I’ve had this blog post swirling around in my mind for over a year now. Although I’m writing it while on vacation with my husband and two son’s, it is actually the hum of my life. Pretty much each and EVERY day.
Why don’t I walk you through a typical twenty four hours of this family vacation and tell me if anything seems familiar. It could be just me.
I wake up early and do my meditation. My youngest son joins me before the “totally realistic” Tibetian bell rings on my iPhone app. We snuggle.
All is well with the world.
Mom, can I have breakfast? And can you bring me icy cold water? And get my book out of my room? Can you turn this light on?
Here is where I do my best to connect to my desire to live a life of service.
Teenage son wakes up and shares what seems like a friendly grunt. So far so good. Boys are now sitting on the couch reading together.
This is a lovely moment. Soak it in.
The bickering begins. No need to analyze what is causing the commotion. It’s awful. I raise my voice. My youngest tells me I shouldn’t be allowed to teach mindfulness because I can’t always stay calm.
Mental stories abound as to how we have failed as parents and human beings.
Morning continues in this fashion. Up. Down. Up. Down
Parents, the only solution to this madness is to pack up and GO OUTSIDE! I have no idea why siblings are kinder to each other the moment you step out of the house but this is a well know fact. It likely won’t last, but you will get a reprieve. Go. Save yourself and your sanity.
No, it doesn’t matter where you go. Just leave.
Off we go. Fingers crossed.
We choose to drive an hour to a deserted beach. 90’s hip hop songs are sung in unison in the back seat.
See, we can be a nice normal loving family.
Let’s stop for lunch mid way there. No one can agree on what to eat. Husband storms off. Food supplies are purchased from three different cafe’s due to food allergies and simple obnoxiousness.
Why is my life so complicated? It’s just LUNCH.
Secluded beach is everything we hoped for. Views are breathtaking. Boys are playing at the water’s edge. We snap a family photo.
I’m the luckiest person on the planet. Feeling grateful.
Taking mental note of how blessed I am.
We stop for dinner on the way home. Someone can’t stand how someone else runs his tongue on his braces to clean them while he is eating. This is apparently a major insult and something so gross and wrong that it requires a loud voice to make clear how horrible this behavior is.
Heads turn. I turn red. Will this ever end? Can I please not be in this moment.
I’ll take any other moment.
Back in the car. We play a family favorite car ride game. Laughter ensues.
I’m appreciating humor, smiles, and this point in time. Also grinning at how much I prefer the pleasant moments over the unpleasant ones.
Back to our condo and everyone is getting ready for bed. Showers, comfy pj’s, and a family movie. I’m noticing the sun kissed cheeks of my kiddos. Everyone is tired.
Conscious of the up and down rhythm of the day.
Desiring to embrace all that is. As it is.
Grateful for the power of awareness.
Seeing myself and life as a work in progress. Moment by precious moment.
Time for bed. Surrendering to sleep. Thankful for a full life.
Everything is fine until it isn’t. Then it is again.
Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and for many that means the start of the holiday season. Here we go! The stress, worry, relationship struggles, shopping, hurt feelings, awkward moments with your drunk uncle sharing his political views….. you know the drill.
This year….come home yourself for the holiday’s. What do I mean? Have I lost it? Well, I probably have, but let me share the only solution to all of this mayhem that has worked for me over the years (aside from crawling under a rock and avoiding the holiday’s all together).
Pause. Breathe. Practice Compassion.
Do this ever so quietly in your own mind…over and over again (should others catch on they may think you drank too much of the punch). And start with compassion for yourself before offering it to others. This is how we come home to ourselves. When we find ourselves getting irritated about something “out there” we immediately take a u-turn back to our own hearts and minds.
Each time one of those “inconvenient irritations” appear just pause…take that breath…and offer yourself a little compassion. Once that compassion has sunk in offer it up to others. We can’t love up on others until we love up on ourselves.
Here’s the deal…everyone is doing their best with their current situation and state of mind. And during the holiday’s many folks tend to lose their minds. It’s just the way of it. We can’t and shouldn’t expect anyone else to change. We are the one’s we have been waiting for.
