Archive for February, 2016

The 4 Year Old Explorer

February 23, 2016

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The 4 Year Old Explorer

The beautiful chaos of 4 year olds

I was at a birthday party for a 4 year old last weekend.
There were little people running all over the place.
It was pure, joyous chaos.

I really love watching the incredible variety
that little ones have in their personalities.

I love watching the way they interact with their surroundings.
The way they explore and experiment
with everything they touch.

I love watching the many conflicts arise
and seeing the way they deal with them.

Observing the parents as well

I also enjoy watching the great variety of
parenting approaches that one inevitably sees
in a room full of kids and parents.

Although this can also be difficult for me
as I am quite biased in my preferred approach.
And that’s putting it mildly!

The impulse to experiment

At one point a cute little Explorer
went up to the sound system that was set up
and started touching buttons on the mixing board.

He ended up getting his hands on the
volume slider and in one quick motion
turned it all the way up.

The whole room was rocked

The music exploded out of the speakers
and everybody in the room jumped.

The kids all had looks of terror on their faces
and screamed wildly as they
ran  into their parents arms.

It took a second or two for someone to run over and turn the music down. In that time kids were fairly traumatized.

That’ll teach him

There was a man sitting a couple chairs away from me
holding his 3 month old baby in his arms.

Throughout the afternoon I was enjoying watching
the tenderness between the two of them.

When this happened he turned to me and said
“That’ll teach him a lesson.”

I looked at him sideways and asked him
“What lesson exactly is that?”

He said “not to touch things when
you don’t know what they are.”

Are you sure?

I said to him
“Are you really sure that is the thing you
want to pass on to your kids?
That when they come upon something unfamiliar
they should avoid it for fear of
what the results will be?

Do you want them to be afraid to explore,
experiment and delve into the unknown?”

An unfamiliar response

I think he was taken aback by this
unexpected response to what probably
seemed like an obvious comment to him.

He grumbled a little bit and then said
“well ok, the lesson is if you don’t know
what something is ask someone else first.”

Are you Really Sure?

I asked him again
“Is that really the lesson
you want to give your kids?

That when they experience something unfamiliar,
before taking a chance and trying it,
before taking the risk that they might fail
and experimenting with it,
that they should ask someone else first?

It seems like that’s making them afraid to take risks
and try new things for fear of what
the consequences might be.”

This time he really grumbled and mumbled even.
He turned away and did his best to ignore me.

The friend I was sitting with asked me
how I would have dealt with it
if my kid did the same thing and then ran into my arms?

Empathy Empathy Empathy

I would start empathizing with the little one
as they would be full of tension and fear at that moment.

I would say something like “It’s okay my darling,
I know it was scary. I felt scared too.”

I would hold them close and do whatever I could
to make them feel loved and safe.

Accentuating the positive

Once I fell that their vibration
had calmed down enough
I would express to them how I
admired their willingness to
experiment with something new.

I think it’s really wonderful the way you
wanted to test what all the buttons
on that mixing board did.

Encouraging further exploration

I know that it was scary when the music got louder,
but that is what happens sometimes
when we try new things.

Sometimes they don’t go how
we expect and that’s awesome.
The main thing is that you tried
and that’s what’s important.

I think that is such a wonderful part of who you are
and I always want you to feel free and safe
to try new things like that.

I will always be here to support you and
love you no matter what happens.

Taking action

Why don’t we go to the mixing board
and take another look at what all the buttons do.

We can play with the volume slider
that you so bravely pushed all the way up
and see how it affects
the loudness of the music.”

Then I would go over there with them
and make a fun experience of playing with
as many buttons sliders and knobs as I could.

Empathize, Validate, Take Action

The process of empathizing, validating
and then following up with action is so important.

It helps kids process their experiences
in a deep and holistic way.

My own comfort with the unknown

The other learning for me from this experience
is to recognize that the message this father
instinctively wanted to give to
his kids is extremely common.

This means it is very likely
deeply inside of me as well.

I know that I have many fears programmed into me.
Fears that stop me from
venturing into the unknown at times.

I can feel it in my mind and heart
when I am faced with the unknown.

Holding myself back
Afraid to fail

Sometimes I have to really push myself
to do something that seems scary,
where I have the potential to fail.

It’s like I don’t want to take the chance
of having the music be really loud
because I wasn’t given that kind of
validation and encouragement.

Deprogram and Reprogram

So now I have the opportunity to
deprogram and reprogram myself.
To give myself that same empathy,
validation and follow through with action.

The more I do this, the more I will be free
to engage in the unfamiliar.
The more free I feel
the more I will be able to
pass that freedom on to my daughter.

Teach Children to Embrace their Mistakes

February 15, 2016

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Teach Children to Embrace their Mistakes

Road Trip With Good Friends

A couple weeks ago I was on a road trip with some good friends.
We went to Buffalo for a dance workshop
and we all had a really good time.

