March 30, 2020
Before this virus began to be a part of this surreal time, I have been realizing again and again, or I’ve been given the opportunity to see, what its like to surrender control, to surrender being able to plan and find solutions. How grateful I am to realize this before our world turned upside down!
Eight months ago my oldest child, my daughter who is 26, became chronically ill and began to lose normal everyday functioning. She had struggled with fatigue and sleep deprivation/insomnia (non-24 hour sleep disorder) for 10 years, yet this was different. The littlest bit of exertion would lead to “crashes” of energy, not being able to move her legs, or pick up a glass, or talk even sometimes. And so the frantic part of me began to research, to make appointments with specialists, to try to find some way that this wouldn’t be so. And along the way I’ve been reminded how this is her journey of learning to pause, to listen to her body and find what it needs to heal. And my job is to be a guide, to be a supporter, to check in with her and see how she is and what, if any, support she’d like. To be present and bring my presence and unconditional love. (sigh)
I have found that when I slowed down and used some things I’ve learned from Internal Family System therapy, a part of me wanted to find the solution, to find THE cure or find the resource that would help her. And of course this would be supportive. And as the months drug by I found that there was a part of me that was frantically searching - spending all my time researching on the internet, talking to various people, scanning over and over. And I realized I would barely take a few minutes of down time to just be. I had been consciously making sure I was still caring for my well-being so I could be a supporter, and I was celebrating that I was finding balance for the first time. That I was realizing that it was not my job to solve everything, that she got to be an adult and yet it was challenging because not being well and having brain fog and such extreme fatigue, she needed someone to be her brain from time to time. So the part of me that takes the role of caregiver, of mother, very seriously began to be activated. I had the gift of slowing down to get to know this part that believes I alone must find all solutions if someone I loves is hurting. I had the gift of several times a week keeping my scheduled calls with colleagues and friends where we do empathy listening trades, or peer counseling. I also kept meeting with my counselor.
I had a memory surface of going to the movie Jurassic Park, when I was pregnant with my oldest, and having many contractions as I watched the stressful action movie. I realized that then and there I felt in me how what I did greatly impacted my baby, and I realized I had made an unconscious, sacred vow (see Sarah Payton’s work at www.empathybrain.com) that I would protect this child and cause no harm, even at a cost to myself. Of course many parents make this vow without realizing it, that we will give our lives for our children. And yet there was something liberating about acknowledging just how long I had been holding that vow, to keep my three children safe and alive. And no wonder this was challenging that part of me. That super protector part was so fearful if it didn’t keep me frantic and searching, that I and they would not be ok. I got to give that part empathy for how much it felt responsible for loved ones, how much it wanted well-being, and how tired it was from trying to hold the world back and protect when really there was no way to control what life brought.
I also remembered a much younger part of me that had had to keep tracking to see what needed to be done to keep me safe and of course it was activated. Getting to know these protectors within me helped me to see that I could hold those parts close and help them have new roles.
When I asked what new role the doer part that wanted to control wanted and left room for it to emerge, the doer let me know it wanted to be the one that was the supporter - supporter of me to surrender to things much higher and more powerful than myself. I could imagine letting go of knowing, of trying to figure everything out. And like a wishie (a dandelion gone to seed) I could blow and have the worry carry away on the wind, without letting go of still tracking and seeing how I might support and care. I could imagine all the worries passing on the air through my heart, yet not staying there. The wish of knowing all the answers to save my daughter, could wind through my heart, be infused with love and care and then be given back to “the universe” to hold and care for.
Being with the unknown is one of the hardest things for this body that from early on lived with uncertainty- not knowing when my parents would be laughing or fighting, when my parent would drink too much and need to be put to bed, or would come to me talking late into the night or crying on my bed. Or when a parent would emotionally distance themselves so they could survive and keep going.
And yet my higher self has learned how to find support within myself, to find nurturing, caring others and with my Compassionate Presence or Compassionate Witness that I can feel with me if I slow down enough. And this wise one has learned how to care and how to be resilient and accept what comes, while also being able to discern what is most serving of needs at any moment. It has learned that you never know how things will go and what is really “good” or “bad”, that surrendering may be one of the most powerful things to do.
