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Back to school transitions… the struggle is real

Hi Everyone! 

By now, most of your kids will be back in school, whether that be in a formal school setting or a homeschool.

Let me just share that the transition into middle and high school has been REALLY REALLY HARD! Did I just yell that? Ooooops. I’m suppose to be mindful and calm… or something like that. <wink>

Well… like all life struggles, these situations invite us into presence and inquiry if we are brave and committed to ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​the hard work of waking up. Seriously… I may have struggles, and they may at times really get me down… but it’s not long before I look at them deeply, and get curious about what they have to teach me.

For instance, my high schooler has more homework than is at all reasonable some evenings. He’s also learning to get into the groove of a catholic school for the first time. Plus, he’s fifteen. And fifteen just comes with its own set of dilemmas.

I have been hearing a lot of bemoaning about how he has too much homework… not followed by much action planning on how he is going to manage it (and of course get the info he missed during class from a classmate). Let me also add that this is a young man diagnosed with ADD, slow processing, and memory issues, who happens to be tenacious, wise, and absolutely brilliant. (but can you really trust a biased mother’s account?)

So here is the conversation we had last week. Prior to starting this conversation and throughout, I was focusing on my breath and asking myself the question…what’s most important now?

Son: I have too much homework. It’s ridiculous.

Mom​​​​​​​: Agreed. Too much. My heart hurts with you on how difficult this is sometimes. But nothing we can do about the required output. What’s next? What is here for you to learn?
​​​​​​​
Son: Ugh. I knew you would say that.

Mom: Are you willing to hear what I imagine you can learn over the next couple of years?

Son: Do I have a choice​​​​​​​ in listening to this?

Mom: Not so much really. Here goes… You are smart enough and wise enough
to figure this out, but it is going to require you to grow. How you ask will you grow? I’m so glad you asked! You will learn to speak up and advocate for yourself. You will learn to manage your time more wisely, meaning no listening to 90’s hip hop while you are doing your homework. You will learn to go to sleep by 10pm because your allowance will depend on it. Yes I am bribing you to get a good nights sleep. You will learn what you are really made of.

Son: You are talking to that quote on my wall. The one from Martin Luther King.

Mom: Ahhh Yes. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” So here you are… in a time of challenge. Now you get to know yourself better. And I’ll be here supporting you, while being equally fascinated as to how this all turns out and affects who you are as a young man. And I think you are awesome just as you are right now. I love you. And I will not request a hug, but I reserve the right to do so at some point in the near future.

Son: Mom… you are awesome too. And such a weirdo

The End

I’m hoping you are reading this and thinking… oh man… poor you. The start of school has been a breeze over here. What a bummer to be acting as your sons executive functioning two to four hours a night. Alas…it’s true. But we are making progress each day, growing closer together, and I get to give him the kind of support that was so elusive to me in high school. This has been healing all around.

I’m assuming that we all have some struggle going on, and I hope my reflections supported you in some way that you can relate to. Do tell! I love to hear from you!
​​​​​​​
With Love,
Michelle

​​​​​​​PS- Tyler got his braces off just after the attached photo was taken so I will leave you at the edge of your seat to see his new smile in a future blog post. Can you see the love for his momma on that face? Or does he seem to be saying…really mom? Another selfie? LOL! 

Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence with Dr. Dan Siegel

Listen in as Michelle explores the practice of presence with Dr. Dan Siegel along with its many positive effects on the parent child relationship. Dan’s latest book is titled Aware: The Science and Practice Presence 

Aware provides practical instruction for mastering the Wheel of Awareness, a life-changing tool for cultivating more focus, presence, and peace in one’s day-to-day life.

An in-depth look at the science that underlies meditation’s effectiveness, this book teaches readers how to harness the power of the principle “Where attention goes, neural firing flows, and neural connection grows.” Siegel reveals how developing a Wheel of Awareness practice to focus attention, open awareness, and cultivate kind intention can literally help you grow a healthier brain and reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in your life.

Whether you have no experience with a reflective practice or are an experienced practitioner, Aware is a hands-on guide that will enable you to become more focused and present, as well as more energized and emotionally resilient in the face of stress and the everyday challenges life throws your way.

Learn more about Dr. Dan Siegel’s work HERE.

Falling Awake, How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Michelle has been reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s new book Falling Awake, How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life and she wanted to share it with everyone.

From Amazon…

More than 20 years ago, Jon Kabat-Zinn changed the way we think about awareness in everyday life with his now-classic introduction to mindfulness, Wherever You Go, There You Are. He followed that up with 2005’s Coming to Our Senses, the definitive book for our time on the connection between mindfulness and our well-being on every level, physical, cognitive, emotional, social, planetary, and spiritual.

