Plant nothing but love

I just completed a twelve-week class with ZENVC, which was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to cultivate mindfulness and their ability to practice non-violent communication.

One of the other students posted a poem by Rumi in the online classroom called “One Tree”, which I really loved. Here is my favorite line from the poem:

rumi

My mindfulness journey – Frustration and Beauty

Since I believe that mindfulness is such an important part of nonviolence in general and as a parent in particular, I am going to occasionally share stories about my own mindfulness journey and I hope that you will share yours. By seeing how others undertake this process, I am hoping that we will all feel less alone along the way. I wrote this piece in January.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Luigi Torreggiani

Photo courtesy of flickr user Luigi Torreggiani

After a month of regular meditation practice I still can barely keep my body still, much less my mind. I do not feel calm or centered; I feel frustrated. I keep trying different positions, different cushions, but my knees and back ache. I set the timer and give myself a pep talk. “You are resisting. Give it time. If it was easy, everyone would achieve supreme enlightenment.” So far, my time on the cushion has not been spent in deep contemplation, and certainly not in a state of alert relaxation. It has been spent persuading myself to stay there.

Stillness is not comfortable for me. Neither is patience. This is why I’m on this cushion in this cold room in the predawn darkness while my family and my left foot sleep. My need to control, to painstakingly, meticulously craft every moment for myself and the people around me through a flurry of nonstop action, is no longer working for me if it ever did. I know it is time to abdicate authority over my life to something greater than myself, I know it in my bones, yet my zone of comfort is well-fortified by ego and maintained by inertia.

I think about my first car, affectionately called The Tank. It wasn’t in great shape when I bought it, and after seven years of faithful service to me it was clear that it was time for The Tank to retire, but I had worked hard to buy it and I wasn’t ready to give it up. It had given me many miles, many fun road trips. It was ugly, embarrassing even, and increasingly unreliable, but it hadn’t always been that way. Against all reason, I held out hope that one more trip to the mechanic would bring it back to life.

I return to my breath, wiggle my toes and check the clock. Ten minutes have passed. It feels like it’s been ten hours. Armed with a list of things I’d rather do with these rare moments of quiet, I decide to bail.

I am about to rise from the cushion when I’m stopped by a breathtaking scene emerging beyond the window. The sun peeks over the horizon, illuminating the fog while bold calligrapher’s strokes are etched across the stark white canvas of mist. I watch the sun inch higher, the moisture burn away, and the black lines become the limbs of familiar trees before my eyes. I am surprised when the timer rings and my thirty minutes are over.

I want to capture what just unfolded. I try to photograph the scene through the window, I sit on the wet pavement of my driveway, but it is gone. That particular instant of fleeting beauty is unique to the particular vantage point of the zafu on my office floor and a particular moment when the weather and the sun’s position in its ascent are just so.

I think maybe I’ll sit again tomorrow.

I sent this to my Sensei, and his response was, “Keep sitting. Expect nothing.”

The $64,000 Question of Attachment Parenting

courtesy of flickr user kenleyneufeld

courtesy of flickr user kenleyneufeld

I talk about Attachment Parenting a lot. I lead an API support group, and I’ve given talks to numbers of moms’ groups locally and internationally.

I’ve noticed that when I give my talks, someone pretty much always asks some permutation of this question: “I hear what you are saying, I’ve read lots of books, and I love the idea of AP. But still when my buttons are pushed, I can’t help but react out of habit by [yelling, or guilting, or punishing, or whatever]. It is so frustrating! How do you DO it? Tell me how to BE an Attachment Parent!”

I have come to think of this as the $64,000 Question of Attachment Parenting.

This has been my answer in the past:

  1. Really, you never DO it in the sense that you never achieve perfection. Or at least I haven’t. Give yourself some love because the fact that you are working to create a home environment that is in line with your values of mutual respect and love is really awesome.
  2. AP is not a set of techniques but a way of living and interacting with other people in general and our children in particular. (I always feel like a loser when I give this answer. People want to know what they should do and I’m not telling them! They came for answers, and I’m giving them nothing!) Playful parenting and talking so our kids will listen and all the rest are tools we keep in our toolbox and take out when we think they will help us connect with our kids. They are ideas we can use to help us connect from moment to moment. They are not “Attachment Parenting”.
  3. It takes time. For awhile, you will learn about AP and sill continue to react out of habit by yelling or punishing or whatever. Then one day you’ll be in the middle of a habitual reaction, and you’ll stop yourself. Finally one day, your child will do something that would normally set you off and you’ll do something calm and connected and loving and brilliant and the seed of a new habit will be planted and it will feel great. (And then five minutes later you’ll do something out of habit again and realize how much work you still have in front of you.)

As I’ve gone on my own journey – through life, through marriage, through parenting, and through Attachment Parenting – I’ve come to realize that all this can be summed up in one word:

MINDFULNESS

Attachment Parenting, and non-violent living, is a commitment to be mindful of our own habits and triggers, of our child’s (and spouse’s, and friends’, and the guy standing behind us in line at the grocery store’s) habits and triggers, and of how those two interact. It is a parenting/life philosophy that demands of us the willingness and the ability to look hard at ourselves so we can create space between stimulus and response in order to come closer to those around us.

In NVC, they call this the difference between reacting and responding.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this does not come naturally to me. My habit is to react, but I am working very hard to cultivate the ability to respond. Through hours spent in meditation, and hours spent studying Nonviolent Communication, I have been able to more clearly see my habits of mind, which create my habits of behavior. Slowly, I have been able to push open a crack of light where I can stop defining myself by my reactions. Instead of “I am frustrated”, more often I think “Right now I feel frustrated. This too shall pass”. It may not seem like a big difference, but I assure you, it’s huge. Life changing, even.

The next time someone asks me the $64,000 Question of AP, I will have a better, or at least a more efficient, answer. I will say:

The key to successful Attachment Parenting is introducing some sort of mindfulness practice to your life so that you can begin to recognize your habits and replace them with something new.

Do you have a mindfulness practice? Has it affected your relationships? How?