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Posted on 22 May, 2017 | 3 comments

Just Show Up

Years ago I asked someone what his definition of a ‘real’ man was. His thoughtful response was, “Someone who shows up.”

I loved that so much I’ve never forgotten it.

Over the last while I have seen that there is very little that cannot be resolved or healed by just showing up and staying open. Open to listening, opening to hearing, open to connection, open to changing…

Many years ago when my dear friend’s mother died I wanted to be there for her and offer reassurance but I didn’t know what to say. Words just felt pointless in the face of this big experience. I felt stupid just hanging around not saying anything but I also didn’t want to leave. I remember it well, just sitting there quietly as people came and went, offering their well-worded condolences. My condolences to the family had been pathetic. I felt awkward and inadequate, like I should be doing something. I tried to be useful but otherwise I just sat somewhere near her offering my presence. Months later she told me of her own accord that it meant the world to her that I had just showed up and stayed.

When partners argue and have differences of opinions, what makes the difference between them separating or staying together is often whether they hang in there for the conversation. If they turn towards each other in the times of fear and pain their relationship strengthens and if they turn away from each other during stressful moments their relationship weakens.

When groups in communities have conflict, the most healing thing they can do is talk. Get together and talk. Talk and talk until there is nothing left to say – and then just sit there in silence. Then come back again and again to talk and to listen and find a way together. In other words, show up for the conversation and stay and stay and stay… The willingness to show up for the conversation is often more healing than the actual conversation.

When you make a mistake, or try your best and meet rejection, or you don’t manage to do something you promised to yourself you would do, the thing that hurts most is if you turn away from yourself. If you don’t stay for the conversation with yourself.

When your child misbehaves or is being difficult and whiny, turning towards them and showing up for their difficult time will bring the fastest resolution. It will also bring the most love to everyone involved.

When we show up; when we show up and stay; when we show up again and again and again we are saying, “I care. I am open to connection with you. I am committed to this relationship.”

Take a moment to imagine hearing that from someone. Read those words again and feel it.

How does it feel? Notice what happens in your body in response to that message. What thoughts pop up to support or negate that?

It is a vulnerable place to be in when you reach out to connect, or when someone reaches out to connect with you. It is a delicate tendril of care reaching out from one to the other. The heart needs to be open to be able to reach out like that. That is why its healing potential is so great. As I tell my two boys when they excitedly imagine what the most powerful weapons might be, “There is nothing more powerful than love. You already have that ‘weapon’ in your artillery.”

When you find what you perceive to be an enemy – be it your own unwanted behaviours and desires or your partner’s or your child’s or the governments – shoot at it with love. Turn towards its pain. Open your heart and show up for the conversation. And keep on showing up.

Read the lines again and try saying them to yourself. Often.

“I care. I am open to connection with you. I am committed to this relationship.”

 

(A little note to those who tend towards co-dependence and will show up over and over to someone who repeatedly hurts, abuses or misuses that vulnerability: This showing up I am describing ALWAYS includes YOU. When you open your heart to connect you have to be present for that. This means your needs count. You do not put the other’s needs ahead of your own. That will never result in real connection or healing. That simply results in setting up a user-provider relationship which diminishes both parties. Showing up for a difficult conversation is in fact showing up for yourself.)

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Posted on 19 Dec, 2016 | 1 comment

Why Do Kids Scream At Us?

aaaaah

A while ago in a play park I witnessed a seemingly mild incident that left me feeling deeply disturbed. A little girl of around two or three years old was being ‘walked’ by her father on one of those harness things, like a dog’s leash for children. The girl was screaming and clearly didn’t want to leave the park and her father was pulling her and saying “Come, come!” as one would to a dog. She was determined, literally digging her heels into the ground and was putting all her weight into staying put.

(This is not going to be a rant against those contraptions. In my opinion a tool is a tool and its use or misuse depends on the user. While I personally prefer the method of talking and holding a child, there might be a place for them with those magnificent children who have the most remarkable ability to disappear in seconds and scare their parents to death on a regular basis. Such a harness could maybe be used lovingly to help a child understand the concept of staying close. It would be discussed and explained to the child without frightening them or forcing the experience onto them. And it would be ended as soon as possible once the understanding has been gained. That is my opinion.)

I was left wondering why this incident disturbed me so much. Like all of us, I’ve often seen uncomfortable examples of parents in play parks urging or forcing children to do things they don’t want to do. And what was so bad really? Children often don’t want to leave the park and have to be cajoled or dragged away by their caretakers. I checked in with myself about what parts of this incident were triggering my personal wounding and cleared them. But even after this, my discomfort remained and I began to have rescue fantasies of how I would educate these parents who, other than this incident, actually seemed quite obviously loving and caring. They just didn’t seem to realize the effect of the incident on their beloved daughter. I knew they would want to know and desperately wished to help them see this. Of course I shut up and stayed put. They were not asking for help or advice and I’m not suicidal.