Now, the original text of Coming to Our Senses is being repackaged into 4 smaller books, each focusing on a different aspect of mindfulness, and each with a new foreword by the author. In this second of these books, Falling Awake (which was originally published as Part III and Part IV of Coming to Our Senses), Kabat-Zinn focuses on the “how” of mindfulness – explaining how meditation brings us into intimate relationship with all our senses, how to establish a formal meditation practice, and how to overcome some of the common obstacles to incorporating meditation into daily life in an age of perpetual self-distraction.

By “coming to our senses” – both literally and metaphorically – we can become more compassionate, more embodied, more aware human beings, and in the process, contribute to the healing of the body politic as well as our own lives in ways both little and big.

 

Remember to register for the free online conference Mindful Parenting in a Messy World which runs from September 18th-20th here.

Inspiration & Insights for Modern Working Parents with Sara Mauskopf

Join Michelle as she chats about being a working parent with Sara Mauskopf who is the co-founder of the website Winnie, whose mission is to create and organize the information parents need and make it accessible through products, technology & community. Whether you want to ask other parents for advice, find new things to do with your kids, or just get to the nearest changing table in a hurry, Winnie can help. www.winnie.com

Register for the free online conference Mindful Parenting in a Messy World which runs from September 18th-20th here.

Sign up for the Mindful Parenting Online Course ‘The Foundations of Practice” offered October 2018 here.

Different does NOT mean Deficient

Hallelujah to that statement you guys! I’m saying it again… Different does NOT mean Deficient.  As many of you know, both of my boys have learning differences and those differences have surely put doubt in their minds about their true worth and what they are capable of.

Knowing they doubt themselves DRIVES ME CRAZY and makes me so sad. I struggle sometimes with how best to support them in having a positive self concept.

I care about the stories they tell themselves and how those stories express themselves in their lives. What we believe we become. 

And the truth is, most of the time I observe happy, healthy, confident young men. But sometimes… when they come up against a challenge I’ll hear it… 

“Oh, I can’t do that because I have ADD” or “I’m just not smart” or “My friends don’t have to go to these stupid therapies” or “Why can’t I be normal like others kids?”

By the way kids… normal is sooooo over-rated. And seriously… normal? Who’s normal? 

Well… recently I came across a video by author Jonathan Mooney that inspired me and I wanted to share it with all of you. 

I IMMEDIATELY watched it with my younger son and his face lit up like a light bulb.

If you have a child with a difference please WATCH THIS VIDEO and let me know if your heart exploded like mine did.

My son watched this with a friend of his sitting next to us. When the video was over his friend turned to him and said he thought his learning differences made him funny and creative. 

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sure, learning differences make traditional school pretty uncomfortable, but his differences also contribute to him being funny, creative, kind, compassionate, loving… I could go on and on.

Consider this your daily dose of inspiration for the day! 

And if you need a little more inspiration you can listen in to my podcast interview with author Debbie Reber titled…

“Differently Wired: Raising and Exceptional Child in a Conventional World” 

Grateful to be on this path with you… messy differences and all! 

With Love,

Michelle

 

Mindful Rituals at Home

I recently hosted the Mindful Schools summer program, and the topic was “Mindful Rituals at Home”. Join me here for a short video introduction, an offer to set an intention this summer, and a 10 minute meditation….

With life, work, kids, and more vying for your attention, it’s helpful to embed mindful rituals at home and throughout the day to remind yourself to come back to the moment. I invite you to watch my talk about weaving mindful rituals into your daily life. If you’re completely new to mindfulness, you might want to check out this Introduction to Mindfulness article first.

Setting an Intention

This week, set an intention to notice places and times where you might want to incorporate mindfulness into your day, come up with an idea for a ritual, and try it out.

Let me know how it goes!

Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet, an exploration of parenting with Roshi Joan Halifax

Michelle and Roshi Joan explore parenting through five psychological territories she calls Edge States―altruism, empathy, integrity, respect, and engagement―each epitomizing strength of character. Yet each of these states can also be the cause of personal and social suffering. In this way, these five psychological experiences form edges, and it is only when we stand at these edges that we become open to the full range of our human experience and discover who we really are.

Joan Halifax has enriched thousands of lives around the world through her work as a humanitarian, a social activist, an anthropologist, and as a Buddhist teacher. Over many decades, she has also collaborated with neuroscientists, clinicians, and psychologists to understand how contemplative practice can be a vehicle for social transformation. Through her unusual background, she developed an understanding of how our greatest challenges can become the most valuable source of our wisdom―and how we can transform our experience of suffering into the power of compassion for the benefit of others.

