Parenting has been a long series of learning opportunities for me, opportunities that have helped me to grow and transform in ways I am deeply grateful for. My most recent growth edge that's been coming up for a few ways is finding the right use of power.
As a new mom, I had a tricky relationship with power, wanting to have the capacity to make my kids be reasonable and nap, eat, and respond as I expected them to most of the time. I didn't yet know how to engage in the important work of letting them learn from experience rather than by listening to me. For years,my primary work has been to moderate my power, learning to be softer and more present.
Over the past few years, I'm learning that I need to wield power, just in a different form. I've been learning to be aware of my own needs, limits, and authority, listening more closely to myself without ignoring everyone else. It has been a constant process of trail and error, falling too far toward caring for their needs at the expense of my own, then too far toward my own needs at the expense of theirs.
The middle path, awareness and care for both at the same time, is where I'm headed. I'm starting to feel it more easily. It's like riding a bike, you can't be perfectly balanced in every moment, there's an overall sort of balance that keeps the bike up. That's what I'm working on.
Stay tuned, this week I'll write each day about finding my right use of parental power.
On th is Memorial Day, I've been reflecting on both those men and women who didn't survive their military service and those who came back suffering from traumatic and life-changing physical, emotional, and mental injuries.
My heart breaks for the kids and families of both those who have died and those who didn't come back the same as they left. When parents suffer from depression, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder or physical injuries, families are put under enormous pressure.
May is Mental Health Month, a time to remember how important mental health care is for all of us, and especially for kids whose parents have mental illness. If you are struggling or know a family who may be dealing with a mental health issue, check out resources from NAMI, PTSD in Military Veterans HelpGuide, Military Kids Connect support for parents and kids.
In this video, actor Patrick Stewart offers very personal and candid insights into how PTSD (shell shock) can hurt kids and spouses:
When things get hard, I can be quick to turn away from a situation in frustration. Again and again, I need to remind myself that love doesn't always look like I think. Sometimes I need to be more open and soft than I expect, other times I need to be willing to be firm. Some simple things I've noticed that love means for me are:
Trying again, even when I want to run.
Being patient enough to let someone find their own path.
Offering a kind word, even when I want to snap.
Listening. And listening more.
Ignoring things that are better ignored.
Telling the truth, even when I'm scared.
Looking carefully at my intent and purpose.
Being willing and able to say 'no'--in a loving way.
Caring for myself.
Finding my own freedom and honoring others' freedom.
Letting others forgive me.
Kindness rather than niceness.
Doing nothing together.
Trying new things.
Seeing the beloved's true self, even when they have lost track of it.
Being brave enough to let people see my vulnerability.
Needing and receiving help.
What else? Please add to this list with me!
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean the one who is
eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth
instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her
enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms
and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver is an amazing observer and a master of quiet moments. We all need this kind of experience! I was talking with someone recently about spending what I think must have been hours watching clouds when I was a kid. Nothing else to do, no reason to get anywhere or hurry.
How can we help today's children to have that quiet time?
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection..”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
This morning I've been grappling with how to handle a parenting situation. There's a pretty significant part of me that feels that I should lay down the law, set an ultimatum, and force my son to comply with my rule. There's another (bigger than I wish it was) that wants to hide from the issue. And another part that desperately wants to look smart, wise, and strong rather than risking vulnerability. And a part that wants my child to look good rather than confused. That's a lot, right?
As I was struggling with the confusion I felt and the ways I should probably just fix things, I suddenly realized that I was holding the pain at a distance, defending myself from the vulnerability of the situation by staying in my head. I remembered that my connection with my son will not thrive because I try to control him. Nor will it thrive because I avoid a hard moment and let him avoid it. It's essential that I stay both connected and loving.
As soon as I got there, I felt the pain come in. It's hard and scary to set limits and deal with problems while staying connected. It feels safer to make demands from a disconnected place. And as I realized how important that vulnerability is, my consciousness kicked in, watching the stories, fears, and desires with compassion and clarity.
