Friday, August 28, 2015

choosing kindness

I was having one of those mornings.

Truth be told, I've been having a week or more of such mornings.

Part of it is readjusting to waking with an alarm. There is just no way any of us in this family will wake up in time for school without setting the clock radio alarm and somehow, that onerous duty falls upon me. Which means not only do I have to pry myself out of bed, but then I have the joy of waking up two other grumpy and ungrateful non-morning people. All before I brew the coffee.  Yeah, good times.

Factor in the fact that I am currently menopausal hormonally challenged. What that means is I tend to wake up around 4 am needing to pee (sorry, if that is TMI) and then I realize what really woke me was a hot flush. I call these power surges flushes as they aren't as extreme as what other women have described to me. And I hope by speaking nicely about them, they will be nice to me.

Not yet anyway. 

So now I have to cool off (ah, a dab of peppermint oil on the back of my neck works wonders!) but am fairly alert now (due to activity of getting out of bed, peeing, finding peppermint oil) so then I lay in bed and watch the rabid squirrels tear up the stuffing that is my mind.

The only thing that helps is to wander downstairs, turn on the living room lamp and read for awhile. I wake the dog up doing this, but he is the only one pleasant about waking up (probably because he averages 22 hours of sleep a day but none-the-less he is always pleasant about keeping me company). 

So I had been up at 4 a.m. reading and was feeling all manner of crusty edgy by breakfast time. Oh, and another important detail: that previous evening Cowgirl came home from playing with the neighborhood kids, slumped over the kitchen island and wailed. She had been hit in the face by a ball. It was a "soft" ball she explained, BUT the Rule was no throwing it into people's faces AND even though it was soft, it bumped her glasses which - she pointed out in case I wasn't understanding the severity of the injury - are not soft

But more than her physical injury, it was the fact that the injuring party "didn't care" and merely shrugged her shoulders when Cowgirl explained that IT HURT. (Poor Cowgirl is ever frustrated by the fact that most people do not mind the rules and notions of fairness that she champions.) Now, what my mother never told me was that when you parent, you have the added option of re-living all your childhood woes and traumas through the lens of your child. It is an option not to, but like waving a biscuit in front of a dog, I cannot help but take a wee nibble. (Which is progress over snatching, gulping, consuming without batting an eye.

So I struggle in these situations with separating my own fears and experiences from those of my daughter's. And while I have learned the wisdom of listening, acknowledging, and holding space for whatever my girl is going through, my impulse is still to find some finger-hold of hope for forward movement. I want to help her feel empowered to make choices other than giving up.

Too often I confuse doing nothing with giving up. Slowly I am figuring out that resting in the moment - waiting, relaxing, "doing nothing" - is actually the best way to allow solutions, answers or options to present themselves. The emotions of the moment make everything cloudy and confused. It is best to attend to the feelings and allow time to work its magic.

Okay, so back to my morning. I was still ruminating up the previous evening, frustrated by my inability to find the right words (read: Wise Words HA!) to support my girl and yes, swallowing all kinds of bitterness and anger at the offender (her only crime being an aggressive and competitive nature) along with sadness over what I perceive to be a decline in kindness brought about by what feels like an increase in hostility and aggression in our world.

Then my doorbell rang. As I neared my front door, I realized  that the two shadowy figures on the other side were Jehovah's Witnesses. Too late to retreat, I opened the door and prepared myself for the attack. Two women stood there smiling, the older one with her Bible at the ready, a copy of their newsletter (my Good News I sarcastically thought) extended towards me.  I honestly heard little of what was said, I was busy in my head constructing my blistering rebuttal for whatever hokum they might offer me. But I caught myself.

Okay, I cried. And I'm not sure why? But I suspect it had to do with the earnestness with which they addressed me, their clean and formal clothes, their plain and scrubbed faces, the way they looked at me right in my eyes. They seemed so proper and from another era, as if coming out to talk to me was deserving of their best (pressed and pleated) dress. As if I was deserving of this attention and care. And I was immediately brought up by the ugliness in my knee-jerk reaction to them, my desire to put them in their place, my intention to show my intellectual and spiritual sophistication and yes, to squash theirs.

I blathered something about having a hard day and apologized for my distractedness. As I reached for their newsletter, the older of the two gently took hold of my wrist and told me she was sorry for my day. They both looked genuinely concerned for me, and that unsettled me even more. I hastily thanked them and retreated behind my front door. 

"Good grief," I thought, "I've really lost it!" But here's what I realized: I could choose to be right, or I could choose to be kind. And I could choose to accept kindness even if it isn't in a form that I had wanted nor expected. I wasn't going to change their spiritual beliefs and they weren't going to change mine. But I could accept the energy behind the offering of scripture and interpretation; I could accept the care and kindness. 

