Brave Forest Rangers

February 24, 2016 § 1 Comment

Family Meeting 4:30 today, at the table.

Really it was a Mom-and-kids meeting because Dad was in Barcelona for work, but as they say, timing is everything. These are the words my kids saw written in window marker on our kitchen window when they came home from school today.

Flashback to earlier this morning when we were a spectacle of unpreparedness and harsh words flying down to the bus stop in the car cause we were too late to walk, lacing up shoes and pulling on jackets as they hopped on one foot, granola bar in hand, up the stairs of the school bus. Exhale.

How did this even happen? It’s the same routine every morning getting ready for school, and they’ve been doing it for years, so how did we get to this point? It’s not every day like this, but when it’s bad, it’s awful. Something’s gotta change.

So this is how the meeting went down. I spoke, while they drank hot chocolate and coloured (so they could sit still long enough to listen, well mostly listen, we had several tangents where I had to bring them back to the initial discussion).

Mom: This morning was yucky. For all of us. I’m sure you didn’t appreciate my behaviour any more than I appreciated yours. I don’t feel it is necessary to re-hash everything that happened, because it’s really the same stuff that goes down all the time, but that is precisely why I wish to talk to you right now. That type of behaviour, from either of us, should not be the norm. While it’s normal to get off balance every once in a while, what happened this morning should not be the expectation. There is no joy in that. And we should always strive for joy. And the quickest way to get there is by love.

It is true that we all have triggers. Things that spur us into a strong emotion. Buttons that get pressed in us that elicit a much larger response than would be expected: a sudden burst of emotion, sometimes you aren’t even sure where it came from, but there it is. You will find there is inner work you can do to release these triggers, but for now, let us agree that they exist and learn how to best support each other when we recognize them happening.

The answer to that, is bravery. It comes from a place of love, but ultimately it is bravery.

As a child your age, when my own mother was triggered, I did not understand what it was, let alone how to support her in it.  Bravery is easier when you understand a situation. So I’m going to explain to you what is happening when I get triggered, in the hopes that you all can be brave enough to call me on it when it happens, rather than absorbing the negative energy yourself, or throwing it back at me, which as we saw this morning, leads to no good either.

You see, when someone is triggered, the emotion feels so much larger than anything else, so it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. Are you familiar with that expression? It means that if someone is on top of a mountain looking down, it is easier to spot where there is a forest, what its boundaries are, and how big or small it is. For someone standing inside the forest, there are so many trees in the way that they cannot see how big or small it is, or where it ends and begins. It becomes very helpful to get out of the forest, if that person on the mountain calls down to them and says, “Hey, you’re in a forest! But if you go in that direction, you can find your way out”. The person in the forest can then make their way out of the forest.

Does that make sense to you guys? Any comments or questions so far?

So my question to you is, are you brave enough to call me on my triggers? When Mommy is caught up in a whirlwind of emotion, will you please call to me from your mountain of different perspective, and let me know I’m in a forest?

And when you are in a triggered state, full of powerful emotions, will you receive my words when I call you on it, and tell you that you are in a forest?

If we can all try our best to be brave forest rangers, perhaps we can better support each other through our weakest moments, and we can all get on to more joyful moments?

I closed the meeting with a right hand in air promise to be brave and receptive as the moment may call for it, to treat our family members the way we ourselves would wish to be treated, and to lead with love whenever we are able.

Onward Brave Forest Rangers!

 

Identity (another chapter in the tale of our move from Ontario to Seattle)

February 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

 

Moving to a new country, even one as similar in culture as Canada is to America, ripens the picking so to speak for checking in on the age old question of “Who am I? and Where do I belong?”

When our family agreed to embark upon a family adventure to the West Coast for a few years, it seemed exciting and new and I looked forward to the blank page upon which we would write the next chapter of our lives. For me in particular, it meant no expectations about who I was or how I would serve. I could choose my new opportunities to get involved freely, without my previous experiences or relationships swaying the selection.