Making a Mistake

On the way home I was given the task of navigating.
We were a bit behind schedule and the drive
was taking longer than expected.

At one point I got a little confused and
wasn’t sure exactly where we were going.

On top of that the settings had changed in the GPS
on my phone and it was giving me some bad advice!

I made an error and we ended up taking a wrong turn.

Fear Took Over

Immediately my whole body tensed up
and I became afraid.
I felt that the driver was going to get angry and
he was going to yell at me.

I also thought that the other passengers
were going to complain and think badly of me.
I felt like they wouldn’t like me and
wouldn’t want to be my friends.

Feeling Unworthy

I felt small, unworthy of friendship
and separate from the group.

All of this flashed through my mind and heart
in a space of a couple of seconds.
It was my all-consuming reality at that moment.

Reality Didn’t Match My Fearful Expectations

The real realty however was quite different.
Nobody made the slightest remark
about my error in directions.

The driver didn’t seem to be upset in the slightest.

Everyone continued to just laugh, joke
and talk as we had been
and just waited for me
to tell them which way to turn to get back on track.

In that moment I realized how
deep that reaction was and
how separate from my present reality it was.

These people are my Friends and they Love me

They didn’t care that I made a mistake.

It took me a couple of minutes to take all of this in.
I had to look into each of their eyes
and feel the love in their voices
before I could really believe
that they weren’t upset with me.

Receiving Love and Empathy

After some time has passed and I relaxed a little bit
I shared this experience with them.

The outpouring of love and empathy from them
was quite beautiful and it reinforced the fact
that they really do love and accept me.

Childhood Wounds Run Deep

This experience shows me how deep the
wounds of my childhood go.
The fear of being seen as less worthy of
love and acceptance for having made a mistake
is powerful within me.

I know it affects every aspect of my life.

It affects my decision making,
my friendships and
my willingness to take risks.

Much of the inner work that I do is geared towards
healing these fear based wounds and self-concepts
so I can believe that I am worth friendship and love.

Intellectually I know I am
and compared to myself a number of years ago
I’m so much better in this regard.

Yet the residue of my painful past lingers.

Setting parenting priorities around
acceptance and a positive attitude towards mistakes

As a parent this has always been
one of my primary areas of focus.

To make sure that my daughter knows that she is
unconditionally worthy of love, respect,
acceptance and friendship.

I wanted her to know that making mistakes
does not diminish her worth in any way.

Putting this into practice is
an intense and powerful thing

It means that I have had to watch my reaction
every time she makes what I consider a mistake.

Mistakes are to be learned from.
Mistakes are to be celebrated.
Mistakes are to be explored.
Mistakes are to be embraced.
Mistakes are to be made over
and over and over again.
Mistakes are to be made fearlessly.

Responding in a consistently positive manner

Mistakes are not to be punished in any way.
They are not to be a source of disapproval in any way.

There could not even be an expectation that
she would only make a mistake once,
learn from it and then never make it again!

Let us raise our children to embrace their mistakes

Imagine if we could raise our kids to
truly embrace their own mistakes
and use them as the wonderful learning
opportunities that they are.

Imagine if we could raise our kids to believe
that making mistakes does not diminish them in any way.

This would be a huge leap forward in their development.

It would give them a power and strength
that could last their whole lives and
allow them to follow their dreams.

It’s Hard To Give What We Didn’t Receive

The hard part is most of us were
not given that kind of completely open support
when making mistakes.

We were punished and given consequences.
Some of us were hit
and most of us at least received disapproval.

Certainly we did not experience
true celebration of mistakes
on a consistent basis.

Reprogramming Our Own Relationship to Mistakes

Therefore in order for us to do this for our children
it requires a significant rewiring of our brains
so that we can see mistakes in a totally new way.

In order for it to be really effective
we have to do this for ourselves and our children
at the same time.

Loving and accepting ourselves more
so we can love and accept our kids more.

The Challenge of Authenticity

February 7, 2016

The Challenge of Authenticity

The Challenge of Authenticity

Showing My Whole Self

Authenticity is challenging.
When I am authentic with somebody
I am exposing a deep vulnerability.

I can’t be authentic without showing
the Yin and the Yang of who I am.

If I leave out either
I am hiding myself.

Therefore it seems the degree of my authenticity
is the degree to which I’m willing to expose
both the darkness and the light of my being.

It’s bloody scary!
That’s why it’s a challenge.
That’s why authenticity is a warrior’s path.

The Payoff is Huge

And yet when I do achieve a deeper level
of authenticity and vulnerability with someone,
while it may be scary, it is also deeply fulfilling.
Almost like nothing else can be fulfilling.

