Finding Our Center

Breathing in, I fill my body with new air, 
the air of possibilities, the air of the moment…
Breathing out, I let that air leave my body,
centered, present, open to the unexpected…

And so it has been for me lately. 

Friends, I have missed you these past weeks…  I am so excited to be connecting with you right now.  Life has been so busy – the season has had a hand in filling up my days, but I have also been held by the evolution of my own self-care practice, and reflecting on how I show up in the world.

Yes, it’s going to be one of those posts…  But stay with me, I think there is something here for everyone, even those of you who aren’t very woo-woo ;)

So I have been working on bringing mindfulness into my daily practice of being.  I’m sure you have heard the word “mindfulness” out in the world, and some of you may wonder what in the heck it means.  To me, a practice of mindfulness is an effort to be present and curious…  Present in the moment, in my body, and curious about the thoughts and narratives that show up for me throughout the day, during my interactions with others and myself. 

To me, being mindful is the same as being centered.  When I am centered, my body is in an open posture, my thoughts are clear, and my breathing is even.  I embody compassion and tenderness.  I am curious.

As a parent educator, I have the privilege to work with so many loving parents.  Parents who want to keep their kids safe, want to teach them manners, want to feel as though their children have what is needed to be successful and happy in this world.  I mean, its what we all want, right?

Recently, I was teaching a PD Early Years class with a group of parents who have kids under 5.  Actually, this group had kids 2 and under.  One of the mamas, close to due with her second babe said, at the end of class, “So I am still wondering how I get my 2 year old not to run in parking lots…  Soon I will have an infant in a car-seat and won’t be able to chase after him…”  She wanted an answer, the words and actions that would help her handle this situation that was sure to come up.

This happens a lot, a specific example of mischief is shared by a parent, and they look at me with pleading eyes, hoping I can tell them exactly the right thing to do to “fix” the problem.

I was fortunate enough to hear Dan Siegel speak about the teen brain earlier this week.  His work is so powerful, and he is a fantastic speaker…  During the Q&A a mother walked up to the microphone and asked Dr. Siegel if he had any advice about how to handle a teen who was eye-rolling and rude.

His response blew my mind.

“My first piece of advice is for you to find your center.”

What????  Dan Siegel, the BRAIN SCIENTIST is advising a parent to find her center???

This was so totally exciting to me.  This is similar to what I say to parents, and often I get caught up in my own assessment of whether or not they like that advice…  Hearing Dan Siegel say it out loud brought great validation to what I believe.

Positive Discipline is founded on the idea that human behavior is motivated by a person’s perceived sense of belonging and significance.  One of the main criteria for practicing PD is the idea of kindness (connection) and firmness at the same time.  And what do we need to be kind and firm at the same time???  We need to find our center.

A powerful tool that we teach to parents and teachers is called Connection Before Correction, connecting with the child before correcting the behavior.  What do we need to authentically connect with a child engaged in mischief???  We need to find our center.

 Other tools we share – Decide What You Will Do, Validate Feelings, Natural Consequences, Look for Solutions, Follow Through, Take Time for Training, Use Humor, Let Routines be The Boss – ALL of these tools require that we find our center!!!

Parenting is about showing up for our kids, being present, modeling self-regulation.  Part of being a child is exploring the world, testing limits, questioning boundaries, and yes, making loads of mistakes.

2 year olds will run in parking lots.  It’s not safe, its scary.  Teenagers are going to roll their eyes and act rude.  It’s not respectful, it hurts.  Finding our place of center, that place where we aren’t taking their behavior personally, not projecting to what could happen, not being overruled by our emotional attachment to the situation, allows us to truly be there for our kids. 

Some toddlers run in parking lots.  It’s a large space and you are busy and it’s fun.  Is it ok for them to run in parking lots?  No.  Would it help them do better to be shamed, blamed or humiliated?  No.  Would it be helpful to take lots of opportunities to practice?  Yes.  Would it be helpful to have creative conversations about how to move in parking lots before being in that moment?  Yes.  And a parent who can be kind and firm (centered) while handling this phase of their toddler's life will find their children will move through it quicker. 

Some teens roll their eyes and are rude to their parents.  It is a challenging time of development for them and they are making sense of it best they can.  Would they be inspired to be more respectful if we respond with shame, blame and humiliation?  No.  Would it be helpful, and model what we want, by getting in their face and letting them know just how rude they’re being?  No.  Are they likely to want to maintain a relationship with us if we can show emotional honesty?  Yes.  And a parent who is centered can say, “It hurts me when you speak to me like that” and avoid the power struggle that was likely to go down otherwise.

My centering practice begins first thing in the morning.  The internet is full of amazing guided meditations to start your day and set your intentions.  One of my favorites comes from Leonie Dawson and is called The Best Day Ever meditation.  I sit comfortably and really connect with my body and the space around me.  I release what isn’t serving me, replacing it with love and light, tenderness and compassion… 

Each morning, I have been kissing my kids to wake and asking them if they want to join me in meditating.  We aren’t a family that goes to church.  We don’t “pray” in the traditional sense.  Inviting my kids into my morning meditation practice has helped them begin to explore the internal aspect of their human experience…  Sometimes they want to, sometimes they don’t.  But I invite them every day.

Last night I was playing around with some software to create my own guided meditation.  My son came in and wanted to get in on the action…  The result is testament that our morning practice is making a difference.  I have shared it with you at the bottom of this post.

So I encourage you all to be more mindful.  Find ways to connect with your center and set your intentions.  And invite you kids into your practice…  And a practice it is – and your children will continue to offer up daily opportunities to find and move from your place of center!  Let me know how it goes…

Holding you all in loving tenderness,