It’s not perfect… it is as it is ….and within that are some really great moments!

moreton island

I was really lucky recently to be able to go camping on Moreton Island, QLD with my partner and four kids for 8 nights with just the basics (e.g. cold showers)…. and it really felt like a retreat from the world as we slept, snorkelled, kayaked, ate and slept some more!

But as the layers fell and we slowed down… and we focussed more on being and less on doing I noticed that even then….even when things were really peaceful and less stressful, my mind would STILL be classifying each moment as ‘like that’ or ‘don’t like that’ and I would be disappointed that this holiday wasn’t PERFECT!

It was almost as if by slowing down I became more aware of my mind’s ‘chatter’ and I was amazed that even when on a tropical island there was still potential to be unhappy… e.g. ‘it’s too hot’, ‘it’s raining’, ‘there’s mossies’, ‘I wish we had fresh fruit’ ‘the kids are fighting again’ etc. It didn’t seem to matter how relaxed we were I was still finding things I wanted to avoid or crave.    I would dwell on memories of  past holidays and wish that this one would have that same or even better moment of happiness, connectedness or relaxation…  I was spending a lot of my holiday in the past or the future and not in the present!

This got me thinking about the Buddhist principle that aversion & craving cause our suffering/distress.   As humans we tend to classify moments as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral and crave more of the pleasant and try to avoid the unpleasant.  Maybe this is human nature and it may even be an important survival strategy?    But if we are to be content with the present moment we need to observe our judgements and not get too caught up in them.   E.g. ‘I’m having the thought that it would be really nice to have air conditioning/ a more comfortable mattress /  a hot shower right now’ and let that thought drift by and remain in the present moment…

As I noticed these thoughts and became less caught up in them I was able to be more and more immersed in the present and less and less bothered by the  ‘unpleasant’ features of camping.   Each time I noticed them I would think ‘This isn’t perfect, it is as it is, and within that are some really great moments!’ and somehow this helped – in fact it is still helping me to adapt to life back in the real world!

I hope you all had a good start to the New Year with some time to reflect and be mindful 🙂

Reminder to breathe….

dolphin

I haven’t been able to write lately….I’ve been struggling with settling in to a new job and I had too many obligations and I haven’t been that mindful at times….sigh.   I did have an amazing experience on our local river though which I’d love to share with you – very relevant for this crazy time of year!    I was learning to row on a Saturday morning, and instead of it being an enjoyable experience I was trying too hard!   All my muscles were tense from work the week before and I was getting soo frustrated that my body wasn’t doing what my mind was telling it to do!  In one way it was a mindful exercise as there was no room for thinking of anything else – but I wasn’t being very gentle with myself and I certainly wasn’t aware of the environment around me!

Suddenly to my right I hear this ‘whoosh’ of air about 3 metres away from me and look over, just in time to see a mother dolphin and her baby rise to the surface to breathe.  It felt like a direct message for me – ‘BREATHE’  and I was able to loosen my shoulders, stop rowing, look up and watch these two dolphins cruise by on the beautiful river, breathing loudly and reverently.    It made me aware of how little I was breathing….that I’d stopped taking time out to look at the world with the wide angled lens….or to appreciate what was in front of me  It was time I stopped trying so hard in so many aspects of my life!   A timely reminder!

I’m hoping to spend more time on the water in this New Year break and Breathe!    To really recharge the batteries and reflect on what is important for me and my family and how we can make that happen in 2015!  I hope you have a chance to reflect & recharge too!

Adol-essence…

Leeuwin

I am so excited to be reading Dan Siegel’s ‘Brainstorm: The Power & Purpose of the Teenage Brain’   Unfortunately I’m reading it very slowly in small bites and I have his No Drama Discipline Book (written with Tina Payne Bryson) waiting invitingly by my bedside too but hopefully this bite size reading means more concepts will sink in?   His earlier book ‘The Whole Brain Child’ (see earlier blog) with Tina Payne Bryson  is one of the best I’ve read for relating latest brain & mindfulness research to parenting! http://www.drdansiegel.com/books/the_whole_brain_child/

So the first bit of this Brainstorm book is inspiring because it’s saying how amazing the teenage brain is, and that if focussed in a positive way it can be a really powerful, healthy and fantastic thing.  In fact he even states that a mid-life crisis is often the adult seeking a bit of what drives adolescence, an interesting concept and something that rings true for me at the moment!

Dan Siegel’s way of looking at the essence of a teenage brain (page 11 of the book) is:

ES Emotional Spark: intense emotional feelings which can serve to create meaning and vitality

SE Social Engagement: important connections with others that can be meaningful and mutually rewarding

N    Novelty: we seek and create new experiences that engage our senses fully and in new and challenging ways

CE Creative Exploration: the expanded consciousness that creates a gateway to seeing the world in a new way

So parenting a teenager doesn’t need to be a fearful or difficult thing, instead it is a matter of understanding the needs of a teenage brain and finding ways for our teenagers to experience meaningful social engagement in novel, emotionally intense and creative ways!

