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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Believe

To believe in more than ourselves and more than we can see is an amazing thing. Right now, my children's hearts are full of belief in magic, generosity, and Santa Claus.

To watch them write their lists, spend days contemplating what they will leave him for a snack, and track Santa across the world online has been a joy and a wonder. This morning Walkingstick raced upstairs in a panic to find me. He'd been online and was absolutely certain that Santa was going too slow and was not going to make to our house in time. He was desperately anxious for reassurance that he really would make it.

In an age when many children no longer believe in Santa and lose their innocence so young, I am so grateful that my sons still believe. Although they have asked many questions this year wondering how it can all happen, they truly believe in the wonder and spirit of Santa Claus. We generally encourage them to think of their own answers to how he can travel the world and it is always amazing what they come up with. They are much more creative than we would be.

We heard about a book this year called The Truth About Santa. It suggests that Santa uses all sorts of science to manage him monumental task. As we talked about warp drives taking him from one place to the next in a split second, Gigglebox had a huge aha moment. "That's why Christmas Eve always seems so long, Mom, because Santa stops time with his warp drive!"

There is always magic in the season of the Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza. For me it is the gathering of family, the gift of time together, the light we bring to each others hearts as we move beyond our own lives to consider others, and an opportunity for all of us to consciously practice compassion.

May this season bring you much joy and may you find compassion in your heart for yourself as well as those whom you touch each day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Compassion for ourselves

I taught a meditation workshop yesterday afternoon that was lovely and peaceful and very illuminating. I do not consider myself a meditation expert, but really enjoy introducing people to the concept of meditation and especially compassion focused meditation.

As we practiced, the theme of compassion emerged. This in the first yama of the eight-limbed path of yoga and is called Ahimsa in sanskrit. One student provided the best opportunity to demonstrate the practice of Ahimsa.

We were practice a metta blessing of loving-kindness toward ourselves. When we finished, she shared that she often struggles in life with giving too much of herself to others. During the meditation she found herself thinking of others when she was intending to focus on compassion for herself. Then, she was critical of herself for this. I so appreciate her honesty.

This is exactly what most of us do in meditation and in life. And this is the perfect moment to then practice compassion for ourselves. Recognizing that this is a pattern of thinking we have engaged in for many, many years and that we practice compassion by gently recognizing that we have strayed in our focus and returning to our intention. That is the practice and we offer ourselves opportunities everyday to recognize those moments and practice Ahimsa.

I see this harsh evaluation of missteps in myself and in my children. As a parent I try to model compassionate responses as often as I can, but definitely struggle when I'm having a difficult day. On those days I easily get caught up in the negative thoughts streaming through my mind and struggle to let go and refocus on compassion, for myself and them. The judgment creates barriers and walls between me and my children (or anyone else I am upset with), whereas compassion creates connections and understanding.

Image how the world can be different if we all work toward being more compassionate toward ourselves first, filling our own bucket, and then we can truly share that compassion with others, filling theirs. That positive energy can make such a difference in the world.

How often do you focus on cultivating compassion for yourself?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Getting stuck

Last week a friend posted a comment that she was having one of those days where she was seeing more of what she didn't have than what she did have. We all have those moments, days, or weeks where we get stuck and cannot seem to get unstuck. It seemed a simple, honest statement at the time, but it blossomed into a powerful teaching tool about perspective and attitude.

That evening one of my sons began lamenting about not getting the brownie he wanted and was nearly inconsolable with the unfairness of it all as he went to bed. The other was frustrated with a situation that wasn't going right for him at school. My friend's comment popped into my head and sparked an attitude adjustment for us all. I talked with them about having a choice to focus on what they didn't get and what went wrong or to put their attention on all the opportunities and things they did have and that had gone right. As we listed off the many positives in their day, the negatives began to seem quite small and insignificant. When offered that seemingly simple choice, both were able to move on and let go of the drama of the moment. Getting unstuck.

I so appreciate that my friend shared her struggle that day. Without her honesty I would not have had the inspiration to teach that concept to my sons. It is not easy to admit when we are struggling or stuck. I find when I do, others are there to support me and find a connection with their own struggles. Admitting frailty and failure, while difficult, helps me to be more compassionate and gentle with myself and others, and to remember to embrace all that I do have.