“It’s about the oxygen mask first.
Self-care in the form of breath and compassion becomes an effective anchor to
come into relationship with ourselves, and, in turn, with our children.”
Parenting and being with kids has times of profound love, flow, and laughter, and can be really hard, and sometimes impossible. I was looking for synonyms for messy and found each one to be true at one time or another – feeling disconnected, deranged, disheveled, disintegrated, disorganized, frenzied, incoherent, muddled, obscure, perturbed, perplexed, and tumultuous. Smiling, I remembered each one more than once.
Add to this the intensity we feel around us…in our families, communities, country, and world…from hopeful and loving to scarey, anxious, confused, chaotic, incredible, and bizarre.
Whatever we are feeling, our children are too. Even if we screen what they are exposed to, between mirror neurons, emotional resonance, intuition, and overheard emotional tones, it’s also their experience. And, they will look to us for how to respond.
The automatic reaction to messy and chaotic can be to abandon ourselves, in other words, to lose a sense of wholeness, peace, and presence, or to be occupied with fear, worry, self or other blame, or despair. As though thrown into another land, we can lose touch a the peaceful and compassionate relationship with ourselves and others.
Human Being-ness includes messiness and not knowing. We can try to push away or skip the uncomfortable feelings that are both part of ourselves, and part of being human. In the long run, it never works.
How does self-compassion come into all of this? According to Mindfulness Self-Compassion
, self and other compassion includes three components – mindfulness, kindness, and common humanity.
Mindfulness refers to awareness of feelings and what’s going on…the noticing and the curiosity of what we are thinking and feeling. We first have to notice, to acknowledge what’s present.
Kindness means the courage to turn toward, with kindness, what doesn’t necessarily feel good. It takes courage for the heart to face and be with discomfort or pain, confusion, helplessness, fear, or chaos.
Common humanity is the reminder that we are not alone, that the feelings are part of the human experience, that every parent and every child has felt sad, mad, disorganized, perturbed, or scared at times.
Put the three together…. mindfulness, kindness and common humanity. Try it. Find a minor discomfort. Breathe slowly, feel the support of feet on earth, and be curious
about and notice any feelings. Turn toward the discomfort with kindness. If that’s hard, lightly touch the part of the body where the discomfort lives. If not sure, guess. Experience the reminder of common humanity, that this discomfort is part of being human, and, in that, worthy of acceptance. Breathe into it. Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The provenPower of Being Kind to Yourself
, explains, ”…you stop and tell yourself, ‘this is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment.’”
No, it’s not the magic bullet that takes away or pushes aside all discomfort. I experience more breath, a slowing down, perhaps comfort, and more space inside. I feel my nervous system and brain relax a bit, and I’m able to function more clearly. I remember the opportunity to accept myself and whatever I am feeling. I am who I am in the moment as I am, and that’s enough.
As one is able to move from self-abandonment and find self-acceptance, so will one’s children.
It’s about the oxygen mask first. Self-care in the form of breath and compassion becomes an effective anchor to come into relationship with ourselves, and, in turn, with our children. We know that parents who are connected to themselves, in a compassionate relationship with themselves, centered and aware of their bodies, their nervous systems and what they need, more clearly support their children during certain and uncertain times.
There’s a myth about self-compassion being selfish. It grew out of a culture of scarcity and survival, one which required feelings to be repressed and children to be raised as perfect little adults. It also came from fear of narcism. Self-compassion and acceptance lie far from the disconnected Narcissus transfixed by his reflection in the water. Self-compassion is actually beneficial for psychological heath.
In our day-to-day lives, we are continuously challenged to be “in relationship to ourselves”…to feel our bodies, to be curious about our thoughts and feelings, and use a gentle touch of self-compassion. As we bit by bit create habits of breath, curiosity, courage, and compassion, we create more space inside for new possibilities. As we extend compassion toward ourselves, it is easier to extend it and sustain it to another.
So much “other” compassion is naturally given as a parent. Self compassion is our life line. We learn to sense when compassion is out of balance, or when we feel depleted or out of sorts. Self-compassion is our go to. It just takes a few breaths, perhaps a soft acknowledgement to ourselves, and then another.
Still Curious ?