One of the most loving things we can do for another person is to listen deeply. This older post, Listening to Feelings, explores how to listen to our kids. Today I want to add a bit.
When a child (or teen, adult, even a baby) is upset, they're having an emotional experience that doesn't necessarily make intellectual sense. Most children can't articulate their feelings easily, but we can usually tell they're upset. They may withdraw, avoiding eye contact and conversation. They may get into a rage about big or small issues ('Why can't I have a phone,' or 'I can't do this homework.'). Maybe they suddenly need to be taken care of, insisting on help to do things they normally take care of independently.
The signals that tell us they're upset probably don't directly correlate to their feelings, but they give us clues. A child who is dramatically upset that someone ate the last granola may not be only upset about the granola bar, but it can help us to understand her. Maybe she is feeling uncared for, like nobody cares enough to ask if she would like the granola bar?
When we listen carefully, verbally and nonverbally, to an upset child, they have the space to get to know what they are feeling. They may express themselves irrationally or superficially at first, ranting about nobody loving them when they discover that you ate the last granola bar. This is how they begin to put the emotions into words. Sometimes they show us by their actions, turning away from us or stomping their feet. We can offer gentle observations, 'Looks like you feel really upset,' or 'I think you are mad!'
We may be tempted to interrupt, explain, or try to fix the problem, but these responses aren't real solutions. The child needs time to make sense of the feelings. As you listen, they may begin to articulate layers of the experience that are surprisingly insightful, even explaining the points you would have made if you had interrupted a few minutes earlier. They may process the entire situation with little more from you than your loving presence. Our listening gives a child the chance to integrate their feelings with words and understanding.
Sometimes this ends abruptly as a child solves their own problem ('Okay, I'll just have an orange,') and moves on. Other times they may ask for help or seem to need time. Whatever happens, listening gives our child the sense that they are important, that we have time for them, and, most of all, that we love them.
This week's theme is emerging as parenting from the heart. It started with Sunday's mindfulness practice and continued with Monday's Uncertainty.
For several day the words 'heart-centered' have been rattling around in my mind. I've been reflecting on how my own parenting has transformed over the years, on my experience as a teacher, and on what the kids I know are experiencing in most schools.
It's so clear that kids need heart-centered relationships. Connection is more than a luxury, it is a survival need. When children know they are cared about, everything goes better. They are more cooperative, receptive, and respectful at home, not because they have to be but because they are just moved to be.
They are more cooperative at school, too, and actually learn better (see Improving Students' Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning from the American Psychological Association and A Case for School Connectedness by Robert Blum, both articles which cite a number of research studies).
How heart-centered is your home? Is there a way to strengthen your connection with your child? Today, consider adding a heart connection to your regular life at home. Imagine how it would be if you couldn't say "I love you," you could only show it. How would you do it?
Here are a few simple ways to add connection with your child:
Shefali Tsabary's first book,The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children, is different than any parenting book I've read. It brings a very deep sense of spiritual purpose to both our experience of parenting and our child's experience of developing.
Shefali writes about parenting not as a struggle to control children and mold them into what we want them to be, or even as a beautiful service we do for our children, but as a path to healing and awakening for ourselves. This is important to me, because it can get me out of the self-righteous or martyr role that I fall into sometimes, and remind me that I am actually getting a lot out of this parenting journey. It's hard, definitely. I'm sometimes exhausted. If it was a job it could never pay enough. But it's a deep spiritual practice and learning experience that is changing me in important, essential ways. I am not just in this for my kids, I'm also in it for my own growth!
The second powerful message in the book focuses on how to support our children's emotional intelligence, creativity, and purpose. Throughout this book and all of her work, Shefali stays very clear about the innate dignity and purpose of every child and the importance of respecting it as we grow up with them. She offers lots of detailed and clear stories that help to bring awareness to typical parenting patterns and more conscious ways to handle situations.
I recommend that you get this book and read it! It will probably make you uncomfortable at times as you recognize things you have been doing unconsciously. It will also inspire you!
I write this blog not because I know what I'm doing as a mom, but because I'm learning. Uncertainty is my constant companion. At each stage of parenting I'm uncertain about different things, but it's really all the same.
