Coonabarabran, which is a small town in country New South Wales. I’m the eldest of four; I’ve got three younger brothers. We grew up on a farm, not a working farm, though; it was more of a hobby farm with lots of bush, 400 acres. So we were free as children to just roam around. We would spend most of summer without any clothes on, just hanging around in the bush and in the dam, building cubbies and climbing trees.
Mum and Dad were around a lot. Mum worked in town for a couple of days a week as a physiotherapist, and Dad was self-employed so he would pick and choose his work. We were never put in care; our parents spent a lot of time with us, which was a big influence on how I wanted to bring up my children.
We went to the local state school, which wasn’t anything fancy. I went there until I was 13 and then we moved to Hobart. My Dad wanted to find work down there; he was an engineer by trade and wanted to do some more work in the Antarctic. That didn’t end up happening, but we still moved down to Tassie. Mum grew up in Hobart. I think Mum and Dad thought that we had a really good life in Coonabarabran, but it was very sheltered. They thought moving to the “big city” – even Hobart – would give us some perspective on how other people live. So we packed up and moved and were there for two years. I went to a state school down there, which was an eye-opener in terms of how other kids are raised and what’s going on during those formative teenage years.
Jess: So did it have the effect that your parents were hoping for?
Lyra: Yes, it definitely opened our horizons. We got to experience a different culture, the city culture. There was exposure to drugs and parties and that kind of thing, which we hadn’t been exposed to before. My cousin came with me. She was a year older and we were really close, and we did a lot together down there. But to Mum and Dad’s credit they provided such a strong, solid base at home. They took us out on weekends to go exploring in the bush, and to see the sights of Tassie. So we didn’t stray too far into the party scene. There was no need to!
People often ask me, “Did you rebel as a teenager?” I didn’t because I didn’t have much to rebel against.
My Dad was an avid bushwalker. His mother, my grandmother, is Dorothy Butler who’s quite well known in bushwalking circles. She’s passed on now, but she’d written a book called The Barefoot Bush Walker, and was one of the founding members of the Sydney Bushwalking Club in the Blue Mountains. So my Dad definitely followed in her footsteps and thought he would like us to do the same. But he went for a walk on his own at the end of those two years in Tassie and didn’t come back. We searched for months and had to return to Coonabarabran without him. I was 15, almost 16, at the time and it was a huge. It was a time where I grew up very quickly. People often ask me, “Did you rebel as a teenager?” I didn’t because I didn’t have much to rebel against, and I knew that Mum needed me close. She was trying so hard to raise us all. My youngest brother was only five at the time.
Jess: And you were the eldest…
Lyra: Yeah, so I helped her run the household and come back into the community that we had left. We still have very good friends there who helped us through that difficult time.
Jess: So your Dad just disappeared without a trace, there’s no indication of what happened to him?
Lyra: Nothing, not even footprints that could be linked to him. So it’s a mystery and obviously harder to deal with because of the lack of closure. But he was a very spiritual person and very much a searcher. Back in the early days, when I started school, he and Mum would run a spiritual meeting at our place once a month. We thought it was great because lots of kids came and we played all day! But those spiritual values infiltrated how they brought us up. It was very much about Eastern philosophy, such as Sai Baba and Buddhism. There were photos of gurus in the house and Dad would go upstairs to meditate. He would put on his meditation music and we knew what he was doing. So we were exposed to that, it was in the house all of the time.
His disappearance really tested our strength and our beliefs in terms of what happens after death or the reason behind these events. What do we learn from them? How does it form us? It was very much an accelerated growth period for me, but also quite a reflective time. It probably took me the next 10 years to process it all, and to come to some kind of understanding and peace around it. Although I still can’t answer why it happened.
Jess: So you didn’t rebel in your teen years, but did you ever rebel in your later years?
Lyra: No, as I said before I don’t think I had much to rebel against. And what I’ve learned through the parenting work that I do now is that when a child isn’t listened to, or their feelings are suppressed throughout their early years, then that’s when they’re more likely to rebel. Mum and Dad were very much there for us, they listened to us so there wasn’t much to come out in a rebellious way. My uni days were probably pretty typical; there was partying, late nights, alcohol and that kind of thing.
Jess: But it wasn’t too outrageous.
Lyra: It was never overboard.
Jess: Is the same true for your brothers? Did any of them rebel?
Lyra: I think it was a similar situation for my brothers, I’m sure they did the usual party things, rode their motorbikes hard, and took risks, but there was never any trouble.