Compassion is this beautiful space awaiting us under the big emotions that often get triggered during the holiday season. It’s so generous in that it does not ask us not to feel what we are feeling, but instead to see any given situation with reality. It asks us to take off the veil and be with what is….just as it is. Compassion reminds us to stay open to the truth of any moment, even when that moment hurts us in some way. It walks us straight into presence and into the arms of love.
Let’s spend more time together in the arms of love this holiday season. I plan to start in my own loving arms and move out from there…
Now off you go to practice presence during this holiday season. One moment at a time…
My cell phone rang recently and I saw my poppa’s name pop up. Poppa is in his eighties and lives in the southeast of Florida, which at the time, was in the direct path of hurricane Irma. I live in California and was in the middle of a busy work day. It was strange to see him calling, because I generally check in with him. We had just spoken the day before.
It didn’t take long to hear the worry in his voice…he didn’t have to say anything specific, but I could hear it.
Worry…. there it was. His and mine….meeting through the phone line.
I had multiple calls scheduled over the next hour, I thought about calling him back. But then there is was. LOVE…. The love I felt for my worried Poppa in that moment and all the love he had given me so fully…so generously. Always.
I felt this love permeate my entire being and because of this came the PAUSE….
As I listened to him share his plans for the hurricane and what was on the local news I quickly emailed those I was scheduled to speak with and told them I would need to re-schedule. Then I just listened…affirmed…asked questions….stayed present. For close to an hour, much longer than we are usually on the phone, I paused and soaked in as much of my Poppa’s essence as I could.
It seems we are living in a constant twenty four hour news cycle which has the sole purpose of keeping us on edge…worried. But with this call from my grandfather I welcomed the worry that brought me to love… and I rested in the pause.
Pausing is not always an option…but I’m going to try and remember to allow my worry to bring me to love…to humanity…when it really matters….as often as I can.
May you meet this moment fully…May you meet this moment with kindness towards yourself and others.
One of the most common requests I receive from corporate clients and stay at home/working parents alike is to help them manage their response to stress. Personally, particularly on school day mornings, as I’m trying to get my kids out the door and myself to work, having the ability to bring it down a notch is absolutely critical. No one can find their shoes, the dogs are barking, the waffles just burned, and I’m running late to see a client. The best parts of me can be pretty hard to find in those moments.
It’s perfectly normal for us to experience stress, and some measure of stress is actually good! It can motivate us and spark us into action. However, when the level of stress we experience passes our ability to skillfully deal with it, then it’s important to have some skills to help in that moment.
A useful skill to self sooth on the spot is to label our emotions. A study done back in 2007 by Matthew Lieberman and his colleagues looked at functional MRI images of people who were emotionally triggered. They found that if you labeled your emotion by simply saying sadness, fr
ustration, anger, or any other emotion, this had a direct effect on calming the amygdala which is the alarm center of our brain that goes crazy when we are stressed. Labeling the emotion decreased the activation of that alarm center. When we identify our emotions we miraculously stop being identified with them! Self soothing 101.
To help my clients (and myself) practice this technique I like to use the acronym STOP.
S- Stop. Pause. Don’t do or say anything else! Seriously. Don’t.
T- Take a breath while focusing on a long exhale.
O- Observe the emotion present. Label it.
P- Proceed, with lower emotional reactivity and a more sane response.
Now go do life and keep this little mindfulness hack in your back pocket….. What we practice grows stronger!
Wisdom Teachings for Young People in the Technology Age
It was just a matter of time that parents, who are already often riddled with guilt for one reason or another, would find a way to feel bad about their mindfulness practice. And when I talk about “parents” what I really mean is “me”. Although I do have some serious data I’m not alone in this dilemma, having worked with and spoken with parents from all around the country who share one thing in common…..mindfulness.
No one can argue at this point that meditation and living a mindful life is good for us. Study after study is proving this to be true and for those of us who practice regularly we simply know that we are happier, more pleasant human beings who thrive when we put the effort into our practices. My family can surely tell you when I’ve been missing my daily dose because I will be much more cranky and impatient.
Here’s the problem…even when I’m doing all the things I know are good for me such as waking up early and getting my meditation out of the way, practicing presence when around my children, taking a pause when I’m triggered, and weaving mindfulness practices into most of my day I still manage to do things you would not imagine a “mindful parent” would do.
I bribed my ten-year-old with the promise of two action figures if he cooperated during his visit day at a new school.