When my kids were babies I was uncertain about why they were crying and how to get them to sleep (among many things), but really I wasn't so sure about being a good enough mom. Now I'm uncertain about how to help them with struggles in school or with big decisions, and really I'm not so sure about being a good enough mom.
Sometimes I fall into it, obsessing mentally about specific issues (sleep, money, grades, friends, chores, etc.). I can get rigid and demanding as I try to control things. I can avoid the confusing nature of human relationships by distracting myself with my work or other interests (social media, wine, Netflix). I can pretend to myself or other people that I get it, I really know what I'm doing.
At my wisest, I understand that feeling uncertain is okay. I don't expect to know everything or to be a perfect mom. I respond to the nervousness that comes with uncertainty by grounding myself in the present moment and pulling my attention back from the past and future.
Over time, I've gotten more able to feel the uncertainty and accept it and myself. This helps me feel stronger and more vulnerable. I'm less dependent on certainty for my peace of mind and more secure in my ability to be present with what happens without trying to control it. How about you, how does uncertainty affect you?
My best parenting has nothing to do with following rules. It comes from my heart, and I mean heart in the sense of both love and courage (couer/heart).
Whether I'm saying yes to something even though it makes me nervous or no so something that my kids will freak out about, parenting from the heart can be scary. That's one way that mindfulness helps me. It doesn't give me any simple answers, but it does help me to sort out the attachments, desires, fears, and worries that can be so confusing. With mindful awareness, I drop through layers of that stuff to get to a calmer, clearer, and wiser Self.
This doesn't guarantee a great (or even good) decision. Sometimes I sit and breathe and still don't know what's the best thing to do. Sometimes I still react impulsively even though I think I'm being mindful. But my practice and an engaged heart help me to do my best. And that is enough.
I offer this short practice, Mindfulness for Hard Times, as something that may help you settle if and when you're in a challenging moment.
When we're recognizing that Children Have Their Own Path and Purpose (this week's theme), we see them, embrace even the hard parts, stay engaged to support them, and let them make mistakes. To do all of that, we may need to practice not taking things personally.
First, it is wise to understand that our child's behavior really is not personal. Children and teens are actually strongly (and developmentally appropriately) self-centered. They are rarely doing things to upset us! Remind yourself, when things go wrong, that this is not a personal attack on you, even though there may be learning opportunities for you.
Second, after the logical understanding takes root, then we need to work with our feelings. When something happens that you begin to take personally ('Why would she do that to me? Doesn't she understand how much I love her/tired I am/hard I worked on that dinner?"), use mindfulness:
What am I feeling?
As you notice your feelings, you may find it helpful to take some mindful breaths, allowing yourself to come back from stories or reactions to the present moment. If your reactions are strong, you may even need to go for a walk, do some jumping jacks, breathe with long exhales, or sit with your dog for a bit to bring yourself back to center. Ask yourself if you are sure the story/thoughts are true, maybe being curious about other possible stories or explanations ('Maybe he says he hates this dinner because he doesn't care about my hard work, or maybe there's something he really doesn't like, maybe he even just had a lousy day at school.').
Another step to this week's work on allowing our kids to be who they truly are is allowing them to try on what they aren't. They can't know who and what they are without the freedom to experiment.
There's a story told about the Persian sage/philosopher/folk character Mulla Nasrudin:
“Oh great sage, Nasrudin,” said the eager student. “I must ask you a very important question, the answer to which we all seek: What is the secret to attaining happiness?”
Nasrudin thought for a time, then responded. “The secret of happiness is good judgment.”
“Ah,” said the student. “But how do we attain good judgement?”
“From experience,” answered Nasrudin.
“Yes,” said the student. “But how do we attain experience?”
(Published in The Beggar King and The Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy).
Kids are going to have bad judgment.
Sometimes it will come in the form of getting caught in emotional drama. As parents, we know that a child may be tired or hungry and will feel better soon, but they don't know that until they experience it. We have a lot of opportunities to hold space for our kids as they feel and process emotions. If your child sobs about giving you back your cell phone, forgetting to bring home their homework, or bedtime, you can embrace the drama, inviting them to express it. Check out my recent posts Forget Logic and Holding Our Children for more about this practice.
