Archive | March 2014

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – March 2014

IMG_5405Respond; don’t react.
Listen; don’t talk.
Think; don’t assume.”
Raji Lukkoor

I’d like to start a regular, monthly post of conscious parenting techniques, tips or resources that inspire me each month. Since this is the first one, I’ll wait to see if I have enough inspirations to share next month before I call it a “series,” but here, at least, is one month of “inspirations.”

The three techniques that I have been using successfully this month are Lead with Your Intention, Change Grumble to Gratitude (I made that title up, but the substance isn’t new) and Address and Move On.

Lead with Your Intention – After a bit of research, I’ve found that “leading with intention” is a known concept in business and leadership circles, but I first heard the phrase as part of Parenting Educator, Jollette Jai’s, Peace of Mind Parenting Training (now the Jai Institute of Parenting). In one of her talks, Jollette discusses the practice of leading with intention in the course of interacting with her child throughout the day.

Before she responds to a moment of upset for her son, she focuses on her intention going into the interaction.  In one example, she uses the intention of acceptance, which I love. So instead of judging, dismissing or trying to help her son with his feelings, she mentally commits to accepting him in the moment with whatever comes up for him. In this way, setting an intention before responding, she is more able to keep her perspective and respond intentionally (hence the intention).

I really liked this idea and have used it a lot this month with my daughter. It only takes a second and can really transform a situation that I may have reacted to much differently previously. Before bedtime, when I can be impatient to get her in bed and on to my “more adult” tasks, I remind myself to be patient and understanding. With these intentions (that I often repeat as a mantra throughout, to keep my perspective should it start to falter), I am able to let her be the energetic three-year-old she is and take her time winding down naturally, in the loving embrace of her mother, rather than trying to force her to sleep or resenting the time it takes for her to settle down.

Change Grumble to Gratitude This one has done wonders for me and I’ve really enjoyed using it. Simply, whenever I find myself grumbling about something – washing the dishes, being stuck inside all day in the rain, facing a long bedtime wind-down with my daughter (obviously I have issues here…), I immediately change the grumble to gratitude. So “Ugh, look at this messy kitchen,” becomes, “How fortunate we are to have such healthy food and running water.” Disappointment at being inside all day, becomes gratitude for a warm, dry home. Impatience at having to spend precious time in the evening helping my daughter wind down for bed, becomes gratitude for the opportunity to spend quality time alone with her, to leave her feeling loved, or simply for having healthy children. When I counter my initial “grumble” with gratitude, I can often feel a physical change in my body, from tense resistance, to a softening acceptance, and my attitude shifts as well.

Address and Move On – I don’t know if other parents experience this, but at times, I feel less mature than my children (or at least my oldest, luckily I haven’t regressed to infancy yet). An example is my tendency to hold on to things – negative emotions or thoughts – well after the event that elicited them has passed. A disciplinary exchange with my daughter – typically consisting of my asking her not to do something, her doing it anyway and my incredulous or higher octave response – can leave me seething or ruminating, long after she has moved on to other, happier, things. So this month, I have been working on addressing the situation and moving on, often by reminding myself “address and move on.” When I do this, now with more focus on responding vs. reacting (more on this at Authentic Parenting HERE), I find that my daughter and I are more in sync afterward. We both move on together, to happier things.

I hope that some of these things might resonate with you. If they do and you find them helpful, I’d love to hear from you.  Thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you found any conscious parenting tools that have worked for you lately or old standbys that you’d like to share?


Conscious Parenting – Parenting with Presence Part II


We worry what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. –Stacia Taucher

The 2012 Parenting with Presence web conference has ended, but it is still possible to purchase the recorded interviews or review the bios of the speakers for inspiration and future reading material. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give my undivided attention to all of the interviews I wanted to listen to before they went offline, but I managed to glean a few interesting tidbits to share and a few links and resources to file away for future research.

The first interview I listened to was The Present of Our Presence by Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman. They talked about the differences in parenting practices cross-culturally, specifically citing the importance of holding children in the early years and providing age appropriate (which differs across cultures) responsibility to allow children to participate in the family and feel a sense of belonging.

The also talked about the importance of really being present when your children are talking to you and being curious, open and interested in wanting to know more about them, rather than listening half-heartedly or distractedly while thinking or doing other things. This seems like an obvious statement, but I know I am guilty of it, especially with a very chatty three-year-old. Now I try to use her conversations as another reminder to return to the present moment and just listen.

