Why Paying Attention to This Moment Creates Your Best Future

 

Living in the present moment — it’s the practice at the heart of all mindfulness teachings, and the essence of well-being. But what is it, this thing we call being present? I’m not sure we all share the same answers for what it means, or if it even matters that we do. What does matter, however, is that we know what being present means for ourselves, in a visceral, practical, and non-conceptual way. And perhaps too, that we have a sense of why we even want to be in the present moment, why it’s something we want to set as an intention for our lives.

I believe there’s something inherent in all human beings, something that longs to not feel separate from everyone and everything else, not feel separate from life. At a deep level, we want to heal our fundamental aloneness. When we’re fully present, we feel connected to life and everything in it. We are part of the moment, inside it. So too, there exists a drive within us to directly experience life, freshly, to know our experience more intimately than we can through any idea, concept, memoryor fantasy. We crave the flow experience, to be fully absorbed into an activity, when the doer merges into the doing and the separation between doer and doing evaporates, when all notions of time disappear. We have a longing to lose our separate self so that we can be inside life, of life, part of life. We want, ultimately, to return home to a state we seem to remember at a psychic level, a state of oneness before the me who’s in charge of managing life was formed.

On a more immediate level, we want to be in the present moment because its alternative, the experience of not being present, of being distracted and somewhere else while life is happening, feels unsatisfying. Not being present leaves us feeling empty, unfulfilled, and unreal—like ghosts in our own lives, like we’d gone missing for the whole adventure that is our life. Profound regret appears for so many when they realize that they’ve missed out on their life, that while they were physically present they were never really here, never fully paying attention to the experience at hand. Not being present is like winning a ticket to the most amazing adventure ever created and choosing not to attend. We want to be present so that we can be in life, in the game while this amazing opportunity is here.

Being in the present moment, at its core, includes a few fundamental practices. Most it all, it involves experiencing what’s happening in our senses right now. It’s feeling what our body is feeling, inside and out, seeing what we’re seeing, smelling what we’re smelling, tasting what we’re tasting, and hearing what we’re hearing, as it’s happening now. It means living this moment as a direct sensorial experience, experiencing the feelings and sensations through our body and not our mind’s interpretation of them. Being present means not being engaged in thinking about our past, not projecting our thoughts onto the future, and not engaging in our thoughts about what’s happening right now. It means paying attention to this moment as it’s arising through our senses, without judgment or commentary.

While being present means not being engaged in thinking, it’s important to mention that being present does not require the absence of thought. Being in the present moment doesn’t mean the mind stops producing thoughts, and thoughts in and of themselves are not a problem for presence. Thoughts happen, they keep coming no matter how present we are. Sometimes the thoughts quiet down and more spaces appear between them, sometimes no space appears. It’s not something we can control. To be present with thoughts involves being aware of the fact that thoughts are appearing, but (and here’s the big but) without identifying with those thoughts. In other words, noticing the presence of thoughts without getting involved in their stories or content, without going down the rabbit hole into which they beckon. Being in the present moment means directly experiencing what’s arising in the body, in the senses, which also includes paying attention to what’s happening in the mind.

Simultaneously, living in the present moment involves experiencing whatever’s happening right now without an agenda for where this now needs to lead us. Being present, fully, is turning our attention to right now without trying to build this moment into a potential future, an outcome we think will be good.

Many of us (myself included) struggle with this subtler and less discussed aspect of presence. Deep within us, perhaps from conditioning, perhaps wired into our DNA, perhaps both, there exists a drive to make something with our moments, to move our now-s in a positive direction that will create what we want. As we’re living this moment, a part of us (not always conscious) is relating to now as a stepping stone in the larger path that is our life. We live in a linear frame, with the present moment inextricably linked to an imagined future. This linear frame emits a subtle, sometimes imperceptible energy, but nonetheless, its energy keeps us at a slight distance from life; we’re still doing something with life, making something out of it that will benefit us, moving the separate I forward. With our now perpetually linked to a future then, we cannot trust that it’s safe to truly let go and surrender entirely into this moment, as its own destination.