When my son was doing a ton of whining I raised my voice and said “that’s enough”! (He promptly reminded me that he has a right to his sadness)
I ate half a bag of BBQ potato chips when I was stressed (screw the green juice right now man) and I did not eat them mindfully. In fact, I barely remember what they tasted like.
I went on to Facebook for a VERY SPECIFIC reason and realized 20 minutes later I was lost in social media land with no map.
I drove across town having no memory of how I got there.
And I you know what? This all just means I’m a human being.
So, what’s a parent who cares so much about their inner awakening to do? Lighten up for one. And next, weave some self-compassion practices into our day. My guess is that if you are still reading this you care a great deal (just as I do) about living a life where you meet each moment as fully as possible. It’s time for us to meet our cruddy behavior just as fully as our mindful behavior. Let’s lean in. Find some humor in our foibles. Give ourselves a break. Take that breathe we know we need. And begin again. Always just begin again.
All we ever have is “now” right?
A mindful parent is wise, calm, and always knows just what to do in any given parenting situation. Right? Right? Maybe not so much.
I began focusing on parenting mindfully about eight years ago, and at that time one of my main goals was to stay calm and not get angry. How do you think that worked out for me? Well…I pretty much ended up feeling like a failure every time I didn’t feel calm and got angry. For the record, I don’t recommend stuffing anger in the name of mindful parenting.
As the years went on, I came to understand that mindful parenting is more about allowing the messy parts of our lives to wake us up moment by moment. It’s the anger and other uncomfortable feelings, emotions, and reactions that actually lead us to our mindfulness.
The more awareness we bring to our struggles, the less of a vice grip they have on us.
Our children are masters of presenting these struggles to us in regular doses (for our own good as it turns out). They offer up a steady drip of where we have yet to grow. Can you see how our children are our master teachers? They trigger us in all the right ways to point us towards our greatest possibilities for personal growth, if only we can view our triggers through this lens. Easier said then done I know…but no one said it was going to be easy. Stay with me…
So what can we expect to see from the Good Enough Mindful Parent? Ready for the four things?
#1 The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent takes the time to practice mindfulness (the more the better but we are going for good enough here). We notice the water on our skin while in the shower, name the emotions we are feeling throughout the day, and sit in silence for a few moments (or hours) just noticing our breath. We don’t beat ourselves up when we loose our mindfulness and trust it will come back. In fact, simply noticing that we are not mindful IS mindfulness. You did it!
#2 The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent works to view difficult behaviors through the lenses of emotions and needs. We identify the emotion present in our children; such as they are angry, frustrated, exasperated or sad. We then identify which one of their basic needs is not being met, such as the need for connection, safety, play or freedom. From this perspective we can soften around our children’s (awful) behaviors and move right into deepening connection with them. Perhaps we hold out our arms for a hug or offer them a snack to counteract the blood sugar dip that had caused the awful behavior. On the days we are completely spent and barely have any patience we immediately forgive ourselves and move on to #3.
#3 The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent takes care of their body, mind, and spirit. You have heard of this idea yes? Self Care. The whole “put on your own oxygen mask first” thing. We simply can’t be aware, perfectly present, and unwaveringly patient when our tanks are on empty. Although a spa day would be lovely, we are going for good enough here remember. Wash your hair, take a walk, practice yoga, or call a good friend. Whatever fills up your tank do that.
#4- The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent expects to make mistakes. And I mean make mistakes daily! What our children need most is help from us to explore their own inner worlds. When we completely blow it is the perfect time to help our children grow (while subsequently crawling out from that pile of guilt we are hiding under). The trick here is to calm down before moving forward. After the amygdala hijack in your brain is over and your cortisol levels have lowered, talk through the blunder with your child. It might go something like this…”Wow, I really screwed up earlier. I should have noticed how angry I was getting and stepped away to take a few breaths. I wish I had caught the anger monster before it exploded. I’m sorry. Are you willing to tell me how my anger affected you?” On the days we are too spun around to admit to our mistakes we get a good nights sleep and start over tomorrow.
So there you go…let go of the idea of a perfectly mindful parent. They don’t exist. The Dali Lama doesn’t have children. Just saying.
Life is our teacher every step of the way…even the messy unpleasant parts (especially the messy unpleasant parts). All of our experiences exist to open us up to what we have yet to learn.