Tag Archives: compassion

Pilot Light of Patience #Parenting

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We were on our daily walk to school this morning. He was quiet. Noticeably so. He almost forgot his backpack, he was so distracted. About halfway down our driveway, I asked him, “You’re quiet, you alright?”

“No.” He said.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Art. I don’t want to do it. We have a stupid assignment using stupid scratch paper.”

“What’s the assignment?” I asked.

“Abstract art. We have to make something out of nothing. I hate abstract art. I hate scratch paper. It’s all so stupid.”

I suggested that he draw a dog. He loves our dogs.

“No. I stink at drawing dogs.” He said, his voice becoming more pressed and uneven by the syllable; each step we took got us closer to his school. His breathing was shallow. He was in the art room, with the scratch paper, his heart speeding up, his face beginning to pinch in places so it wouldn’t betray his feelings of failure.

Failure before he even began.

Failure before we were even in the school.

Failure before he even considered it.

I could feel my own body tense up. My walls were going up. My brain started down its familiar path of “Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Can’t do this. Can’t do this. He’s going to get emotional. He’s going to get emotional. Must stop him from crying… I CAN’T HANDLE HIS DISTRESS….” I started to fail him.

I began to fail him before I even spoke.

I began to fail him before I even got in touch with my own feelings of failure and the fear of disappointment.

I began to fail him because I couldn’t face myself and those sticky places in the heart where we feel absolutely worthless.

I said, “Nooooo, you’re GREAT at drawing dogs… why that cat you drew from those books you love… that turned out GREAT! You can DRAW a DOG….”

But before I even finished … I knew that was wrong. I was dismissing his pain. I was failing, even though I had heard him, I was still failing him.

I realized, I had to go back to my first days on the couch. I had to mirror him. Quick, I had to do something that told him I heard him, that I felt what he was going through, that it was OK, and that he was safe. That’s all we need, to feel safe expressing ourselves.

I had to access my pilot light. Somehow, I remembered my pilot light.

I told him to take a breath and I could feel my own body do the same.

“Let it out slow this time… Can you breathe in 3-2-1…?” I suggested as we continued our walk. “Let it out 4-3-2-1…” My body relaxing as I unconsciously (mostly) joined along. I needed to come down from the wall I was building.

We were almost at school. Quietly talking and quietly breathing together.

As we crested the hill, where all the student patrols gathered, and the sun was shining, no longer obscured by the leafless tall trees surrounding our path, I realized: He doesn’t want to fail this assignment. He doesn’t want to disappoint me. He wants to please his teacher, me, his father… his bubble of society.

I stopped us in our walk and I put my hands on his shoulders, gently pulling down to help him unfurl himself.

“Look at me.” I told him.

“Ok.” He sniffled.

“You’re feeling pressure right now. You’re feeling like you have to get this right. Perfect even. Abstract art is not at ALL about perfection. It’s about your perception: how YOU see things in a different way…. There is no RIGHT or WRONG.” I said.

“Mmmmk, but our teacher says we can’t…” He started, and his voice began to tremble again. Fast and shallow breaths fighting their way out his mouth.

I had to think of something else. Another tack. Pilot light… Deep breath. Feel him.

“Ok. I want you to understand something. I don’t care what your final art looks like. I don’t care if your teacher says you’ve failed it or not. I don’t care. You’re twelve. You have a whole life ahead of you. I want you to NOT CARE about this assignment and to JUST get something down. Just start it, and you will be on your way. Can you do that? Can you NOT care about it? I love you no matter what…” I said, defiant. I wanted to protect him.

“Ok. So you think I can just use shapes to make my drawing? That it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t LOOK like what it’s supposed to?” He asked.

“Yes. Remember when we studied Jackson Pollack… That dude DID NOT CARE about ANYONE’S opinion, and people loved it. He was fierce in his art. Be like that. Own your art. Who cares what anyone else thinks?” I said.

“Ok.” He said, standing taller and his eyes a little brighter.

“High five. Fist bump. Be bad.” I said.

I almost blew it. I almost sent him to school with this knot in his belly and a sense of woe and failure before the day began. I almost checked out. It was a balance. I had to check in. I had to hear him, all of him, to help him. In the end he helped me.

We do this all the time, forgetting to check in and remember what it feels like to feel small, worthless, fearful, and so alone. If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not a parent, try to remember those feelings and honor them: checking in is the way out.

