Lessons From Over The Rainbow
There are lots of resources out there for the thoughtful spiritual parent, but here’s one you’ve probably never considered: The Wizard of Oz. I’m sure your children would enjoy and learn from the movie—at least indirectly—but I’ve got a different goal in mind. I’d like to offer its wisdom to you directly, for use as a parenting tool. There’s a reason this is the most-watched film of all time, beyond the marvelous acting, singing, dancing, costumes, and elaborate set design. Gems of wisdom are embedded in Dorothy’s journey to the Emerald City to ensure that viewers are not just entertained, but also enlightened. This is the tell-tale sign of any classic work of film or literature.
Having worked as a book editor for many years, I’m trained to search for treasure below the surface. To research my new book, I pored over The Wizard of Oz frame by frame. While doing so I discovered dozens of smaller jewels of insight like “Don’t Be Seduced by Pretty Poppies,” “When You Need To, Call in Support From a Higher Power,” and “It’s All About The Shoes.” I also unearthed nine towering chunks of wisdom that I identify as Emeralds. Each of these has remarkable individual power, and together they provide an inner updraft that is even greater than the sum of its parts.
Let’s take a closer look at how this works. Happily, each Emerald is linked to an iconic moment in Kansas or Oz that makes it easy to bring to mind.
Emerald #1: Listen To Your Longing. This is the moment when Dorothy steps into the barnyard and breaks into song, unleashing the unforgettable “Over the Rainbow.” When your baby is fussing late at night and you’re exhausted, or when your teenager has just stepped on your last nerve, pause and take a deep breath. Look below what you want (like sleep or patience), to what you long for in this moment. It may be a desire to meet your child’s less than obvious need, or to express kindness, or gratitude, or reconnect with a deep love that has temporarily eluded you. This first Emerald helps you get in touch with your higher self.
Emerald #2: See the Situation as if For the First Time. The Kansas farmhouse lands abruptly in the dream-world of Oz, and Dorothy looks around in wonderment. This second Emerald is an invitation to step into Beginner’s Mind, one of the twin pillars of mindfulness. Set aside what you think you know about this child of yours, and just look with curiosity and nonjudgment. What a miracle it is that this young family member has come into your life!
Emerald #3: Celebrate Yourself Just For Showing Up. Dorothy’s farmhouse lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, liberating the Munchkins who celebrate Dorothy with a delirious outpouring of songs, a parade, and the keys to the city. And all she did was show up! When you’re caught up in a frustrating parental moment, this is the moment when you pause and celebrate yourself wholeheartedly—not for anything you’ve done, but just for showing up. It’s making all the difference, whether you can see it now or not. Woo-hoo!
Emerald #4: Choose Compassion. Dorothy does, and through consistent acts of kindness she transmutes the strange entities she meets on the Yellow Brick Road—a talking Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion. Touched by the magic of compassion they become faithful friends. It’s no wonder that compassion is a basic building block of every spiritual practice and religion. Direct it toward your child, your partner, and then at yourself. Notice the shift taking place inside you.
Emerald #5: Realize That You Already Possess What You Desire Most. We all get so turned around about who we are that sometimes we act just like the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. We find ourselves chasing a quality out there—be it brains, or heart, or courage--that we already possess. (It’s so obvious to everyone but us!) Remember this when your children are fighting with each other, or acting out. Locate within yourself the brains to come up with a clever way to redirect your child’s attention, or the heart to give her a hug in the middle of that temper tantrum, or the courage to be firm about sticking to the rules.
Emerald #6: Face What You Fear. Dorothy travels to the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West to face hers. What are you most afraid of in this challenging moment with your child or partner? That you’ll lose it and fly into a rage? That you’ll find yourself acting just like your parents? That your child--or partner--won’t love you if it’s time for some tough love? Face that fear directly, and watch it shrink like the Wicked Witch of the West under Dorothy’s bucket of water.
Emerald #7: Pull Back the Curtain and See Things as They Really Are. When Toto pulls back the curtain “the great and powerful Oz” stands revealed as a balding imposter from Kansas. This Emerald invites us to set aside the drama and the stories that we human beings love to tell ourselves about the challenges we face. No, this isn’t a disaster. Yes, it’s going to get sorted. Those kids are resilient, and so are you. This too shall pass. See the issue for what it really is, without all the fanfare, and suddenly it looks much more manageable.
Emerald #8: You’ve Got the Power, and You’ve Had it All Along. Glinda informs Dorothy that her Ruby Slippers contain magic that could have returned her to Kansas with just three clicks of their heels. Dorothy just had to learn this for herself. The same is true for you and me. We all tend to feel powerless, especially when we’re tired and overwhelmed. But this Emerald is a reminder that you possess the greatest power of all: to choose how you shape your experience of this moment… and this one… and this one, which is the only time any of us are given.
Emerald #9: There’s No Place Like Home. In her dream of Oz, Dorothy learns that she can return to this special place we call home any time she chooses. It’s not merely a construct of wood and plaster. It’s more than a memory from childhood, or a feeling we get when we walk through the front door. Dig a little deeper and you find it’s a state of being. Below that, a portal opens into the ultimate state of being, the sacred spiritual space we all carry within us to which we can always return, now that we know the way.
No matter what obstacle you are facing on your Yellow Brick Road, the nine Emeralds of Oz provide a remarkable self-help tool. Each makes its own individual contribution, which means that once you’re familiar with them you can just pull out the one that hits the spot: becoming aware of your desire, or Beginner’s Mind, or joy, or compassion, or a mistaken core belief, or courage, or the truth, or your power, or the home you carry inside you, may be all you need.
You can also harness the collective power of the Emeralds by running through all nine quickly while focusing on a particular obstacle. By the end of this circuit you’re attuned to the more spacious, authentic, connected version of yourself lying just below the stressful barrage of everyday life. You’ve got this!
Parenting is the most challenging--and most meaningful--adventure you will embark upon in this lifetime. As the author of Emeralds of Oz: Life Lessons From Over the Rainbow, what do I long for (Emerald #1)? That adding this wisdom to your parenting toolkit will ease your passage, put air under your wings, and bring you all the way home. There’s no place like it!
For nearly four decades Peter Guzzardi has worked with publishers and authors to create popular books that edify, entertain, and enlighten the general reading public. After many years spent pondering the lessons in “The Wizard of Oz,” he has finally written this book. Peter lives with his wife and daughter in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he writes and works as an independent book editor.