living with children in peace, joy and freedom

Posts tagged ‘Learning’

I have learned so much about myself from my children

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I love to bask in the vitality and joy that my children beam out every day. I love to see how much they are enjoying life, learning and achieving their own goals. But it has not always been so rosy.

What I have seen in my children has also been confronting. There were things about them that I simply didn’t like. There were behaviours that I struggled with and dearly wished to see gone. What I have come to see clearly is that these aspects of my children that I disliked were things that I had not been able to accept in myself.

When I saw anger, violence, vanity, sensitivity to criticism, neediness or competitiveness in my children and I judged these things I was also judging myself. The urge to control or fix these things in my children mirrored my desire to be rid of these aspects of myself. I was seeing a reflection of my own self-loathing.

My attempts to fix, control and guide my children out of these things that I didn’t like always failed. My reactions and judgements only made it worse.

But how to get out of this old, unhelpful pattern? How do I own, accept and forgive my own violence, vanity and neediness?

There are lots of ways to dabble at the edges of this challenge but I wanted to get right to the bottom of it. What I eventually realized is that all of these shadow aspects of myself are the exaggerated, painful manifestations of my desire for love, approval and acceptance.

Like almost everybody, I believed for most of my life that love, approval and acceptance must be obtained from the people around me. It had to come from “out there” and it had to be worked for. What others thought of me mattered so much. I was driven by such a strong desire to please people and be loved by them.

When I didn’t get what I wanted from others I got angry. I lashed out and attacked them viciously with my mind and my tongue. I agonized about my appearance in the hope that I might get more approval and be admired. I felt the enormous stress and anxiety of performing to please others and this made me feel even more desperate for love and approval. I recoiled from criticism because it mirrored my own self-hatred and the ease with which I passed judgement on others. Competitiveness was the inevitable result of constantly comparing myself to others and desiring the approval that came with being “better than” or “best.”

All of these things were innocent expressions of my misplaced desire. They were an inevitable result of seeking love outside of myself. I believed that this was the only path to happiness and fulfillment.

Why were my desires misplaced? Because they could never be satisfied by anything “out there” for more than a passing moment. I was bringing all this suffering on myself by the simple act of focusing in the wrong direction.

I now chose to focus my desire within. I pause regularly in my day to relax, breathe and turn my attention away from my thoughts. I choose to notice that when I am not thinking, even if only for a few seconds, that I still exist. There is a calm, clear space behind my thoughts. It is aware, vibrant, conscious. It observes everything. It is presence.

I practice focusing on this calm presence. I notice that it is inseparable from the aliveness and energy flowing within my body. When I turn my attention to this inner energy-field I sense a quiet joy and peace. I don’t have to suppress my thoughts or try to stay in this peace. I notice that my thoughts arise from it. I can believe them or not. I know that my thoughts are not who I am.

Presence is not something to be worked for. I don’t have to try and find it or strive to keep it. It is always, already there. All I have to do is notice. It is a natural and effortless state of Being.

Once I connect with presence I know my true nature. I am not an isolated individual struggling and competing for love and attention. I am an expression of presence-energy and the oneness of life. I can relax. I am free to be who I really am without trying to please others. I am no longer driven to seek love outside myself. I know that I AM love.

I can forgive my anger, self-judgement and competitiveness because I know that they were generated by confusion. I know that this confusion was innocent and inevitable. Everybody I knew was believing the same things and acting it out all around me. Until recently, I passed this same legacy on to my own children. But now things have changed. My understanding of who I am has changed. I embody love and appreciation and I see this reflected in my children. I focus on what brings me joy and delight. I treasure the unique gifts of my “self” and I watch my children express their gifts too.

I still see glimpses of things I don’t like in my children but I react differently now. I don’t see them as something to be fixed or controlled. I know that my feelings of discomfort and distress are simply an alarm going off. It is telling me that there is an opportunity to learn more about myself and to dissolve more of my limiting, stressful beliefs. It is an opportunity to move further into presence and to deepen my sense of self-love and self-acceptance. What a wonderful gift.

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The wisdom of gaming

image-1I think most parents would accept that it is important for children to have time to play. In fact, many of us think that it is great for children to have lots of time to play. Things get more complicated when we start to talk about different types of play. When I was a child I spent a lot of time playing outdoors. I climbed trees, mucked around in the backyard, played games of cricket in the street with neighbours and siblings, went exploring in the bush nearby and spent hours playing with friends in the local pool. When indoors I liked to build and to make things. All of these activities were encouraged by my parents and seen as good, healthy forms of play.

Flash forward to the lives of my own two children and things look a lot different. They certainly enjoy a lot of play time. They love our backyard trampoline and the swings in the park. They enjoy going swimming and on walks with family and friends and they love to play at friend’s homes. They don’t hang out on the street like I did and they don’t wander the neighbourhood and local bushland on their own. Not because I have told them not to or even discouraged these activities. They just don’t want to. That’s not the main difference though. The main difference between their experience of play and my own is that they love to play video games. Building with Lego had a strong run for many years but video games have triumphed. Playing games on a game console or on their laptops is the first choice of play activity for both of my boys. It is what they most love to do.

I am struggling to adjust to this difference. I have come to accept my children’s passion for gaming but I have not yet been able to embrace it fully. It is not yet something that I am able to celebrate. (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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How will my children learn to stick at things?

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Photo by Carasdesign

I have chosen to have a relationship with my children that is free of punishment or rewards. We don’t have rules and I don’t force my children to do what I want. It might sound crazy to many people but it works wonderfully well for us. As I discussed in my last post, I don’t push my children to do things that I think will be good for them. So how do they learn to stick at things? Do they manage to master new skills that require a lot of effort? Amazingly enough, they do!

I recognize that many skills and disciplines require many years of dedicated practice to master and memory of a substantial body of facts. Learning can require substantial effort. Sometimes this process is not a huge amount of fun. Is it true that children will not have the motivation to learn, persist and master complex skills without either being coerced or rewarded to do so by their parents or teachers? How will they learn to stick at things that are difficult and get the satisfaction and benefit of mastery? (more…)

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