To be fully in the present moment is to show up for this moment without demanding or expecting that it become or lead to anything else. So too, it’s to be here without using this moment to promote any particular identity, demonstrate that we are or aren’t something we imagine. To be fully present is to relate to each now as a kind of vertical eternity, each moment complete and whole, a hologram of everything; it is to release the idea of now as a point in a linear and finite line from a past to a future, with now serving as an usher between those two points. To live with profound presence is to trust that life will be enough and we will be enough if we simply show up for it one moment at a time. It’s to believe that like a necklace of pearls, life can be well-lived as a series of present moments strung together. The shift into this sort of presence is about letting go of the idea that we are the directors of our life, that we need to use life to achieve a particular agenda, that life is here to move us along or us to move it along.

Living fully present is surrendering to this now, completely, and believing that we do not need to use this moment to achieve a destination of our own strategizing.  But rather, that we can simply show up for life one moment at a time, and trust that just showing up, on its own, will be enough to lead us where we need to go, which ultimately and paradoxically is back to now.

When we pay attention to our senses without judgment, interpretation, or agenda, and refrain from engaging in thinking, we start to experience, at a gut, heart and mind level, that simply taking care of our now-s, one now at a time, showing up for this moment again and again, is in fact the most skillful and successful means for taking care of our then-s, and ending up in a future that we want.  It’s actually a lot easier and less effortful than we’re conditioned to believe. Counter to everything we’re taught, the best way to create a joyful life, a good life, is to pay attention to this moment and then the next and then the next. . . We can only learn this truth through practice, but attending to now is all we ever really need to do.

Practices for Being Present

  1. Take a few minutes each day to drop out of your mind and into your body. Feel the experience of right now as it’s happening in your senses. Experience what it feels like to be alive in this moment in your body. Like a photograph syncing up with its frame, allow your attention to sync into frame with your body. Sense the felt experience of returning your attention to your own physical being.  Feel the sense of relief, calm, joy, or whatever arises as you bring your body your full attention, presence, and intimate company.  Feel the “Aaah yes, I’m here with you, I’m home.
  2. As you go through your day, notice the subtle drive to live the present moment as a means to an end, to be doing something with the moment. See if you can drop that agenda, let go of where this moment should go or what this moment should do energy. Practice surrendering into now, without any thought or plan for a future.  Play with living in this moment as if there really is nowhere else to get to, no next, no future.  Give yourself permission throughout the day to require only one thing from yourself, that you show up for this now. Approach it as an experiment, field work for knowing whether taking care of your present moment, and only your present moment, can be enough, and can in fact generate a good life.
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Living In The Question: When Not Knowing Is The Answer

We are obsessed with knowing.  We demand  answers to all our questions and confusions, answers to even the as-yet unanswerable.  And, we demand that we find answers quickly, to save us from having to sit in the unknown.  We’re taught from the earliest age that not knowing is bad, we’re bad, or at least not as good if we don’t know.   When I was young, I remember turning away from certain careers because I couldn’t figure out how to do them before I had started doing them.  We feel shameand inadequacy for not knowing, revealing a vulnerability that, while natural and legitimate, still makes us feel weak or defective, anxious for exposing our ignorance.  We expect ourselves to know before we’ve even learned or experienced much of anything.  As a result, we fake knowing, come up with answers that we haven’t earned and don’t really know, and thus end up feeling like and being imposters in our own lives.

Most of us learn early, as young children, that we’re supposed to know—supposed to be on top of life, understand it, control it, make it go our way.  We’re supposed to have a plan and if we don’t, there’s something wrong with us; we need to work and try harder.  When we don’t know, we feel vulnerable and unprepared; we’re failing at be one step ahead of life.

When we know the answers we feel safe and most importantly, in control.  We have a plan, an idea, a certainty of mind. We are in charge.  We’re most content when the mind is leading the way forward with a plan of action, a plan of its own making and certainty.

