living with children in peace, joy and freedom

Posts tagged ‘finding peace’

What to do about strong fears and persistent worries

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There are times when my fears and worries about my children have overwhelmed and overtaken me. It has helped my a great deal to identify and name my fears. I have feared failure as a parent: that my children will not be happy and healthy and that I will be judged by others. I have feared that my children will get hurt, physically or emotionally. These fears and others like them underpin many of the problems I have experienced with my children. My fear can drive a need for my child to learn certain skills or to behave in a certain way. It can drive me to control, manipulate and pressure my children. It has really helped to examine these fears closely and to question my belief in them.

One of the most liberating things that I have learned in my parenting journey is that there are two types of fear. Eckhart Tolle describes them in his book The Power of Now. On one hand there is fear of immediate physical danger. I don’t put my hand in the fire because I know that I will get burned. There is an instinctive shrinking back from true immediate danger. Then there is psychological fear. This kind of fear is always of something that might happen in the future, not of something that is happening now. Psychological fear arises in response to thoughts about a future that does not exist. It is a creation of my mind. I am imagining a fearful future. I can be completely overtaken by this kind of fear, at least for a time.

I have noticed that when I feel fear in my relationship with my children it is almost always psychological fear. For example, I feared that unless my children developed “healthy” eating habits they would have poor health as they grew up. I also feared that if they didn’t learn to read by a certain age that they would find it much harder to learn when they were older. These were fears about what might happen in the future. There was no immediate danger. At the time I experienced these fears my children were very healthy and learning happily at a pace that suited themselves. These fears were created by my imagination and yet they brought enormous stress and conflict into my relationships with my children.

The arising of these fears is a very strong reminder to bring myself back into presence. Presence is the inner consciousness that is behind or underneath my thoughts. This consciousness can witness and observe my stressful thoughts and painful emotions and sense directly that they are not who I am.

I experience presence as a state of calm, relaxed alertness. It is a space of peace, stillness and vibrant aliveness. Thoughts may appear in this space but they do not dominate. I can notice my thoughts without being overwhelmed by them. There is space between thoughts in which I experience quietness and joy. Helpful, creative thoughts have room to appear. I can choose to act on these thoughts or to remain still. It is a natural and spontaneous state of being.

If you feel overcome by fear or other painful feelings here are some ideas to help you bring yourself into presence. Choose one that suits you and go with that.

1. Sit quietly, relax your body and mind. Let go of your thoughts for a few seconds. Notice that when you are not thinking that you still exist.

2. See if you can feel your inner aliveness. Feel the energy inside your body. Focus on that energy.

3. Go out for a walk in nature (or anywhere peaceful) on your own and focus on what your senses are perceiving. Notice the touch of the air, the sound of the birds, the blue of the sky. Take your shoes off and walk in bare feet. Feel the earth supporting you with every step you take. Just notice. Put your whole attention on what is around you.

4. Notice your thoughts and feelings. Notice that you can observe them. If you are observing your thoughts and feelings then this means that they are not who you are. You are the observer. Closely observe your experience. What images come with your feelings? Where are your feelings in your body?

As I connect with presence I don’t try to get the fear to go away. This just suppresses it and locks it in deeper. I have found that it helps to allow the feeling of fear, to go towards and into it rather than to push it away. This takes courage as I also have a fear of feeling fear! Recognizing it as psychological fear that is a creation of my mind helps. I remind myself that there is no immediate danger. I listen to the fear and feel it with openness and curiosity.

Listening in presence to my own fear has often allowed it to gently dissolve. The more often I remember to connect with presence the calmer I become. If the fear continues to haunt me I write down my fearful thoughts and use the four questions taught by Byron Katie to question my thinking. Through this questioning I can see that fears obscure my awareness of what is real and true and trustworthy about Life and my true nature. Once I reconnect with this reality my urge to push, control and demand things of my children fades away. I notice that my children are fine just as they are. We can relax back into harmony and closeness.

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Understanding our reactions to teasing

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There is no doubt about it. Seeing our children be teased or criticised by others can be tricky. I so clearly remember my own reactions to my child being teased; the rush of pain and defense when I heard the comment made. The desperate wanting to protect my child from the pain I felt sure they must be experiencing. Feeling my own anger rising as my mind reached out to attack the person who did this. It is all so familiar and so unpleasant. And my reactions always led to more conflict and unpleasant feelings, not less.

I knew there had to be another way. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I wanted to find it. I set myself the goal of making peace with teasing.

This is what I now understand about teasing. It applies to people teasing me as well as to people teasing my child (or anyone else).

Teasing can only hurt me if

(1) I believe that what they said about me is true, when it isn’t,

OR

(2) What they said about me is true but I can’t own that aspect of myself.

The paradox is that just about everything can be seen both ways.

To take an example, if my son is called is called “girly” or “weak” then he will get upset if he believes that this is true; that he is feminine or weak and that in his mind these are bad things for him to be. On the other hand, it is true that he has feminine characteristics (as everyone does to some extent) and that he is “weak” in some ways, such as being physically or emotionally sensitive in some circumstances (which many people are too). If he is not fully comfortable with these aspects of himself then he will react to such comments.

As his parent, if I have ever judged my son as girly or weak then part of me believes that what the person said is true. I am sure to react in anger; “How could that person come right out and say what I have been secretly thinking all along!!” If I am not completly comfortable with my son’s sensitivity, feminine aspects or weakness or believe that any of these things are a problem I will also react; “I know that is true but I can’t bear him to be that way!!”

On top of this, if I have ever judged myself myself harshly as being “girly” or “weak” then I will react even more!!

