The Coffee Shop Mindful Meditation: How to Get Here Now

We recently posted this article by Hugh Bryne, author of The Here and Now Habit. Read it over a few times till you get the hang of it. It is simple and can be done anywhere, anytime, anyhow. And, when done while parenting, especially when the stress hits the fan, you may find your ability to respond heightened rather than reacting (re-acting) the same old going nowhere battles. Note: You could even call it the Stopping at Traffic Light Meditation or Standing in Long Line at Grocery Store Meditation or a host of other names. You choose. Be creative.

The Coffee Shop Mindfulness Meditation: Here is part of a five-minute noting meditation I did in a coffee shop: “aware of tightness in my belly...song on the radio...pleasant feeling in response to the song...aware of voices...taste of coffee...creaking of the door opening and closing...thought that ‘they should oil the door’...high voice of barista...someone asks if she can sit down...I nod and smile ‘yes’...pleasant song on radio...wondering who the singer is...creaking door...tightness in belly in response to creaking...song...creaking...thinking how quickly coffee shop has filled up…”.

What's great about this practice is that nothing is 'wrong' if we can simply be aware of it and note it. We can step out of autopilot into awareness of our direct experience—where we can make healthy choices.
— Hugh Bryne, Author, The Here and Now Habit.

20 Steps to Cultivating Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn

We now have it in schools, in coloring books, in business circles, in healthcare and in the news headlines everyday. Bryan has been talking about it in parenting long before it became fashionable. But the real issue is, is it in you? Is it just another great parenting idea or a regular practice for you? Be aware of your feelings and state of mind - and of your child. If you don't know what you feel and think, you may not know what to do. What sort of a role model would that be for your children? Learn More...

The Single Most Important Tool for Interrupting Stress – Bryan Post

The Power of Breathing
Spend 3 minutes with Bryan as he shares why breathing is so important and how it impacts your and your children's regulatory state. Learn to use this undervalued (yes, if you don't use it life will be uncomfortable if not short) and incredibly powerful tool every parent - person - other should be using intentionally and consciously daily if not moment-ly. Breathe, Love Will Enter, Peace Will Follow. - David Durovy

 

 

How to Change a Life: Your’s, Your Childs, Anyone’s, Easily: Brain Science 101

Neuroplasticity shows us that our mental tracks that get laid down in our brain can lead to habits, good or bad. If we develop poor posture for example, it becomes hard to correct. If we develop good habits, they also become solidified. Is it possible, once “tracks" or neural pathways have been laid down, to get out of those paths and onto different ones? Yes, according to researchers, but it is difficult because, once we have created those tracks, they become "really speedy" and very efficient at guiding us “down the hill” of past behaviors. To take a different path becomes increasingly difficult. A roadblock of some kind is necessary to help us change direction. (Source: The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D.)

Changing your life is one of the easiest, simplest and no-brainer activities that anyone regardless of age, intelligence and maturity can engage in. In fact research has shown that even rats and monkeys can learn to move a cursor on a video screen, play video games and manipulate robotic arms all with their thoughts and imaginings. I know what this looks like as you read it — stupid, nonsense and easily disregarded. But what if it were not only true but replicatable, documented and as accepted scientific fact? Brace yourself—it is.

That being said, if we can teach rats and monkeys to do things that most of us don't believe could be taught, what might be possible in the realm of teaching our children and ourselves things that are beyond the reach of what we believe to be possible?

Changing a life is something that does not even require intention or any special skill or knowledge. In fact as you are reading this you are "changing your brain" and thus changing your life. It is a fact. Your thoughts change your brain and your brain affects your thoughts and behaviors. Your brain does not control you, in fact you control your brain, if you don't so choose.

Simply said, every thought you have changes the structure of your brain. Granted, There are critical periods where these changes occur with greater ease, such as early childhood for example. And as we age, this process slows down a bit, but never really stops until maybe your last breath. It might be said, that for every thought there is a corresponding neural circuit that is triggered or stimulated. If it agrees with the current tracks in your brain, the effect is "sameness or rigidity” which only enhances the current neural pathways making them even stronger — or changed to make them stronger and more rigid, but changed nonetheless). If the new thought is different from the current pathway, a new branch or synapse sprouts. Either way, nothing remains the same as it was and “life is changed".

