Peace for the Journey: At the End of the Year

As the academic year winds quickly to a close, there is much to process. As part of the end of the year/semester closing process in the academic world, we are regularly processing assessment tools to gauge feedback to help us confirm what we may already know, as well as learn things that we may not have been aware.

In the on-going cycle of parenting our students, I believe it is helpful to assess how we are doing, no matter their stage of development or our vantage point on parenting.  At this point in the year, you might want to ask yourself questions such as, “How did I do parenting my student through this academic year?”  “What did I learn from what went well, and what didn’t go so well?”

You might also consider asking yourself how you sense your student did as well.  You might wonder: “How is she now asking for my help?”  “In what ways has he taken more responsibility for his life and isn’t involving me like he used to?”  “How do I feel about these changes?”

If you really want to take a step deep into the process, you might even consider asking your student how you did parenting her/him through this year.  I know, that’s risky territory – but how else will you REALLY know if you don’t ask?!  You might write down some of the key ways you have seen her take on new responsibilities and make healthy decisions.  You could list the ways you have sensed he has exhibited a more mature sense of self-competency.  Who knows what kind of dialogue this may incite?

I have added the poem below from John O’Donohue (one of my favorites) because I believe he astutely asks us, as we evaluate the year we have just lived, to look at all that was beautiful and difficult about it, so that we might know from where we have come in order that we might know even more deeply where we are headed.

I wish you well this summer!

Peace, Dane

At the End of the Year

The particular mind of the ocean

Filling the coastline’s longing

With such brief harvest

Of elegant, vanishing waves

Is like the mind of time

Opening us shapes of days.

 

As this year draws to its end,

We give thanks for the gifts it brought

And how they became inlaid within

Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

 

The days when the veil lifted

And the soul could see delight;

When a quiver caressed the heart

In the sheer exuberance of being here.

 

Surprises that came awake

In forgotten corners of old fields

Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

 

The slow, brooding times

When all was awkward

And the wave in the mind

Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkening days that stopped

The confidence of the dawn.

 

Days when beloved faces shone brighter

With light from beyond themselves;

And from the granite of some secret sorrow

A stream of buried tears loosened

 

We bless this year for all we learned,

For all we have loved and lost

And for the quiet way it brought us

Nearer to our invisible destination.

 

by: John O’Donohue

from: To Bless the Space Between us: A Book of Blessings,  p. 159.

 

The Effort to Listen

In the next few weeks, our students are coming home. They will be, as predicted, different people than the ones who left last fall.  They will be filled with new ideas about the world, about themselves, and likely about you: Mom &/or Dad.  Those new ideas can be both refreshing, exciting to engage in, and can also be a bit scary.  “Who is this person sitting in front of me?  She looks like my daughter, but I don’t recognize her anymore?

One of the many things s/he is asking of us is to listen to who s/he is becoming.  Its hard to listen when we feel fear about how things change; especially when it is a relationship we care about deeply.

We all suffer, at times, from the effort to fix or give advice rather than to listen. Theologian Paul Tillich puts it this way, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

So often when we refuse to listen, we become obsessed with remaking the world in our own image, or the way WE want it to be, rather than being open in our spirit to what is real and asking us to listen to the truth before us.

In the words of a Native American Elder, “To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.”

  • As you sit with this idea, can you bring your awareness to your propensity to fix or give advice?
  • Can you allow your breathing to loosen your hold on your efforts do or say something?
  • What do you feel about listening so deeply and attentively that you risk being changed?  

Peace, Dane.

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.