Thank you.

 

On Suffering #Nepal #Baltimore #Ahimsa #Silence #hellonearth

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My youngest son woke up this morning like a rocket. Today his class is taking a field trip to a natural landmark about two hours away.

I said to him, “You should go on field trips more often; you’re so ready to face the day!”

He said back to me, “I just like the idea of getting away from the regular. I’m excited to be on a charter bus, and use the bathroom if I want when the bus is rolling along. I’m excited to sit with my friends or read a book or play ‘yellow car’ or ‘alphabet signs’ on the trip.”

“Yes, it’s nice to change things up.” I agreed.

“I am sad for the world, Mom,” he said. “Finnegan and I got into a fight last night; I couldn’t take the news. I went to grab the remote and I accidentally scratched him and then he got mad and put his hands on me… It was scary, but it was my fault. I should have just walked away.”

“WHAT? Where was I when this happened?”

“Teaching yoga,” he said.

“Oh. Dad was with the dogs?”

“Yes. We stopped almost right away, but I know we are both sad about Baltimore and the earthquake and the drones…”

He is eleven.

When I was eleven, I don’t think I knew who was president.

Let’s see… it was 1939 …

Earlier on that day, my older two came through the door from school very concerned about the riots in Baltimore. Confused, angry, and scared. Their sadness turned to apathy which turned to antipathy not long after watching CNN.

“This solves nothing. This isn’t about equality. It’s about violence. It’s about intimidation,” one of them said.

“It’s scary and it’s wrong. It’s also mis-channeled rage. This is also completely missing the point,” the other added.

The words and fear and sadness and fear fear fear were flying at me. I was overwhelmed with how to tone them down, how to get them to feel safer. How to get myself to feel safer.

I had just spent the afternoon watching “The Road” on video — a movie adaptation based on a beloved book of the same title by Cormac McCarthy. The Road is about a post-apocalyptic America. It’s also a love letter from McCarthy to his son. It’s about “keeping the fire” and “being the good guys, not the bad guys.” The world envisioned by McCarthy’s words is not a world I want to live in; the world envisioned by the director of the film, John Hellcoat, is gray, smoky, dark, fiery, inhumane, dirty, gritty, smelly, dead and terrifying. I don’t think anyone wants to live there.

I decided that silence was the answer. Only silence can tell us what we need. So I asked them to turn off the TV, the screens and to open the door and listen to the birds and hear the breeze rustle through the newly sprouted leaves. To look around themselves and to see what we have left — to appreciate it and to be grateful for it because as we woke up to on Saturday, it can be snapped apart like it was in Nepal, vaporized by earth; or it can be destroyed by choice as what we’ve seen far too frequently in Baltimore, Ferguson, the Bronx, North Charleston… and that’s what happens to make the headlines.

I often say to my sons that I don’t believe in hell. I believe that we can do a fine job right here by our little ol’ selves creating hell in our minds, on earth and in our thoughts. There’s no reason to fear an afterlife — what could possibly be worse than the sadness and fear we inflict on ourselves and project upon others –wittingly or not– on a daily basis?

So last night, I dedicated my yoga class to Nepal and Baltimore and all the corners of the world — privately held internally because we are all suffering at one moment or another and publicly known — because stopping, breathing, listening and putting our hands to our heart, and our heads to our heart, and praying and intending peace and compassion — FOR THE SELF FIRST as well as for the world — is to me, the only way to stop this train of suffering.

It absolutely must begin within. If you harbor dark thoughts and feelings toward yourself, there is NO WAY you can authentically extend compassion and peace for anyone else. It’s just not possible.

It’s in the mirror. The answer to all of this is in the mirror. Love yourself, accept yourself, and then you can share that with the world in thought, humor, deed, and spirit. It’s the first tenet of yoga: Ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence, which means it must absolutely begin in you. You don’t have to be a yogi to do this. You just have to be aware, sentient, and humane.

You’ll drive a little softer, speak a little kinder, smile a bit wider, laugh a little longer and love more sincerely.

Thank you.

12 Days of Kindness Adventure: Day 7, Caught in the act

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12 Days of Kindness Adventure: Day 7, Caught in the act

when you give, you get. when you get, you cry. watch this and remember that there are STILL so many good people out in the world. love to Missouri.

the year of magical dreaming

Another reason kindness is the shiznit is that everyone wins: the giver, the receiver and the bystander. Studies have gone on to prove what we’ve likely already experienced: a single act of kindness inspires more and more kindness.