She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She studied for a decade with Zen Teacher Seung Sahn and was a teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. She received the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh, and was given Inka by Roshi Bernie Glassman. A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, her work and practice for more than three decades has focused on engaged Buddhism. She is a frequent participant in dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama exploring the intersection of modern science and Buddhism. She also embraces various technologies, and is very active on social networks like Facebook.

Joan’s new book can be found on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World, with Debbie Reber

 

Right now, millions of children are growing up in a world that doesn’t respect, support, or embrace who they inherently are.

These are children Debbie refers to as “differently wired”—the kids with neurodifferences such as ADHD, giftedness, autism, learning disorders, and anxiety, as well as those with no formal diagnosis, who are being told day in and day out that there is something wrong with them. And because their differences are for the most part invisible, these kids are stuck trying to fit into a world that wasn’t designed to accommodate their unique way of being.

Their challenges are many. But for the parents who love them, their challenges are just as hard. They’re the parents frequently fielding emails from frustrated teachers and dealing with glares when their children behave inappropriately in public. They’re the exhausted moms and dads pushed into nonstop advocacy mode, the ones whose kids people think twice about inviting to their child’s birthday party. They’re overwhelmed, misunderstood, and isolated, which is ironic considering their kids are in every classroom across the country. Debbie knows this because she is one of these parents.

DIFFERENTLY WIRED lays out a new vision for not only redefining the way neurodiversity is perceived in the world, but shifting the parenting paradigm so parents raising extraordinary kids can do so from a place of peace, joy, and most importantly, choice.

Each chapter in the book centers on one big tangible idea—or as Debbie calls them, “Tilts”—that will shift parents’ thinking and actions in a way that will change not only the family dynamic, but will allow for these unique children to fully realize their best selves. By making these shifts, parents everywhere will be rejecting what’s broken in the status quo. And that leads to moving the world closer to a place where difference is genuinely seen and valued.

Debbie Reber moved her career in a more personal direction in 2016 when she founded TiLT Parenting, a website, top parenting podcast (more than 250k downloads), and social media community for parents like her who are raising differently-wired children. Debbie’s newest book, Differently Wired: Raising Exceptional Kids in a Conventional World, was published by Workman Books in June 2018. She currently lives with her son and husband in the Netherlands.

Visit Debbie at www.debbiereber.com

To Control Yourself… Know Yourself

One of my favorite quotes is…

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” – Aristotle 

 

So many parents share with me how their biggest struggle is to keep from snapping at their kiddos.

They get angry, feel resentful, and find themselves just overall frustrated….then they do or say something they wish they had not. Ouch. We have all been there. 

Many of you know I am a recovering yeller. I get it…really I do. 

So…. here’s how to work on these kind of issues in three “not so easy” steps. 

 

1- Increase moments of stillness throughout the day.

2- Study your mind and body. Be curious. 

3- Question any stressful thought that appears in your mind. (I say “appears” because we don’t make those thoughts… they just appear…we don’t need to take them so darn seriously) 

 

Do you have to sit in meditation for hours a day? Well… that would be nice and certainly something I strongly support, but if all you have is five minutes a day, start there. If all you can do is put a reminder on your calendar to pause and take a few breaths five times a day, then start there. Just increase the moments of stillness throughout the day. You can do it! 

Why study your mind and body? That sounds weird. I wish I knew any other way to free ourselves from maniacal behavior, but I just don’t. Invite the mind and body into a permanent life research project. Which thoughts are repetitive and get in your way? Where in your body do you tense up when you feel sad or angry? Where does your body light up when you feel insanely happy or a moment of simple joy? 

Questioning stressful thoughts sounds like a lot of work. Yep… pretty much. It is. I won’t lie to you. But as I’ve said… mindful parenting is not for the faint of heart. 

Sure… we can do many little things that make a HUGE difference to our mental state and well-being. But in order to transform into a truly peaceful, rational, loving parent… we all have some work to do. 

 

We are all perfect as we are… and also have some improving to do! 

 

I’m a student of Byron Katie, and have been working with my stressful thoughts using her process called “The Work” for many years. Reading her book “Loving What Is” changed my life. 

And even if you do not use that particular process, I would encourage you to first start noticing your stressful thoughts throughout the day. What are they? When do they most likely appear? 

Once you have spent some time getting to know your thoughts you can start responding to them by asking…”Is that true?”

See what the response is….

 

For a little more inspiration on working with your thoughts, you can listen to my latest podcast episode “Don’t Believe Everything You Think“.

Now get out there and get to know yourself! And let me know how it goes… I love your letters and respond to each one. 

May you meet this moment fully. May you meet this moment with kindness towards yourself and others. 

With Love,

Michelle