So you see, you cannot ‘not change’ your life at any and every moment—and the same is true for your child. If you want the same behavior to continue or engrained even more strongly in your child, merely reinforce that through your reactions and responses. (**For info on to do this detrimentally to your child, see reference to Bryan Post's article below).

Bishop TD Jakes says "if you always do what you've always done you'll always get what you always got". The Bible says, “As you sow, so shall you reap". This is not so much philosophy or religion but in fact the way life is. You get to decide which direction, and that is the exciting part! This is not someone doing it to us, it is we doing it to us! ("We have met the enemy and he is us" — Pogo)Brain That Changes Itself

So, how do you change your life? Think. Think either the same thoughts or different thoughts. Your brain doesn't care. You on the other hand may care deeply whether your life becomes more rigid and the "same", or more flexible and different.

So think, dear parents, think carefully and deeply about what you want, who you want to be and where you want to go. Be mindful of what those careless images and thoughts that run through your mind, and the input you take in from books, movies, television and others. They are changing you, like it or not along with your children. Of course, this applies even more so for your children as they are likely in those critical periods where plasticity runs at a much quicker pace. And this is where we parents come in. Not so much to "teach" them, but to help them bring out the best their "selves" — and this may not be what "we" want for them.

So lets find out who are children are. Who they want to be. What they want to do. And as we connect with them in the true spirit of education (Latin meaning to draw forth or led out). In effect, this is what facilitates learning and long term memory by removing the stressors which can inhibit the learning process.  Remember that "stress causes confused and distorted thinking and short-term memory loss". (A.N. Shore 2003, Affect Regulation and the Disorders of the Self, WW Norton).

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Interesting, is it not?

If you have not devoured Norman Doidge M.D.'s book, The Brain That Changes Itself, get it on Amazon now. — David Durovy


**How Neurophysiologic Feedback Loops work in parenting, which when they arise unaware in your interactions with your child, can promote more of the same behaviors that we are trying so hard to eliminate.

The term “neurophysiologic” refers to both body and mind. We have body/mind feedback loops that are both positive and negative. Research has been able to determine that we communicate with one another and are connected to one another on a cellular level. In fact, every cell in our bodies contains a consciousness of sorts, along with all of our DNA. Is that a radical idea for you? I want you to begin to pay close attention to the dynamic when you and your child get into an interaction that involves negative words thrown back and forth. Look at how big the dynamic becomes.

Let me illustrate it through an exercise. Draw a small circle on a piece of paper right now. That’s your child saying, “No, I’m not going to do it.” Draw another little circle. That’s you saying, “Yes, you are!” The child says, “No, I’m not!” Then, you say, “Yes you are!” Draw the circles larger around each time. That’s the power of a negative feedback loop.” — Bryan Post

To read more of Bryan’s article on this topic read more here.

How Do You Handle Anger? How Does Your Child?

One of the most effective tools in a parent’s toolbox is anger. “Don’t make me get angry with you”! (As if they Angry-Black-Man-Holing-Earscould make us…). We don’t like it when our children get angry, we don’t like it when our spouse or boss gets angry, and if you are like me, you don’t even like it when you get angry. So why do we do it? More importantly, what is it, and how do we “not do it”? Hopefully you read our recent article that introduced Eric Barker and his blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree and got a good look at the neuroscience involved in the experience of anger. Really good stuff (if not, read it in the link below). Here is more about anger.

So Let’s talk more about anger.

We ran an article about How to not get angry — 3 Secrets from Neuroscience by Eric Barker which was viewed by many of our parents and professionals. The summary of Mr. Barker’s excellent article is:

"Here’s how to get rid of anger:
    1) Suppress rarely. They may not know you’re angry but you’ll feel worse inside and hurt the relationship.
    2) Don’t vent. Communication is good but venting just increases anger. Distract yourself.
    3) Reappraisal is usually the best option. Think to yourself, “It’s not about me. They must be having a bad day.”
    4) Practice forgiveness"

His research into neuroscience is well worth looking into. His simple four step process for working with this powerful emotion offers a breath of fresh air to many of us who are victims of our seemingly uncontrollable reactions. Some of us even go so far as to say, "I have a right to be angry with you". Well, perhaps a right to feel your anger - and we even encourage that, but the "right" to blast, rant, rave, scream, throw things, or worse is certainly an option of yours to choose, but perhaps not the best for you or your child.