Jess: What did you study at university?
Lyra: I moved back to Hobart after I finished Grade 12 in Coonabarabran and had a year off before starting uni. I studied massage and shiatsu and worked in a supermarket to get by. I really loved the study, the whole natural therapies field really resonated with me, but I was only 18 or 19 and still unsure of whether I wanted to commit to that course and make a career of it, so I thought I would go to uni and get a degree behind me instead. My grandparents on my Mum’s side were academics, but there was never any pressure to do well at school or uni. I got good marks in the HSC, and could have applied for medicine or something, but instead I chose subjects that I really enjoyed, which was a lot of anatomy and physiology. I did a degree in human movement and sports science. I moved to Launceston to do that and it took four years, including an honours year. After that I went into community-based work. I didn’t want to work with athletes; it was more about getting out there and promoting exercise among the elderly or to people who were disadvantaged.
So that’s what led me into the next phase of my life, which was to move back to Coonabarabran for a while so I could work in Dubbo (the nearest big town) in health promotion. Then a few months later, at the same time as meeting Guy, my husband, I got a more permanent job in Wollongong. Guy was living in Burrawang, so I just moved in with him after a month of knowing him and have been with him ever since!
I spent almost four years working in Wollongong with the area health service. In the position I managed a cardiac rehabilitation program, and wrote it up into a PhD thesis. I made a lot of friends in the Southern Highlands through Guy’s work in outdoor education. There were a lot of us girls who were left behind while our partners went out and did their programs in the bush. We really bonded and there’s still that same core group that I have as friends now, and we’ve had children at similar times over the last few years.
Jess: You’ve gone through many milestones together.
Lyra: Yes, which has been really nice.
Jess: Do you have an inkling of where your interest in health promotion and bringing knowledge to disadvantaged or excluded groups stems from?
Lyra: I think my Mum was a big influence. She worked with the community in her physiotherapy role and with children with physical disabilities. But I think generally I’ve always felt like I wanted to be in a career where I’m helping people. So the community focus really appealed to me because of wanting to make a difference in the lives of people who don’t have a lot of money or are disadvantaged in terms of support. Doing the PhD in public health led me to those areas of disadvantage in the Shoalhaven and in Wollongong, people who were suffering from cardiac events who couldn’t necessarily access extra help, and I loved my role there. The project got great results by the way, which I think – in part – was because of my attention and support for these people, not purely the exercise program!
Jess: And you’ve gone on a different tangent since then?
Lyra: Yes, I have.
Jess: You’ve got a young family, so you’re still in the midst of all of the newness, the craziness, the making sense of it all, and trying to find your way through it. I’ve got a young family as well and it can really derail any plans that you might have had for yourself before having children. Can you describe a bit of that process for you? It might not have felt that way for you! How has having children led to where you are now?
Lyra: Well, the advantage for me is that I’m not very career driven! So I haven’t felt my career derail since having children. When I finished my PhD we [Lyra and Guy] went overseas and travelled for a year together. I’d done a lot of yoga as I travelled, which had been a part of my life since uni, but while we were travelling I had more time to practice and I’d just bring out my mat beside a lake or forest, or whatever was there. I was also studying A Course in Miracles as well and it gave me a lot of structure in the way that I wanted to practice my spirituality.
So, at the end of that year, and in thinking about coming back to the Southern Highlands, I thought about training to be a yoga teacher. I remember the moment where I decided that that was the pathway for me. I was standing near a lake beach in British Columbia and I was doing my morning yoga routine. Then the realisation just came to me, “I can teach this!” It was like all of my previous experiences came together. I was quite familiar with the yogic philosophy as well as the Sanskrit language because of the Eastern philosophy that I’d grown up with. I also knew some traditional devotional Indian songs. So I was familiar with yogic language, the language used for all of the poses. And I had a background in meditation. It all tied in together, including my professional experience in health promotion teaching adults in groups. So it just fell into place. My grandmother, who I mentioned before, passed away earlier that year and – just as I decided to do the yoga training – I received news that she had left a sum of money which was exactly the amount that I needed for my teacher training course. It was meant to be!
After Finn was born I stopped doing any work other than being at home with him for almost a year. I saw that as my purpose.