Sometimes they have bad judgment when they start imitating a friend's whiny voice, style of dressing, or other quirk. Or when they eat a big meal right before sports practice. Or when they eat too much candy all at once. Or when they spend their entire allowance on something they're likely to break. As kids get older, they may drink too much, fall in love with the wrong person, fail a class, or choose a college that isn't a great fit. All of these are experiences that can help them, ultimately, to attain happiness.
When your child experiments with a persona or voice that isn't theirs or makes choices unlikely to end well, remember how important it is to learn from bad judgment! If it's safe, respect their freedom to discover good judgment through experimenting with bad judgment.
Accepting children as they are doesn't mean that we don't help! Children often need our support learning things that are hard for them.
Seeing and embracing them exactly as they are (Even the Hard Parts, as I wrote about yesterday) is an important foundation for whatever we may teach them. When we are present with them in a real and conscious way, they feel grounded and safe, which is vital. Being seen realistically also helps them to know themselves in an honest way.
If your child struggles to make friends, put away toys, do homework, or go to sleep, it can be important to offer direct and skillful help. When we are present with children and observant, we can see what is not going well and pinpoint the moment when things go wrong.
For example, many years ago I knew a child who was new to a preschool and was having trouble with transitions. I watched carefully and noticed that he burst into tears just as the kids went in to the bathroom to wash hands and get ready for snack. Until then, everything was fine. I could see that he seemed confused just before he was upset, and realized that he may not know the routines that the others had learned. I taught him the routines--lining up, singing a hand-washing song, getting out the snack supplies--and all went more smoothly.
Sometimes children who are overwhelmed by cleaning up their toys need a simple task, "Let's start with putting all of the Lego's in this basket," or even baskets with labels or a photo of how the areas looks when everything is put away. A child who doesn't make social connections easily may need the support of a script. "Hi, can I join in?" is a classic way to do it, or "Want to play trains with me?" A child who has a hard time falling asleep may need support that starts with recognizing the sleepy feeling in himself.
So try being curious about the challenging moments, looking for things your child needs help with. Offer warm, friendly, non-judging, and specific support. Remember, you are really on the same side. By helping rather than trying to control, you will both enjoy a better outcome.
When you really know your child (see yesterday's post Knowing Your Child) you'll see things that seem beautiful, wonderful, and inspiring, and other things that feel worrying or hard.
Some of what we see worries us because it won't make our child's path easy. The child who is noticeably different--physically, emotionally, or mentally--may be excluded, teased, or just ignored by 'normal' kids. A very sensitive child may come to us sad or angry about incidents that would roll right off their siblings. A child who doesn't read social cues easily may be uncomfortable at birthday parties or play dates.
Other things will make life hard for us. Kids who are emotionally volatile may fight every transition or chore, making it exhausting (for us!) to get things done. Those who are loud, impulsive, or unfocused may be hard to be around at home and out. Kids who are not very compliant or flexible may make for some really difficult parent-teacher conferences.
But no matter what our kids are like, they need to feel embraced, loved, and cherished exactly as they are. We all need this! As parents, when we reject or dislike certain aspects of qualities, our kids know. Sometimes parents say it directly, "I just wish you weren't so sensitive about everything," or "Wouldn't it be great if he was more like his sister?" Other times it's clear to children when we frown as they tell a story or look away when they miss a goal.
Instead, let's be interested and curious about them, suspending judgment. When we are mindful of the body, we name sensations in a neutral way (naming 'warm' or 'tingly' sensations rather than 'good' or 'bad'). What if we observed a child the same way, noticing that they have dirt on their hands rather than that they're 'a mess'? Or noticing that they are showing another child a bug rather than identifying them as 'acting strange.'
When we observe rather than judge, we enjoy a child more. We invite them to feel more comfortable and peaceful with themselves. They need to feel loved just as they are much more than they could ever need to be what we think they should be. So if you've been struggling with something about your child, consider looking from a new and more open perspective. Watch their interactions and choices with curiosity. Suspend judgments. See what happens!