What I realized was that my daughter had her own healing journey to embark on that was uniquely hers and that it is important for her to be at choice and be in charge of how that journey goes. To learn to listen to her inner compass as to what direction she feels called to follow in her journey of finding out her own puzzle - what made her ill, what helps her manage, and what helps her heal. I can lean into trust that whatever happens is her journey and that she has everything she needs to be on that journey. I am grateful that we have the loving relationship we do so that I can be someone who nurtures her and supports her while not taking over her process.
I had often been quite resistant to “let it go” mantras (even if I really love that song from Frozen). Mostly because I wanted the room to have whatever emotions I was having and not be forced to “get over it” by letting it go. I was educated by this culture to push feelings away, to only have “good” ones, to not be “too sensitive”, and on and on and on. So when I realized my own way of letting go which I like to call surrender, I came to see what my own process way. I realized that by leaving time to mourn that this has happened to my beloved first born I could give room for letting go to naturally arise. And it was scary, I resisted mourning and really speaking, or waling, my heart ache of how I could not make my daughter well. And bit by bit, I have come to accept some without letting go of hope. To surrender and be open for whatever might emerge. Holding that tension or balance. I can still see what resources there are without getting attached that they will be the ones she chooses. Or that there is any one “right” way to do this. Healing comes in many forms, and who am I to know which path is the one to take?
Phew, such work to do! I hope that with this journey that I may become more at peace with whatever comes so that I can contribute to others by being present for their inner wisdom to arise. I hope I am that for my children, my spouse, my friends, and my community.
And wow, what a time to learn how to surrender, and to trust, and to be in the present moment! Now with this pandemic sweeping the world, it is hard to not want to control, yet feel so out of control. It is the time to have such unknown, and to still choose to return to presence, and one breath at a time. To slow down, and to see what is being called forth. To go on this journey with everyone in the world!
CLICK HERE to go to my video of Cultivating a Compassionate Witness Meditation. Or go to the DOWNLOADS tab above.
I realized I don't often tell the people on my list what I'm up to, or what I'm learning. And I wondered why?
I heard a story today that filled me with hope. And I could use some hope right now. I was on a video class that I facilitate to support people integrating Nonviolent Communicaiton. A woman from Poland told a story of a friend of hers who had a difficult situation. Her 3 year old son had spilled boiling water on himself and was taken to the hospital. He was in great pain and she of course wanted to be there with him. She also had another young son, a few months old, she was nursing. This children's hospital had a policy of not allowing any children to visit. She was stuck between choosing which child to be with and comfort. After a few days of trying to navigate this tough situation, she told the hospital staff she would not be following their rules. She had learned NVC so she listened to their arguments, gave them empathy for the safety and protection they were trying to provide, then she expressed what wasn't working and how it was not meeting needs for well being for her hospitalized child nor her infant child, nor her, and in the end, it was not meeting the very needs the rule had been created to protect. They not only listened, they decided to let her come to the hospital with her young son, AND they decided to change the policy. Now the hospital administrator wants to train all the staff in Nonviolent Communication! All from one person being nonviolence and having the ability to listen and express in ways that led to connection. And she did this even though they were threatening her with various punishments and consequences. We can find ways to come back to our compassionate ways, care for our needs along with others without reacting, fighting, punishing, etc.! We can find a way to get us back to seeing our humanity and finding ways that work for all!
