Releasing our grip

There is, in this transition process a need to recognize opportunities to release our grip on the lives (read: Agendas) of our children. This process is filled with so much; filled with so many of the hopes and dreams we may have had for them since infancy.  Some of our resistance to release around this “letting go” process may have to do with our fear of whether we’ve done the job we set out to do – to raise a competent person to make her way in the world.  That’s really OUR fear to attend to.  But it is important – NO, it’s vital – that we recognize that this is a necessary part of the process for each of us.

If I have a dream or hope for my child that is not yet (or may never be) realized, that is an important invitation for ME to ask if I need to release this, in order to for me to be the parent my child needs as his needs change.  My holding on is one of the key stumbling blocks to relationships moving forward emotionally, relationally and spiritually.

The poem below speaks to this in ways that only a parent would really understand.  I find the poet’s sensitivity to the nuances of “Naming the Baby” to be spot on to the very heart of this transition process.  I’m hopeful that her imagery here helps you “see” this in a new and deeper way.

Peace, Dane

When you are dreaming of the name
you are also dreaming of who they
might be. They are invented in darkness —
under cloak of skin — and, for the better
part of a year, are a swelling
or a set of symptoms. The name
books are like a box of chocolates
and when you open them you see
how many kinds there really are.
There are names of people you
have known and disliked and names
that make the wrong sounds and names
that suggest your child will be
like everyone else’s. There are names
that turn your child into a character
in a novel and names that recall
the time when your great grandmother
was young. Naming the baby is a way
of dreaming about a creature who is
almost but not quite. It is a way of
imagining the soul of a person you
are making but have not made.
The name is the first way you see
the baby: their title, the syllables
that conjure a shape from the lantern.

“Naming the Baby” by Faith Shearin from The Empty House. © Word Press, 2008

Continue reading “Releasing our grip”

Let Go of the Rice…

I often find myself in the facilitator’s seat of a group of some kind – one of the things I love to do.  Regularly, that role calls on me to prepare those in the circle for the experience we’ll share together, whether that is a therapeutic process, a time of shared silence or a classroom setting.

Of the facilitating tools I carry in my quiver, guided meditations are a favorite.  My experience is that our lives are so scheduled and/or dictated that we rarely have or take time to focus on that which is in front of us for very long.  I find that meditations provide an image or word that can bring us in touch with the reality of our lives in ways that other things seldom do.

One of the meditations I find myself returning to over and over is the one below, adapted from The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo.  The image it presents has become a centering and helpful one for many of those I sit in circles with.

 Let Go of the Rice

So much more can happen with our hands and hearts open.  Closing our grip on something, literally &/or figuratively is what often keeps us stuck, though we want to blame everything and everyone else, maybe especially what we’re holding on to.

In ancient China they used to catch monkeys by putting rice in a hollowed coconut with a hole carved in it the size of a monkey’s open hand.  The hungry monkey would smell the rice and reach its hand in.  But once its hand was full of rice it could no longer pull its hand out.  The monkeys that were caught were those who would not let go of the rice.

For the monkey, the rice became the master and the monkey the prisoner of its own making.  The lesson for us is easily seen, though maybe more difficult to experience: “What is our rice and what is keeping us from opening our grip and letting go?”

·         Sit quietly and recognize, what is the rice in your fist

·         Breathe deeply – are you able to see what is keeping you from letting go?

·         Practice opening yourself by making a fist when you inhale; then open your fist when you exhale.  

Obviously, the topic of “holding on & letting go” is a core theme of the on-going conversations we have here at CP101, but it exists in all places in our lives: parents-children, work-family, self-others, career-life, and the list goes on and on.  So, might I encourage you to explore what “rice” you may be holding on to.  You may let go and find that tomorrow you’re holding onto it again.  You’re then given another opportunity to practice the art of letting go.  This is, for me, not a daily practice, but a multiple times/daily practice as I explore the depths my own ego will go to take control.

