remembering the merry dance of liberation

Recently in my print column for the Green Parent magazine, I wrote about the importance of remembering to focus on the good stuff. I’d become acutely aware of how easily the positive things we see in each other get eclipsed by the negative, and I made a promise to myself to do just that; to pay less attention to my son’s weak spots and cherish the good instead. Happily, the ‘Plate of Positivity’ experience (in which my son and I wrote nice things about each other on paper plates – see :59 seconds for more details) didn’t fade and I can say now, some months down the line, that I’m much more appreciative and aware of his talents, gifts and good nature than ever before. The other stuff is still there, but I’ve chosen not to focus on it. The changes are tangible.

I love this personal development stuff. Learning as we go. Experiencing some undoing of the learned habits and patterns of generations and lifetimes and replacing them instead with healthier ones. Or so we hope. In fact only yesterday I was talking on the phone to my favourite author, Isabel Losada. I’d mentioned the process I was going through with my own parents, specifically how being raised by two very loving parents who’d showered me with attention and positive praise had brought it’s own share of problems. She reminded me of a quote from her book, in which she says whatever we do as parents, we can pretty much be assured our kids will require some kind of therapy to get over it. I was reminded, again, that it always comes back to our own journey; doing the best we can with our available knowledge and understanding at the time. And, if we’re into personal and spiritual development, doing things that enable us to be more loving and compassionate towards each other and ourselves.

The Plate of Positivity was a monumental step towards being more loving and compassionate with each other (the ‘other’ in this case being my son). Naturally, the next fruit to ripen on the branch was the following part; being more loving and compassionate towards ourselves. After weeks of consciously practising being kinder and more accepting of others, I was suddenly able to see just how hard I am on myself. Underlying the outward projections and judgements of my son (or friends, or family) not being kind / clever / good enough, was the incessantly ranting voice in my own head that I was under-achieving. In all areas of my life. Not working hard enough. Not earning enough. Not parenting well enough. Not loving my boyfriend well enough. Not being a good enough friend. Not meditating long enough. I bet you’re exhausted just reading that list! And I was totally fucking exhausted from living my life in that way. That’s why I was tired. That’s why I was anxious. That’s why I was stressing out. And that’s why I was scared of dying. (Because how could it possibly be okay to die when I had so much to do? I wasn’t successful yet. I wasn’t married yet. And I wasn’t anywhere near enlightened yet!) So I sought help. Thankfully I have some great teachers in my life who helped me realise where all these beliefs had come from, and also reminded me of my ability to give this stuff away. I gave myself permission to give up my dreams. Because they weren’t really my dreams and they were causing me a whole lot of suffering. I gave myself permission to take LIFETIMES working this stuff out, because despite what I’ve been telling myself for years, there’s no urgency. I gave myself permission to be human, because I am.

Photo by Leva Klavina

Relief has since been sweeping through the open skies of my mind for days now. Huge, welcoming, soaring waves of relief. It’s all okay. It always has been okay, and always will be, only my mind got tangled up in the illusion that it wasn’t. But it is! And now I can choose not to listen to the taskmaster in my head, who regularly tries to lure me back into the familiar panic of Do More, Be Better. Of course I still want to do more positive things and be more loving, but I’ll do it without the stress, thank-you very much. In my own time. However many lifetimes or moments or breaths or pauses that takes. Because, and here’s the gem sparkling underneath all these layers, there is no reaching or getting or doing. There is just Being. Here. Now. I can still write because in doing so I find my peace, my joy and my heart. (Not to achieve this, that or the other.) I can lie next to the fire with Elliot doing his spelling, I can pay for his piano lessons and we can read for hours because we enjoy it. (Not because I need to raise a clever/successful/charming son.) I can do my practices each day because they bring me realisations such as these; freedom from the things that stop me from Being. Here. Now. (Not because I need to be an enlightened super-goddess in her last incarnation on Earth.)

I am dancing the merry dance of liberation. And it feels amazing. In this upwardly ascending spiral comes the increasing acceptance of others too; in giving myself permission to be a human being (which I still find laughable in itself!) I’m letting others be. No pressure. No big deal. No hurry. All is well. I can’t believe what a grip these wacky ideas have had on me. Since letting them go my shoulders have dropped an inch either side. I give thanks to the Gods of Reflection, Awareness and Letting Go, for sitting me down in life’s great armchair and reminding me how to sit still. Which funnily enough, is the more or less the name of the next book I’m about to read. But for the moment, here’s to simply Being. Here. Now.

can a green parent fly?

Much as I’d love to avoid this topic altogether, to avoid confrontation and have a quiet life – I can’t. Especially seeing as I’ll most likely be writing about my experiences whilst away and you would have found me out sooner or later. So I’m fessing up. It was only a matter of time (given that I’m writing for the Green Parent!) before I’d have to lay my cards on the table for all to see, at which point you’d notice that out of a full pack, not many of them are particularly green. There are definitely plenty of pastel-green hues, but you’ll be struggling to find a really green one in there. So there we are, I’m green-ish, but evidently, given that I’m about to blow around 3,300kgs1 of CO2 into the atmosphere (13,200kgs if you count the whole family), I’m not exactly green.