The "F" word Ok, so you thought I might be writing about swearing, but I'm actually writing about Feelings. Many people consider feelings the "f" word, because they've been taught that certain ones aren't good and you need to move away from them, get over them as quick as possible. Or we're taught that we're too sensitive, that we have too many feelings. In any case, our poor feelings have gotten a bum wrap as we used to say. Feelings have not been appreciated for all they do for us. And the more we're told not to have certain feelings such as anger, sadness, disappointment, envy, depression, and rage, the more we get the message that we can't handle feelings and they are something to be feared. When we lose the ability to be with our feelings we reduce our resiliency, our ability to bounce back, and we reduce our ability to be with a large part of our lives. We also reduce our ability to be with others in an effective way. On top of this we lose a feedback system that can give us a lot of information to help us. Many fear that if they have their feelings it's too vulnerable or they won't ever get out of them and they'll wallow or fall into an abyss and be dysfunctional. In actuality most feelings last less than a minute when we acknowledge they're there. Naming feelings and allowing them to be there can help us get out of our looping thinking, when we're caught in judgments about ourselves or others, that may or may not actually be true. And naming feelings helps us to begin to tap into our own inner awareness and wisdom!
For the past year I have been working in one of the biggest transitions in my life - that of my three children moving out of the house and living a majority of their time away from our home at the universities they are attending. I have found that I have needed all my self-compassion and awareness skills along with my web of support, as I try to navigate this change. How do I support them as they spread their wings and go into new situations and not helicopter or micromanage? How do I share my authentic self and support them in not hearing they are responsible for my feelings? How do we maintain connection while we are no longer physically together, and how do I be with loneliness and missing in my heart? How do I face that my most precious people go out into a world I don't always trust?
I realized that I have needed a lot of time to work with this change. And I found my husband was on the same page too, he also was missing them immensely. We both found it challenging to respond to comments such as, "So have you gotten used to your empty nest?" or "Are you enjoying your freedom now?" or suggestions of what to do to "fill" the time now that the children were gone.
I realized, 1. I need a lot of empathy and understanding for just where I am and the freedom to not follow a prescribed path others believe I "should" be on. I need empathy for myself and room to be with this change in the way I need to. So I decided to look at why I got triggered and felt more alone when people made those comments? I realized that I had a belief that if I "got over" it quickly then it wasn't honoring the depth of the love I had for them and our life together. I had spent 21 years as a parent with children in my home, being around some of my favorite people. I realized I was struggling to understand why in this society families must separate as we do. And I needed time. When I heard those comments, I had a sense that I was not doing "right", and so more loneliness.
My husband and I didn't have a sense of resonance that others struggled like we did and yet it was comforting to be understood by eachother.
2. I learned to really get clear on what I wanted back from people - "I just long to be heard for not wanting to "get used to it" because I really like being with my children. And have that be ok and expected. Would you be willing to hear how hard it is for me and how just hearing that is helpful, and you don't have to solve it?"
3. I learned that I have had many of my needs met by my children - companionship, authenticity and acceptance, in that it is only really with my family I can really be myself and know I have acceptance, of course also meaning and purpose, knowing I matter, contribution big time, love, connection, play, and a shared experience, etc! And I came to realize that's ok - what a wonderful strategy that has been serving. I spent awhile beating myself up that I tried to make it so I wouldn't be devistated when they left by having my own passions, and then I realized that I didn't do anything "wrong", I just was experiencing the grief when something ends. Afterall, we will never be at this place again.
4. I have learned that to have the quality of connection I so cherish, it does not have to have physical presence. I am learning to find ways to maintain connection and what I call my new "text" parenting role. In this way I am thankful for technology and how it CAN support connection. Texting, facetime or skyping, sharing pictures, jokes, links to videos, snapchats through out the day and night keeps us in each other's lives.
5. I have learned to trust that connection and I am so grateful that I changed my parenting to concentrating on maintaining the connection and trust in our relationship rather than on certain results or behavioral changes. They want to have connection with us, they don't need to "rebel" or "push back", they want us in their lives. And with this I arrive at a huge connection of gratitude and love for these amazing beings in my life.
6. And at family camp this summer I was reminded of what I had learned before, and now was experiencing - that there are stages to transitions and sometimes we want to jump to strategy when we may need to be with what is. I was so comforted and felt so validated when another NVC trainer, Erin Merrihew, expressed that there can be a lot of grief that comes when something ends and to honor that sadness and grief. She is the one who reminded me of the picture below and the stages so I could see I had a place on the chart!
7. I am glad that I have been taking my time to understand myself and have compassion for myself. I have found that reminding myself to be gentle with myself - to have awareness and compassion - has been essential.