But, let’s look at anger from a different perspective…  how about needs not being met? There are many references to fear being underneath the emotion of anger. When we are afraid, we react with anger. Because we are afraid, we bring out the big guns - our anger and rage. (That should scare them off!)

But let’s roll that back one more level. What is the fear? Marshall Rosenberg, founder of the Center for Non Violent Communication puts this in a perspective that allows anger to be seen simply as a sign that one’s needs are not being met. End of story. And, that feelings of depression, guilt and blame along with anger are all tragic expressions of one's needs not being met.

How-not-to-handle-angerSo when I am feeling afraid that my needs are not or will not be met, not knowing how to communicate this and feeling powerless, lacking the tools or feeling like I don’t deserve my needs being met for some reason, I use anger as a way to get my way. So do I want to be angry? Do I have a right to be angry? If that is the only way I know of to get my needs met, well yes, I guess I can and most of the time do choose anger.

The ironic part of this story is that anger is rarely met with my needs being met. At least in the “everybody feels good about the outcome” way. A boss may get the employee to do what needs to be done, or parent may get the child to do what the parent wants, but at what cost do these things play out? Fear > Anger > Control > Rebellion > Fear.

And what stops us parents from asking an angry child, “honey, what are your needs right now that are not being met”? Often times I think it is the fear that they will ask for something that we cannot/will not/refuse to give them so the cycle will begin again. So we don't go there.

But will it?

Once needs are identified, three things have occurred:
1)    A conversation — not a fight;
2)    You get to know your child better, and yourself hopefully;
3)    You have the opportunity to go even deeper, as in… “If you got to ________, how would that make you feel, as in what need would be met? And the conversation would continue. “Oh I see, if you got to go to the dance, you would get to see _______ and would feel _______. I wonder if there might be any other way you can meet your need?

Granted, since children at all ages are often not so logical or reasonable, so you are really looking in-between the lines for unconscious emotional issues. Will this always resolve things without fighting with your kids? You know better. But does it open up options to what may be a fight into what could be a conversation? You can guess that too.

And if all comes down to just another battle, you can always quit fighting and forgive. Barker points out the value of forgiveness as a tool for less anger and more heath. Imagine a world where we all come to realize that forgiveness is “not for them, it’s for you. He says:

"Forgiveness makes you less angry and more healthy: Trait forgiveness was significantly associated with fewer medications and less alcohol use, lower blood pressure and rate pressure product; state forgiveness was significantly associated with lower heart rate and fewer physical symptoms. Neither of these sets of findings were the result of decreased levels of anger-out being associated with forgiveness. These findings have important theoretical implications regarding the forgiveness–health link, suggesting that the benefits of forgiveness extend beyond the dissipation of anger."

In summary — How to understand anger as a tool for making things more wonderful for ourselves and children:

  • Feel your anger. Notice the signs, the symptoms, the signals and the sensations in your body. Your stomach, your hands and your breath can all be good indicators of a coming storm. If you miss these, you will likely go "over the falls of reactivity" and become of victim, along with your child, of your anger;
  • Don’t suppress — this only makes things worse, unhealthy, (but don’t beat anyone up instead either);
  • Don’t vent — unhealthy, makes things worse;
  • Reappraise — I wonder what prompted or triggered her behavior? It’s not about me;
  • Forgive — This is about me, not about them;
  • Identify the need not being met and see what can be done “to make life more wonderful” as Rosenberg likes to say.

So, what need of your is not being met? What would make life more wonderful for you? Now, find someone to share that with and see what comes about.

Have a calm and wonderful day!