Furthermore, having the answers allows us to dodge out on the present moment, which is another one of our favorite pursuits.  When we know the answers, have it all wrapped up if you will, we no longer have to be in the present moment; we don’t have to remain open to the ever-changing conditions and experiences that might guide our way.  Once we know, we can turn away from now; our path is paved even if life changes that path or us as we go.  We’re sticking with the plan; we’ve got the map so we can throw away the path.  Knowing allows us to stop paying attention to what’s actually happening, the place where we actually are.  Paying attention, staying fluid, is not needed because our mind has decided what is so and what will be.  Thankfully, we’re done with now.

Most of the answers we come up with, particularly the ones that we rush into before really knowing, come from the mind, not the heart, gut, experience, or our deepest wisdom.  We think our way into knowing.  And, we feel more comfortable when the mind, the thinker, is in charge; we are most comfortable when we are a separate entity, a little head doing life.  From its throne, the mind comes up with the answers and then steers our body and spirit around according to its plan, regardless of whether its plan matches our deeper truth.

What we’re really afraid of is to be in life, in step with it and not a step ahead of it, trying to control the way (as if we could).  We’re afraid to leave life open, unresolved, to let life reveal its answers as we go, to be present in our life and not outside it, managing it, controlling it.  We’re afraid to be vulnerable and not in charge, to surrender to the mystery of what we can’t yet know and may never know.  When we live in the questions and stop trying to know what we don’t know, we’re choosing to pay attention to what’s happening now, our experience, and the choices we want to make given these truths.  We’re agreeing to discover rather than know, based on what’s actually arising—not our predetermined idea of it; we’re forming a handshake with our experience, relaxing the reins and letting life show us the way.  When we stop trying to know everything, we’re reassigning the CEO role in our life—from the mind to life itself, the truth, our experience, not the mind—whatever you want to call it, which can only tell us what we need to know as we go, and only if we will humble ourselves and listen.  Living in the question, in essence, involves a shift from knowing to listening.

It turns out that the questions are a place we can indeed inhabit.  We don’t know it, we’re taught not to know it, but we can in fact plant our feet right here in the not knowing. The first time someone suggested that I live with a question, I had no idea what that phrase meant, or perhaps more accurately, no idea how to embody that sentiment.  Living meant knowing and so if I didn’t want to disappear or live with extreme anxiety, I had to solve the questions that were unsolved.  Living and questions were contradictory.  I needed sure ground, which for a younger me meant known ground.  Known, not just for what was happening in the present moment, but known as to where I was headed, what was happening and to be done with what was happening.

But I can also remember the first time a friend told me that he didn’t know but was living in the question.  Maybe it was a change in the verb or preposition he used, from live to living or with to in, or maybe (and more likely) it was my own evolution, the earned wisdom to know that I was not in control even if my mind told me I was.  But with the aliveness of the word living and the inclusiveness of the word in, an undeniable sense of relief descended upon me, like an injection of relaxation, of presence.  It felt like I had dropped through a trap door—into now, like I had been given permission to live here in what was true now, the not knowing now, and let the answers (if they came) reveal themselves to me.  It gave me permission to not have to go out and make the answers happen or manufacture them from my mind.  Living in the question meant that I could follow the truth as it unfolded.  With permission to be in the question, I was offered residence in this moment; I could give up my delusion of control and better yet, my responsibility for being in control.  Blessedly, I didn’t have to be in control.  All that living in the question meant was agreeing to be awake and aware, to be present and discover the answers as I went, and, to stay open to the answers changing.  Living in the question allows us to be in life, letting life guide us rather than our minds endlessly trying to steer life.  Living in the question allows us to open to the infinite mystery, life unfolding in its own way, with us as part of it, along for the ride…to open to being part of a larger universe which is not in our charge.