Yesterday I wrote the post Children Have Their Own Path and Purpose, about my belief that all children come in our lives with their own path, plan, and purpose. Seeing my children as they are is my most important work. All other parenting is built upon seeing them.
Please join me this week in spending time being curious about our children. Let's look not through the lens of what they 'should' be or what is normal which only sees them in comparison to others, but through a more open lens.
Can you make a list of adjectives that describe your child? If possible, use non-judging words, looking beyond words that may focus on your child's affect on you (easy, difficult, lovable, needy) and considering more neutral words (active, careful, calm, bold).
As you think about that child, consider how they respond to:
How do they approach:
How do they handle:
When do they turn toward you and when do they turn away?
Do they have characteristic behaviors (cuddling up in a blanket? standing on a swing?)?
What do you notice about their facial expressions and gestures?
At the center of conscious parenting is the understanding that children have their own purpose, path, and choices to make. They don't come to us so we can train or teach them to be something. Our work as parents is much more subtle and responsive!
My favorite expression of this approach to children is Sweet Honey in the Rock's song 'On Children' based on a chapter of Kahlil Gibran's inspiring book, The Prophet. Please, join me by starting the week reading this beautiful essay and listening to Sweet Honey in the Rock's interpretation!
From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children."
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
If you have been writing 5 wonderful things about yourself each day, take a moment to reflect on how that has been. Would you like to continue? A wonderful variation is to notice 5 wonderful things about your child each day, try it and see how it goes!
One way that we can care for ourselves is to be present, not caught up in experiences of the past or worries about the future. In the article Five Steps to MIndfulness, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh shares teachings about how to practice mindfulness. Here is an excerpt that can get you started:
First Mindfulness Exercise: Mindful Breathing
by Thich Nhat Hanh
The first exercise is very simple, but the power, the result, can be very great. The exercise is simply to identify the in-breath as in-breath and the out-breath as out-breath. When you breathe in, you know that this is your in-breath. When you breathe out, you are mindful that this is your out-breath.
Just recognize: this is an in-breath, this is an out-breath. Very simple, very easy. In order to recognize your in-breath as in-breath, you have to bring your mind home to yourself. What is recognizing your in-breath is your mind, and the object of your mind—the object of your mindfulness—is the in-breath. Mindfulness is always mindful of something. When you drink your tea mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of drinking. When you walk mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of walking. And when you breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing.
So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath.
It gets even better. You can enjoy your in-breath. The practice can be pleasant, joyful. Someone who is dead cannot take any more in-breaths. But you are alive. You are breathing in, and while breathing in, you know that you are alive. The in-breath can be a celebration of the fact that you are alive, so it can be very joyful. When you are joyful and happy, you don’t feel that you have to make any effort at all. I am alive; I am breathing in. To be still alive is a miracle. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive, and when you breathe in, you touch that miracle. Therefore, your breathing can be a celebration of life.
An in-breath may take three, four, five seconds, it depends. That’s time to be alive, time to enjoy your breath. You don’t have to interfere with your breathing. If your in-breath is short, allow it to be short. If your out-breath is long, let it be long. Don’t try to force it. The practice is simple recognition of the in-breath and the out-breath. That is good enough. It will have a powerful effect.
We need space and time to care for ourselves, space to hear our own voices and tune into our own feelings. The world--in the form of our children, parents, colleagues, schools, volunteer organizations, etc,--will always have urgent demands on our time. If we feel that we must do everything that we are asked to do, there may be no time for the things that are truly important to us.
Cultivate the ability to say 'no.' Practice it! Think of something you said 'yes' to but wish you had said 'no.' Imagine going back to the moment you said 'yes' and try a mental do-over. What could you have said? 'No thanks, I'm not free that day.' 'I won't be able to make it.' 'I've been really busy, I need to take some time to catch up with myself.' It doesn't necessarily matter what you say, but try out some ways to say 'no' and keep them in your back pocket, ready when the need arises.