So as soon as we got back to Australia I enrolled into that and did a year-long course with Byron Yoga. That’s also when I fell pregnant with Finn, my eldest. I was halfway through the yoga training. At first I thought, “How am I going to finish my yoga training?” But I talked to the teachers and they said, “Look, it’s fine. If you’re fine with that, then we’re fine with that.” And it put me in a good position to be able to teach mums and bubs yoga or prenatal yoga.
After Finn was born in February 2010 I stopped doing any work other than being at home with him for almost a year. I saw that as my purpose. I always wanted to have children, and I always thought that I would be a mum by the time I was 30. Finn was born a month before my 30th birthday!
It took almost all of that year to really feel comfortable in the role of being a mother. It was a huge adjustment. I remember about a month after he was born just realising the constancy of it. I was thinking, “My gosh, I’m going to be waking up in the middle of the night for ages and he is going to be with me for so many years. And it doesn’t stop!” It was a huge adjustment for me to make, which I’m sure you can relate to.
Jess: Yes, absolutely!
Lyra: But then I fell pregnant with Summer when Finn was 11 months old. It wasn’t planned that way, but it has worked out well. I don’t have any regrets about that. I did a few months of health promotion work and taught a few months of yoga classes, after the children were born, but I knew then that I was entrenched in my parenting role and that’s where I needed to be. I really felt called to be the homemaker, so I fell into that traditional role and I loved it. Apart from it being constant hard work, it really did give me a purpose. So I didn’t worry much about the career side of things falling away. The yoga thing or another thing will come at the right time.
I was very grateful that we were able to do it this way financially, that Guy could go out and do the income earning and I could stay at home and focus on being a mum. I think that ties back to my earlier experience of being with my brothers at home and that’s what I wanted to give to my two rather than putting them into care and going back to work. That’s what I hope to give to them until they start school.
Jess: I’m just thinking about that connection between your upbringing and how you parent your children now. To what extent do you think you’re really bringing yourself into the equation?
Parents in this generation have so much more access to information than our parents did. And the information we have access to can be quite overwhelming.
Lyra: I think that parenting is a lot more involved today than it was when I was little, even though my Mum and Dad were there, very involved, and they gave us such a wonderful experience in childhood. When I was pregnant with Finn I read a book called The Aware Baby by Aletha Solter and that had a huge influence on how I wanted to bring up my children. She is the founder of Aware Parenting. Her approach is all about listening to your child and allowing them to have their feelings right from birth, whatever they might be. It’s about looking at crying as a healing process rather than something that needs to be suppressed. I don’t have specific memories of Mum or Dad suppressing my tantrums and my crying but I’m sure there was some of that, only because this information wasn’t available to them then. They did the best that they could with the information and support that they had. Parents in this generation have so much more access to information than our parents did. And the information we have access to can be quite overwhelming.
Jess: Absolutely, you can get quite dizzy with it all. You go into a bookshop and face this enormous wall of parenting books.
Lyra: Yes, it’s crazy. I went through a few books and a few parenting approaches looking for answers about “the right way” to do things when I was a new mum. I had so many doubts and felt pretty bad when my baby didn’t follow the routines described in the books. I was so focused on looking for the answers outside of myself rather than listening to my intuition. However, I kept coming back to the Aware Parenting approach. Then a few months after Finn was born I found Hand in Hand Parenting and the Parenting by Connection approach. I realised that, after putting into practice some of the ideas, I felt empowered and more confident that I could be a good mum. I was really lucky that I found something that really resonated with me and I started ignoring everything else and just stuck with that. The framework provided by Parenting by Connection has been, continues to be, a bit of a roadmap for my parenting journey. There’s a lot of room in the approach to bring in your own self and own ways of being within your own family. It’s not a list of shoulds.
Jess: I’m curious because you’ve loved it so much that you’ve trained in Hand in Hand parenting and teaching. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Lyra: When Summer was about six months old, and Finn was 2½, I got quite overwhelmed. Finn was going through what I call the “Tremendous Twos” – I don’t like to call it the “Terrible Twos”! I just felt so out of my depth. I had these ideas about being with my children that really resonated, and I was really trying to practice them, but I felt like I needed to go a little bit deeper. So I signed up for a six-week course with Hand in Hand parenting online called “Building Emotional Understanding”. It consolidated everything for me and crystallised in my mind the tools that were taught, including how I could understand my children, and myself, a lot better. So after the course finished I heard about the certification program to become a Parenting by Connection instructor. And it was one of those moments like when I had decided to teach yoga, all my previous experiences consolidated and I said to myself, “That’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Jess: You had that clarity.