When we don’t know, not knowing is the truth, anything else is made up, a way to try and feel safe, to control what feels uncontrollable at the moment.  Living in the question, no matter how it feels, is living in the truth, which, once we get the hang of it, contains its own safety and trustworthiness.  The safety and trustworthiness of the truth is not, however, gauged by what we usually gauge safety by, namely, solidness, knowability, and contents we like.  But rather, the truth, the not knowing in this case, offers safety because of its inarguable-ness, its is-ness if you will; the safety of not knowing is unharmed by the fact that the situation is fluid, not solid, transforming and evolving, shifting beneath our feet.  Living in the question means planting our feet in moving ground, accepting that we’re in a process without a known outcome, that the process is the destination, for now.  In so doing, we’re also agreeing to be humble, to surrender our badge as master of the universe, to admit that we don’t have all the answers, that we await further clarity, to be offered by something larger than ourselves.  Living in the question, while not familiar perhaps, ultimately, proves to be the most alive, fresh, and real place we can hope to inhabit.  We thought courage meant knowing all the answers, but as it turns out, that answer itself was wrong.  Courage means being willing to not grab for a mind-made shore when we’re genuinely at sea, to not shut life down and out with answers, but to simply keep living, here, in our humble not knowing, awake in the mystery.  At the end of the day, our questions are our portals, the doorways through which we access now.

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Keep It Juicy Podcast: Mindful Relationships

Nancy will be talking MINDFUL RELATIONSHIPS on the        KEEP IT JUICY podcast.                                                                February 6, 2019  https://www.keepitjuicy.com/

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Do You Have the Courage to Stop Doing?

From human doing to human being…how a little stillness can go a long way…

Our basic state of wellbeing is obscured because of the essential paradigm (or misunderstanding) we live by, namely, that we are human doings, not human beings.  We see ourselves, our value, as being the sum total of our experiences and accomplishments—what we’ve gotten done.  Many people grow up with parents who, in trying to do right by their kids, are constantly showing them how to improve themselves and find better ways to be productive.  On its face there’s nothing wrong with wanting to teach our kids to make things happen or be good at doing things, but children often grow up feeling that they are loved precisely because of their ability to do, accomplish, and succeed.  That if they were to stop being productive, they would cease to belong and be loved.

Our doings are what we believe we have to offer, what make people proud of us, love us, and even more fundamentally, what we think we are made of, the very substance of our being.  Who we are, our identity, is what we accomplish, what we can do and have done. We are good, lovable and important if we are productive; if we’re productive, we matter.  I have seen countless people living on the anxious treadmill of productivity, terrified to step off and pause—to stop doing—and thus risk losing their basic sense of worth.

If we even dare to think about stopping, stepping off the wheel of productivity, our mind tells us that we will be lazy, passive, taking the easy way out, getting nothing done, being worthless.  Boiled down, the mind convinces us that if we stop doing, we’re bad.  If we stop striving, we will end up with nothing—doing nothing, getting nothing, being nothing.  We are conditioned to believe that if we don’t whip ourselves into action, don’t demand continual accomplishment and forward movement, we will collapse into sloth and torpor as it’s the only other option to the wheel we’re trapped on.

We don’t trust that if we were to allow ourselves to stop, to be where we are without trying to get somewhere else, that our own organic desire to do, create and take action would naturally arise, that life would continue happening and we would continue being part of that flow. We have not been taught to trust what’s actually true, namely, that something in us longs to do and create; it doesn’t need to be threatened and corralled into productivity in order to save us from being bad or worthless.

Linking our value and existence to perpetual doing keeps us in a state of fear, terrified to unhitch from the wagon of productivity, the drive to keep moving forward, not trusting who we will be or even if we will be when we unhitch.  In this modern paradigm, we see life itself as an act of doing, something we have to make happen, by continually doing and kicking the wheel of experience and what’s next.  Our life, as we experience it, is created through the accumulation of experiences we generate. Life is something we have to do something with, as in, What are you going to do with your life? As such, it feels as if doing is necessary to keep ourselves in actual existence.  Stillness, on the other hand—not getting somewhere, not getting something done, not being productive, is imagined as a kind of void or absence, a place where we don’t experience life.  The way we learn it, doing equals life.  Not doing, when the wheel stops, equals death, or non-existence.