How To Never Get Angry: Secrets From Neuroscience

How to Not React with Anger Toward Your Child or Anyone Ever Again... 

angry dadHow To Never Get Angry: 3 New Secrets From Neuroscience
One of the most effective tools in a parent’s toolbox is anger. “Don’t make me get angry with you”! (As if they could make us…). We don’t like it when our children get angry, we don’t like it when our spouse or boss gets angry, and if you are like me, you don’t even like it when you get angry. So why do we do it? More importantly, how do we “not do it”?

Eric Barker, the guy behind the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree (his site brings science-based answers and expert insight on how to be awesome at life and has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired Magazine and Time Magazine) has done a wonderful job helping us find options, understanding and alternatives to our fits of anger that do more harm than good.

His article appeared in Oct 2015 and is worth spending some time reading and looking at the links he provides. His focus is research based information and he provides the footnotes to back it up. Make sure you watch the Marshmallow Test video - inspiring and entertaining.

Imagine realizing that anger and other emotions can be healing — and that by suppressing them we are actually doing damage to ourselves. Suppression works he says but, “The good news is suppression works. You can bottle up your feelings and not look angry. However…It’s almost always a bad idea. Yes, it prevents the anger from getting out, but when you fight your feelings they only get stronger.” Whoa!

And further, “What happens in the brain when you try to clamp down on that rage? A whole mess of bad stuff. Your ability to experience positive feelings goes down — but not negative feelings. Stress soars. And your amygdala (a part of the brain closely associated with emotions) starts working overtime.” Well, we know about this amygdala stuff — the fear center for freeze, flight or fight. Who wants more of this? Want to learn how to decrease the power of your reactive amygdala? Help is here.

And to make matter worse, Barker says, “And fighting your feelings uses a lot of willpower. So afterwards you have less control and that’s why you’re more likely to do things you regret after you’re angry”. No surprise here.

Eric give us plenty of science to show how destructive suppressing our emotions can be (and the same for our children) and offers some excellent help for learning to manage (stop venting and start reappraising and more) the darker side of ourselves. Read it all right here…

What kind of a role model am I? What kind are you?

When adults get stressed out, they tend to act like adolescents because “When we stress, we regress”. Our amygdala is hijacked, our higher functioning frontal cortex is shut down and we are no longer running the show. The same of course for our children. Think about this the next time you are tempted to say to them, “What were you thinking!?!?” The answer is simple - Not.

I got so mad at my 22 year old the other day that I had to hang up the phone on him. I didn’t even decide to, I just “did” it. He texted back, “nice move dad. Really mature”. Yeah. 65 years old and still acting like a kid. How does that happen? It’s really simple. Stress causes us to react from the past, completely miss the present and obsess about the future. Our thinking processes become confused and distorted, and with our short term memory suppressed, we don’t know who we are or who we are interacting with. We become strangers I in our own bodies, in our own experience and can almost say with impunity, “I didn’t do it”. Almost. This is what happens when I am ‘not home’.

The same is true for our children, when they do things they shouldn’t, behave badly, is it “them” doing it or their own stressors of fear triggering their actions? No, this is not amnesty for every wrongdoing. This is simply ‘understanding’ which leads to learning which leads to healing, correction and better choices — or in many cases choice period. I didn’t choose to hang up on my son. I was so wound up I had no choice. “It” just happened. And I am the adult with 65 years of experience and I know better.  So when “it” happens to our child, how do we respond? How could we respond? What is the teaching moment here? Or, do we get so upset with their stupid behavior that we just re-act (as in acting over and over again and again) cause the cycle of unconscious  behavior on both our parts to just continue endlessly into the future, never learning, never stopping, never being mindful and never being free?
 
"Let he who has never sinned cast the first stone..."

Think about it. Can you blame us? Can you blame them?

Choose Love.

Practice Mindfulness – Eat Chocolate – And Be a Better Parent?

31-free-buttons Strange as it may seem. We talk often about mindfulness, and it has become a buzzword in the media. It is box of chocos popping up everywhere, yet it seems to be shrouded in quasi-mystical words and descriptions which often leads to more questions and confusion. It is really a very simple practice (not easy mind you and does require practice) that can be utilized by anyone — man, woman or child. It is just being aware of what you are not aware of. And being aware of what you are already aware of, but instead of pushing it away, you engage with it in a manner of allowing what is present to ” just be”. After all we are human "beings” and not human “doings”.