I often refer to this as my “coin of fear” – a coin which on one side is worry and the other control.  I attempt to convince myself that I can control what I worry about, and then worry about what I can’t control.  This is, I believe, at the core of what we hold on to, and what we are asked, in myriad ways, to let go of.  I’m hopeful that this can be a helpful image for you as you decide whether to flip the coin, or consider setting it down.

Peace, Dane

 

Fostering Grit & Resilience…

As regular readers of CP101 would tell you, I’m always on the lookout for the myriad ways in which this on-going conversation about relationship transition takes place.  It’s certainly not a new conversation, as I hear echoes of it throughout literature, poetry, story and film.

I watched the film “Ride,” written and directed by acclaimed actor Helen Hunt recently.  It was a fascinating look at the unprocessed pain of a parent working itself out and through her relationship with her son who was in the process of transitioning from high school to college.  It was hard to watch and yet Continue reading “Fostering Grit & Resilience…”

The Underground Journey

It would appear by the evening forecast that with few exceptions, we’ve no choice, no matter our zip code, but to acknowledge that winter has arrived in force.  As I type this there are winter storm warnings across much of the country.

I’m an avid gardener.  This season is one in which both I and the visible garden rest.  The fall greens have succumbed to the latest cold snap.  The sweet potatoes are dug and stored in the basement.  The wilted peas, cucumber vines, and spent tomato plants are piled in the compost bin.   

The garlic bulbs planted in late October and the daffodil bulbs I plant every fall (beautifully referred to by author Christopher DeVinck as “the flames of spring”) are setting roots and building strength and nourishment for the coming spring, for flavor and beauty.  I know that though many trees and shrubs are barren, the perennial flowers shriveled by the last hard frost, there is a rooted strength below the surface that continues to thrive.

If you were to speak the words that come to mind when I ask, “What comes to mind when you think of winter?”  I would assume that words such as, dead, bare, dormant, sleeping, resting, grey, and lifeless may be spoken.  At one level that appears to be true, and yet there is also that which we cannot see; that which is growing and gathering strength for the time to come.

The Underground Journey is taking place.  There is so much in our lives that occurs below the surface.  There is much that is building for the future – however long these seasons may be – that we cannot yet either know or see.  It is a season of waiting no matter how we feel about it.  There is nothing left to do about a host of things that lay in the humus of our lives but to wait.  No question that it can be an anxious time, full of the fear of our inability to do more than we’ve done.

And so there lies before us in this season our choices.  There is the choice to move toward doing more, born from our anxiousness of wanting to make something happen, to push or pull, dig or transplant.  Sometimes this is necessary.  I have dug up plants that were in the wrong place – they need more sun or less sun.  They need more fertile soil, or be in a place in which I can give them more attention. 

Then there is the choice to rest in what is and what may or may not come to be.  In our immediate satisfaction world, this can be a difficult place.  It requires a sense of trust in powers beyond my ability and influence, certainly beyond my knowing.  It asks me to let go of my sense of where my control lies.  I’m reminded of this each fall as the tender plants literally let go of their own structure and collapse into the soil.  Some of these will return while others won’t.  I must wait.

So, as we move into this season of winter, this time in which much may be occurring below the surface of what we can see, might we sit in the waiting of expectation of what is to come for yourself, those you care deeply for, and those you’ve yet to find.  Might you loosen your grip to allow time and space for the necessary rest of the underground journey that brings a growing season.

Peace by yours!  Dane

 

Peace for the Journey, Winter

By now, your student has returned for the Winter Holiday break.  My sense is that you’ve already experienced your expectations not meeting reality.  By that I mean, you and your student had expectations for what the return home would look like, or be like and things just haven’t played out quite like you wanted/hoped they would.

You haven’t witnessed the daily transformation of the wide-eyed freshman you dropped off in August; this new creature who now resides in the body of the person you thought was your child.  On the other hand, your student has not experienced the daily alterations made to life at home, sometimes beyond your own awareness, around his absence.  This is not the household he Continue reading “Peace for the Journey, Winter”

Leaning into Change

When we are asked to change something, we’re likely to encounter a number of feelings: fear and anger are undoubtedly among them. But we may recognize that in the course of our lives we encounter or are asked to change a number of things which, sometimes, without even thinking, we do on a daily basis.