And finally, they recommended taking time for yourself in the morning before your children are up, or if you can get away for a minute if they always wake up before you as mine do. Take this time in the morning to sit and breath for three minutes, or even just three breaths, to bring a loving awareness to your breath or body and your current mental state. They said that even a short amount of time can help bring more focus and attention to how you start your day. HERE are a few mantras to try.

The second talk that I began listening to, but didn’t have the chance to finish, was Managing Conflict Mindfully — Whether in Congress, or at the Dinner Table with Congressman Tim Ryan (but luckily for us there is a great free video of him speaking on mindfulness HERE). Congressman Ryan talked about his interest in mindfulness and mentioned his work with the Inner Resilience Program a program to introduce mindfulness in elementary school, which I would love to see at my daughter’s school!

Another interview that I wasn’t able to listen to as closely as I would have like, but that I want to mention was The Importance of Self-Compassion in Parenting with Thupten Jinpa who is a Tibetan and Buddhist Scholar and the Principal Translator for his Holiness the Dalai Lama (and again there is a free video of him speaking on the subject of compassion HERE.) Thupten Jinpa talked briefly about using compassion as an organizing tool for life, which I really like and want to delve more into.

And finally, I listened to The Transformation Path of Parenting with Gabriel Nossovitch. Mr. Nossovitch came across as a very interesting and likable person. One interesting piece of advice he gave, which is one that I need to remember, is to ask questions rather than give advice when your child, or anyone, comes to you for help. He said that if, instead, you listen and ask questions, it helps your children to take personal responsibility.

Mr. Nossovitch mentioned that children often mirror our own behavior and reveal your state of mind. So when your children are “acting up” or upset, it can help to check in with yourself, to become conscious of your mood or state of mind to see if your children might be responding to you.

He talked about the importance of always assuming positive intent with our children (as much as possible). For example, if you older child hits your younger child (ahem..), instead of just assuming she is being malicious, pause to consider that she might be reacting in the best way she knows how and needs more options for future behavior. So instead of jumping in to lecture her, say something like, “I know you don’t mean to hurt your brother. Are you upset about something you would like to talk about? Can we talk about some better ways to tell him?” I know that as I’ve begun to use this with my daughter it not only softens my response, but helps her to see herself in a more positive light, as well. To read more about this subject from Shelly Birger Phillips of Awake Parent (a wonderful resource), click HERE.

Mr. Nossovitch ended his talk by talking about the importance of noticing vs judging when you interact with your children. When you child does something well, repeat back what the did (“You put the dishes away all by yourself!) rather than just saying “Great Job!” When you praise or judge your child’s efforts you encourage your children to seek your approval. He also reminded listeners about the importance of acknowledging effort and not just focusing on the finished product. Read more about this subject HERE.

I know that this wasn’t comprehensive, but I hope that at least some of information helpful or that you are able to follow-up with the links and videos if you are interested in hearing more from these speakers. Thanks for reading!

How about you? Have you listened to or attended any interesting web conferences lately or read any inspiring books or articles on conscious parenting? If so, I’d love your recommendations!

Conscious Parenting – Parenting with Presence

Mother and Duaghter

“The greatest gift you can give (yourself or anyone else) is just being present.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru

For the past few days I have been listening to interviews on parenting as part of a free online parenting event called Parenting with Presence. Not only have I been inspired, but I have learned some techniques that I want to incorporate into my parenting immediately. Additionally, just by immersing myself in the world of conscious parenting for short amount of time each day, I find myself interacting more consciously and intentionally with my children.

The conference ends today, but the recordings of some of the interviews are still available for three days for free, or the whole conference is available for purchase. At the very least, the bios of the participants are a great resource for future reading and researching.

I would like to share a few highlights of the interviews I have listened to so far.

The first talk I listened to was Mindful Parenting with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Myla Kabat-Zinn. As a fan of their book Everyday Blessings on parenting mindfully, I was excited to hear them speak. 

One thing that really made an impact on me was about the importance of looking behind our reactions to our children’s behavior to find the emotion driving the reaction. When we can uncover this emotion, we can use it to inform the present moment. Typically for me, my reaction is so fast that the thought or feeling behind it is completely obstructed. This happens most often in situations involving my daughter’s aggression towards her younger, still toddling, brother. When I look back at my reactions, I see that there is a desire to protect him and to “punish” her for her aggression. As a more conscious parent, I don’t want to punish my children for their aggression. I want them to understand that aggression is often the result of a natural surge of energy stemming from anger or frustration, and that instead of suppressing it, they can find healthy outlets for that energy. I would love to be able to practice this, to help give me that pause that makes the difference between reaction and response, and help me to respond more kindly.