We live as human doings in part because we’re not taught that just being is a something, a place, an experience of its own.  We’re not taught that our own presence, our being, is a destination, a place of value, a place to inhabit that has its own sensory aliveness.

From the time we’re very young we learn that our head or mind is where life happens, where the action is, where the pilot sits.  We award our mind with the throne of life, king/queen of all domains. Our body, on the other hand, we relate to as a functional object, a Sherpa that transports our head from one place to another, thanklessly facilitating the doing that the mind commands.  If not simply moving the mind around, the body is something we use as another agent of doing, to achieve excellence in sport or other such endeavors, thereby adding to the pile of accomplishments and experiences that make up our sense of worthiness.  In addition, our body is viewed as an entity that for the most part doesn’t exist other than to provide us with pleasure or pain.  The body is an object that appears out of oblivion only when directly stimulated, or when a disruption occurs and thus interrupts its basic invisibility, as is the case with illness, injury, and aging.

But the problem is that when we ignore the body and relate to it as a non-entity, a non-place, undeserving of our own attention except when absolutely necessary, we effectively sever access to our inherent un-produced sense of worth.  Disconnected from the body, we become untethered from a sense of fundamental mattering, not because of what we do, but just because we are. The body is the portal to experiencing our aliveness, one that precedes and outlives any and all accomplishment, an aliveness that remains constant even when we step off the wheel of doing.  It’s through the body that we directly experience a sure sense of our own wholeness, and the knowing that we are already everything we need to be, and we already matter.

When we drop out of the head and into the body, pouring our attention out of mind, without an agenda and without trying to make something happen that the mind is dictating, we immediately feel a sense of just being.  Inside the body, we experience the hum of life, an energy, something that’s happening on its own without our having to manage, control, force or do it.  Through meditation, body practice, or simply choosing to experience the body from the inside out, we can learn to ride the waves of the breath, sense the body breathing itself. The practice of just encountering what’s here that requires no effort, builds a trust in us, that there exists a life force bigger than us, an aliveness that we exist within and are made of, and perhaps most importantly in this context, for which we are not in charge.

Joining with the body and experiencing how it is right now, feeling what’s actually happening inside you, without writing a narrative about what’s happening, or constructing a story about what it says about you or anyone else, but just experiencing now as it is in your body, is a courageous and profoundly radical choice. When we make our body a destination, make the choice to inhabit the body with kindness and curiosity, in stillness, without demanding anything from it, or judging what we find, we can know a direct experience of being, a sensation of our own existence, which doesn’t require any action to create or maintain. It takes courage to leave the mind and drop into the body, a willingness to reject or doubt what the mind tells us will happen to us if we leave it for even a moment.  But for that courage, we are rewarded with a deep trust in and intimacy with our own being, and a knowing of its inherent worth.  Just the opposite of the idea of absence that the mind scares us with, what we find in the body, away from the mind, is presence.

In experiencing the sensations of the body, not noticing them from the head but allowing ourselves to actually feel them directly from inside the body, we discover that life is happening here, now, without our help.  And in fact, we don’t need to keep kicking the wheel, creating life.  Tuning into the hum of just being, we uncover a sense of wholeness and worth that is inherent, un-earned, un-manufactured, un-efforted, and utterly unrelated to accomplishment.  We discover a sense of our own value that just is, a gift of being alive.

 

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How to Not Burden Our Kids With Our Own Emotional Stuff

Being a good enough parent on a practical, task-based level is a bit like doing an iron-woman triathlon—daily.  But the real triathlon of parenting is the work that goes into staying awake and aware of our own emotional “stuff” and not putting that on or leaking that into our relationship with our kids.