So let us begin to just “be” a little more in our life and allow others–especially our children to just be who they are. This I find is the quickest way to change. Paradoxical? Think about it. There is a saying, “you can’t get there from here”. When in fact the only way to get there is from here. What is true, is “you can’t get there from there”. So if you are not “here” with your experience, you cannot get “there” to the other side of the experience and will in some way continue on, in an unending, oft-repeating pattern of experience/behavior/emotions wondering why you keep going through the same old stuff in your life over and over and over and …  So, take a break. Have some chocolate (or raisins if you prefer) and practice your parenting skills in a different way. And, the next time your child acts out, you might just say, "hey, let's have a piece of chocolate!"

Food of the gods2“Mindful eating is a practice to slow down the mind to be present in those moment- to- moment activities. Eating is one practice of Mindfulness. Most commercials for chocolates use an image of someone savoring a piece of chocolate with their eyes closed along with a message that encourages us to loose ourselves in the moment. Mindfulness eating is a practice that encourages paying attention to our bodies reaction to the senses that eating stimulates or uses. Sight, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds all play a part in mindfulness. The history or story of how food made it to your mouth is also a form of mindfulness. Thinking of who grew the food, where it was grown, who harvested it and how was it made can really slow down your eating experience and make it much more enjoyable and gratifying. Chocolate is a good choice to use to describe mindful eating. Concentrate on how your senses are being stimulated. Simply just sow down and enjoy this simple, yet complex everyday event called eating.” — Source: Tracie Abram, Michigan State University Extension

How to Rid Yourself of Fear

Sick and tired enough of being sick and tired of being fearful and helpless about your life with challenging children?

Fear_NoDo you ever really consider what fear is? Do you ever experience it? Do you know what it really feels like in your body? Where you experience it? If so, how do you deal with it?

Bryan talks about fear a lot as you know. Fear vs love for example is not the "horror/scary story" fear - although it can feel like that at times. Like when you know school has ended and it is about time for your child to be walking through the door and your reaction is one of "oh - no, here we go again". I used to feel this when driving home from work every single day.

You can feel it in your stomach — it is real, it is visceral and it is not fun. Fear that your child will never survive their teen years let alone adulthood. For many of us, it is not what university they might attend but what prison will they be in — and that is if they are not dead. I remember feeling glad when people asked about our RAD poster child son that he was neither dead nor in jail after he finally graduated from high school (four different high schools including two "special behavior" schools and numerous home schooling attempts later).
Yet for many of us, fear keeps on repeating itself day after day after ...

And these are just our fears as a parent. Not to mention our child's fears which may make ours look like a "walk in the park" if we really knew their experience.

Into the Silent LandSo it is with this in mind that we share something that offers an invitation few of us would accept, but just maybe we are just sick and tired enough of being sick and tired of being fearful and helpless about our lives with our challenging children!

“If you want to know the true nature of fear, look straight into it. Fear, anger, envy — any afflictive thought or feeling — cannot withstand a direct gaze. But if we look at the story and feed on the story we tell ourselves of our fear, anger, envy, etc., affliction thrives. Affliction feeds off the noise of the commenting chattering mind.”Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird.

What is the take home lesson? Parents, watch what you think and say to start with, then watch if any behaviors extend from these and just stop them. Yes, just like that. Any behavior that does not come from love comes from fear. So parents, just say "stop". You will find your child responding more like this the more you respond more like this. To read more about this interesting book and approach, click here.

How To “Un-See” Negative Behaviors in Children

NoseWhile standing in line at the USPS office today, I noticed a woman with a big nose come in. Then I noticed myself commenting to myself about her nose (thinking… Wow! What a big nose!). After a short go-round with my thoughts and judgements, I began to wonder why I was judging her nose? It is not like I have never seen a big nose before, in fact I have one of those schnaz’s myself, along with a couple of ears that were always too big for my head. Yet it was instantly clear that my big nose was better than her big nose.

So I began to wonder what it would take for me to see her nose (or mine for that matter) as just a “nose” without the judgment attached. And where does that judgement arise from?