I worried a little about the kids experience walking into a brand new school six times larger than their previous one.  I worried a little about my husband’s new job and how close of a fit it was for him. But I was not worried about me. Me? I’ll be fine.

I had greatly underestimated the presence and impact of isolation.

isolation

Photo credit: http://heartandsoulezine.com/impartations-wisdom-separation-vs-isolation/

Nobody knew me. When I encountered people, there was a polite smile, and done. My identity ceased to exist for a time. As time went on, people would begin to realize they had seen me before, or they would put together that I was the mom of one their kid’s classmates, but still, no one knew ME. They didn’t know my name, or that I love chai tea lattes, or that the lack of sunshine here in the winter was heavy on my heart. Who was I? Where do I belong?

Now that we are have been here a year and a half I am happy to report that the isolation has passed, but it sure did provide me with an amazing opportunity to assess who I was, and where I belonged.

I read an article recently that got me thinking about this very thing, entitled “The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce” by Tim Urban. He talks about the difference between our hardware (physical body and attributes) and our software (the belief systems that we have installed) and how if we are not the type of person to regularly self-reflect and evolve, we could still do our thinking with software installed by our grandparents:

“The person has lived a long life and has made it all the way to 2015, but their software was coded during the Great Depression, and if they’re not the type to regularly self-reflect and evolve, they still do their thinking with software from 1930. And if they installed that same software in their children’s heads and their children then passed it on to their own children, a member of Generation Y today might feel too scared to pursue an entrepreneurial or artistic endeavor and be totally unaware that they’re actually being haunted by the ghost of the Great Depression.”

 Ever heard someone say “That’s just the way I am” when they are describing themselves? Yeah, outdated software. Upgrade notification sent.

Urban goes on to talk about Dogma and Tribes and encourages us to realize the difference between conscious tribalism and blind tribalism:

With conscious tribalism, the tribe member and his identity comes first. The tribe member’s identity is the alpha dog, and who he is determines the tribes he’s in. With blind tribalism, the tribe comes first. The tribe is the alpha dog and it’s the tribe that determines who he is.

Fantastic fodder for exploring Who am I and Where do I belong, isn’t it?

When we make decisions, both for us and our children, how often do we examine where the criteria we are using came from? “No, you can’t go sell Girl Scout Cookies to the neighbors by yourself” <cause what if you get stolen or hurt, and the neighbors might judge me for letting you go alone>, quashing my daughters entrepreneurial spirit with my own brand of fear, and installing software in her that she will very likely pass on to her children.

And how often to do you stay in the same organization because that is what you have always done, and you feel pressure to stay because you don’t want to let down others or be judged for leaving? I had this gift of clarity offered to me since we moved as well. I had joined a women’s bible study group a few months into our arrival which felt great for the first year and filled a space in me I greatly needed during that isolated time. But then they decided to study Revelations for the next year, which makes me want to run screaming (try reading it, you’ll see what I mean), and suddenly I am torn. Nothing about me wants to study the Book of Revelations. But will I let down the ladies in the group? Haven’t I slapped a label on myself that says this is a group belong in? I stewed about it for a time, before finally gaining the clarity that the tribe does not determine who I am and where I belong, I do. I sent a very gracious email to the group thanking for them for the beautiful year I spent with them, and moved on to a very fulfilling volunteer role elsewhere that suits me very well.

With every new experience and exposure each of us are provided with an identity choice, as if the Universe is launching lob balls to us, saying “go on, figure it out”.

With my beautiful 20/20 hindsight I see, and am grateful for, the opportunity to examine this for myself, and for my husband and children to examine it for themselves too.

May the adventure continue!

 

The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

Unconditional

July 30, 2015 § 2 Comments

I have been working on something lately. It is about being unconditional.