(Again I feel I must add, that if I witnessed parental behaviour that made me fear for the child’s safety I would put on my bomb vest and head in there!)

In this case I merely 

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Posted on 3 Oct, 2016 | 0 comments

Is There Ever Really A Right Or Wrong Way To Do A Thing?

Is there ever really a right and a wrong way to do a thing? I mean, at the end of the day, doesn’t it just land up being about consequences to our actions? If I choose to do this then that will happen but if I choose the other thing something else will follow. And I will learn something either way.

Yesterday I found myself in a new level of something I’ve been learning. So I was excited… for about ten seconds! Then I witnessed myself automatically switching to

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Posted on 11 Jul, 2016 | 4 comments

If I Can’t Also Look At My Dark Stuff, Then I’m Just Faking It

Being a parent can either be a distraction from the goal of becoming the shining, glorious beings we inherently are or it can fast forward you towards it. I learned this when I became a parent and lost my mind and my self-control a good few times. It all depends on what you do with it. The clay is there, what are you going to make from it?Going Mad

Knowledge is power, said Foucault famously. The way I see it is this; everything in my life offers me insight into myself. It offers me

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Posted on 11 Apr, 2016 | 2 comments

Where Are You Now? Do You Even Know?

Last night, at the fortnightly self-development evening I run (see Talks and Workshops), we explored what stands in the way of feeling ok with ourselves. I asked the group,

“If where and who you are now is IT, if how you are now is the finished product that won’t change, how would that feel?

Would this change how you live your life in any way?” The subsequent group discussion left me with interesting stuff to think about.

This morning – as sometimes happens to me – I woke up with a sentence in my head. It was this; “Don’t treat everywhere like a small town on the way to your destination. Treat every place you are in as though it IS your destination.”

journey.

Thinking on that I could see that, like so many of us, I tend to live a step ahead of where I am. I don’t often enough explore and appreciate exactly where I am for no reason other than to experience and appreciate it. I have so many good things. I could just be lolling about in delight all the time. Why do I feel I more would be better?

How much do we do something on the way to something else? Exercise to have a fit healthy body;  do this so that

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Posted on 18 Jan, 2016 | 8 comments

Are You Nice To Others But Mean At Home?

nice mean

Today I sat and asked myself this:

“If I run good workshops, help and inspire others, write well, read lots of clever stuff, be good at the work I do in the world but I am not so present to my children’s needs will I be ok with myself?”

My answer was no.

I then asked myself, “If I run ok workshops, or they aren’t so great and I just do a small job helping others, I stop writing and live a less ‘out there’ life but I am able to help my children adjust to life and feel safe and appreciated in the world will I be ok with myself?”

My answer was yes.

“So why”, I asked myself, “am I focusing more on my work than on being the parent I most want to be for my two boys?”

It’s not that I haven’t been there for them. I have. But I think I’ve become present enough to see that I’m not as present as I’d like to be with them. It’s progress.

Lately I have had amazing inner openings and shifts and beautiful meditative experiences, insights and inspirations but then five minutes later I behave impatiently with my children. From Dalai Mama to Mommy Dearest in record time! What is going on?

In truth, parenting (and partnering) is

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Posted on 16 Nov, 2015 | 0 comments

Toilet Humour

Remember those days when you had privacy? Ah, a deep nostalgic sigh probably escapes your lips as you dreamily think back to the days before kids when you could simply close the toilet door and remain there uninterrupted as long as you needed. Before we have children we, in Western cultures, have an understanding that certain things are private and boundaries are to be kept. We fancy ourselves to have a sense of decorum. Then along come the fruit of our loins and our ‘cultured’ self is rudely pushed to the side as the reality of our basic animal self comes trundling through.

Starting from the graphically physical act of childbirth, which has no equivalent in today’s Westernised culture, it continues in the unavoidable changing of nappies, being vomited, peed and pood on and having a constant variety of bodily fluids smeared on your person, clothing and furniture. They don’t care when, who and how. There is a massive shift in privacy boundaries that comes with children. The final shocker for many parents seems to be the toilet boundary violation. The last frontier.

toilet humour

Small children, if left to their own devices, go to the toilet together and it’s a great social activity. One sits and makes a poo while they discuss the smell, the noise, how it looks. They giggle a lot and then help each other wipe. It would make sense to them then that you would want to do the same.

No? But why on earth not, they ask incredulously?

Seriously people, did you ever think that in your adult life you would have to toilet with an audience who comments on your toilet skills?

