September 18, 2017

Embracing a Growth Mindset

Our school principal is outstanding. A clear communicator, she is intentional about what she says and how she says it. She has embraced the Growth Mindset approach to learning and development and is sharing with students, teachers, and parents what that means and looks like.

Rather than fuel a school climate where children shut down when confronted with challenging tasks or fear errors, our principal and her teaching staff remind students to breathe and recognize that if they haven't mastered something, they just aren't there yet. This encourages everyone to dig in and approach learning with a confidence and enthusiasm many of us aren't accustomed to--at least not when the learning appears or feels hard. Psychologist Carol Dweck speaks more about her research in this Ted Talk:

Though I'm still not convinced that any sort of mindset would have helped me in my high school trigonometry class, I've seen our daughter try harder and push through when I reference the "power of yet" as she is asked to organize her bursting bedroom or dig into a tough academic challenge. And because her principal introduced her to these concepts and her teachers are applying the concept in her classrooms, it's resonating.

The growth mindset approach is well aligned with meditation and mindfulness neuroscience research and practices, too. Being present and open we acknowledge that we are exactly who we need to be, where we need to be, and when we need to be. We trust that we are sufficiently capable and adaptable. We know that we have the power to take another look at a challenge, examine and transmute our emotions, and shift or dissolve any stories about ourselves that may cause us to think, act, or believe in rigid and fixed ways. And perhaps most importantly, we are gentle with ourselves, as we understand that self-examination and personal motivation are ongoing processes of discovery and practice. Thomas Edison reminds us: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." He also inspires with, “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

I'd love to hear from you about your experiences with and opinions about grit and growth mindset in education and any of the ways you see an overlap with mindfulness and meditation.  Please comment~

May 5, 2017

Looking to our kids to move us forward.....

Emotional intelligence has a lot more traction than it once did.  It's exciting to hear people from varied fields talk about the brain, self-awareness, compassion, emotional regulation, and human development.

Societal shifts in the ways we see ourselves and our relationships take time. And we experience the ebbs and flows of these shifts from within systems: family groups, educational systems, our professional arenas, etc.

While I am fascinated by societal paradigms and movements and our individual and collective influences on such,  I am also desperately eager to see us apply some of the emotional intelligence wisdom now: Tools that are at once innovative as they are ancient.

In January I asked some close friends to pilot a parent-child meditation program.  I designed 3 sessions where parents and kids were asked to join me for movement, guided meditation, individual and group reflection, and arts activities.

I wanted to see how the adults and kids engaged and responded.

I built the sessions from what I've learned in my recent personal development courses and per insights from trusted friends and leaders in the field of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and energy healing.

While both parents and children shared positive feedback about the sessions, I was blown away by how easily the children connected with the experiences and were able to identify their thoughts, feelings, and physical manifestations. When we debriefed after meditations, the children shared vivid descriptions of their visions, insights, and physical experiences.  Take a look at some of their powerful written comments after one of the meditation sessions:

"I feel like I am in a never ending spring and summer and just have to do nothing except relax. And my job is to relax" 9 year old

" I felt happy.  I saw a camp fire and tent and a lake and saw a lightening bolt. I saw every color in the world, except gray, black, and brown." 7 year old

"My body was a rainbow and a purple cord connected me to the earth. There were butterflies flying around the cord and coming up from the earth.  There was a rhino who gave me a present and the message, "You can't control me."" 8 year old

Their openness and clarity reinforced for me that when we make the time to create the space for our children to look inward, they do so with an ease unfamiliar to many adults. When we ask them how they are feeling and take the time to truly listen, without judgment, they tell us fairly directly what they feel and why they are feeling it.  Moreover, when we are brave and ask them, they have insights about how we and our mates impact those feelings. And they often have solutions for bringing more peace into our homes.

I'm not suggesting that it's always easy to structure open and safe forums for parent and child exchange, but I believe in the power of sacred space...where we as parents slow down and tune into our children -- to support our children tuning into themselves.  And meditation experiences can help us suss out what feelings are theirs versus ours, or even our projections onto our kiddos.

I'm eager to see where the emotional intelligence movement takes us. But I'm not going to wait for societal consensus or a "tipping point" to start adopting emotional intelligence in our home.  Our children were born ready for this.  Let's follow their leads~

January 14, 2017

Shutting up the Voice of Self-Loathing

The inner voice of self-loathing. When trying to resolve an issue with a spouse, a child, a coworker. When trying to get to bed after a tough day. Or when trying to meditate. 

“I really screwed that up.”
“That person doesn't get me.”
“Why even try this if the result will be mediocre?”
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not focused enough.”
“I am not enough.”

When I’ve shared my meditation and energy healing journey with others, many people respond by telling me they don’t think it’s possible for them to clear their minds. They think they have failed in their efforts to connect with their inner wisdom and that it's a pipe dream to find inner peace. In turn, as they believe they have failed themselves, they believe they have failed others in their lives. But this is not true. The negative stuff offers us a jumping point from which to meditate, learn, release, and grow.

The call to negative-town is strong. It is rooted in our amygdala, our early evolutionary impulse to protect ourselves, to survive, to operate from our lower brain. Some trace negative self-talk to early settlers' puritanical ways of thinking about virtue and our socialization from this philosophy.  

Our negative beliefs about ourselves may have been passed down to us from family members, teachers, or others in positions of authority who labeled us and sought to limit us.

We project this junk onto our partners and children, usually without malicious intent, but out of habit, out of self-preservation, from a place of unworthiness, or out of fear that the others in our lives might be judged and vulnerable if not protected by our negative mindset.

When we take the time to ground ourselves (See last Blog post), breathe, and choose to love ourselves in that space of negativity, amazing opportunities present themselves.

In this new year, I challenge all of us to meet our negativity head on. Courageously.

As you enter meditation, I offer the following tips:

1) Acknowledge the negative self-talk. 

2) Choose to put the negative thinking and emotions to the side or examine it. Don’t judge yourself or your choice about whether to put it aside or go deeper. Just choose. It will be alright.

3) If you choose to put it to the side, use your own personally designed mental trick to put it in a parking lot, a virtual box, somewhere else to be examined at another time. Choose to be free of that thought and feeling for now. Return to your breath and your meditation.

4) If you choose to examine the negative stuff, return to your breath.  Ask yourself about where this stuff comes from – is it internal? Is it external?  Consider: How does this self-loathing serve me? What does the negative talk prevent you from exploring within (e.g., fear about performance, anger towards a loved one, etc.) or in terms of your outer world choices (e.g., anxiety about taking a professional risk, projecting your choices onto others, etc.)?

5) Fill yourself with love and light, even if you are faking it until you make it.
Breathe, breathe, breathe.

6) Decide to give yourself a break, and catch yourself when you enter that place of self-hatred. This voice of judgment may surface throughout your meditation and even at times throughout your daily routine. Be gentle with yourself.

7) Remember that you get to choose what power you give that negative self-talk and how you translate or transmute those thoughts and feelings.

The more we allow ourselves to be human and think and feel lousy things, the more we also give ourselves access to our courage. And this courage is contagious, inspiring ourselves, our spouses, our children, and even those with whom we casually interact.

I would love to hear from you about how you manage any self-judgment and self-loathing that creeps up during meditation or elsewhere in life.

Here are a couple of other interesting sources regarding this subject:

“The Self Hatred Within Us” (Sharon Salzberg)  

“The Fascinating Buddhist Approach to Low Self-Esteem” (Tim Desmond)