Lyra: Yes. I had the background in teaching adults, I was a mother, and the spiritual ideas I had all meshed really nicely with the Parenting by Connection approach. So it took me another year to finish that training. And now I’m teaching it!
Jess: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience of teaching it?
Connection with your child is fundamental. They need it just as much as they need to sleep and to eat.
Lyra: A lot of parents who come to this way of parenting are really introspective and they think very deeply about how they want to bring up their children and how they want to be as parents. They’re very aware of themselves and their psychology. There’s that group of parents, which is the majority of who I teach at the moment, but there’s also that portion that have tried everything else and it doesn’t work and they need a solution. They’ve realised that the mainstream rewards and punishment framework doesn’t really work in the long term, so they’re looking for something else.
So I feel the main thing that people come away with is the ability to tune into their child in a way that is productive for the child and the parent. I teach that connection with your child is fundamental. They need it just as much as they need to sleep and to eat. They need that strong connection with their parents so their brains can develop optimally. There’s quite a bit of brain science in the approach – it is fascinating to learn, because it applies to us, as well as our children. For instance, the limbic system in our brain is searching for that sense of connection all the time, like a radar. If a child can sense that safety, the connection, then all is well, they can think – the thinking, rational part of their brain, the prefrontal cortex, is online. However, as soon as there is a sense of disconnection, the limbic system is flooded with feelings that are often overwhelming (the brain literally senses the loss of connection as an emotional emergency), and the child can’t think in that moment, their prefrontal cortex goes offline. This disconnection is the cause of the challenging behaviours we see so often – the aggression, the whining, getting upset about how the sandwich has been cut, etc. Then society generally groups this challenging behaviour as “bad” and something to be punished, which of course disconnects the child further from you. The child might seem to respond well to threats, punishment or rewards in that moment because they’re scared or because they don’t have any other choice, but it doesn’t lead to happier children or more cooperative behaviour in the long run.
So what people come away with from the parenting classes I teach is how to look at their child’s challenging behaviours differently. It’s not something to be punished, it’s a call for connection, and it’s a call for love. Even though it might seem incredibly challenging to us, that’s what is. And there’s nothing that really needs to be punished. Of course there is a need teach your child the right, or acceptable way of doing things, but if we try to do this in the heat of an emotional moment, when the child can’t think, it doesn’t work. It’s much more productive to talk about it when the child feels connected to you, and the thinking part of their brain is actually working.
What I think sets this approach apart from a lot of other parenting programs out there is the support that it offers to us as parents. Seeing your child hit another child or taking a toy from another child all the time really takes its toll on us. It’s not very easy to sit and watch your child be aggressive to another child and not punish them if you don’t have that awareness of where it’s coming from. It triggers things in us as parents. So I think supporting parents to recognise when they’re being re-stimulated from a previous experience, whatever it might be, and being able to offload that tension in a safe place with another adult prevents them from offloading those intense feelings onto the child. The whole process can transform a generation. You don’t repeat the cycle of abuse or even just the little things that disconnect you from your child that your parents might have done to you, which is where our default parenting style comes from.
Jess: It’s amazing how powerful that process can. Without even knowing it, you emerge as your own parents.
Lyra: Especially in moments of stress.
Jess: I think lots of people tend to have that reaction, don’t they? “I didn’t want to be like my Mum or Dad and now I’m exactly like my Mum and Dad.” You probably hear that all the time.
Lyra: Yes! It’s important to have the time and space to stop and reflect on how we’re parenting, or how we want to parent. It’s very valuable, rather than just blindly going through each day and trying to make it up as you go along. We’re not trained to parent!
Jess: And again we were “trained” by our parents who weren’t “trained” either. So in talking about the kind of support that is provided to parents, I know that Hand in Hand parenting has a tool called Listening Time. Can you tell me a little about it?
Lyra: So what we teach is all about listening. We teach one-on-one Listening Time between parents, but also group Listening Time. They’re valuable tools that feel quite different but basically the idea behind it is to shine your attention and warmth on the person who is talking. You don’t interrupt or offer advice, you just support them to think and talk through their thoughts about the issues that are coming up for them as parents. And to hold that space for them, that you know that they are good, that they are doing the best that they can, and that they can figure this out. They don’t need your advice or for you to fix it. You just need to hold that space for them to work through it as you listen. And I think your attention on that person is the most valuable thing because we don’t get that undivided attention paid to us very often. Even when we’re talking to our close friends or spouses, it’s very much conversational listening. You’re jumping in, you’re offering your stories, your thoughts, your opinions, your advice, even your judgement, so we don’t often get the space to just be held and allowed to work through it. It can be quite a confronting process if you haven’t done anything like that before, so I really try to keep it light-hearted and not go into the heavy emotional stuff right away. A lot of parents don’t feel comfortable doing that.