Myla Kabat-Zinn gave a great practical tip to use when that anger or frustration arises. When we start to feel angry or frustrated, one way to return to the present moment is to bring ourselves back into our body by noticing the feeling of our breath and the feeling of our feet on the floor. Another speaker suggested, noticing the color of the child’s eyes; something that anchors you to that moment with that child. Once we are back in the present moment, we can ask ourselves “What does my child need from me in this moment?” Or some other question that focuses our perspective on the situation at hand and not our interpretation of it.

She advised that, the more you practice being this returning to your body mindfulness in non-stressful moments, the more easily you’ll be able to return to the present moment in stressful moments.

The second talk I listened to was What Nobody Tells You: The Real Secret to Raising Successful Children by Jacqueline Green and Shelly Lefkoe. 

The “secret to being a successful parent” that they talked about is to be aware of what children are concluding about themselves from their interactions with us. When your child walks away from you, ask yourself, “What did they just conclude about themselves from that interaction?” Do they feel loved? Heard? Validated? Or unimportant? I liked this question. It helps return your perspective to one of discipline as teaching rather than discipline as punishment.

Another interesting comment from this interview was that often when we are angry, the anger is motivated by feelings of fear and powerlessness. And frustration is a milder form of anger, also fueled by powerlessness. Like the talk on mindfulness by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, they also suggested looking for the fear or limiting belief behind our reaction. For example, when your child ignores you, your underlying belief might be “I’m not important” or “My Child SHOULD listen to me”. Instead of responding in anger to that feeling of fear or powerlessness, they advise parents to return to the present moment and respond without the fear, either making physical contact with your child to ensure they hear you, or if they are ignoring you, simply saying, “Honey, I don’t like to be ignored. I don’t ignore you.”

Jacqueline Green mentioned that one of her frequent pieces of advice is to aim for lower standards with your children and accept their mistakes. When your child hits another child, instead of thinking, “That’s not acceptable!” Think, “Okay, well that wasn’t very nice. How could we be nicer the next time?” She emphasized that it isn’t that we want less for our children, but by lowering our standards for their behavior, we give them room to make mistakes and learn from them, ultimately reaching a higher standard of behavior.

My favorite interview was Passionately Parenting with Alanis Morissette. I have to say that I wasn’t initially drawn to this interview because, although I like her music, I didn’t know what Alanis Morissette would have to offer in terms of parenting wisdom. It turns out that she has a lot. This interview was not only inspiring in terms of her views and her parenting, but now I just want to hang out with her. She is that cool!

In her interview, Alanis Morissette talked about the importance of staying connected and present with your child when they are upset, describing how she and her husband remind each other to, “Sit with it, sit with it, stay, stay, stay,” during difficult times with their son.

She talked about how important it is for parents to understand the stages of emotional development in children, so they can more consciously meet their children’s needs at those critical times. She described the stages mentioned in Harville Hendrix’s book Keeping the Love You Find, which is inexplicably, yet conveniently, available HERE.

She related the Five Stages of Grief from the KüblerRoss Model to a child’s reactions when they don’t get what they want. It was, at the same time, amusing and insightful.

Stages When Someone Says No:

  • Denial – She can’t really mean no. I’m going to whine until she changes her mind.
  • Anger – You are a terrible mother. I hate you!
  • Bargaining – I just want a treat now. I haven’t had one today. I won’t ask for one tomorrow.
  • Disappointment – Crying (this is when we allow space for our children to feel their feelings).
  • Acceptance – Acceptance that there is not treat forthcoming and if their feelings were heard they can move on.

I really appreciated her take on non-judgement of behavior. She advised to “separate the behavior from the little person.” She sees the behavior as neutral as in that it may or may not work given the context – hitting your siblings isn’t okay, but if you are in boxing match, hitting is expected. She says to her son, “That behavior is NOT awesome, but YOU’RE awesome. Now lets look at that behavior. I really liked this one and have started to use it with my daughter to remember to parent more kindly. I have been saying, “I love you, but I didn’t love that behavior. Can we talk about that?” or “How could you do that more kindly?”