We change clothes – sometimes several times a day. Like it or not, we must change our child’s diapers. We change lanes driving the highway. We change our clocks back and forth each year. We live in the rhythms of the changing weather and the seasons. And, at times, we are aware that our feelings change by the second.

I wonder as I sit with this brief list of changes, among all the others which are now floating across the screen of my mind, what difference there is in my response, and therefore my resistance, to changes which are external (lane changes, which shirt to wear today, etc.) and those which are internal (what is my fear asking of me, do I need to alter my vocation, etc.). My sense of my own varying responses is that there are far deeper feelings about those inner questions of change; feelings that are so much more connected to my sense of myself, my purpose and meaning, and my hope that I do not yet know.

These “invitations” to change or consider change seem to threaten what I have put in place to keep things “ok” – whatever that means – such that I am once again faced with my inability (read: lack of control) to set a course which will not steer me into uncharted waters.

I recognize that this is the territory of fear. Anytime I am entertaining a need to control something/someone, I am now aware that I am feeling fear. It may not be the thing/person I am trying to control, but there is fear in the air. So invitations to change present me with a threshold to cross; a doorway into new space that holds something new which I do not yet know or see.

If I view ALL my fear as “bad”, then I learn to steer clear or avoid these doorways, and I’m aware of a lot of energy I’ve spent avoiding those places in which I have been asked to enter unknown space. But as the years pass, I have – gladly – begun to recognize that the “gift of fear” is learning to pay attention; to be alert, not so much vigilance, but open awareness: actually look for something new, rather than looking out for what to avoid.

I suppose this speaks to a posture, posture of leaning. The recognition I’m speaking of here is a directional one; one that asks me to be aware of which direction I am leaning toward the ceaseless invitations around change. My work then, as I sense it is for all of us, is to note which way I am leaning: leaning away from, or in to?

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Remembering and Letting Go…

As we consider all the ways in which our lives present this question of Letting Go, we can find that we’re either open to it, or resistant to it.  There is no doubt that what Letting Go asks of us is difficult!  We have been investing in the care and nurture and success of our children since before they were born; AND, we are confronted with myriad examples of ways to let go of our attachments to them from their earlier years.  We let go of their hands when they learn to walk, we release our grip on the back of the seat when they learn to ride a bike, we wave goodbye as they walk into school for the first time; the list is nearly endless.

I remember when my own adult daughter left the country for six months on a work assignment.  I was faced again with this question: “How am I holding on in ways that could hold both of us from the truth and beauty of what lies ahead?

So as I came to the reading of the blog post today, I was struck, again, by the beautiful and excruciating truth of the on-going process.  I’m grateful for the vulnerability offered here by Christine Cleary as she remembers what was, while letting it go in order to be fully present to both the sadness and gladness of what now is.

I’m hopeful that Christine’s words help craft this conversation in new ways for each of you.

Peace for your journey, Dane

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/christine-cleary-the-sweet-tension-of-remembering-and-letting-go/7996

The Heart Stays Open ~

“God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

I am struck by this statement.  I knew it once only by assertion, but was then taught by life to know it deeply through experience.  We are, especially as parents, regularly “invited” to this vulnerable place – this place of offering our heart again and again.

I am grateful for the insight Laura Kelly Fanucci lays out before us here in the endless invitation to offer our open hearts…

Blessings on the Journey!  Dane

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/until-the-heart-stays-open/7522?utm_source=On+Being+Newsletter&utm_campaign=8601cff829-20150704_bela_fleck_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1c66543c2f-8601cff829-69848605#.VZkt20o8KrX.

Peace for the Journey…

Endbeginnings –

In clear simplicity, Dr. Rachel Remen talks about her own realization that, “there is no ending without a beginning. That beginnings and endings are always right up against each other.  Nothing ever ends without something else beginning or begins without something else ending.  Perhaps this would be easier to remember if we had a word for it.  Something like “endbegin,” or “beginend.”

