My son is now 11 years old. He is kind, witty, clever, curious, crafty and artsy, intelligent and thoughtful and VERY funny. He is my constant reminder to be playful. Kids need us to make them laugh as much as they make us laugh.
As parents, sometimes we forget how important that is. Parenting requires a lot of work, time and energy and as we all know, can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.
What I have discovered is there are many ways for both parents and children to recharge and the most fun way is through humor and silliness.
One of my latest playful moves is to greet Eli with a cheer upon his entrance home from school. He loves this now (maybe not for much longer) and it always makes him smile. E - L - I (insert body shaped letters).... ELI!!
He now has a cheer for me too. M - O - M .... MOM!! Imagine if someone greeted you with a cheer after your long day of responsibilities! I would bet you'd join in too.
When I notice Eli feeling grumpy, I start a game of chase around the house. We giggle and hide and bat at each other. Even Max, our dog, joins in for the excitement. It changes his energetic state instantly. And mine too.
Wrestling is another way I like to engage Eli in play. It is definitely a mood lifter. We have always wrestled as a family. Our karate matches are super exciting. I have some mean high kicks and sweet kung fu tricks. And he has some good tips on pressure points.
We play music around the house quite often and when I hear a groovy tune, I can't help but move my body to the beat. Eli will usually join in and sometimes will lead me in a do - si - do or a sweet lil' waltz. This is one of my favorite forms of play.
As an observer of myself in these moments with my son, I realize more deeply the importance of my job as a parent. It is my responsibility, not Eli's, to lean in. To ask subtle questions, to share with him my experiences, my joys and my sorrows, to hold space for him always and to make him laugh.
All without the expectation that he should have to lean in closer to me first for anything. No matter how old he is. No matter how much he tells me he doesn't want me around.
I will give him space, but I will not stay away. I will initiate texts and phone calls. I will remind myself not to take it personally when he wants to distance himself from me or his dad. And I will always try to stay lighthearted and playful. This is my promise to myself and to my son.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me".
This old saying is one that many people grew up believing, still do believe and teach their children to believe. I have tried to see truth in this expression. Like most children, I used it as a shield against feeling hurt by other people's words. It proved itself to be effective, but only for the short term. In the long term, I see how this old adage served as a temporary fix and am no longer fooled by its' falsities.
Sticks and stones may break our bones and words can sometimes hurt us. Because words matter.
We are seeing this more than ever before now that social media has become the norm. Twitter wars are breaking out and cyber bullying is now an epidemic. The evidence is there. There is no denying the simple fact that words can have damaging effects on one another. The ramifications are very real and run deep.
Harmful words can lead to the rupturing of a soul. As a mother and wife, I am keenly aware of this truth. Now that my son is 10 years old, he is beginning to share his earliest childhood memories with me. Most of his memories of Mike and I are full of love and kindness (thankfully!). However, one of his most recent shared memories was of unkind words spoken to him around the age of 4 by his father and I, in which he suffered negative consequences. He said our words made him feel unimportant. This was heartbreaking news for my husband and I. Fortunately, we have been able to hear our son, feel his feelings, and repair the rupture we blindly caused him. We have helped our son establish a new thought pattern about himself when he notices that he is feeling unimportant. That new thought pattern is: "I am full of treasures". We revisit these words with him often. We also use our blunder as an opportunity to learn from and grow from as a family. The most important lesson we have all gained from this is that we must choose our words carefully. All of us. Towards ourselves and towards others.
Why do humans sometimes use hurtful words towards one another? Or why do we behave aggressively or defensively towards each other? I have been thinking quite a lot about these questions lately. My conclusion is because we ourselves have been treated this way by other people in our lives at some point. Some of us so much, that it's all we know. Some of us are hurting so badly inside that all we know to do is treat others poorly through our words. It's really a cry for help. I am convinced that not one single person on this planet wants to alienate themselves from another human being. We are all longing for love, connection, reassurance and acceptance. But sometimes one's pain runs so deep, they subconsciously believe that in order to protect themselves from more pain, they must cause pain to another. Not because they want to intentionally hurt someone, but because they are hurting inside. And what that person doesn't realize is the power of their words. Our brains are hardwired for story, so when someone says something hurtful to us, it's more than normal than not, to attach meaning to it and create a story around it, usually a story that has a negative charge. This is why teaching our children that sticks and stones won't break our bones isn't good enough. We must do more than that. We must infuse pure magic into their souls through positive thought processes and affirmations so that they may be armed with a shield of truth.
When we practice positive mental thought patterns, we are literally rewiring our brains and undoing all of the lies from this world we have learned to believe. And this is the magic. With thoughts alone, which eventually become words, we have the power to either create healing. Recently, my family and I have been infusing magic into our souls through positive thought processes and affirmations before we go to bed. The following affirmations have been particularly healing and comforting for us all:
I love and approve of myself and I trust the process of life. I am safe.
I am seen with love, compassion and understanding. All is well.
I trust myself. I am free to be me.
I forgive myself. I forgive others.
I express my emotions freely. It is safe to be me. I express who I am.
I am full of treasures.
This practice allows us to return to our true state, that which we were born into - pure joy and love. We all enter the world as tiny babies, loving fully, expressing ourselves openly and trusting completely. These are all the truths of our being. All the rest is learned nonsense and can be unlearned. How we talk to ourselves will be how we talk to others. Let's all use our thoughts and our words with care and attention. And may we always remember.. words matter.
Please join me this Sunday, January 22nd at AWARE LANCASTER. As a Create Karma Generator and Ambassador, I will be presenting a mini workshop on Nurturing the Next Generation through Yoga + Mindfulness and would love to see you there! It is through mindful actions that we, together, can make lasting changes from within and ultimately for our next generation.