If you find yourself agreeing to do things in the moment and only realizing later that you don't want to, consider cultivating a 'wait and see' answer. 'I'll have to check my schedule and let you know.' 'Can I let you know tomorrow?' 'Things have been kind of crazy, I'm just not sure if I can.'
Every 'no' has a yes in it. When you say 'no' to the things that aren't important to you, there's space for the things that matter most, including your own self-care.
As we've been doing all week, let's start with actually writing 5 things that you love about yourself. Seriously, it takes only a moment! Grab a piece of paper and write a few things, or send yourself a text. Notice how you're feeling about this practice, how you're feeling about yourself. Muscles we use get stronger, right? When we practice paying loving attention to ourselves, that gets stronger, too. And amazingly, when we are more loving toward ourselves we tend to be more giving and loving toward other people. Isn't that great?
Today's self-care practice--do something small that you love. Consider small changes in your day and routines that can make you feel good. Try one of these or dream up your own:
Music: Listen to some music that fills your heart with joy. Make a playlist of things that make you really happy. And actually listen to it! Put on music while you cook, while you drive, or while you're doing something that needs a little lift.
Beauty: Put a flower next to your bed or on the table. Hang a beautiful photo near your desk. Wear something that you love rather than saving it for a special time. Add beauty to your day where ever you feel inspired.
Movement: Enjoy stretching your body when you wake up, like a cat. It may feel too hard to start a yoga practice, but just do one pose that you enjoy. Dance while you cook or clean.
Connection. Is there someone you really enjoy but don't have much time with? Maybe reach out and go for a walk, meet for coffee, or just talk on the phone with someone you like. Slow down and connect with people in your own family, taking the time to listen deeply to them, to savor the experiences that you share rather than rush past them or being distracted from them.
Inspiration. Give yourself an inspirational experience. I love my Zen calendar and look forward to reading a new quote each morning! Whether you enjoy a daily reading from a book like Mark Nepo's The Book of Awakening or getting an app that shares daily inspirational quotes (Gandhi Inspirational Quotes or Zen Quotes android apps or Buddha Quotes or The Now-Mindfulness and Gratitude iphone apps), build in some reminders.
As we're doing each day this week, start with a moment to consider yourself and the things that make you wonderful. Make an actual written list, 5 things you love about yourself. Notice how you feel as you write it. If you've been doing this for a few days, are you feeling different than you were the first day? Is it easier or harder, pleasant or unpleasant?
Today I want to share another small way to build self-care into your busy life. Here are five ways to practice mindfulness in the small moments, either in addition to your regular sitting practice or if you don't yet have a practice going. Consider trying each of them today. If there are one or two that you enjoy, build them into your daily routine.
The trick for using these small moments of mindfulness is remembering to do them! It helps to choose a reminder that will bring you to mindfulness--stopping at a red light, closing your car door, hearing the sound that your phone makes when you get a text or an email, or a chime that you set on purpose on your phone or computer.
Today, if you've been following my posts so far this week, maybe you are already thinking about things you love about yourself? Write a list of 5 wonderful things about YOU.
Is it getting easier? Or harder? Do you ever notice something positive about yourself in the midst of your day? Or when you're falling asleep at night? If so, keep going! If not, keep going!! :)
And are you aware of your needs already today? Can you feel that you deserve to meet those needs? Keep on finding ways to take good care of yourself!
If You Would Grow - Shine the Light Of Loving Self-Care On Yourself
If you would grow to your best self
Be patient, not demanding
Accepting, not condemning
Nurturing, not withholding
Self-marveling, not belittling
Gently guiding, not pushing and punishing
For you are more sensitive than you know
Mankind is as tough as war yet delicate as flowers
We can endure agonies but we open fully only to warmth and light
And our need to grow Is as fragile as a fragrance dispersed by storms of will
To return only when those storm are still
So, accept, respect, and attend your sensitivity
A flower cannot be opened with a hammer.
-Daniel F. Mead
First, please join me and write 5 things you love about yourself (from yesterday's practice). Make an actual list,five things about yourself that make you smile. Let this become a new habit.