When I first decided that unconditional is how I wanted to be, it was within the context of relationships. Husband, children, teachers, neighbours, the person driving in front of me whose car can’t seem to go fast enough when I’m late. Seeing each person, especially my closest family members, unconditionally. At first it seemed a very steep hill to climb. I had to consciously step out of my self-interested tendencies and ways of perceiving others behaviour, and encourage my brain to widen itself beyond the messages my eyes and ears were relaying:

  • My husband isn’t actually picking a fight with me. He is experiencing residual waves from a crappy thing that happened at work. Which provides me with a choice. Provide resistance to something that has nothing to do with me, or flow like water over and around it, washing over him with refreshing, unconditional support
  • My children are not ignoring me when I ask the first, second and third time for them to do something. When I pay attention (instead of just yelling from the other room), I realize that they are happily engaged in a world of imaginative play (which is exactly what I love to see them do!)

Then it grew to other contexts. For example, when things don’t go the way I had set my expectations to – red lights instead of green, missing something I really wanted, choppy waters instead of smooth sailing. When someone asks me about something on my to-do list that I haven’t gotten to despite my several attempts, they are not reminding me that I am deficient. Every day I am presented with opportunities to remain neutral and untriggered, allowing the situation to unfold and staying connected to source, knowing that what I need will come to me if I do.

Unconditional means seeing the soul behind each physical body. Reaching past what is being dished out to me, and allowing for an understanding of the scenario to wash over me. And it also means resting in the knowledge given to me, even when my ego wants to shout out what I have realized.

It takes some practice, for sure.

Perhaps the biggest lesson that has come to me, is that the power of being unconditional stems from being present in each moment.

In Deepak Chopra’s latest book, The 13th Disciple, he explains the following:

Every life contains moments when a person sees beyond the illusion. The secret is to pay attention, because once the moment is gone, so is its power to change you. You must be open and alert to signals from your true self.

What this takes is a kind of second attention. First attention, which we’re all familiar with, deals with the events in daily life. You eat breakfast, go to work, pick up groceries, watch TV None of this has any intrinsic meaning. It can be good, bad or neutral. When second attention enters, you keep doing the same things you always did, but you are aware of your inner contentment, or of the food’s subtle tastes, or of gratitude for nature’s abundance. Going to work, you may feel inner satisfaction, excitement about new possibilities, or empowerment. There is often no neat match between what the first attention is noticing and what the second attention is realizing.

How lovely that this beautiful piece of wisdom happens to come through the book I am reading exactly at the time that I am looking for guidance on how to become more unconditional. Even better, the first time I was attempting to read that part of the book was during the landing of our plane, while one child is asking for gum, and another wants my help to beat the next level on their video game. I put the book away and embraced the moment I was in (I rock at that video game, and love that I can play it with her). Later, when I returned to the book, it was in the sanctuary of my bedroom, when my heart and mind were wide open to receiving it. Gratitude.

Being present in each moment allows you to understand the difference between feeling like life is happening to you, versus life is happening for you. Each moment is an opportunity for expansion and you get to choose!

It’s like when you watch a movie, and you comment to the person watching next to you that you know what is going to happen next, or that you know the answer to the mystery, long before the movie is over. You have been fully engaged, present to the details as they develop, allowing the meaning of each to flow and blend together in such a way that the answer seems obvious. Even easy.

Being unconditional not only becomes easier when you are present, it becomes natural, familiar, blissful. It feels like everything around you is water, flowing gently and refreshingly around and through you.

I have also grown to realize that being unconditional does not equal the absence of emotion. Like waves that toss a small boat around on the ocean, emotions can flare; anger, frustration, disappointment splash up. You get wet. Drenched even. But the difference is you embrace it as a part of an ocean journey. Remember those signs on the water rides at the amusement parks? You *will* get wet on this ride. You still jump on, stand in line even, just to know what it feels like. Experience it, expand from it, and move on to the next experience bolstered with what you learned from the last one.

I am excited at the opportunities being presented to me to become consistent in my unconditional approach. I look forward to being unconditional every day, every moment, and allowing it to flow to everyone I encounter. Wade in, the water feels great!

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