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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

1/2 Day Mindfulness Retreat for Parents in Sausalito

How can we as parents live in a way that is meaningfully connected to ourselves and others, even as the demands and complexities of contemporary life and work are accelerated? Life is messy, and it’s exactly within this messiness where we find our greatest potential for growth, if we can learn to pause and rest in awareness. Practicing mindfulness is medicine for our times. Join us for a half day retreat where we will practice meditation, reflect, and build community. Please wear comfortable clothing and be prepared to leave us rested and re-connected. $60 per person

REGISTER HERE

 

1/2 Day Mindfulness Retreat for Parents in Sausalito

How can we as parents live in a way that is meaningfully connected to ourselves and others, even as the demands and complexities of contemporary life and work are accelerated? Life is messy, and it’s exactly within this messiness where we find our greatest potential for growth, if we can learn to pause and rest in awareness. Practicing mindfulness is medicine for our times. Join us for a half day retreat where we will practice meditation, reflect, and build community. Please wear comfortable clothing and be prepared to leave us rested and re-connected. $60 per person

REGISTER HERE

 

Everything is fine. Until it isn’t. Then it is again: Tales of a Family Vacation

Our trip started this way. Bus trip to airport with thrilled child in luggage rack.
Our trip started this way. Bus trip to airport with thrilled child in luggage rack.

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.

Just breathe.

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.