Your Yoga & Wellness Educator
Movement matters. In our modern world, we tend to place a higher value on mental functions like language and reasoning over functions like motor control and body awareness. We see this dynamic playing out in schools when math time takes precedence over recess. Movement is powerfully healing, in more ways than one.
Movement helps to regulate our brains emotionally. Current research is telling us that yoga is like miracle grow for the brain because it helps our brain cells grow, in other words, to be in a state of neuroplasticity. Yoga and other forms of movement help to stimulate a protein inside of our brains called BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor, a crucial biological link between thought, emotions, and movement. A thinking brain is a movement brain. The only way to get a kid to sit still and concentrate is to move first.
Yoga increases hippocampus growth, the part of our brain that stores memory. Yoga releases GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps slow down the release of cortisol (a stress hormone), thus helping to put the breaks on parts of the brain that are overstimulated. When we are able to access feelings of calm and ease, we are not only better able to focus and concentrate, but are better able to pay attention to our own well - being, thus take greater care of ourselves.
Because yoga is a discipline in mind, body and spirit, when we practice, we become more syncrhonised in these areas. When we are more synchronised in mind, body and spirit, we become more present minded. When we are present minded, we gain more awareness of the world around us, including our relationships with other human beings. In recognizing that we are all connected through the vital life force (prana) that flows within and all around us, we begin to understand the energetic effect we have on people through our thoughts, words, and actions. Through this recognition, our relationships become more meaningful and we see very clearly the importance of treating everyone in our lives; friends, colleagues, strangers and family with dignity, respect, and loving kindness. This is the very heart and soul of a yoga practice.
My life's purpose and my heart's work is to plant the seeds of the powerful practices of yoga for all of our children. My hope is that they understand that to move is to learn, to move is to grow, and to move is to connect to both themselves and to others. This takes a village, which means we, as their mentors, need these practices in our lives as well. I invite you and your children to grow together through moving, learning and connecting in my Family Yoga Classes and Child + Me Yoga Classes, now being offered in Lititz and downtown Lancaster. You can visit me at www.GrowWiseYoga.com for details on class offerings. I look forward to moving, learning, growing and connecting with you and your family!
During my walk outside this morning, I heard the crackling of acorns falling to the ground from the trees above. I witnessed the plummeting of these small, but mighty oak nuts make contact with the ground. Some made it to Earth whole and undamaged, while others split in two. This tiny, yet mighty object from nature instantly reminded me of how I have been feeling over the last several weeks. Too weak to hang on to that which no longer works for me or my family. Brave enough to be willing to grow into my greatest strengths and power because of this letting go. In complete surrender to the unknown of what will happen when I choose to finally let go. All of this, even if it means I might just crack wide open.
The truth is, in order for real transformation to take place, our hearts must be willing to crack open. This process hurts, it's painful, it's messy, and sometimes, it is the only way to break free from habitual patterns that serve solely to keep us small. Patterns that have become so habitual, we mistake them for who we are at our core. Patterns that are so strong, we act on them without even thinking, only to hurt ourselves or others. These patterns, if paid attention to and nurtured properly, can serve as opportunities for growth, if we are open to such a thing. Just as the acorn takes the risk to become a mighty oak tree through surrendering to its old ways, we must take the risk to let old patterns die so that new life can be born again.
Because I desire self - transformation with such fervor, I have invited the full spectrum of emotions into my body. Grief, pain, sadness, surprise, overwhelm, fear, freedom, anger, joy, happiness, trust and distrust. In allowing myself to feel all of these emotions, which feels like a heart cracked wide open, I have been able to clearly see the external influences that have had an impact on my thinking, on my identity, on my soul. In letting go of some of the physical and emotional attachments that do not support the expression of my true essence, I feel like I am one step closer to living more freely and openly from my true strengths and power. From a place of softness. A soft heart is not weakness, but instead courage, strength and true power.
My focus this month has been, in my mind, expansion in thinking. And in my heart, expansion in the ability to deeply feel. Working through my own thoughts and feelings has proven to be both purifying and cleansing. In looking at my habitual patterns and tendencies towards negativity straight ahead and choosing something different, I feel stronger, softer, more courageous and more loving.
The energy of this month, according to ancient wisdom, lends itself to this hard inner work of personal transformation. It is a time of review, reflection and integration. If we want to achieve our burgeoning visions we have set forth for our future selves, we need to let go of the old, of what is not essential, and purify ourselves so that we are able to contain the new. As much as we may long for change, forces within us are frightened of change and want things to remain the same. Our ego defenses create resistances. As we become aware of deep - seated beliefs that shape our feelings and emotions, our ego defenses make it hard for us to make the changes we are so desperately in need of. It is common to feel discouraged and even question our capacity for real change. When this happens, it is essential that we stick with it and commit to making contact with the deeper parts of our soul so that we may move forward in our lives. Even it is painful and difficult.
How do we do this? Where do we begin? Here is a list of what has helped me and may help you too:
1. Carve out space for yourself to listen to your thoughts and to be with your feelings.
2. Engage in self - inquiry.
3. Own your own projections.
4. Set boundaries.
5. Move your body.
6. Sit in stillness.
7. Seek. Trust. Surrender.
8. Listen and receive.
10. Love yourself unconditionally.
May we all burn our way to more courage, strength, and true power through humble acts of softening and letting go. May we all be free, happy, healthy, and more loving towards ourselves and others because of these very actions.
If you are a parent, caregiver, or teacher, see my blog on Teaching Children to Face Fear With a Brave Heart.