Jess: I imagine that there can be a lot of tears?
Lyra: Yes, it’s interesting. With some groups that safety builds up very quickly and there are a lot of tears. With other groups, there are no tears, there’s lots of laughter. And laughter is another way to release that tension. And basically the way that we listen to each other as parents is the way that we want to listen to our children. We’re putting in place the listening tools that we use with our children.
Jess: What kind of feedback do you get from people you’ve been working with?
Lyra: It’s all been positive so far, I guess people don’t tell you the bad things! It’s very similar to my experience where people feel they have found a roadmap for responding to their child in challenging moments, to make them a lot more self-aware about when their buttons are being pushed, that it’s their buttons, not the child’s behaviour. It also breaks down that sense of isolation that a lot of parents can feel – that they must be the only one yelling at their child, or they’re only one who has a child who is biting everyone, whatever it may be. But when you come together with group of parents and share those insights and stories, you realise you’re not on your own.
Jess: Yes, it can be a very disconnected parenting experience these days. In years gone by, as they say, you had the village raising a child.
Lyra: There’s definitely a lack of support generally as a culture and even neglect. Being a stay at home mum is challenging. You need the emotional support but you also need the financial support. And we feel judged, whatever we do. Whether we do one thing or don’t do it, judgement comes in all the time.
Jess: You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
It’s never too late to start listening to your children.
Lyra: Yes. With these groups that I run it’s really important to just offer that support, encouragement and appreciation to each parent for all that they’re doing for their child. In that way I think it’s a very empowering approach. It’s never too late to start listening to your children. And it’s also about trying to get away from the guilt that we all feel as parents. That I’ve done it all wrong. And that I’m never doing enough.
Jess: Well, you’re human, so what happens to you? There must be a few lapses for you, here and there, despite your training in Hand in Hand parenting. What happens in those moments or days or weeks?
Lyra: It can be like that, for sure! There are times when I lose it and sometimes that makes me feel even worse for a while because I know what I should be doing and I’m not doing it. But the work has also made me be a lot more self-aware and to realise that – when things go downhill – I need some Listening Time or I need some time out by myself to go for a run, do some yoga, and just think through what is happening. I’m still working on asking for help and asking for time and space! I’ve seen myself grow so much in terms of being more aware of when I’m about to slip into a downward spiral and yell at the kids. So I’ve got a few strategies that I use to try and bring myself out of it. One is to call one of the people with whom I have set up a listening partnership. I get to cry, yell, laugh or talk with them, even just for a few minutes, which is SO helpful. And sometimes I just give myself a timeout, not the kids, and go in the bathroom or sit outside and just say to my children, “I need to have a little break so I don’t yell at you or hurt you.”
Jess: Do they give you a break? I can’t imagine my kids doing that!
Lyra: Sometimes they’re banging on the door but they’re getting used to it. They know.
Jess: Yes, the other day I yelled at my children, “Why do you need me so much?!” And my little girl turned around and said, “I don’t need you Mummy, I’m going to play by myself now!” I felt pretty bad about that but I just needed a moment…
Lyra: There are times in our lives as parents and even beyond that when we didn’t have the support or it was all too much, and these feelings of overwhelm can come rushing back very quickly when our buttons are pushed. But one thing that’s really helped ground me – given I don’t have the time to meditate for half an hour or even do my yoga practice regularly – is the realisation that my spiritual practice is my parenting. Every time there is a conflict and every time a challenge comes up, my children are calling me to be a better version of myself, they’re calling me to be more present. It’s just moment by moment where you can choose your reaction to whatever is going on. So I feel like I’m living that as a spiritual practice rather than anything I used to do.
I’ve also done a bit of work with an Aware Parenting instructor who is also trained in field therapy. It’s very much about alignment, and very much tied in with my experience with A Course in Miracles. It’s about looking at everything that’s outside as a mirror of what’s going on inside, and that’s been a really beautiful experience for me to have this awareness. For example, once Finn just wasn’t listening to me. It was like he had no ears. And I kept finding myself yelling at him, “Finn, you’re not listening, you’re not listening!” And then I realised that I wasn’t listening to myself. I needed to stop; I needed to do something differently. I wasn’t listening to my inner voice that was telling me to stop and it was projected out onto him. That little person is a mirror bringing all your stuff up to be examined and let go of. It’s a constant process.