And another gem that I will definitely put into practice was her mantra of “Do no harm.” She advised on those days when you just don’t have anything left to give, just being there and giving your quiet presence is often good enough. Instead of yelling or otherwise giving into frustration when you are worn out, simply be with your children and don’t expect more from yourself. “Do no harm.”

The last interview I will mention in this post is Mindful Motherhood with Cassandra Vieten. Cassandara Vieten had a wealth of practical parenting tools.

She also talked about the importance of being with your child in the moment of their upset and suggested the following inner monologue: My child is crying. What is she trying to tell me? I’m going to figure this out and try to help her. I’m going to let go of what I think should be happening and accept what is. I’m going to let go of my ideas of who I am as a mother, what this all means and just be here 100% present in this moment.

She also compared a child’s emotions to waves or a storm on the seas. When an actual storm happens, we cannot stop the storm, we can just hold our children and keep them safe until it passes. It is the same with emotional storms. Instead of trying to make the feelings go away, just sit with your child and keep them safe until the storm passes.

She acknowledged that it can be difficult to be mindful and present with our children when they are experiencing strong emotions and suggested that, when something happens with your child (outburst, tantrum, etc). Think, “Okay here we are. My child is doing _______ or feeling _________ . I am feeling ___________. What can we do?” And make a decision based on the situation as you see it in that moment without external or internal input. She advised to make eye contact, voice contact, skin contact with your child to connect to them.

She noted that there are times that this rational thought is not immediately accessible when we are wrapped up in strong emotions, we have the choice to go into “survival mode.” To do this, she said, focus on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet and breathe, and just stay present with your child until the moment passes.

That is all I have for now, but my hope is that some of what resonated with, might also resonate with others who didn’t have a chance to listen to the talks. More interviews have become available now and I look forward to learning, and sharing, more.

Have you listened to any inspiring talks on parenting lately? Do you have any bits of inspiration to share?

Conscious Reminders


We gain the strength of the temptation we resist. Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have a serious sweet tooth. I would almost go so far as to call it debilitating. After I eat a meal, at any time of the day, I immediately begin craving something sweet. If I don’t give in to the craving, it gnaws on me, invading every thought, mentally darting around my kitchen, rummaging through cabinets, searching for something, anything to fill the void. Once satisfied, the urge gradually recedes, only to come up again a short while later. I’ve tried barring desserts from my kitchen, because if there is nothing sweet to eat, there’s nothing sweet to eat. However, my resourceful sweet tooth will often settle for a cereal bar, a bowl of cereal or a homemade banana pancake. Even after a “healthy” sweet, I still feel guilt at having given in, knowing the adverse effects of sugar on my body.

But finally today, I realized that it is more than a health issue – it is an issue of consciousness and of self-control. If I can’t resist the urge to eat something, how will I learn to resist the urge to yell when I’m angry, or say thoughtless things or realize any of the other myriad of ways I’m hoping to change for the better through conscious living?

So I decided to use my sugar cravings as a reminder.

A reminder that I have a choice to follow a craving or resist.

A reminder that I am seeking pleasure or distraction and removing myself from the present moment.

A reminder to return to the present moment and savor it.

Instead of caving to my sweet tooth, or becoming frustrated by the constant pull, I will try to welcome them as reminders to live more consciously. Wish me luck!

You can read more about mindfulness reminders here: Developing Mindfulness Triggers

What about you? Do you have any regular thoughts or cravings that you could turn into reminders to return to the present moment?

My Paths to Conscious Living


When walking, walk. When eating, eat. -Zen Proverb

Like many people who have chosen to live a more conscious life, my path to conscious living had several different beginnings, in several different places. In my early 20s, a developing consciousness of politics and a voracious appetite for documentaries provided me with awareness of the reality behind many situations I would have previously accepted as truth. In my mid-20s, a change in eating habits led to more awareness, and conscious choice, of what I was putting in my body. In my late-20s, an extended trip abroad opened my eyes to the different lives, values and rituals, leading me to question some of my own. In my 30s, the transformation from individual to mother, revealed many of my faults and how they would adversely impact my children if I didn’t work to consciously change them.

All of these paths have led me to a place where I am more aware of the effect people, food, “things,” media and past life events have on my current life.This path has helped shape my values and cultivate habits that reflect these values – leading me to a life I am proud of.

But although, I am proud of where I am and the choices I have made (that are right for me and may not be right for others), I feel that I am ready for the next step, and that is not just a conscious life, but a more mindful existence.