I’ve done my permaculture design course, lived off-grid in a bender in the woods, become a freecycle fan, not to mention having had my fair share of eco-warrior boyfriends – a pretty good green track record. But flying? Not even for emergency reasons but simply because I wanted to spend time with my Australian family? It’s surely a no-no for anyone wanting to lighten their load on the planet. Yet it’s a dilemma facing many people today – especially amongst conservationists who choose to fly to remote areas to work and study the effects of global warming! Hhmm.

Even in my own circle of friends, the subject is taboo. It used to be for me too. I wrestled with it for years, working out if carbon offsets could appease my guilty conscience (which, after further research into the carbon offset ‘industry’, it seemed they couldn’t). I tried to work out if the ‘good’ that I was going to do when I reached my destination would somehow outweigh the ‘bad’ that I’d accrued by getting there. And I looked at alternative, overland travel. This option, had I a few spare thousand pounds and a few extra months, could have been viable. But I didn’t. So how did I end the internal struggle that had been weighing on my shoulders every time I had the opportunity to fly somewhere? I came to it, not by way of any deep, scientific analysis, nor by way of resignation to the ‘well they’re flying anyway’ mind-set, but through deep listening to my energy. By my energy, I mean my spirit. The part of me that quietly observes all my ups and downs, my wobbles and my triumphs. I’ve learnt, through various means, that when I focus my attention on my energy, I’m able to sense if it’s ascending or descending. Ideally (if increasing our awareness of who we really are is something we value), it should be ascending at all times. This is quite a task, as, being human and all that, we tend to spend far more time engaging in descending activities than we do ascending ones. Thankfully, it’s well within our power to change this – and quite possibly our reason for being here in the first place.

So now, when I focus on a choice (what to eat, what to write, who to hang out with, where to go etc) I can get a sense of how that choice will effect my energy. This came, over the years, as a huge sense of relief to me, as I was increasingly able to regain control of my life from my beliefs, judgements, should’s and could’s, and place it back in the gentle (although not exactly soft) hands of my spirit. Instead of deliberating endlessly over questions like ‘What should I do?’, I look within. It sounds clichéd, I know, but it works. And yet, of course, it’s not an easy path to tread. As it often happens, others around you might think you’re selfish, bonkers or even deluded. Sometimes all three. And they may well be right. But the stronger your sense of your spirit, and your sense of what you need to do to be more in tune with it, the less bothered you become by others opinions on how you’re living your life. And, oddly enough, the more you accept their way of living theirs.

Still, as I write this, I’m aware of thoughts and feelings rising up to the surface.  ‘What will they think?’ ‘What if people don’t agree?’ I notice the thoughts come up. I notice how I feel. And I check my energy to see how it’s doing. Focusing on my writing, it’s ascending.

Focusing on my anxiety, it starts to fall. So I follow my spirit, and keep writing. I realise I may be putting myself in the firing line, but that’s what I need to do. And you may have guessed that flying to Australia (and, she says, reluctantly pulling that last grey card out from up her sleeve, to France this year) came out as OK.

Perhaps it’s because the places I’ll visit hold empowerments for me. Or maybe it’s for my son to spend time with his grandparents. But I don’t need to know why at this point. I’m following my spirit, and so far, it’s never let me, or those around me, down. In fact, it seems to have done quite the opposite.

. . .

Further resources:
www.chooseclimate.org
www.jpmorganclimatecare.com/projects/portfolios/2009/
Living with Energy Awareness Training

how a mouse transformed my fear

I didn’t realise I was scared of mice until last night, when I found myself stood on my office chair, screaming, in full ‘Tom & Jerry’ style. I think my reaction shocked me just as much as did the little ball of fur scurrying around the kitchen floor. I mean, I was stood on a chair! I didn’t even notice myself do it – the reaction completely took control of my body and voice, which by that point was shouting out for my friend to come and save me. (We don’t have a cat for me to shout “THOMASSS!” at.) Needless to say, the mouse skedaddled as my scream pierced its eardrums, and I was left wondering where, why, when and.. how many?

I was woken the next morning by the sound of my son shouting “MUM!!!” in a louder than usual voice. Given that we’d not caught the mouse the night before (my housemate told me kindly that he was unable to ‘just catch it’ and that we’d have to get a trap the next day), I knew as I lay in my bed what that shout was for. “There’s a mouse in the lounge!!”

I’ll cut a long and rather sweet story short here, which involved borrowing a humane trap, catching the mouse, then giving my son an impromptu and deeply valuable lesson on letting go of the things you love. Quickly. As ‘Squeaky’ ran free (two miles away from home) Elliot looked at me and said, “Actually I feel quite happy seeing it run free Mum. I thought I’d be really sad, but even though I am sad, I’m happy ‘cos it looked so happy.” To which I replied, “That’s good practice. You might have to do that with a girlfriend one day”.