I love the secret Santa vid above. As you know, I’m a sucker for this stuff. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out. It’s got warm fuzzies all up in it.

I leave you with this: Act when inspired. Don’t let the pay it forward end on you.

Today’s kindness adventure:

*Gifted a friend two bars of her fave new soap

*Filled a last-minute empty speaking role at Toastmasters tomorrow night

*Skipped water polo tonight to do bestie lunch with Elisa’s crew

#Onward

Much Love,

kat

Kat hurley is a transformational author, speaker and personal development coach, making over motivation @The Year of Magical Dreaming. For the full 411, visit

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So Grateful. This post writes itself.

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Not an hour ago I received an email from our secondary school principal. The subject line was “homework over break” and I swallowed hard in apprehension that we were about to get the shot across the bow announcing a big press on the kids to get their projects started and completed over break. In the insanely high-pressure DC suburbs, it would not be unheard of.

Much to my astonishment, I read on:

Dear Parents and Guardians-

I am sending you a copy of an email I have sent to all of the Robinson Staff regarding homework and assignments over breaks.  All of us need breaks in our life and we want to honor this going forward from today.  I want to wish everyone a healthy and happy Thanksgiving.

As we reach the first quarter mark of the year and as Thanksgiving and the winter holidays approach, I would like to share some guidelines for assignments over breaks.  There is no doubt that many of you feel pressure to maintain the momentum of your curriculum by assigning homework, projects, papers, reading, and/or studying over breaks.  The pressure that you feel, often driven by standardized tests and pacing guides, translates likewise into student stress.  This stress compounds as families compete for meaningful time with their children over the holidays.  Subsequently, many students return to school after “break” with as much or more stress as when they left.

     Children and adults (You) need breaks from the many demands of school life.  Going forward, I ask that you be mindful of student stress when determining due dates for student work.  Here are a few guidelines:

•  Students should not be required to complete work over school breaks.  

•  Be reasonable with due dates.  Provide enough time for students to complete their work within the normal school calendar without the need to work over school breaks.  Though you may have a long-term assignment that spans over a school break, no work should be due immediately after a break.  

•  Pace yourself to avoid major assessments immediately upon return from breaks.

    The guidelines above are in the spirit of honoring family and family traditions as we simultaneously address issues of student stress.  These adjustments provide us another opportunity to reach out to our community with a united, student-centered philosophy.

 Sincerely,

Matt

In today’s crazy-competitive world, this note, and his stand on the state of the chaos, is refreshing, brave and so needed.

Here is my reply to him,

Dear Matt,

I hope you’re getting lots of grateful and encouraging calls and emails about your mindful and gracious letter to parents today about your email to your staff regarding overloading the kids during breaks.

As a yoga teacher, I couldn’t possibly agree more with your intention in that note. I have found that really little kids — ages 4 and 5! — tell me that doing yoga with me helps them lower their stress.

Four and five! What should they know about stress? But they do.

When our minds and bodies relax, creativity in innovation flows. We can not possibly subsist in a hyper-competitive, limbic-brained state all our lives. While academic success is important, we must remember that while we are today shaping the minds for tomorrow, we must be careful to foster growth. If being a parent has taught us anything, it’s that the human form grows when it rests. Muscles build and form after the workout. We have to look up from the grindstone in order to see how we can improve upon it.

We cannot grow in a state of hyper-vigilance and reactivity; if competing with China is what this is all about in America, we’re doomed. That country’s youth is in very fragile state. If you did not see the NYTimes report on the teens in China who are addicted to the Internet, now might be a good moment to see it; the kids there are overloaded, overtaxed and fracturing due to the nation’s aggressive growth and parental pressures to outdo the others.

I applaud you, most sincerely, for the missive you sent today. It takes guts, character and courage to do what you did. You’re on the right path.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Kinds regards and namaste,

Molly

I feel that his move to send that note was a clear and compassionate message about a tragedy which befell the school earlier in the fall.

A sophomore tragically took her own life in an apparent suicide on a railroad track not three miles from my home. Kids need to relax. Adults need to relax. The world needs to relax.

The sentiment coddled and honored in our principal’s email is exactly what the world needs more of. So tell your school administrators about what’s on your mind, catch them doing something good and praise them for it.

Thank you.