The most difficult part of beginning a more conscious life, I am finding, is remembering to stay conscious. So often I will find myself at the end of the day, thinking, “Did I remember to live consciously?” And more often than not, I find that I lived the day in a typical mix of consciousness and autopilot, rarely conscious of my desire to be so.

And so I started repeating variations of a Zen Proverb – when walking, walk. When eating, eat. – throughout my day. And I started to live more consciously. Typically when I walk into my messy kitchen, I immediately begin thinking, What can I do while I wash the dishes to avoid being aware of the fact that I am washing dishes? Who can I call? What can I listen to? But instead of acting on my thoughts, I started to repeat, When washing dishes, wash dishes. And it worked. I just washed the dishes.

And it when on throughout the day:

When cleaning up the toys, clean up the toys.

When cooking, cook.

When playing with my son, play.

When driving, drive.

I didn’t remember to stay conscious the whole day, but it did help to remind me of my intention to stay conscious more than a typical day. And for me, a little progress is enough to celebrate right now!

Read more about Mindfulness here: What Is Mindfulness?  Or here What is Mindfulness? Or here: Wake Up! A Guide to Living Your Life Consciously

What about you? What draws you to a more conscious existence? Are there any mantras, routines or rituals that you use to remind yourself to stay conscious throughout your day?

More Conscious Bedtimes


“I wonder if I’ll miss these moments, these requests for “one more hug and kiss,” “Two more hugs and kisses.” I could go in every time to make up for a lifetime of nights I’ll probably long to hear a request for “another hug and kiss,” But then I’d never get anything done.” – From my Mothering Pages 5/16/12

I wrote these words almost two years ago. When I read them again just yesterday, it occurred to me both how prophetic and relevant they are to today.

At three and a half, my daughter, suddenly decided that I was no longer “Mommy,” but “Mom.” And not just “Mom,” in the casual, “Hi, Mom,” sense, but more “Maaah-ahm,” in a tone of teenage superiority. She also decided that, “Stop it” was the proper way to begin any conversation and that aggressive-shadow kick boxing in my direction (or that of her brother) was the ideal way to respond to any perceived slight.

None of these new behaviors came as much of a surprise, just more spirit, tacked on to an already well-defined spirited personality (although I admit that the “promotion” to “Mom” stung a bit”). What was a surprise was the behaviors that disappeared. Gone were the spontaneous hugs in the morning, gone were the outstretched arms when I came home, gone was the easy reception of my affection.

I missed the affection. And the connection.

I realized that I needed to make some changes. Since my son was born, I have had less opportunity to spend time with my daughter one-on-one. Where I used to carry her, because, as I would tell her, it was so much easier to kiss her face; I now carry her brother. Where I used to rock her to sleep, I now nurse her brother. Where we used to bond over daily walks to the park; now there are three. But the one time I do have is bedtime.

Bedtime has long been a struggle for us. She wanting me to stay and sleep; me wanting to leave and enjoy the few precious moments I have to myself each day. She asking for “one more kiss and one more hug;” and me asking for her to understand that “Mommy needs Mommy Time now.” She continuing the happy playfulness of her day in her bed; me, spending most of our time together, counting down the songs until “Mommy” leaves to try to get her to settle down. Typically, before we reach the end of the third song, she’s snoring peacefully and I can tiptoe out to claim my own space in the day.

But lately, my escapist mentality has begun to feel wrong – not the least because of the few days she makes it well past the third song and I leave a sad, begging child in my wake as my sense of parental righteousness becomes guilt once I walk out the door – but more because I’ve started to ask myself – what is this “important stuff” that I have to do in the 15 minutes it would take me to lay with her while she sleeps? What is so urgent? What is more important than my child or more urgent than savoring the precious moments that I am still “Mommy?”

So I’ve stopped counting songs and reminding her to “calm down” that “it’s time to sleep.” I just lay down and listen to her sing her sleepy songs; to ask her questions, “Mommy, how did the mouse get lost?” To listen to her latest stories, “Ms. P. read the funniest book in school today.” To listen to the urges in my mind and my body to “get up and do something productive” and remind them that this is something, that this is important. To relish in the kisses and cuddles that don’t come so easily during the day. To cherish the fluttering of her eye lashes, the natural slowing of her breath, and to know that she falls to sleep every night secure in the arms, and love, of her mother.

Here is another inspiring post from The Orange Rhino about the restorative relationship benefits of a more conscious bedtime: An Intentionally Long Bedtime – The Orange Rhino