I recently witnessed, yet again, how utterly vital self-awareness and discernment are for the job of good parenting.  I’ve known my friend Dan (all names are changed) for a good long time.  Because he’s been in my life for decades, I’ve also known his kids since they were born and have my own relationship with his son and daughter, who are now teenagers.

On a recent walk, Dan was raging to me about his teenage daughter Kim and an incident that had just occurred between them. Earlier that morning Kim had been taking photos and Dan, who knows a lot about photography, had offered Kim a suggestion for how to frame her photos in a more rich and interesting way.  Kim, who is 15, had gotten irritated with her father and rejected his suggestions, telling him to leave her alone so she could take her own photographs the way she wanted to.

Dan was very angry because, according to him, Kim rejected everything he offered because she didn’t respect him.  In his narrative, his daughter didn’t think that he was someone who knew anything of value.  She ignored his suggestions because she didn’t think he was someone whose opinion mattered.

I listened to my friend with a lot of mixed feelings.  I knew that this narrative about not being valued for what he offered had been Dan’s experience since I knew him.  I was aware that my friend had struggled with feeling invisible for his entire life, and that he had always felt unseen, unappreciated, and unvalidated in his work.  I knew that this was Dan’s “stuff” being triggered by his daughter’s healthy need to make her own choices and create in her own way.  I felt sad too for my friend and his desire to have his daughter appreciate him and be valued for all that he did know.

As Dan expressed his anger to me, I also had in my mind conversations I had exchanged with his daughter.  She had shared with me how controlled she felt by her father, how he never could let her do anything her way and had to constantly teach her something and show her what he knew.  She had expressed great frustration that her father was constantly trying to improve her and could never just be with her as she was or let her be who she was.  She felt that she was relentlessly being fed the message that she wasn’t good enough.  She had to do everything better–be better.

Simultaneously, because Kim is an emotionally savvy young woman, she was able to see that when she took suggestions from her father, she felt like the whole experience became about him, like she was being held responsible for making her dad feel valued, important and seen.  She naturally then resisted taking his suggestions because she felt like to do so kidnapped her experience and turned it into a “Look what dad can offer you… see what a valuable person/parent dad is,” all of which she (understandably) wanted nothing to do with.

I knew all this as Dan raged on about Kim’s crimes and how she was deliberately rejecting his wisdom and expertise.  When he got to the end of his rant and wanted me to validate his feelings, I was in a bit of a pickle.  But because he is a dear friend, and because I love Kim too, I felt required to speak a bit about what I saw happening.  And so I empathized with him about his frustration and anger.  I tried to make space for the feelings of invisibility and dismissal that he was expressing.  And then I offered too, a possible other explanation for why Kim might not want his photography advice, one that might lessen the sting, but at the cost of contradicting his storyline.

I reminded my friend that Kim was 15 and needed to learn, but also to be allowed to figure things out for herself and that it was terrific she was playing around with the camera at all.  And I told him that I knew, for sure, that she did not think he was a piece of crap, as he had decided was the case, but rather that she was trying to become a person in her own right and sometimes his suggestions felt like they worked against that for her.  I tried to be gentle with him and decided to leave out the age-old quality of his storyline, how he had been struggling with these feelings long before Kim appeared on the scene with her camera.  I also left out my belief that he was accusing his daughter of intentions that didn’t belong to her.  I knew Dan was raw and that feeling unvalued was his core wound, and so I simply attempted to add another possible experience, truth, or frame (Kim’s) into his storyline, to bring some air into his airless narrative, to break up the solidness and certainty of the story he had constructed around his daughter.

The truth was I felt compassion for both Dan and his daughter, and I wasn’t sure how to help the situation other than to hold up all the truths that coexisted—that meant Dan’s feelings of invisibility, his wish to not only be valued but also teach his daughter where he could (which was a healthy desire), and Kim’s need to be valued as she was, without improvement, and her need to not have to continually validate her dad for his knowledge, to make up for her dad not having been seen by the world.  But what I couldn’t sit by and allow was my friend’s assignment of blame to his daughter for what was his own wound; I couldn’t simply watch as he denied his own “stuff” and placed it on her.  The experience with Kim had indeed triggered his core wound, yes, but not because she intended to do so.  He was making something that had nothing to do with him about him, collapsing his personal experience with a larger truth, which was not okay.