Thinking back to my adolescence, probably the most powerful experience was going on the Leeuwin Sail Training ship for 10 days where we were taught how to sail a three masted barquentine, 1850’s style rig with a crew of 40 people aged 14-25 with team building and leadership exercises thrown in!  This fulfilled all 4 of the criteria above and was a really intense and novel experience where I learnt more about myself and others than I ever had at school!     In a way perhaps this was an informal  rite of passage….    Dr Arne Rubinstein talks about this in his ‘Making of Men’ book http://doctorarne.com/

But Dan Siegel is saying this isn’t just important in a rite of passage but within the teenager’s life and as parents we can help to facilitate this in a positive, healthy and empowering way and NOT let teenagers seek out the novelty, exploration, intense emotions and friendships in a negative, disempowering or deconstructive way!

I can see this with my own teenagers when they put these criteria to positive use it is incredible what they can create, think about, plan and inspire…..and in my stage of life I can see that I would benefit from some increased novelty, creativity and intense emotions!!!!   What I also see in my work is parents who don’t yet allow for these brain changes, who still treat their teenagers as if they are under the age of 12, who don’t allow for this new sense of independence and new push for freedom and that seems to be where the BIG battles lie…..?

So I’ll keep reading and leave you with this initial insight….as always a good reminder for me and I’ll write more as it comes to light! 🙂

Brainstorm by Dan Siegel

SE Social Engagement

Aimlessness…the art of doing nothing, of just being

humpback whale 2

I was so fortunate recently to have a day travelling by ferry to Moreton Island, QLD with a good friend and the day held NO schedule or agenda.  Slowly I began to unwind with the ferry ride, the snorkelling, the fish for lunch, the walk along the beach and then as I floated in the tropical calm water I realised I’d finally reached that state of just ‘being’, no thoughts of the past or of what was yet to happen in the future, just a state of peace and pleasure with the present moment….and I couldn’t remember the last time I had allowed myself a day of just ‘being’!  As I returned home to school age kids and scheduled chaos I felt very disheartened to be entering the world of doing and not being….

Luckily I had Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh by my bed and he dedicates 2 pages to the art of Aimlessness. He writes: ‘In the west we are very goal oriented.  We know where we want to go and we are very directed in getting there.  This may be useful but often we forget to enjoy ourselves along the route…..The idea is that you do not put something in front of you and run after it, because everything is already here, in yourself.’   ‘We must stop from time to time in order to see clearly.’ 

And it dawned on me that I didn’t need a whole day of just ‘being’, I could incorporate it into my day….maybe meditation in the early morning for 10 minutes, riding my bike the scenic way to work or best of all, remembering to stop on the way home and sit on a rock for 5 minutes….allow myself to just be, to pause between work & home and acknowledge and appreciate the good bits about life in general….by just stopping for a moment!

The first day I tried this, just 2 days after my island trip, I sat on the rock by the sea, with no expectations, no striving, just being….and a whale breached out of the water in front of me, then another, and another…..and I watched in awe as those whales breached 21 times, playfully being in the water……it really felt like the universe was saying, ‘about time you stopped and now here is what you have been missing out on!.’   Quickly though I get caught up in the world of doing….so writing this blog is to help me get back on track…and prepare for a weekend of watching the clouds go by!clouds go by

Brainstorming Solutions…thinking laterally & creatively to solve problems

Problem SOlving Positive Discipline Tool positive discipline a-z book

I felt like I was quite old (I was a new Mum and in a relationship with my partner) before I realised that if you can brainstorm solutions and think laterally there is always a win:win solution….there will always be a way through if you just look hard enough!

I was fascinated with the recent Life at 9 series on ABC IView when the narrator said:

“Navigating life depends on our ability to solve problems, a skill scientists understand as creativity” and  “Creativity is a greater predictor of success in life than IQ”.

David Cropley, a creativity expert on the show, then said :  “The basis of creativity is all about starting with divergent thinking and that means if we hope to get a good solution we first of all have to go through as many solutions as we can”

And this got me thinking of one of the best Positive Discipline Tools from www.positivediscipline.com which I use at home and teach other parents all the time….the idea that as parents, once we understand the child’s underlying feelings and needs behind a behaviour we can then brainstorm solutions and in the brainstorming phase we need to write down all possible solutions, there is no right or wrong!

It’s so true we often need to brainstorm left field ‘way out there’ solutions to be able to come up with solutions that will work!  Something  I especially love is the idea of involving our own kids from the age of 4 in brainstorming the solutions for particular issues / behaviours.   The kids always come up with the most crazy solutions but also the most simple and best solutions too!  (e.g. in resolving shared bedroom issues: first suggesting their brother could sleep with the chooks or in the hallway cupboard but eventually deciding duct tape down the middle of the bedroom will do!)

How great is it that we can involve our kids in helping to brainstorm solutions but also help boost their creativity skills at the same time!  It is certainly something we want for all our kids once they become adults isn’t it? To be creative problem solvers who are able to resolve conflicts by finding win:win solutions…mindfully…

(At www.positivediscipline.com there are podcasts on Focusing On Solutions and one of their books is called Positive Discipline A-Z, 1001 Solutions To Everyday Parenting Problems)