When I am really comfortable about myself and am not concerned with what others think of me then I no longer react to what people think about my kids.

When my child has been teased I choose to focus on myself first. Am I reacting? Am I going on the defense or attack?

If I am reacting defensively I better keep my mouth shut and do nothing. If I leap in to try and help my child or to attempt to fix the situation while I am in reaction I will become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Instead I choose to inquire within myself. Do I believe that what was said was true? What aspect of my child or myself am I not comfortable with? What judgements have I been making? Gently bringing these painful thoughts into my awareness can make a huge difference. I get to see where I have been unkind to my child and to myself. I have the opportunity to question these thoughts and to choose to see things differently. This can take time.

Once I feel clear and free of reaction I may be able to help my child.  I can be there as calm presence for my child as they get to work it all out for themselves. I can be the one who knows that they are fine just the way they are. I can understand their pain and distress without buying into it myself. I have been there and know what it feels like and I have come out the other side into peace.

I know this is a very unconventional view, but I aim to be the one who is immune to teasing. Not because I am tough in any way, but becasue I have questioned the stories about how I “should” be and I have discovered that I am OK. I can also see how I encompass and have (at some time) expressed all aspects of the human condition including violence, weakness, vulnerability, masculine and feminine and everything else. Can you get the paradox?

If I can model immunity to teasing then I can help to end the war for all of us.

My children are helping me along the way. They delight in teasing me. They try their very best to get a reaction. They delight in teasing each other. They play war games and test it all out. We all get a really good look at what is going on. We are unlearning war and reclaiming peace.

 

How I discovered the joys of less doing and more Being

 

Do you ever feel exhausted, overwhelmed or resentful as a result of what you do as a parent? Do you find that there are times when it all gets too much and you start loosing your temper and yelling at your children? I used to experience this often. I understand, now, that these were symptoms of over-doing. I was pushing myself to do way too much and believing that I had no choice. It seemed as if parenting was such a bottomless pit of work that feeling overwhelmed was inevitable. Fortunately, I have discovered that over-doing is not inevitable or incurable. The solution is less doing and more Being.

For a while I fooled myself into thinking that the solution to over-doing was simply to try and do less; just slow down, take a rest, relax! However, my efforts to control my over-doing were never very successful. I couldn’t relax and slow down for very long before I was dragged back into over-doing again. Saying to myself that the solution was to do less is very much like saying that the solution to over-eating is to eat less. On a superficial level this is true, but it ignores the reasons underlying the push to over-eat. Going on a diet might work in the short term but unless I change my relationship with food at a deep level the long term result will probably be more over-eating. Over-doing is much the same. I could go on a holiday or take a day or two off but it would not bring a long-term solution. Finding the solution to over-doing required a deep understanding of what was driving my doing. It also required a willingness to cultivate Being.

So what is Being? It is not something that I can easily describe. I can only point to it. Being is not the same as doing nothing, although sometimes this can help me find it. Being is a state of calm, relaxed alertness. When I am Being I am fully present in the moment. I am fully conscious and yet not caught up in my thoughts. I allow everything to simply be as it is rather than trying to control it. My earliest experiences of Being occurred in nature; watching a waterfall, floating gently in a lake or walking through a rainforest. It felt peaceful and intensely joyful at the same time. It has taken a lot of practice, but I can now experience Being in my everyday life as a full-time parent. Being is not a belief. It is not something I needed to learn. It is something that I experience directly and that I know is always there waiting within me to be rediscovered again. (more…)

Food, glorious food; our journey from nightmare to nourishment

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Caramel milkshakes made with raw milk and lots of Vitamin Yum.

I love food and I love caring for my body with the best food that I can provide. Until I had children, I thought that I had no real issues around food. It wasn’t a big deal for me. Having children changed all that. Not straight away, of course, but over a couple of years I gradually felt myself descending into a nightmare of anxiety and conflict that I had never experienced before.

Like many parents, I wanted to make sure that my children ate a healthy diet. I had clear beliefs about what was healthy for children and what was not. I believed deeply that it was my responsibility to provide healthy food and restrict access to unhealthy food. I read books about nutrition and tried all sorts of new recipes. I read about all the foods that should be avoided and the list just kept getting longer and longer. I was keenly aware of the dangers of additives, preservatives, sugar, processed fats and highly refined foods. I talked to my friends about food and keenly watched what they were feeding their children. The more I worried about my children’s diet the more stressed I became. It grew as an issue for me as my children grew.

Apparently some parents feed their children with minimal stress and conflict. That was not my experience. Perhaps it would have been different if we lived on a farm or an island and my children weren’t exposed to the vast offerings of a modern supermarket. But it wasn’t like that for us. We live in suburbia. When my first child was very little it was not difficult to limit the foods that he was exposed to. If certain foods were not given to him then he did not miss them. As he got older his environment expanded. He noticed the food that people around him ate. He came to the supermarket and the local shops with me. He went to preschool, visited friend’s houses and went to birthday parties. He gradually discovered what was available out there. He also developed his own desire to explore, experiment with new foods and to work out what he liked.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how excited and determined children can be about exploring the world of food or how strongly they can be attracted to sugar and processed food. As my child grew into his own tastes and desires I experienced a dramatic surge of stress and conflict in my life. The most stressful issue for me was how much sugar he wanted, although I also worried about other “unhealthy” foods too. My anxieties built up even more momentum when I had two children to feed. Trips to the supermarket were very tense. My children asked for me to buy them lollies, ice-creams and chips. This wasn’t mild interest on their part. They were passionate about their exploration of food and their desire to eat all sorts of foods that I didn’t want them to eat. (more…)

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