This epiphany lead to another crumb of insight. When Cowgirl came home that afternoon, I told her about my visitors and I told her about choosing kindness over needing to be right. As gracefully as a waddling goose, I immediately brought up the previous evening's events and how we always have the option to align ourselves with kindness but then to extend to ourselves. Sometimes self-kindness is knowing when to walk away, when to acknowledge we cannot fix, alter or amend a situation.

But we can ask for support. And so then we talked about turning over our frustrations, turning over our not-knowing-what-to-do to God and ask that she help us to see and accept a solution when it is ready or when we are ready for it. Until that time, we can continue to seek out and support kindness beginning with ourselves. 

I recently heard author Caroline Myss explain Every thought is a prayer.  

I'm awake now.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

wisdom in a tin ...

I often need to remind myself to lighten up. My tendency to be close in to my life (perhaps a product of my slight near-sightedness?) has me often overlooking the bigger picture. Usually when I am ranting and raving about something (hmm ... and I wonder where Cowgirl gets her knee-jerk reactions? Her  It's not so good for me! cry as a toddler a favorite family expression now), I am brought back to earth by an unexpected flash of humor, absurdity, beauty or love reinforcing the truth that
Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.
-Oscar Wilde 

My position being that life is best lived rather than obsessively analyzed, considered, plotted and planned. 

Getting out of my own way is a good operating principle for me. Being aware that each moment offers me a choice, I can consider "What action will contribute to happiness? Joy? Not just within myself, but for those around me? I've been reading and working with the ideas presented in Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga. A friend shared this book with me and now we text each other to support a daily practice on one of the principles or "laws."  

Today's focus is on the Seven Law, the law of Dharma:

"... every sentient being has a purpose in life. You have unique abilities and your own way of expressing them. There are needs in this world for which your specific talents are ideally suited, and when the world's needs are matched with the creative expression of your talents, your purpose - your dharma - is realized.

To be in dharma, your life force must flow effortlessly without interference."

To be in flow with life is to choose happiness and to extent it to others. Here is how we practiced being in flow, honoring the Law of Giving and Receiving (Law #2), and my favorite, The Law of Least Effort (#4):

Nature is held together by the energy of love, and least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love. When your soul is your internal reference point, you can harness the power of love and use the energy creatively for healing, transformation, and evolution.
- The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga

 And for making dragons:


When I sent my obsessive inner task-master and deep-thinker on a vacation cruise, I am able to see clearly the easy choices right before me that bring me back into flow, into a field of happiness, joy, and a celebration of love.

This weekend I am working on a gift for my niece who just headed off to college. What kind of a care package would offers real support and nourishment for this threshold stage of her life? 

I am calling it "Wisdom in a Tin" and selecting the quotes to write upon the enclosed cards is a gift for both my niece and myself.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
- Oscar Wilde

Happiness, purpose, aligning myself with the flow of life ... this is the practice. It is about choice and remembering and staying open and present. Honoring the fullness and wholeness of being alive. 

Giving thanks, extending and receiving love.

Friday, August 14, 2015

out of the doldrums

Oof! End of summer (school started up this week) has hit me hard. It has been a busy season - 4 trips in 2 months - with no shortage of emotional twists and turns. August arrived and I was knackered but ready for a shift.  Well, not the shifts of a preteen Cowgirl (cue: eye rolls, heavy sighing, stomping and flouncing. I ask you, is there any better flouncer than an almost eleven-year old?

perfecting her "tough"  you can't tell me anything look

It seems perverse that school is back in session with the best pool days of the season happening now. It is hot here which means  ...


and peppers!

pepper-mania! an entire 4 by 4 foot box filled with jalapenos, cayenne, poblano and green peppers

and all sorts of garden activity.

We've been roasting tomatoes for freezing along with making vats of salsa and gazpacho soup. What the Husband has in mind for this bumper crop of peppers, I have no idea but it should worry me!

yes, an entire jar of hot pepper puree

Meanwhile, I've felt like I was stuck in quicksand as the more I attempted to fight my way out of the doldrums, the deeper I sunk in. A friend sent me a useful article on the proper technique for dealing with real quicksand and I found its advice effective in my situation. It counsels to lay back and relax, allowing oneself to basically float upon the quicksand. Slowly being lifted up, one is then able to pull legs out and roll away.  

Which is what I ended up doing yesterday after a mild bout of food poisoning. A day spent flat on my back (and curled into a fetal position) not doing anything because I couldn't do anything! Yeah, I love how life works this way: what I cannot do for myself, the Universe steps in and does for me. Often against my will and judgment, but it always works out.

Speaking of working out ... Moose dog received a clear report on his tumor biopsy! So he gets to keep his toe and I have my muse for awhile longer. 

