I know it's hard to believe that I could write more on Balance - but it's a topic that just won't leave me alone. On my last tribe call we talked about what balance means to us - and of course I mentioned that I've been trying to make a mental shift from the word balance to flow. In that post I said that I felt like if I had a good balance between being "On Fire" and "Peaceful" then things would flow. The same formula from a post 6 months earlier!
Passion + Peace = Flow
So clearly the ideas of balance, flow, peace, and passion frequently inhabit my mind.
But even with all this thought-fermentation, I still couldn't explain "Balance" means to me! (Maybe this has something to do with why I'm trying to avoid it!)
But I think I finally have it! (I know, I know, this is REALLY EXCITING! Don't worry, I won't keep you in suspense much longer.)
Balance is achieved when:
Energy output = Energy input
Whew! Did I just BLOW. YOUR. MIND? Or what?!
What this means to me is that I allow or put back into myself at least the same amount of energy as I put out into the world (my family, friends, home, community etc.) If we don't do this, our energy reserves get low and that is when we feel out of balance.
I love this way of looking at balance for a lot of reasons. Of course I love it because it's a formula, and if something can't be expressed in a mathematical formula or scientific theory, well, then what good is it at all?
Seriously though, I mostly like this because it is actually very general; it's sufficiently vague so that we can make it work for our own individual needs. Because the truth is we are all unique. Some of us need time alone every day and others of us die a little without having some major social interaction daily. Some kids need to be moving ALL. THE. TIME. and others ok with less activity.
I also really love this because you can choose to "zoom out" on your timeline with this idea. Yes there may be days or a stretch of days where you are putting out a lot of energy into the world, maybe even compromising on your own needs for a while. But you know that after this time you will have a period of calm and be able to replenish yourself. Or perhaps you even knew this busy time was coming up and made sure to take extra-special care of yourself before hand.
Anyways, I'm kind of in love with this idea.
I'll leave you with a story about the Dalai Lama that I love (and found here):
A friend who I met through HE recently told me a story about a question the
How wonderful is that? And it explains it so perfectly! If we are busy giving, doing, rushing, achieving, connecting and all the other things we do in our modern, busy lives, then we must put at least as much back into ourselves.
What do you think? Does this Balance Formula make sense to you? Does it help you feel better about taking care of yourself so that you have more to give too?
Last week I posted this painting - it only took me a few minutes to create. One of our little friends loves to paint when she comes over to our house and I can't bear to let the paint go to waste.
But people really responded to this simple little painting and the message. One friend commented, "Love it! I wish all people could follow these directions, I don't understand why it's so difficult."
I've been thinking about her comment ever since. Because I know that it is difficult to be kind sometimes. Why is it so difficult? Because we are all human. We all mess up sometimes. We all have needs that aren't always being met 100% of the time. We all have unique triggers - things that cause us to feel strong emotions. Sometimes we're exhausted or hungry, sometimes we see something that makes us really ANGRY. In these situations we may feel like we don't have the energy to be kind. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is bite our tongue and take a few deep breaths until our boiling blood cools down.
It's easy to get behind the message, "Just be kind" when we witness terrible events in the world - unfathomable acts committed that harm innocent people. What's difficult is being consistent in our day to day lives with people in our immediate environment. Sometimes the most difficult thing is to Be Kind to a family member that always seems to do things that go against our values. Perhaps our neighbor does something annoying that we can't understand. How kind are we to strangers we see at the grocery store or what thoughts do we have about other drivers on the highway?
And of course - how do we show (or NOT show) kindness to our children every day?
Be Kind may be a simple message but it is NOT an easy one. If it was we would have figured this stuff out already. So we keep trying. We keep challenging OURSELVES every day to be kinder. (And admit and forgive ourselves when we are not. The more I focus on this message the more I notice when I'm falling short. It's ok to admit we aren't perfect. Instead of beating ourselves up it's more important to make things right and learn from our mistakes.)
So yes. Just. Be. Kind. Even - no ESPECIALLY - when we see others being Unkind. It is the only answer that makes sense.
Although some people may think it is so, Kindness is NOT weak.
Kindness is strong. We can build kindness up - within us and out in the world - one small brick of kindness at a time. But just like a brick wall can be worn down byrain and wind, Kindness can be worn down by the elements of judgment and selfishness.
Kindness is tender too. Like a seedling that needs sun and rain it will flourish if we protect it. Like a vine it will grow wildly and cover everything it touches. We can nourish our vines of kindness with mindfulness and compassion.
Be Kind. Even - no ESPECIALLY - when it's difficult.