When I shared Kim’s experience with Dan, an experience that was radically different than the one he had assigned her in his narrative, my fantasy was that he would suddenly feel a wave of fatherly compassion for his daughter, that he would be able to step out of his own ego story, ego defense, and feel empathy for his daughter’s experience of never feeling enough, of always having to be better (so that dad could feel valuable and visible).  But nowhere in me did I really think that scenario would happen, and indeed it didn’t.  My friend stayed loyal to his ego defenses, stuck with his narrative, and exploded at me.  By offering a different truth, namely his daughter’s, I had asked him to look at his own “stuff,” his history and what he was assuming to be truth, and also, perhaps, to open his heart to his daughter’s actual experience rather than the one he was constructing for her.  This, apparently, was not what he was wanting or needing and we decided to convene again when he was calmer.

But all that said, it got me thinking again about how important it is for us as parents to separate out the “stuff” belongs to us, from our histories, and what is actually true for our kids.  What our experience is and what their experience is, letting them co-exist with dignity, as different as they usually are.  We’ve all been Dan at one time or another, and, when we were younger, we’ve all been Kim and had our parents’ stuff hurled onto us.  I grew up in a home that sometimes felt like a house of mirrors, where you were rarely in a conversation that included your actual truth, but rather were related to through the projections of others, always saddled with something you had been assigned (positive or negative) that was part of someone else’s story.  And so, when my friend Dan attached an intention to his daughter that belonged to his story and was not her truth, I felt my own wounding arise.

Often as parents, we are triggered by something our child says or does. If we don’t catch it in the moment or shortly after, if we don’t own our “stuff” as ours and keep it safely away from our kids, we end up in a distorted and confusing relationship with our children, one that denies them the right to have their own truth seen and honored, their own intentions validated, and denies us the possibility of a fresh and truthful relationship with our children.

When we collapse our stuff and their motives, we end up believing that our kids are responsible for re-wounding us in the way that our narrative dictates, when in fact we re-wound ourselves by turning our subjective experience into an objective truth with all the accompanying perpetrators.

Instead, when we are triggered, we can pause, feel the triggered-ness, the wound, and take the experience as an opportunity to bring ourselves compassion.  Our kids, if we can stay awake and aware, offer us the gift that is an opportunity to awaken, pay attention and bring kindness to our own pain.  They show us what’s buried in us; let us not, in our ignorance and defensiveness, bury our kids back in with our pain.

Because we have a subjective experience does not mean it is an objective, capital t Truth.  We can have a very real and strong experience, but that does not mean that the other person is doing that to or at us.  Their actions trigger something in us, but their experience, what’s happening in and for them, is undoubtedly very different than the experience we are having.  And both experiences are true and valid.

Our kids are trying to become people, to individuate and discover who they are.  That’s tough enough without having to figure out, pick through, unstick from, and climb their way out of our storylines.  Our kids awaken in us what we’ve lived, which includes our suffering.  We can bow to our kids, as the messengers of our own pain; they bring it, some of which we might not have even known was there, but they bring it so we can heal from it.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to separate what belongs to us from our own childhoods and adult lives and not intermingle that with our children’s truth.  Their truth belongs to them just as our truth belongs to us.  And all such truths can, with awareness, co-exist in harmony.  Our greatest responsibility as parents, as important as showing up for all the softball games and dance recitals, is our own self-awareness and the willingness to take responsibility for our own “stuff,” to feel what arises without turning it into a story about anyone else.  And in so doing, we offer our kids the dignity of deciding and discovering their own truth and having it heard, without our wounded and wounding intrusions.

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