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You don’t agree with me? Now what?

Many of us have no idea where to begin when we find ourselves across from someone who we disagree with. The words fight, flight, or freeze come to mind as our ineffective toolkit of responses. How is that working for you? Not so well for me…

Difficult conversations don’t need to be quite so… difficult.

With a little curiosity, effort, care, and courage any of us can learn to lean in to these moments with more skill. One of my favorite resources to guide my way is a book called Fierce Conversations written by Susan Scott. She shares seven principles to communicate more effectively with one of your kiddos, your partner, a colleague, or anyone else you find yourself not seeing eye to eye.  

First of all… fierce means real!  Seriously real. How many times do we say yes when we mean no, pretend we feel one way when it’s really another, or don’t say anything at all when we are hurting inside? Each conversation we have with others brings us closer together or farther apart. Make a commitment to nurture the relationship by honoring how you feel and relating to what they have to say. Lean in with serious authenticity and a willingness to make the conversation genuine.

Be Courageous and Interrogate Reality

The truth is… reality changes. What was true about our ten year old a few weeks ago can be very different today. Take a long hard look at the reality of the difficult situation in front of you. Is what you are thinking and believing true? As Byron Katie would ask us… “who would you be without your story?”

Choose Authenticity

This chapter in the book is titled, Come Out from Behind Yourself into the Conversation and Make It Real. Who are you, or who do you wish to be authentically? Are you courageous enough to shine a light deep within and speak your truth? What truly matters for you about this difficult conversation? It’s probably not really that your partner left the dishes in the sink, but more connected to cooperation, respect, or dependability. How about having that conversation?

Practice Mindful Listening

During a difficult situation can you pause for a moment to become present, to be in this moment fully and completely? Can you listen to and speak to the person in front you, while putting aside any stories you may have in your mind from the past fogging things up? Everyone longs to be known and seen for who we are and what we are in this moment.

Meet Your Worst Struggles Head on Today

What happens when we put off dealing with the tough stuff? We almost always make matters worse, and the problem seems to grow, almost taking on a life of its own within our psyche. Your toughest challenges stand between you and the peace and happiness you long for. The things hardest to discuss hold our freedom in chains. This includes stuff like speaking openly and honestly to your teen about relationships, intimacy, and sex. Just do it!

Never Underestimate Your Intuition

Pay attention to the wisdom of your body. Messages are coming to you all day, every day if you are willing to slow down and listen. Tap into this intelligence and trust what is coming through. Discuss it with trusted family members, friends, and colleagues. Abide by the voice within.  

Take Responsibility for Your Emotional Wake

Nothing you say to your children or anyone else is meaningless. You have no idea how what you might have said has impacted another. Intention does not always match impact.  Conversations are a key part of relationships. Own up to all of the words and messages you put out into the world. Be prepared to address how you might have made someone else feel.

Honor The Gifts Silence Gives Us

Most of us say way too many words. Seriously. Way too many. Can you be still and quiet when in an uncomfortable conversation? What is your relationship to silence? Deeper feelings and hurts often emerge within this space. Silence makes most of us nervous, but it also slows everything down. Insight emerges in the spaces between our thoughts.

Meeting challenges with others is never easy. However, these moments can bring us even closer together when we are willing to bring our full authentic selves to the relationship and to the moment. Which fierce conversation is waiting for you?

The best thing to ask your kiddos when they get home from school is……

Ready for it? 

NOTHING!

How about that? 

Instead of asking them….

  • How was your day?
  • Do you have any homework? 
  • How are you feeling?
  • What grade did you receive on your test? 

Tell them….

  • I’m so happy to see you. 
  • I missed you! 
  • The house/apartment just got a little brighter with you in it. 
  • I’m noticing you look a little worn out. I’m here if you need anything.

And if you must ask them something….

  • Can I make you a snack? 
  • Did anything fun or unusal happen today? 
  • Which friends did you play with at recess?
  • Do you need any support from me this afternoon/evening?

The transition from school to home can be a tricky one for our kiddos.

They have been working hard all day trying to do the right thing, say the right thing, answer in just the right way…

Bombarding them with intrusive questions the second they walk through the door or get into the car tends to shut them down. The opposite of what we all wish for right?