Just. Be. Kind. ♥ ♥ ♥
In Hypnobabies our students learn to create and use a "Bubble of Peace" (BOP), to let only positive words, ideas, thoughts, and feelings in about birth - and to keep the negative away.
One (of many) things that I adore about teaching Hypnobabies is that most of what I teach applies to everyday life - not just pregnancy and birth. After last week's madness in Boston, we could all use our Bubbles of Peace reinforced.
My bubble is pretty big and beautiful. Unschooling creates another large, strong bubble around me and my family. Peaceful parenting adds another iridescent layer. Sometimes our bubbles get little pinholes (or large gashes) in them though and they start to deflate and let more rubbish in. Last night I read some really disturbing things that animals do to each other. Then right before bed I read some stories of humans doing unimaginable, hurtful things to one another (who am I kidding - we are animals too, we just like to put ourselves in a different category.) I thought about linking these stories here, but I don't want to spread those ugly vibes this morning when so many people are still reeling.
Somehow I went to sleep last night - I attribute it to "Peace breathing" (yep, more Hypnobabies' awesomeness), deep breaths with some mantras to still my mind, and, oh yeah, it was really late by the time my kiddos fell asleep so I was tired! But this morning Marisol sat up in bed and said she had a bad dream, and the first thing I thought of were those sad stories. And I wondered if I had given off bad energy that affected her. I literally woke up feeling sick to my stomach. So I worked (again) on shifting my thoughts to the positive.
I know some people think that living in a "bubble" is unrealistic or even wrong. I disagree. Because choosing to focus on the good in the world doesn't mean that we are denying the bad. We already know that bad things happen. But focusing on sad, horrible, awful events does not make us or the world better. And more importantly the good IS REAL too! I've written before about whether Hypnobabies is realistic - and I think that this same message applies to life in general. We will not make the world a more beautiful, loving, peaceful place by dwelling on things that are not. It's up to us to choose differently. Because you know what? The majority of the "bad things" that happen are created BY US. Yes, there are the inexplicable accidents and illnesses, but most of our suffering is self-made. So please, reinforce your bubbles today! See the good so you can be the good.
The mug I had my coffee in this morning - an active reminder, "Life is Good!" Also reminds me of the amazing friend who gave it to me. And the band-aid reminds me of my sweet daughter. I woke up NEEDING to write this morning. Now the only things I plan on doing are cleaning and connecting with my family. Sounds like a good Saturday and way to mend my bubble.
I'll end with one of my favorite quotes that is making the rounds lately - spread by hopeful people all over the world:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let the pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
- Kurt Vonnegut
Sending you all so much love and peace today.
This thought has been in my mind for a while. And the longer it sits the more I know it is true:
My choices about how to parent my kids are more about me than they will ever be about them.
This may sound wrong. It may come off as selfish. But it is the truth.
How many times have we heard how "resilient" kids are? How they can adapt to so many different situations, environments, and people? How about people that like to say, "well I was parented in x, y, or z manner, and *I* turned out 'fine'!"
How important is it that we really think about this parenting stuff? I mean why stress about it too much if they are probably going to more or less turn out ok - regardless of my specific parenting philosophy?
There is some merit in this line of thinking - it is good to keep perspective. When I was a teacher and things were getting heavy, I had to remind myself not to take myself too seriously. I wasn't responsible for saving the world or single-handedly turning my students' lives around. There are so many factors that contribute to life.
So the bottom line is that we do our best. That's it. This is how I came to the conclusion that my parenting is really all about me. What kind of person *I* am in this moment. What kind of person I aspire to be in my best moments.
Now, when I say "do our best" this is no small thing. Doing our best means dedicating ourselves to always improving ourselves. To being the best example we can be. To finding ways to be present and loving every day. To improving our communication skills with our loved ones. To apologizing when we fall short. Because we will fall short. But that is to be expected, because doing our best will never mean that we are perfect. So the question is, what are you going to do when faced with the inevitable? What kind of human being are you going to *choose* to be?
Our focus has to shift. Instead of defining our parenting by what our children are doing, we need to define it by what *we* are doing. When we raise the standards for ourselves, our children will naturally rise with us.
This is how we will change the world together. This is how a new way will be defined. This is how peace will begin to spread from one mama and papa at a time to their children, and then outwards through the world.
My biggest worries on Friday December 14th were to keep my son awake all day (no naps allowed for little boys who stay up till 11 pm!) - and then to keep him asleep at night. Oh, and also whether I should pack one suitcase or two for Florida.
12/14/2012 - 2 days after "12/12/12" - the world did come to an end for many families.