Jess: So it’s quite tiring, I imagine, being in that self-aware state. It takes up energy in and of itself.
Lyra: I guess it does take discipline. But the other way of being, for me, where you’re stuck in conflict and your own stuff, which still happens to me at times, is even more draining. So I know that when I’m feeling like that I need to reconnect with myself and do whatever I need to do to return to being present. When you’re being present and you’re in that feeling of being in the flow of life, you’re just an instrument and presence comes through you. It’s effortless when you have that energy attached to it. When I can feel that flow it doesn’t feel like it takes a lot of energy to keep it up.
Jess: That’s a nice place to be! I’m just thinking that mindfulness or any spiritual practice takes a lot of vigilance, there’s an effort to be in a state of sustained presence. But I guess after a while it becomes second nature – maybe even first nature!
Lyra: I guess with anything you make it a habit. I know that I’ve experienced that with my yoga practice. I feel worse without it so it’s something that I’ve got to do. It does become a part of life.
Jess: I can see you’ve got A Course in Miracles over there and you’ve mentioned it a few times. I know the name but I haven’t read it. Can you tell me about it?
Lyra: I was thinking, “What is the main thing I’ve taken from my study of this text?” It’s recognising that it’s all about me. Every conflict, every opportunity for growth, every relationship, every lesson that life presents is all about my perspective on it. I guess it’s taught me a lot about projecting, not blaming, and not judging so much. It’s quite a challenging text, it’s quite intellectual and it can get bogged down in the theory, but at the same time there are a lot of amazing parts. It was written, or channelled, by Jesus Christ and uses a lot of the biblical terms like crucifixion and resurrection and Holy Spirit, but it’s definitely not framed in the traditional sense of Christianity. The Holy Spirit is your higher self and the resurrection isn’t a physical resurrection of a man that died 2000 years ago, it’s more about coming into your own higher self and awareness, or alignment. It’s all about you and all of the lessons that life presents. It also talks about how interconnected we are and that it’s all about oneness. We need to bring that knowledge into ourselves, grow from ourselves, and everyone else grows with us.
Jess: Are there any other texts that have been influential for you?
Lyra: In my teenage years I read a lot of Sai Baba’s teachings and I went to his ashram in my twenties. His teachings encompass the Eastern philosophical outlook, so things like the ego and the spirit, that we are all spirit, that God is love, and we all have that divine spark within us. I think I’ve taken a lot of these teachings as a foundation. I remember one very early experience where my brother went through a hitting phase. I asked Dad, “Do people hit each other in heaven?” And Dad said, “In heaven there’s not even the urge to want to hit anyone.” I must have been 10 when we had that conversation and I still remember it so clearly, and can now have an understanding that it’s true. When you’re enlightened the urge to hurt just doesn’t come up, it doesn’t exist.
Jess: The Soul Spectrum focuses on soul and spirituality. You’ve touched on these things broadly but have you ever thought about what is soul is to you?
Lyra: Yes, I have a lot, right from an early age. I’ve thought about it, talked to my Dad about it as he was very much searching for that. And then, when he passed away, thinking about where he’s gone. I have always believed, for as long as I can remember, that the divine spark that all of us have is our soul and that it’s eternal and it returns back to the oneness that we all come from. I think when you die it’s ongoing. But it’s also that part of us that really connects with another person at that soul level, beyond the physical, beyond the superficial; I think we all have the ability to connect on that level if we can lose some of the layers that prevent that. I really love the translation of Namaste, “The divine in me recognises the divine in you. We are one.”
Jess: A lot of us can get caught up in distractions and busyness. It helps to live close to nature.
Lyra: Definitely. Nature has been a big part of my upbringing, my whole life, and I feel like we’re instilling it into our children. It’s something that we [Lyra and Guy] connected about right from the start. We spend a lot of time outside in nature and I feel like that’s very grounding for us. It’s very nurturing, and I think the children feel that as well. When things do feel a bit disconnected I say to the kids, “Let’s go outside and sit on the grass,” just to have that feeling of the Earth beneath us.
Jess: Can you tell me about a day in the life of Lyra?
