I am fresh from a training in the Buddhist psychology of loving awareness and amazed by how much of what was covered fits in with the journey of parenting…
Right off the bat, the speaker, Jack Kornfield (LOVE HIM) shared that Buddhist teachings are really a science of the mind, and understanding of our own mind and heart, our inner well being.
Going into this training, I had the mainstream understanding of Buddhism – you know, reincarnation, mindfulness, meditation. I didn’t really understand how well matched many of my beliefs about the world, especially the internal human experience, were with Buddhist psychology. It was not only transformative, but also, a really validating experience to learn more and to listen to language that so eloquently captured how I see the world.
No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are, most often there is a core idea that the soul in its purest form is love energy, the God inside of us. Buddhist’s refer to this as our “Buddha nature”. This spirit that we all have is our raw being – our place of unconditional love and compassion.
What happens as we move through life is that we begin to put on layers and layers of story, judgment, and patterns over this raw spirit. Our experiences, our relationships, our self talk, all of this blocks our access to this place of spirit, this place of loving awareness…
In parenting class I have been talking a lot about “how we show up” to the relationship we are developing with our kids. What is the invitation or the offer we make when we react to their challenging behavior? Do we offer nonjudgmental connection? Space for them to explore their internal experience? Do we offer compassion and openness? An opportunity for our children to feel as though they are seen and heard?
I was speaking about this in my parenting class last night, excited and bright from this amazing Buddhist training, and one of the parents asked, “Yes, but, what does that look like?”
I took a deep breath and admitted, “I don’t know.”
Today I am realizing what a gift her question was… What does presence, loving awareness, and openness to our kids, look like?
Doesn’t this tell a story about the culture and the world we live in? We want to see presence, we want a model, a how-to guide for getting there. And when I say “we” I am including myself as well.
But presence isn’t seen, its felt.
Connection can’t be scripted, it must be lived.
Whoa. I don’t know what you all think of these statements, but they have been a huge shift for me… I have begun to really play with this. I want to know, can I tell when my spirit is connecting with my child? What does it feel like to have an open heart? How does my offer or invitation change when I show up with loving awareness?
What I am finding is, before I can even get there, I have to find the spirit that lives inside of me. I have to do my own work of peeling back the layers, the stories, the fears, the patterns that I have created to keep myself safe.
And there are a LOT of layers.
I could feel the exasperation in the voice of the parent who asked, “what does that look like?” We want to know, we want to get there. and live there, and move through the world from this place of loving spirit.
To have access to that place, we have to practice.
To get to the place of our core, the place where our spirit dwells, we must focus our attention on the most basic of human actions: breath.
When we create a practice around breath, a practice that allows us to quiet our mind, relax our body, and let go of our emotions, our spirit is revealed, our loving awareness is awakened. This is a place of peace, acceptance and compassion. When we think about raising our children, isn’t this the space we want to hold for them?
Moving forward, if we want access to this place in moments of stress and conflict, we first need to allow our body to become familiar with what it feels like to be there. That is where practice comes in to play.
Here is a suggested way to practice:
Find a quiet place to sit.
Gently close your eyes.
Notice your body breathing.
Inhale and exhale for a bit.
Imagine the ocean of your breath – coming in and out like tides…
Thoughts and stories may also appear, you can release them into the tide.
Come back to breath. Stillness. Openness. Loving awareness.
Continue this, noticing thoughts, releasing them, coming back to breath.
Grow this practice. Start off with three minutes, once a day. Expand your time. Increase how many times a day you do this. Show your body what it means to be present in the moment, present with loving awareness, compassion and acceptance.
Your children will thank you.
Only when we know how to get there can we access this spirit in the moment of stress and overwhelm.
Let me know how this goes, I will be practicing too!