After a bit of back and forth, I came to the conclusion that it was my culture that somehow defined big from little or normal along with many other judgements about physical appearances along the way. And, not to blame anyone, but in an effort to “be who I really want to be” (a person without judgement – who accepts people as people equally (and noses as just noses), I had to admit that I bought it – hook, line and sinker as we use to say. I bought the judgement and made it my own. I bought the lie that big nose’s are bad and normal size noses are good. Just like for many years, ashamed as I am now to admit, I “thought that tattoos are bad, earrings in one’s face are bad, in fact earings anywhere but in your ear are bad” etc. etc. etc.

The issue here, is not whether noses are good or bad, not about tattoos or body piercings, but how do we go about changing things once we decide that something no longer serves us and where we want to go with our lives. How to do a better job of parenting where we are not so consumed with judging our children’s behaviors, ourselves or others parenting styles. How do we break out of our old parenting paradigm that Bryan often talks about so that we can move into a truly love based parenting approach – which is not what tradition has taught us as THE BEST WAY to parent?

Big-Dipper_v2The Big Dipper Challenge: So here is a challenge. Look at the Big Dipper but don’t see the Big Dipper. Can you see simply stars. Not easy is it? Because of our upbringing, we “see” what is not there – a big dipper. And we believe it. Or perhaps we believe it and then see it. That is what changing our paradigm is all about. A paradigm is the way in which you see the world. The lens through which you view all people and things and all events. It is greatly reinforced by society, culture, upbringing etc. In order to change your paradigm you must be willing to challenge your beliefs. You must ask questions rather than taking for face value what has been said because many others have said it or believe it to be true. You must question in order to challenge your belief system, in order to lead to a change in your thinking, and then in your behavior. When this occurs then you will be changing your paradigm. It is in some ways really very simple. All we have to work with are 3 basic tools – thought, word, deed (or action). We can catch these patterns anywhere along the way, but the most effective way is to catch it at the thought level. That way we can choose to change it before we say it and long before we act it out. If we are mindful, we can see it at any one of the 3 expressions.

Take a look at the Big Dipper from the side view, which doesn’t at all resemble a dipper, and in fact the distance between those stars is big-dipper side viewenormous in terms of light years apart. Yet when we view them from our earthly perspective, and that is all it is – a perspective, (not right, not wrong, just is) projected on a two dimensional back drop of the dark sky, it is easy to “see” a dipper.

In terms of behaviors in our selves and our children, what we are really seeing are neural patterns firing often as habitual reactionary expressions of thought, word and actions on an unconscious level. For most of the time, this means we exhibit very little control, choice or free will as we would like to think. We must be willing to stop, look and listen not only every time we cross the street, but with every thought, word or action we take and ask, “will this thought, word or action serve me as I really want to be?”.

So how do we un-see our children’s negative behaviors? Bryan has a simple answer, look past the anger/behavior and see the fear. The judgement we place on the behavior is just one perspective – mostly tradition, culture and upbringing – like looking at the Big Dipper which isn’t really there. In other words, our paradigm. Oh, there’s something there of course. Just different. We have to see “past” things, or to be more accurate, we have to “look at” things mindfully, just as they are, non-judgementally with present moment awareness both at our own behaviors, thoughts and words and of our children’s. Dr. Daniel Siegel likes to say, “what you can look at disappears”. What disappears is the perspective, judgement, conclusion, feeling states such as fear etc. or other reaction you might experience. What you are left with the the ability to simple “respond” based on what works, might work, or any other new or novel approach that would not be considered in a typical habit reaction that allows us no time to intercede due to the speed of neural connections.

IMG_04231Why is this so important? Because as Bryan puts it…
“the way in which we parent stems from our paradigm. It is dominated by traditional thought at every level, engrained into our unconscious, our psyche, essentially defining who we are and how we relate. Go to a grocery store and ask your child to yell at you or mis-behave in some way. Some of you may not have to ask! And then rather than smacking the child, shaming, or yelling back, stop and breathe. Calm your inner self and observe those around you, feel their energy. You will be shocked by the negativity that is generated from the traditional paradigm. They don’t know you yet they will judge you harshly. This intensity of negativity permeates our society and our relationships. There is love here, but often we have to work to find it.”