Instead, use the power of mindfulness to tune into yourself and your kiddos.

Pause… notice your breath… ask yourself… “what’s most important now? What does this moment ask of me?

I find that if I stick to this, my boys will eventually offer up how their day was. Yes, even my teenager. It might not be until bedtime… but it happens. 

Let me know how it goes! 

With Love,

Michelle

 

 

 

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! 

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!

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 

Anyone else counting the days until school starts again?

I LOVE the routine of the school year. Sure…sometimes someone is home sick or some other bump in the road appears, but in general I have some semblance of certainty as to when I can get my work done. Then the weekend comes and we can PLAY! I also LOVE working from home…but not so much during the summer months. And yes, I’m sure if we were heading off to some tropical location or lake house for the summer I might feel differently. But alas…that is not the case. Mindful parenting in just harder when the kids are out of school, let’s face it. 

So what to do?

I’m leaning in to some old standbys here because they are just so good. 

Breathing 

My kids have interrupted me about fifteen times today while I’ve been in the midst of some kind of creative work. After the fifth time or so I caught on to the tension I was feeling each time the door started to creak, so I began to focus on one inhale and one exhale each time that door began to swing open. All of a sudden I was a little bit happier to see them. 🙂

Gratitude

I’ve started a little notebook where I’m jotting down everything I feel grateful for a few times a day. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain and unshackles us from toxic emotions. It’s hard to be all grumpy about summer when you are writing down what you are grateful for. Plus, who is grumpy about summer? So strange right? 

Taking Mini-Breaks

I mean duh…this SEEMS so obvious. I’m fairly sure I have been hiding out in my office to avoid listening to my children tell me how bored they are…which leads to less breaks than usual. I started taking a walk in the sunshine mid way through my workday while reminding myself how valuable boredom and mind wandering are for my children. Let them be bored! It’s good for them. Really it is. My little walks also help soothe the guilt I might be feeling about us not being on vacation this summer.

And about that GUILT… I can hear you thinking “why should you be guilty about not going on vacation?”

You are so RIGHT

If I get still and u-turn around to what is going on within me, it’s pretty clear I’m stuck in the loop of my mind telling me what we “should” be doing this summer. As if anything should be any different than it is right now. I can also sense a longing to slow down a little more with family and friends. It’s so easy to see the to-list and just keep going… and then feel guilty afterward. So silly we are. 

With all that said, I am going to continue breathing a little more intentionally, focusing on what I’m grateful for, and taking more breaks. Will you join me? 

These long days and warm nights aren’t so bad either…

How is your summer going? 

I’d love to hear stories of sun, struggle, fun, and bored to tears kids driving you nutty. 

With Love,

Michelle 

Sometimes we all need a little taming of the ego…

One of the greatest gifts mindfulness has given me is the ability to watch my ego roar and not take it too seriously. 

Sitting in meditation while watching thoughts go by again, and again, and again… seriously lends itself to understanding how wacky the mind can be. 

However…last week, a book talk I gave at Google on Mindful Parenting went live on YouTube. This is exciting right? Well….it was until I saw that the only three comments posted were fairly unkind. Not only that but some people had clicked “thumbs down”. Ouch! 

I was having a perfectly productive and lovely day until I read those three comments…then….BAM…the inner critic went into overdrive. I had been hijacked by my own mind. 

 

Here are how my ego thoughts went…. 

Oh man…that talk wasn’t very good

I flipped my hair too much…why do I do that? What kind of weird habit is that? 

That outfit is all wrong. I need to get a stylist.

Those people are just mean trolls…. but what if they are right?n

Who do I think I am giving a talk at Google anyway? 

 

You get the point right? So here is what I did…. I stopped, marched myself over to my meditation cushion and sat with all of it. Let me tell you this was not pleasant. My mind was going wild. I was reminded of something Pema Chodron said in her book The Places That Scare You. “When our emotions intensify, what we usually feel is fear. This fear is always lurking in our lives. In sitting meditation we practice dropping whatever story we are telling ourselves and leaning into the emotion and the fear, thus, we train in opening the fearful heart to the restlessness of our own energy. We learn to abide with the experience of our emotional distress.” 