How do we process a tragedy like this? How do we carry on when something as horrible as this happens? Until 1 pm that afternoon I was contentedly going about my day, trying to pack, feed the kids, and to keep our excitement about our travels and Christmas at an enjoyable rather then a frenetic level.
I talked to my mom for almost an hour and a half earlier that morning. (What did we talk about?? A friend's mother who passed away, unschooling, birth, money, taking risks... what didn't we talk about?) It's another luxury in my life - that I am fortunate enough to have the time and desire to talk with my mom almost every morning - oh yeah, and I'm lucky to have my mom still here with me.
I realized later that night that I was talking to my mom when the shooting occurred.
For me, 12/14/2012 will forever be divided into before knowing and after - between ignorance and awareness. The horror and grief that swept through me as I read the articles. The tears that sprang to my eyes and that I quickly wiped away, before my mature, sensitive 6 year old could see them (mature, but not mature enough for this kind of news). I tried calling my mom back but they weren't home. So I talked for a few minutes to a friend about the senselessness of it.
Then I herded us outside. It was a beautiful day - warm for this time of year, sunny, and blue skies. It was like a huge spiritual oxymoron - the discrepency between my internal and external environment. We ran and played. Gerry cried, he was so tired (and as it turned out, starting to fight off an illness). Marisol played with neighborhood friends. I managed to smile and have fun but the thought of the children and families was always present in the back of my mind.
There is no making sense of what happened. I liked these words that I read today on The Libertarian Homeschooler's Facebook page:
A thought in the midst of the shock.
Some people have such a way with words. And they offer us hope. Because if we don't have hope in times like these, then what do we have? If we allow the despair to overwhelm our souls then what will tomorrow bring?
We all have different ways of processing things and dealing with tragedy and that is ok. Some need a break from Facebook, others want to devour every status update and poignant picture. Some people need time alone while others seek solace in the company of loved ones. Me, I *need* to talk about it. And now write. I like to read different people's thoughts too - people I respect, people who are trying to make the world a better place. And of course tears are cleansing. But considering I'm the same person who was proud if I made it through a week at school without crying in 6th grade, there have been surprisingly few tears. Today, I felt strangely normal, if a little subdued. I could feel guilty about it, but I don't. We cannot "Be the Change" if we are depressed ourselves.
The biggest surge of crying came on unexpectedly as I texted my sister - "I love you". Marisol was not in the room and my guard was down. I know that I am largely holding it together because of and for my kids. And the irony of that strikes me hard and cold - what about the people who have lost their 6 year old - their reason for hope, for carrying on... for keeping it together?
We need to be the light for them for as long as they need it. And I know that I personally cannot be the light if I'm too focused on my desire to know. To know details of what happened and of course any information that may help explain *why*? Because there will never be a satisfactory answer for that question. So we must move on and each do our bit to help heal and better the world.
In our house we get all of our news from the internet - no televised news here. This helps so much - to filter and minimize the amount of sensationalized information, and more importantly, the images that are allowed into our consciouness. Television is powerful and our minds and imaginations are too. But we have a choice in how we use them.
Still, I have not totally been able to resist seeking information. And when I do, my body realizes the full meaning of "heartsick".
Mostly, I've been carrying on by doing what I do every day. Being the best mom I can be. Connecting with my loved ones. Being even more grateful. By appreciating the mundane.
Night time is harder. The kids are asleep and we are left with our thoughts. Last night I could not help but wonder how many people across the country - no, across the world - were thinking about the shooting and the victims and the terror that must have filled them in their last moments. Why does it take something so tragic to unite us?
Yet there are already divisions too. Even I have had thoughts fleet through my mind, like - "Really? They're posting about *that*??" So I remind myself that everyone deals with these things in different ways. Not only that, but I can never presume to know what is going on *inside* of another person.
There are many opinions about why these things keep happening and what we need to do to stop them from happening. Discussions are heated. Some people think it's disrespectful to the grieving to even bring up issues like gun-control or mental health care. I tend to resonate most strongly with people who are focusing on deeper, wider, and more spiritual answers - of spreading Peace right here and now whereever we happen to be.
All of these ideas have the potential to ignite impassioned debate. The most important thing we can all do is to be kind to each other and remember that we all want the same thing - we want these things to stop, we want to be safe, we want to be loved. So we must wrap our passion in love even when our convictions burn bright.
We are in an interesting space in the hours and days following a tragedy of this magnitude. On one hand what truly matters is brought into sharp focus. This
blog, my Christmas craft, the state of my house... none of it really matters.
But at the same time it all *does* matter. Our daily lives, the choices we make
every moment, the words we choose when speaking to others. For me it has only strengthened the truth that there really are No Guarantees and No "Re-dos" - there is only the Present Moment. So I'm using this as an opportunity to recommit myself to make the here and now the best that I can. I hope you will all join me.