It’s not decorum to talk about this I guess (unless you are 4 years old) but I just know it happens to many of us. There you are in a private moment, just you and the toilet. Temporary silence. The door is closed – but not locked because a while back you removed the key so your children couldn’t accidentally lock themselves in. So there you are, doing whatever it is you do in private that you don’t want others to see you doing. Suddenly you jolt with fright as the door is flung open so hard it ricochets off the wall with a loud bang. In walks your one child trailing the other behind, both of them chattering at you about something or another. Then they notice your guarded pose and caught out expression. “Hmm”, they think, “something is happening here she doesn’t want me to know about” They pay no attention to your commands and then pleas to please go out of the bathroom and leave you in private. They begin to

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Posted on 19 Oct, 2015 | 2 comments

How Good Are You At Listening To Others?

Listening.

listening.

It’s a tricky thing.

Have you ever shouted at anyone, “You’re not LISTENING to me!!” or had someone shout it at you in frustration? (Partners, parents and children are prime suspects here…)

I wrote in my post a while back that people can only hear you from where they are and the very week I posted it Life organised me a week-long workshop in understanding this better. Except that my post had been about speaking and being heard – my week was about listening.

I belong to a magnificent group of women who get together each month to dialogue around our lived experiences of race in this beautiful, complex, racially-fraught country of ours. This month the topic turned to how others hear us – hey, what a surprise, I just wrote about that! We spoke about what happens when we don’t really listen to someone’s experience – to what they are actually saying and why they are saying it – but we rather impose our own meaning and our own experience onto what they are saying. We do it to each other all the time and it really invalidates the person speaking. I tell you about my experience and you say, “Oh the same thing happened to me. Let me tell you…” and there goes my story and my experience, unheard, unseen, devalued. It’s painful and leaves the person feeling alone. Needless to say, we white folks do this to black folks ALL the time – often in the name of ‘relating’ to their story. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Not being heard is so painful and lonely – and threatening to our survival – that when it happens to us we attack or recoil. That’s where the primal scream of “You’re not LISTENING to me!” comes from. We NEED to be heard to feel safe with someone.

As these women I care for discussed how awful it feels when someone does that, I sat with intense discomfort because

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Posted on 15 Jun, 2015 | 14 comments

What Happens When You Aren’t Present

(Sorry for the later than 8am post this Monday. I accidentally scheduled for the wrong date! 🙂 But here it is now…)

oops

I lost it the other morning.

I woke up happy enough and started to prepare for the day. Engaging with the kids, making breakfast and school lunches all the while trying to get them to get dressed and brush their teeth… a usual morning – except that, on this morning, no-one was listening to me (which, I’m glad to say, is less usual).

It was like trying to herd honey. I’d push them one way and they oozed in from the other side. When I lifted my hand to push it back they followed my hand, made a new mess and oozed back where I’d pushed them away from before.

Undressed, unbrushed, out of control, unable to stop frantically running around and pushing, tickling and bothering each other. Of course this was interspersed with crying and complaints like “Mama he hit me!” I couldn’t get them to leave each other alone.

“Guys I’m sorting out lunch and breakfast. You know the story. Go get dressed and brush your teeth, then you can play.”

Three minutes later, “Hello? Didn’t I say something just now? Stop bugging your brother and go do what you need to do!”

Two minutes later, “Why aren’t you dressed yet? It’s not play time. Come on man! I don’t want to have to be your policeman.” (Which by the way got the retort, ‘You can’t be a policeman because you are a woman’ followed by shrieks of 5 and 8 year old laughter. Well at least they were listening…)

You’d think that by now I’d remember to notice things are getting out of hand and pause for a moment to take stock of what’s happening and gather myself to myself. After all, if no-one was listening to me and I was having no effect on my environment – almost like I was invisible – it might be reflecting something about my lack of presence…

But I wasn’t really present so I forgot all about checking in with myself.

It was a recipe for disaster. Not present to myself (ouch), not being listened to (ouch), feeling powerless to control the environment (ouch, ouch, OUCH!)… What was left for me to do? Yup, shift into Victim Mode and blame everyone else.

Aaaaand …POP!

“I can’t believe I have to do all this for you! Co

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Posted on 25 May, 2015 | 2 comments

Are You Looking For Happiness Outside Of Yourself ?

I don’t know if this happens in your house too but my children are possessed by the spirit of what ELSE they can have – Lego or food or sweets or activities or, or or…

My child for example, who is naturally more materially focused, knows which Lego set he wants. Oh how he knows. He looks at the booklet, discusses the virtues of the sets, fantasises about owning them and sets his sights on one. Then begins a long process of begging, pleading, saving his money, calculating birthday presents and other ways to obtain his desire. We hear about it over and over.

Then one miraculous day, the set is his. The excitement is high, he’s almost overwhelmed with it all. He builds it, he plays with it, breaks it up, builds it again, tells us all about it, shows us what it does… for about half a day and then he’s talking about the virtues of a different set.

Yes it’s all very nice to have this one, he tells us, and he’s happy and excited, but if he had that other one then it would really be great.