So I watched all the ego inner critic stories and saw clearly that I was simply afraid of not being good enough. Was this true? Nope. I’m perfectly good enough thank you very much. Next, I reminded myself of my dedication to practice, integrity, and connection to purpose. That tricky ego critic was squished and my heart was again open. I offered myself some self compassion for being human, put on my big girl panties, and did what I needed to do… email my soul sisters! I sent an SOS to the women in my life who I knew would support me. This sisterhood flung into action, watched my talk, liked my page, and left comments reflective of who they know me to be. Being held by my community in love was just what the ego doctor ordered. And yes…I get the irony of their comments feeding my ego a bit. 🙂

This process all took place over a few hours. Reflecting back I was able to watch in slow motion how I was hijacked and how I came back to love. (Of course I did also have the help of my soul sisters…)

We can all expect the ego hijack from time to time. Dare I say this can happen quite easily at home with our families. Hopefully we are ready with the sacred pause, the leaning into our emotions and fear, and a willingness to reach out for connection and support. 

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

 

Sibling Struggles, Stressors, and Solutions

Don’t you wish this blog post could solve all of the issues you have at home with siblings? 

Yeah….. me too. Yet here we are…. with siblings who may have some….. ummm….. let’s call them “challenges”.

I was inspired to write about this topic today when my youngest son marched into the kitchen this morning and announced “I don’t hate Tyler this morning!”

He was clearly proud of himself. This reality seemed revolutionary. 

We were all a bit stunned of course. I was quickly reminded of him screaming emphatically the day before how he hated his brother and he always would. 

Whew. Good morning! 

How much of this is normal, I often wonder? How do we know if they will grow out of it? Well… we don’t. I often find myself asking adult siblings if they despised each other when they were young. Most of the time the response is….absolutely! This always makes me feel just a little bit better. 

What I find when I get still (and do a little self-inquiry) is that I have a ton of my own identity caught up in raising two boys who will be close when they grow up. Siblings should be close, right? Right???

If they are close this must mean I’m a good parent (or something like that). 

The moment I turned my attention to that thought (siblings should be close and if they are close this means I’m a good parent) it began to melt away. 

Our mindfulness practice can support us in catching these thoughts and not buying too much into them. 

How about a little inquiry? You can do this on the spot or during a longer journaling session. 

Try using these three levels of awareness of thought 

1- Get to know the content of your thoughts. What are you believing? Is it true? 

2- Notice how thoughts are not real. See them as a movie playing in your mind. Watch them come and go

3- Use your meditation practice to become the one who watches the thoughts. Become a clear space of awareness that witnesses it all. 

Having stressful thoughts is just a normal part of being human. Our tendency to hold on to our beliefs is pretty extraordinary. 

Underneath most of our thoughts is simply a desire to connect to ourselves and others in a deeper way. I certainly find this to be true. 

So the next time your kiddos fight see if you can call up that sacred pause and notice the thoughts at play under your frustration. 

Let me know how it goes….

For a little more exploration of siblings you can listen in to one of my top downloaded podcasts. Enjoy me chatting with our friends Cecilia and Jason Hilkey from Happily Family

Find the Podcast: Siblings, Stressors, and Solutions HERE

 

Free Webinar- The Joy of Teenagers Through the Lens of Mindful Awareness

The teenage years are filled with so much possibility. They are some of the most creative, inquisitive, and growth oriented times of our lives, yet parents often cringe when considering life with a teen. Join Jessica Morey, Executive Director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education and Michelle Gale, Author of Mindful Parenting in a Messy World as they explore the essential questions parents must ask to cultivate deeper connection and trust within themselves and with their adolescent.

Who am I? Who are They? Who are We?

The adolescent years are a time of great change, not only for the child, but also for the nature of the parent child relationship. Can we meet these years with openness, humor, and the willingness to evolve alongside our teens?

The focus of this webinar will be on:

  • Shifting our habitual responses from criticism to curiosity
  • Exploring how to move our minds from being on autopilot to aware
  • Listening through the noise for what our teenage children really need
  • Investigating our relationship to change and uncertainty