If nothing else, the past year has shown me that my sketch journal is my very best way of riding upon any emotional wave whether it be grief, fear, overwhelm or the doldrums. For no matter how intense life can seem, picking up my pen and turning to my sketch diary is my best move. It allows me to ease into the moment and rather than escaping, it offers a pause so that I can find spaciousness around what is. This is what I've known from yoga practice and what I seek to bring into my life more fully: that in any given moment, I am more than just my body, more than just my emotions, more than just the thoughts in the mind. I am all of that ... and I am more. 

And there is so much more to take in, to open myself up to ... so much more that waits in the wings ready to inspire and delight me ... ready to offer me insight and guidance on how to proceed. 

On this day - which is still summer even if my girl is in school -  I can step outside and be in wonder and in ease. 

With my sketch diary and Moose dog by my side.

With gratitude for Terri who recently contacted me about my Sketch Diary Explorations offering from August 2014. I hope to create a new offering, probably not until 2016. But for anyone interested in this 6 week/6 lesson summer camp, I am more than happy and able to send it out either once a week for 6 weeks or all at once (in 6 emails). Full information can be found HERE. To sign up, contact me at: Lishofmann88(at)gmail(dot)net and I will send you an paypal invoice. As there is no formal group class, price is adjusted to $35.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

mindfulness starts with me

Cowgirl and I just returned from Chinese Heritage Camp in Colorado. This year was our sixth year and as always, we come home exhausted but full. 

Camp is a family experience. While the kids move through activities and classes with their peers - this year Cowgirl had Kung Fu, yoga, Chinese dance, arts and crafts -  parents attend workshops of their own in addition to helping out in assigned volunteer roles. The workshops cover a range of topics specific for the adoptive parent: information on identity, race, grief and loss in addition to information on Chinese culture and heritage. (Heritage Camps offer 11 different camps specific to the adoptee's birth country such as China, Vietnam, Korean, Latin America, Africa and Caribbean) Camp is about family and community and we both look forward to the time reconnecting with old and new friends.

It is an invaluable opportunity to connect and share experiences with friends who understand without us having to go into exhaustive detail or explanation. Our camp friends know and understand and together we support and assist each other.  Every year I come home with a new insight, parenting tool or awareness often gifted to me through the stories of the adult adoptees who generously come to camp to share their insights and experiences. 

This year there was an emphasis upon understanding the pressures our tween and teens face. This is not exclusive to adoption; all children are under greater scrutiny due to social media.  The level of self-consciousness is immense and I've watched many an adult - myself included - struggle with the constant comparison to a picture-perfect news feed or styled webpage. When I think about my tender and still soft-as-fresh-clay daughter attempting to understand and define herself within this human fishbowl, my head and heart spin. Even the so-called experts - the child therapists and researchers studying the impact upon our brains and nervous systems -   acknowledged we are traversing unknown territory.

So what's a mother to do?

I begin with myself. The A-Ha moment I had this year was nothing I hadn't already heard or known, but I understood its significance at a deeper level. In a class on parenting with mindfulness, it struck me that while I have attempted to be present for my daughter - to seek to perceive the hidden issue within the surface storm - I wasn't doing the same for myself. Or rather, while I am aware of my reactive frustration, fear, anger or confusion that may be triggered by her upset underneath my reaction is an intense and immense discomfort that speaks more to my wounds than to anything she may be negotiating. 

This discomfort stems from a belief that I am to fix or find the solution to my daughter's problems. When she is upset, my mind is racing to find the right words to soothe the ache; when she is struggling I frantically turn over in my mind possible strategies or metaphors to help her find her way; and when she is overwhelmed or emotionally distraught I dig in my heels and attempt to reel her back to earth. 

Yet my responses speak more to my own insecurities than to being really present for my daughter. And then it struck me that that is all that she really needs from me: to be present for her. Not to fix her or offer advice or perspective. But to acknowledge her experience; to hold space for her to explore and feel what she is feeling; to honor her responses and emotions which include confusion, anger, sadness and frustration along with happiness, joy, and excitement. 

More than solutions or answers, my daughter comes to me to for security and to express vulnerability. I hurt. I am upset. I am afraid. What she needs from me is safe space to share all that is bubbling up within her. She wants to feel seen and understood and when that happens, often her own perspective shifts and broadens. She moves into a space where solutions are visible. She discovers she knows more than she previously realized. She learns she can trust her own knowing, her own instincts and intuitions. 

In turn, I sink into trust with myself: that my presence - which is my attention, my love - will be enough, will be equal to the task at hand. I don't need to have all the answers - an illusion I've spent a good deal of my life hustling to maintain - I simply need to hold space for what is and allow time for us to make our way forward. This is how we strengthen and empower ourselves. This is the true and transformational space of love.