But I digress. As this is a blog about transforming stresses into higher awareness – I’ll get back to telling you how the mouse was in fact, my guide. It showed me part of my energy field that was in need of strengthening – in this case, my third chakra. This is the energy centre at the navel that, when spinning healthily, gives us the qualities of courage, determination and will power. So you can see how this lil’ mouse – whose very presence made me jump two feet in the air – was kindly showing me that my third chakra was in need of some repair work.

Squeaky the Mouse Guru

Fortunately I have a toolkit of energy awareness exercises and practices that can help me begin that process. And that’s what I do. And sometimes help other do too. The reason that I do all this stuff is simple. The more I strengthen my energy, the better life gets. I don’t mean better in terms of material things, although that may well be a nice side-effect, but better in terms of a deepening awareness of Spirit. Which is, after all, why I am here.

Amazing how a tiny mouse can trigger all that. Thank-you Squeakyji. Next time, I’ll try not to scream.

spiritual parenting: the delightfulness of impermanence

Well, the trip to the hospital came and went. My son’s smiling again. So am I. No more toothache, no more PMT. Sometimes impermanence can be so delightful! In times of stress I remind myself regularly “this will pass”.. and I find it useful to do it sometimes in times of joy too.. just to keep things balanced.

As it turns out, the hospital trip felt like a bit of a disaster. The meditation techniques flew out of the window, and after half an hour of Elliot’s drugged up crying (after the operation) we resorted once more to distraction – in the form of a present. And it worked. There’s definitely a time and a place for teaching kids to meditate, but there’s also a time and a place for doing whatever works. In this case, the Lord of the Rings top Trumps really did come up trumps.

For as much as I would like him to be able to practice what we’ve learnt in our meditations together, on this occasion the best option for all concerned (especially the other day-surgery patients who had to listen to Elliot’s screaming) was to do what we had to do. And in itself that’s the essence of accepting life – it’s not about getting stressed that things didn’t go the way you want them to – it’s about recognising what you need to do and when you need to do it. Going with the flow, being flexible, and not beating yourself up about getting it wrong.

Three hours later, after a scooby doo DVD and some yoghurt, Elliot was out in the courtyard back home playing with the kids nextdoor. I’ve never seen such a speedy recovery from a general anesthetic. Ok so there was an emotional meltdown in the lead up to the injection, but his inner resilience shone through in his recovery.

I’m still going to continue the meditation techniques with him, as I know they’ll be working on the deeper issues of anxiety and fear – and I know it’s not a quick fix but an ongoing process. But at the same time, I’m going to quit worrying about getting it right – as I know ultimately there is no right or wrong. We just do the best we can – and that’s always good enough.

spiritual warrior + kids = spiritual parent

When you’re a spiritual warrior your life – with all its ups & downs, mishaps and misdemeanours – becomes your guide. I like to think of myself as as spiritual warrior. Even if for most of the time I’m a spiritual worrier. But it’s true that when challenges come, as they often do, I use them to show me the areas of my life / energy that I need to work on – to make stronger. And lucky me, when it comes to challenges that involve positive parenting tips, I get to share them here and in print in the Green Parent Magazine.

As parents, we don’t go short on challenges. And this week has been one of those weeks for me, during which my boy has been suffering from toothache, making him whinge and whine incessantly (ok, apart from the when the calpol kicks in) and I’ve had PMT. Not a good combination. So first things first, we deal with the immediate stuff – I booked an appointment with the dentist, and started taking a remedy for my PMT. Then I look at the rest…

I find the stress in me that gets triggered by my sons’ moaning by lying down on the sofa, taking a few deep breaths and seeing what part of my body feels contracted when I think about my son. (May I Just add here that there is compassion too, but that tends to run out of power and get drowned out by the darker stuff!) Once I’ve discovered the source of stress in me (a contraction of energy in my body), I can do something to transform it into something much more helpful. I might read some spiritual poems that soften the energy there, or focus my breathing on the tight spot and give it some space, time and loving attention!

From this space of awareness, from actually transforming my energy, fresh ideas are generated – new ways in which I can help my son be brave, or how I can distract him. It’s actually through this process that we’ve discovered a deeper issue that we both needed to address, how to cultivate inner strength. Which no doubt will get a full airing in my column with the Green Parent Magazine later this summer.

Life doesn’t just happen to us – it happens for us – as a beautifully orchestrated chain of events. So what seemed like a disaster for my sons teeth and my sanity, was actually what we needed to become aware of a much deeper issue, that unlike the teeth, can’t be fixed later at the hospital. Watch this space to find out how we cope with that trip to the hospital next week, that’ll hopefully put a smile back on his beautiful face… and maybe one on mine too!