Your needs matter. . . our needs matter. Parenting isn't a form of martyrdom! We know that becoming a parent can completely transform our priorities, enhancing our ability to serve lovingly. A wise parent stays balanced, though, giving self-care a high priority because:
If you need more rest, actually consider how to make that work. Is there something keeping you up after your child goes to sleep that isn't in the 'need' category? Facebook? Work emails that you're catching up with in bed? Or do you have time during the day that you spend cleaning or getting caught up with bills? Your need for sleep is actually much more important than these things! Simply being conscious of the need may help you to nap before you clean or go to bed without checking your email.
Maybe you need time to talk with friends. exercise, a feeling of order in your space, or opportunities to do art. Imagine the shift from a wistful or hopeful or even resentful mentality toward this need to the sense that you deserve it. Does that help you to begin to create it?
Our needs matter and that we deserve to take care of them. Even when outer circumstances can't change immediately, let inner circumstances begin to shift to elevate your needs to a more important status than they may have had. There will certainly be days when needs go unmet, but remembering that we matter can transform our patterns into healthier ones.
Sometimes Mother's Day makes us feel pampered, cherished, and cared for, but it can also bring up mixed emotions. Motherhood is complicated, so it's not surprising that our relationship to it is complicated as well, If you are feeling depleted, emotional, exhausted or resentful post-Mother's Day, consider joining me for a week of self-care.
It would be great to spend a week at a spa, but I want to focus on self-care that is accessible to all moms, even those of us without a dedicated budget or babysitter.
Today, let's begin with a powerful awareness practice.
Right now, stop and consider who you are in the world, your relationships, service, work, and play. Consider some things about yourself, big or small, that make you smile. Write five things that you love about yourself. It doesn't matter whether you write them in a beautiful notebook or on a post in note or even as a note in your phone or computer, but do write them.
If you have trouble thinking of five, don't worry! This will get easier with practice, and you're going to get some good practice this week. Start with something simple. Are you kind to animals? Do you smile at harried-looking moms in stores? Do you make a point of brushing your teeth twice a day? Those are wonderful qualities. Do you recycle? Feed the birds? Cook dinner? Make silly jokes? More wonderful qualities.
Think of this as watering seeds. You are watering the seeds of your own goodness, your love, your kindness, or your sense of fun. Each time you notice something wonderful about yourself, you are helping that part to grow.
I started my journey as a mom with so much to learn, so much opening to do. It's exhausting and hard and even painful to be a mom, and it's also truly beautiful.
I'm feeling, as my children grow up, that they're leaving my heart completely transformed by this experience.
I know that I have changed deeply over these years, and I am grateful to celebrate another Mother's Day. I hope for myself, and wish for you, that this Mother's Day helps us to realize how strong and big our own hearts are. May we look at ourselves with kindness, generosity, and honestly. May we keep showing up for the hard times, allowing them to crack our hearts open, again and again. May we be guided by love, not fear. May we be brave enough to keep learning and growing and speaking our truth. And may we have a wonderful day, whether it's a Hallmark card kind of Mother's Day or a messy, imperfect one.
‘When we look deeply at a flower, we can see that it is made entirely of non-flower elements, like sunshine, rain, soil, compost, air, and time. If we continue to look deeply, we will also notice that the flower is on her way to becoming compost. If we don’t notice this, we will be shocked when the flower begins to decompose. When we look deeply at the compost, we see that it is also on its way to becoming flowers, and we see that flowers and compost ‘inter-are.’ They need each other. A good organic gardener does not discriminate against compost, because he knows how to transform it into marigolds, roses, and many other kinds of flowers.
When we look deeply into ourselves,we see both flowers and garbage. Each of us has anger, hatred, depression, racial discrimination, and many other kinds of garbage in us, but there is no need for us to be afraid. In the way that a gardener knows how to transform compost into flowers, we can learn the art of transforming anger, depression, and racial discrimination into love and understanding. This is the work of meditation.’
-Thich Nhat Hanh, from Touching Peace
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.