Lyra: I don’t think I do anything too differently to other stay at home parents! I’m up early, which I enjoy most of the time. I usually go for a run, then make a cup of tea and sit with the kids down in our beautiful window seat. Lately we’ve been sitting in the front room because the sun is streaming in. We just have a bit of time together before we start with the busyness of the day. And then we move into having breakfast together and then I might take the kids out somewhere. We might go on play dates, to the park or the local waterhole, and we’re often catching up with friends. As I mentioned before, our group of friends here all have children of similar ages so we have that core group of support, which really tops me up. It’s great to connect with another adult while the kids are doing their thing. I usually spend some time each day in the garden; we have a big veggie patch that the children love helping me with, so it can be a lot of fun. I love seeing them eating straight from the plants! I really love cooking too, and I love the tradition of sitting down together to eat a meal. I make that a priority. Everyone sits at the table for dinner and it’s a really nice way to end the day, to come together as a family, particularly if we’ve been apart during the day. After dinner we might go for a bike ride or walk as a family, or play inside together. The bedtime routine is actually really easy with our kids; it’s never been a battle, they’re pretty much always happy to go to sleep! Then I can have a bit of time either with Guy, or to myself to do my work on the computer, or some yoga practice, or I just chill out and read a book or watch TV with Guy. Nothing out of the ordinary!
Jess: But you are doing a little bit of work?
Lyra: Yes, so on a day that I teach, usually it’s an evening class so Guy looks after the kids and I can go and do that. A lot of the work I do is over the phone and internet, so I can do that once the kids have gone to bed, or when they are with Guy, or they go to preschool one day a week, so I get some work done then.
Jess: You must have so much energy!
Lyra: I’ve definitely been through periods of tiredness. But the kids sleep really well and also I’ve had a real shift in looking at sleep since being a parent. That first couple of years of sleep deprivation just meant focusing on how tired I was. Guy was really instrumental in helping me come out of that. He said, “You can choose to focus on that but why not something else?” So with practice and over time I’ve realised that I actually feel okay. And just changing my focus and realising that I am going to get woken up early every day for the next few years is okay. Actually, the last few months has seen an even bigger shift in this, as I’ve been getting up before the kids to go for a run, and have loved it! It gives me time to myself, and more energy for the day. It also helps that I’ve found work that I really enjoy doing, so it doesn’t feel like work. I’ve got that groundswell of energy behind me where I feel like I’m just being the instrument, I’m being guided and spoken through and that’s not tiring to me.
Jess: It’s interesting to hear talk about parenting is a spiritual practice because it can be difficult to get your head around it if you haven’t been introduced to the idea before. There’s a book called Buddhism for Mothers that looks at parenting as a spiritual practice. It’s all about being mindful and present.
Lyra: It brings to mind a quote from my Mum; I think it came from Sai Baba, “Your work is your worship”. I remember when Finn was born, Mum was there with me and she said, “You will understand that quote once you have children,” and it’s been so true. It’s constant work, but it’s also worship, if you want to use that word. It’s also spiritual practice, service throughout each day constantly! [Laughs.]
Jess: Do you have any sense of where you want to go to from here?
Lyra: I get the feeling that I’m on the brink of an exciting and involved career. I think I’m just touching the surface. There is so much more to learn about this way of parenting and my children will be my best teachers as they grow older. But I’d like to continue teaching this approach in the community; I really like that grassroots, one-on-one teaching with parents. Then they can head off with some skills to make them a leader in their family and in their community as well. I’m just passing it on. I’m not an expert, but my vision is to teach parents this way of being and have it ripple out into the community. I can already sense that with the parents who I know very well who I’ve taught. They have expanded it to their families and beyond so understanding is being built through parenting our children this way. I’ve been talking to others in this field and we feel there’s a groundswell rising that will change the whole philosophy behind parenting. The mainstream approach is becoming outdated and there is this new way of being with our selves and our children. It feels really exciting to be on that leading edge, but it can be challenging because you’re coming up against the mainstream traditional ways of doing things all of the time. This is a whole new paradigm and it’s quite challenging to a lot of people, but I’m happy to be part of that movement towards critical mass and shifting mainstream consciousness. It’s very exciting!
Jess: Great, thanks so much, Lyra!
* For more information about Lyra L’Estrange and Parenting by Connection, please visit www.lyralestrange.com
* For more information about Hamish Ta-mé, please visit www.shotbyhamish.com