As a parent, in addition to beyond-ever-imagined love, marvel, joy, surprise, gratitude and pleasure, I, at times, accessed fear, rage, anger, frustration, confusion, disappointment, and grief. I marveled how I could feel so intensely so quickly.
Sometimes the feelings would sneak up, almost pulling the rug out from under me. Other times their sheer force of power turned me around in circles as if thrown by a wave. The more we love, the more we feel.
And, this is part of the school of parenting. Whether a parent or
working with youth, children give us keys to finding and owning our own wholeness.
I feel blessed to be a recipient of the rapidly blooming fields of mindfulness and of research and awareness about the nervous system. It is welcoming, informing, forgiving, encouraging, and supporting this sacred parent/ caregiver grad school.
It informs us to –
Trust our feelings. All feelings are normal. Our feelings, brains, hearts, and bodies are all connected. We learn to observe and name our feelings and sensations. Feelings need recognition, space, and time. We watch, and, in time, they pass. (See The Myth of Bad Feelings)
Take responsibility for feelings. Own feelings without blame. (“You made me…”) When you own your feelings without shame or blame, you teach your children to do the same. Naming and accepting feelings also begins the process of self and other regulation. For example, when we are mad, generally our kids are too. When we name our feelings, we help them name their feelings, and, in turn, self-regulate.
Remember we are much more than just our feelings. When we remember that who we are is much bigger than a part, the feelings, we have more choices in how to respond. When we merge our identities with difficult thoughts and feelings, we feel trapped, and are set to react.
Ask, “Am I reacting or responding?” Reactions are more likely to happen when we are on automatic. Is the fuel of memories and experiences burning under the reaction? Check in – “Am I running ‘shoulds’, or beliefs about how I or my child is ‘supposed to be’ ?” “Do I have beliefs about power over and control being the answer?” Using mindful awareness or taking a break gives us the distance to become aware of beliefs and past experience in order to respond and make choices.
Ask “Is my response in service of building relationship?” We can still be clear, have boundaries, and love at the same time. Most responses from reaction actually tear down relationships.
Pena Chlordan, Buddhist nun and beautiful author, emphasizes acceptance of emotional distress, and use of redirecting thoughts, and self-soothing mindful awareness to help us respond, and therefore build relationship.
In so doing, she underscores an interweaving of a mindful practice, or a way of living life, that results in more choice and freedom in our lives.
Speaking of “Rising Strong” strategies, Brene´ Brown states, “The ultimate act is when [it] becomes a daily living practice…a way of thinking about our emotions and stories.” “Transforming the way we live, love, and parent requires us to act on our vision…the process is no where as powerful as the….practice.”
A practice of mindful awareness and compassion can include:
–Understanding about the brain and the developing brains of our children.
–Using breath. Awareness of breath, including modulating belly breaths, help use listen and answer from the heart and belly.
–Regularly remembering and focusing on acts of kindness and compassion, as well as gratitude.
–Experiencing and connecting to nature.
–Welcoming and feeling each part of the body when awakening (from MBSR or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), walking, or sitting.
I once took teens to Aikido classes. I observed the students aspiring to embrace a mindful practice of staying deeply aware of themselves, including their bodies, thoughts and feelings, the energy in the room, and the “opponent”. Rather than push against the other, they stepped aside or redirected the other’s energy. They honored and respected their “opponent”.
As I write this and remember watching the classes, I am in deep respect and awe of this practice. In a similar way, I am in deep respect and awe of any parent or teacher using relationship with a child to learn more about themselves and what it means to live life in relationship.
In this sacred work, we aspire to grow in being present observers, noticing who is approaching, whether a feeling, a reaction, or the response of another. There is honoring, observing and respect. We are aware of feelings, brains, hearts, and bodies. We stay connected to it all. We don’t need to push against it. We learn to step aside and redirect the force.
The beauty of it all, is, just as the students of Aikido, we are all students. There is room for abundant mistakes, practice, and tiny little steps of progress. It’s not about perfectly getting what can feel like a tall order to have it “right”. We learn, regroup, repair and go on. We all are learning…ourselves and our children, step by step, day by day.