Perhaps this is because these are moments
when I’m truly introduced to myself.
I see myself face to face.
And this gives me the opportunity
to really love myself.

Clearly there are a lot of benefits
to having the courage to be authentic.
I do my best to seek out deeper levels
of authenticity than I am presently able to access.

The Danger Of Being Authentic Is Very Real

The thing is though, the danger is very real
because I have genuinely been hurt in the past
for being vulnerable.
I have being betrayed.

The sting of those experiences is still with me
and makes me hesitate, makes me protect myself.
This is why authenticity is a process
and not simply a one-time decision or experience.

Raising Authentic Children

As I often do, I want to relate this concept to parenting.

I recognized early on how much I had to
fight myself and the world to be authentic.
Well maybe I didn’t have to fight the world,
but I did feel I had to fight
my version of the world
or perhaps my perception of the world.

In any case this is the belief system I had
and it played out in my life.

Recognizing that was the case for me,
I wanted the opposite from my daughter.

I wanted her to feel that
her authentic self is
completely natural and accepted.

Then it wouldn’t feel like a weakness or a risk,
but it would seem like her very core,
her strength, the very existence of who she is.

This has been a central theme in
my parenting investigations.
How can I make it feel safe and strong
for my daughter to be authentic.

Protecting Her Authenticity

I recognize that a certain amount of authenticity
diminishes over time with painful
experiences that all of us experience in life.

I believe though, that we can minimize that damage
and allow a deeper level of authenticity to be
fostered in our children than we ever had access to.

Isn’t that what evolution,
conscious evolution is about?
Helping the next generation
be greater than we ever were.

Conscious parenting isn’t easy.

There’s always a dual process occurring.

On the one hand we are trying to foster
powerful qualities in our children.

On the other hand we realize that
we must be working on those very things
in our own lives if we are
going to pass them on effectively.

Its looking inward and
looking outward simultaneously.

Quite a wonderful skill to practice
and a beautiful opportunity to practice it

Found In Your Body

February 2, 2016

Found In Your Body
Found In Your Body

A Journey Within

This past week I attended 5 day
dance intensive workshop
in Buffalo, New York.

The teacher was Alicia Grayson.
http://www.tumblebones.com/

She was a masterful facilitator.
She led us brilliantly through a journey
deep into our bodies,
into our hearts and
into the dance.

A Moment of Quiet Connection

One day during lunch I was chatting with her
about a particularly intense dance that I had.

I was describing how I was able to quiet my mind
and let go of the noise that usually
keeps me from deep connection.

I said to her,
“I got lost in my body.”

She said,
“Actually Vivek, you got found in your body.”

This change in perspective dramatically altered
the way I thought about my experience.

I realized that my natural state IS being deeply connected.
Being trapped in a world of
thoughts and disconnection
is not who I am in my essence.

And yet I have become so normalized to
the idea of being disconnected from my body
I considered that state as natural.

When my mind was quiet and
I was fully in the dance
I considered it being lost.

Language Reveals Our Feelings

One might argue that it was simply
a common phrase we use,
but I believe that the language we choose
reflects the perspective and feelings we have.

Alicia pointed out that in fact this deep dance
was me finding myself,
finding my truth,
finding my nature.

She didn’t actually use all those words.
She simply said “you were found in your body.”

Great Teachers Introduce Us to Ourselves

As all great teachers do,
she touched me with a magical moment,
allowed me the freedom to process it
and draw my own conclusions.

One of the things I enjoyed most about her teaching
was that she seemed to really believe in each of us.
She knew that we had our own innate wisdom
in our bodies and in our hearts.
She was only working to put us in touch with it.

Children are Naturally Wise and Connected

When we are first born our entire reality is
centered in our bodies and in our connection
to our mother’s body.

There is a wisdom, a love and
a sense of connection
that is natural and essential to who we are.

Disconnection is an Effect of Growing Up

As we enter the world more and more
we are drawn into our heads,
into society and customs.
We are wounded, criticized
and betrayed on a regular basis.
We become distanced from the
innate wisdom that we have inside.

It gets replaced with fear and trauma based reactions.

We rely on manipulation of ourselves and
others to get what we think we want.

We end up believing that
disconnection, pain,
punishment and struggle
are normal, natural and our lot in life.

A Message of Freedom For Me and My Kid

This is not the message I want to hold in my heart.
Nor is it the message I want to pass on to my daughter.

I want us both to know that
all the wisdom and love of the universe
is available to us within our hearts
at this very moment and every moment.

I want us both to believe that
trust and intimacy with others is possible,
beautiful and worth the risk.

I want us both to feel the beauty and joy
of connection with our bodies and nature.

And I want us both to know that all of this
is natural and normal
not the exception.

This is the foundation of my self-development
and spirituality work as well as
the essence of my parenting philosophy.