So, here we are looking eye-to-eye with the “endbegin” or “beginend” of our daughter or son beginning the college journey.  I know from my own experience as a parent of a new student that this time led to feelings I wasn’t sure what to do with.  I’m confident I said some things, or didn’t say others because I didn’t exactly know what to do with what seemed the awkward end, or was it the beginning?

For many of us, this is uncharted territory — be it our first child going away, or maybe out last. What would you call this time? Are you fighting an ending?  I’d encourage you to ask your daughter/son how they see or feel about the endbegin – to see it through her/his eyes could be a beginend!

Peace, Dane.

Learning to Fail

I re-post this entry every year.  The posting has, to date, received more “likes” and comments than any other, so I sense that what I set out to say hit its target.  So for those of you who have recently marched through high school graduation activities and are on the threshold of this process, I’m hopeful that this message will have a “centering effect” for all of us seeking to be successful in parenting our kids well!

As we take a serious look at the transition, my sense is that one of the primary issues for us as parents is the fear of something we can’t imagine actually happening to our daughter or son.  Our culture is bent on the pursuit of success.  So, if that is true – and I’m convinced it is – the idea of failure is often one that we expend a lot of energy trying to avoid and helping others avoid, especially those we care deeply for.

In my First-Year Seminar course for new Freshman, we would spend an entire class period exploring the idea of “Failure” in order to expand our thinking about what it is, why it’s scary, and what we’re really afraid of – why have we been taught to avoid something that’s likely inevitable, and is actually a helpful component of the learning process?  A number of the resources we use introduce us to how necessary (read: “vital”) failure is to reaching success; no matter the topic or pursuit.  I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but when I examine my own path, I know – and I mean, REALLY know – that it is true.  Rarely do I learn some valuable piece of instruction or awareness for life when things are going well, frankly because I’m not forced or called or required to pay attention as I do when things aren’t going as planned.

It is only when things don’t work; when I’ve gone from Plan A to B, then C, then D, that I begin to ask the hard, searching questions that lead me to new insight, or to ask for help, or start over.  I’m reminded of the great inventor, Thomas Edison.  He’s famous as much for what he created as he is for putting a new perspective on the idea of “failure.”  He believed it was essential in his pursuit of the next great discovery.  He is quoted as saying such things as, “Negative results are just what I want.  They’re just as valuable to me as positive results.  I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”  And, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Alison Gopnik, a psychology and philosophy professor, points out that many of us now approach the role of raising humans like carpenters. In short, we try to carve them into our own image of what a successful adult looks like. Her suggestion? Think of yourself more akin to a gardener — you create the right conditions and let nature do the rest. “Our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child,” she writes in her recent book, The Gardener and the Carpenter. “Instead, our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety, and stability in which children can flourish.”

So as I was recently reading Anne Lamott’s new book, Some Assembly Required (Riverhead books, 2012), in which she and her son co-write about the parent-child relational transition in ways only Anne can do, I heard her speaking directly to our parental desire to – with the greatest of intentions and hope – keep our children from getting hurt.  In doing so, we, in essence, may be keeping them from experiencing life (read: failing) in ways that prepare them for the very life they are meant to live.  Her good friend Bonnie says to her, “You’ve got to learn to let go and let your children fall, and fail.  If you try to protect them from hurt, and always rush to their side with Band-Aids, they won’t learn about life and what is true, what works, what helps, and what are real consequences of certain kinds of behavior.  When they do get hurt, which they will, they won’t know how to take care of their grown selves.  They won’t even know where the aspirin is kept.”

So, in keeping with our on-going conversation about how to “show-up” well in this relational transition with our daughter and sons as they become the humans they came here to BE, take a time-out to examine your motives for comments, actions, and the like!  Are they designed to express your agenda for how your children’s life “should be”, or are they oriented toward your daughter’s/son’s ever-developing (and necessary) sense of self-competency.

I’ll let Anne’s son Sam, usher us out today with one of his growing realizations about the life he was living – I can’t say it more clearly!: “I see the hardest patches as stepping stones for what I will need as I go out from here.”

Peace for the Journey, Dane