I made this Venn Diagram a while ago to remind me of the ways I can take care of my body, mind, and spirit. Then this past weekend we were doing various things around the house and another analogy popped into my head.
I've been aware for some time now that I need to get back to exercising my body regularly. I've just not gotten into a regular habit since Marisol was born 6+ years ago. Luckily for me my lifestyle is such that I stay fairly active and I'm also continuously expanding my healthy diet options, so it's not that I'm in TERRIBLE shape exactly. It's just that I've not made it a priority and I'm really starting to crave that now.
So we were doing a couple of things upstairs where our bedrooms and one bathroom are and I thought (not for the first time!) how it was the most neglected level of our three-level home. I really don't want to describe to you the state of affairs upstairs, but let's just say it is far from clean or neat. Dusty, clothes often everywhere, Marisol's many babies piled here and there... and the bathroom! Let's just not go there. Yet the rooms are used every day for very important things - namely sleep, potty, and hygiene. So I thought, jeez, that's just like my poor, neglected body. My body is also used every day for very important things yet not getting the love it truly deserves!
Now the main living level of our home which includes the kitchen and attached craft area, dining area/computer desk, and living room - well, let's just say we "keep up". The kitchen of course needs to be relatively clean just to use it every day. This "mid-level" is comparable to how I keep up with my spirit. I mean it's pretty darn important to tend to your spirit regularly, right? I definitely have room for improvement both in the mid-level of my home and in tending to my spirit. Ironically, the biggest thing I do once a week on this floor of our house is make sure that there is a safe path for my students to walk to the stairs to the basement.
Ahh, the basement. This is my teaching space. Every week it gets cleaned up really well (by my standards anyway). The bathroom is the cleanest bathroom that I've ever personally taken care of. The toys must be put away and the rug vacuumed every week (especially for my students with cat allergies!) And this of course is analogous to my mind. I'm constantly feeding and exercising my mind - primarily with reading, but also with having conversations with friends and loved ones, and now I've added writing regularly to my mind's "workout". I've got this one COVERED! In fact, I'm realizing that I'm a little too good at exercising my mind and not so good at resting it which would be better for my spirit and body. I find this analogy ironic but appropriate because 1) the basement is the best taken care of space in our house (this doesn't seem normal) 2) my analogy is a little backwards with the bottom of the house being compared to my mind - which I think of as being housed in the attic of my body and 3) Teaching is a very "mind" centered activity - although it does serve my spirit as well.
There you have it - how I the levels of our home are similar to how I take care of my mind, body and spirit.
In the middle of my Venn Diagram I spelled out the word balance (it fits perfectly!) because I believe if I'm feeding my body, mind, and spirit I will find the best balance for myself. (I'm beginning to think that "Balance" is my word for this year, not "Embrace"... but oh well, they're both good!)
The "e" in the center symbolizes emotions to me. When we are balanced we will experience peace, happiness, joy, acceptance, love and many others. So I am more and more getting to a place where I realize I need to feed, use, and rest all parts of myself. The saying below is becoming a new mantra for me and is really helpful when I'm falling asleep, "Rest your mind... Calm your heart". Ahhh, it just feels peaceful and I can let go of all of the busy thoughts of the day.
How about you, is there are specific "part" of you that you particularly take good care of or neglect? What could you change to feel more balanced?
"peace" I whisper. Peace, I smile. I breathe PEACE in when I feel myself losing my balance.
I look around me. People hurting - parents, children, adults and teens - and I say a little more loudly, "Peace!"
Be kind to each other AND yourself.
Respect others AND yourself.
Love others AND yourself.
Forgive others AND yourself.
Know others AND yourself.
PEACE. I proclaim it loud.
If what you're doing or saying hurts someone else, if it creates separation between you, or if it causes you to harden your heart - then it's not the way.
Others don't want to hear it. And I'm confused. How is kindness controversial? Why is love radical? When did respect become something to be earned?
My own internal peace begins to falter. So I breathe. Breathe in peace... Breathe out love.
I remember my own ROAR.
We are all one... we all desire the same basic things, we are just on different paths.
Breathe in... Peace. The fierce, menacing ROAR of the "Peace Nazi" settles down to a gentle, content purr.
It is ok to disagree. It. Is. Ok.
I don't have to be right for everyone.
I am right for me.
And with that Peace, I can spread more to the world.
This post was inspired by the Wild Sister website and the September issue of the Wild Sister e-magazine. It was so worth the money - filled with amazing women, their inspiring messages, and how they are each changing the world for the better in their own way. Check it out!
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.