Lego

In our capitalist culture it’s hard to avoid this kind of attitude. It is really normal as humans to set our sights on a goal and once we’ve achieved it look for the next goal. Very normal and healthy. What upsets me is the speed at which the dissatisfaction sets in and the fact that the moment of joy is so short-lived – and not totally satisfactory even while it’s happening. That’s because he’s relying on something external to provide his joy and satisfaction. I don’t mind him wanting stuff but it hurts me to watch him look outside of himself for his happiness.

And of course we never become upset about something unless it is hooking into our own wounds, therefore this must hurt me because it’s reflecting something in my own self.

What could it be?

I recently wrote this to myself in my journal (which means I had to remind myself of it), “When this

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Posted on 4 May, 2015 | 2 comments

Do Your Eyes Light Up When You See Me?

I’ve heard Oprah Winfrey say the most important thing to a child is whether your eyes light up when he enters the room. Not what you say or what actions you take or what you give him but do your eyes light up when you see him.

It touched me deeply then and it is something I love by now. Oh how funny, I wanted to write ‘something I live by’ and I wrote ‘love by’. A typo worth keeping I’d say. Freud would approve.

So it really is something I live and love by. I am aware of it when I see my children (or any child actually) and I make sure that my eyes shine with delight at the glory of who they are. Sometimes I have to fake it a little but my intentions are honest and I figure a mild twinkle is better than none. I look at him or her and deliberately radiate my delight at their presence. (On the bad days I have to remind myself of the bigger picture and then it’s easier to connect with my delight at their presence in my life and shine it at them).

shining eyes

The response is good.

We forget these most important little things sometimes in the busy-ness of our lives. There’s so much to do all the time and such a battle to find time for it all – it’s hard to additionally keep in mind that others are people too. It’s so easy to express your annoyance at being interrupted (again) with rolled eyes and exasperated sigh. To glare the burden of the effort of all you do for her.  To half close your eyes at the boredom of listening to what he has to say – or disbelief of his story.

The impact of that is deeper than we allow ourselves to realise. Think of how your parents looked at you at different times. Do you have any memories of being gazed at with wonder and love, or pride and approval, or distaste, or resentment… What did it do to you?

Chatting about this with someone today I realised, this gazing thing is also really important when it comes to one’s partner. I mean a big reason many of us feel unappreciated or sad in our relationships is because our partner’s eyes no longer always shine when they see us. Over time we forget to express our delight at each other through our eyes. We start to take each other for granted, there’s so much going on and all the logistics of working, running a home and kids and a self… who has time to twinkle at a partner?  And yet… it’s what we all look for. Do your eyes light up when you see me?

It’s thought-provoking isn’t it? “And what”, I said to my conversation partner suddenly as I realised it myself, “would it be like if your eyes always light up when you look at yourSELF?!”

Imagine that. Try.

Look at yourself with delight and adoration.

How does it feel?

What sort of eyes do you look at yourself with usually? Do you

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Posted on 5 Jan, 2015 | 0 comments

Do You Find It HARD To “Be In The Moment”?

So let’s talk about this being ‘in the moment’ thing. If we all know about it, why do we need so much reminding to do it?

I recently challenged myself to remember that in any given moment I lack nothing. That I already have everything I need.

So I’ve been striving to remember to breathe, drop into my heart space and just be in the moment. It’s been an interesting journey.

When I manage to do it, it’s a relief. Like a deep soul whisper, “Everything’s alright.”

But what I’ve also noticed is that a) it’s taken me deeper into myself this week and b) I’ve avoided that somehow. What is that all about?!

So I’ve been listening to and observing myself and others and these are my research results:

Most of the time we are focused on the past or the future – which are both fantasies. Really, they are. They don’t actually exist. The times we ARE able to connect with the present moment, we seem to have a reflex to judge where we are – which is another clever way of avoiding the moment because then we think about why this moment is like this – and that throws us into the past or the future.

And this keeps us stuck in the very things we wish we didn’t have.

For example, I feel I don’t have enough time for myself, or connection with myself even when I get the time. Dropping into my heart space in the very moment I am in eases that feeling of lack dramatically. That’s what I’m actually seeking, yes? So why don’t I do it more? It’s fear people, our old friend Fear.

Let me ‘splain by expanding this into relationships with other people and with life in general.

I want more closeness in my relationship with someone so I practice what I preach. I breathe, I center myself and I open my heart to that person. The first feelings I’m flooded with are sadness, frustration, regret and pain in my heart. Why should that be? Because even in the moment of loving, what I’m unwittingly focusing on is what I feel I’ve been lacking. Why I even need to remember to open my heart to this someone. In other words, I’m thinking of what I haven’t had. And hey presto, suddenly I don’t have the closeness I want and need in that moment either.

Even though it’s right there I can’t access it – because in truth

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