And now as I head into the second year where all my children are at university, I remind myself to be gentle to myself and notice what I'm longing for as a way to stay present, in this moment. And to seek support. "bucking up" has never worked for me - letting the sadness, or grief, or melancholy lead to what it is that's important to me - love, connection, mattering, and meaning usually in this case. I hope that this has been helpful for you to read.
I figured that I would be writing a blog on transitions soon after my children all left the nest for the first time. And here it is seven months after the beginning of my transition and I am just beginning to write. I had figured that I would transition and then "get used to it" as so many people told me I would, yet I find that transition, at least of this sort, and yet I imagine of any kind, ebbs and flows and comes and goes. There is not a clear end to transition, especially to me one as big as children leaving home. It helps me to realize that I've spent over 21 years with my children and I've gotten used to them being around. I think the transition to them not living at home full time is harder than the transition of their coming, although that seemed big at the time, it is not near as big as this one, at least in my heart. I think the best thing I can do is leave room for my feelings, whatever they are at the moment, and have acceptance that they will ebb and flow and change depending on the day. Having them home for spring break recently reminded me how much I miss them, and so it was an adjustment to have them go, still is.
I have found that if I notice my thoughts then it helps me really look at how I am and get a sense of some choice in how I respond. My thoughts point to my feelings, so when I am telling myself, "This is all wrong. Children should not leave their families..." and "I have no one to be with" I tend to feel sad and lonely and powerless. So I notice when I am thinking these things that I am longing to be reminded of our connection, of the huge gratitude I have for who they are and I am mourning the physical presence. And when I fully leave room for whatever feelings, and leave room to mourn, no matter how big or small, I then get the gratitude - I am so grateful to have these three amazing people that are my children. What tremendous love I have for them. I have learned over these months to leave lots of room for my mourning because it is in the resistance to my feelings that I begin to suffer. When I am thinking "Something is wrong with this." or "I shouldn't feel this." or "Oh no, I might feel sad or lonely, that's bad," I tend to suffer. When I stop and notice my thoughts and notice I need space to mourn then there is a little bit of relief as I give myself permission to have these thoughts and feelings. It doesn't mean I need to buy into my thoughts, I can still be an observer of them and see what they're trying to tell me. And I love them, that's what it points to and so I miss them. If I push the sadness away I don't get to the joy. And if I'm wanting connection and reassurance that we we'll stay in touch, then i can actually make requests of myself to think of them with love and send it to them, to text them and ask times they can video call. What a blessing to be able to see their faces! In that way, technology can be very connecting. A quick text to ask how they are and what they're doing, keeps me connected. Whenever I say to myself, "Of course you are feeling this.... it's understandable," then I feel more calm and less afraid of my feelings.
I think the other big thing that comes up with a transition of children leaving the home, and maybe in any transition or change, is the wondering what is my purpose, where can I contribute? Who am I in this new role? I have my work with Nonviolent Communication that I greatly love, and I also hold nurturing as a huge way I contribute. So I look to how do I nurture and contribute now? And that's why I have two new kittens. And I can nurture my kids from afar and provide listening and empathy for them and for others as a way to contribute.
I think the other thing I've learned through this is how much I need compassion for myself, compassion for how hard this transition can be. It helps to have others who resonate with that. When I let go of my expectation that I SHOULD do this transition in a certain way, then I can negotiate easier. I did notice that when people asked, "Have you gotten used to the kids being gone?" every time I wanted to scream "No!" and I realized it was because it seemed like a dishonoring of the preciousness of our relationships if I was ok with them gone and "used" to it so quickly. I understand that some parents really relish their freedom and the ability to choose more self-care, and yet that's just not me in the moment. I think I would have appreciated just being asked, "How are you now?" Then I could be real and say some days I'm ok and others I miss them terribly. And then I could say that I am letting all my feelings have room and I have some acceptance that I may never get entirely "used" to it, and I'm ok with that, because I really value our connection as a family. And I even wonder if living apart is good for us as a society or a family. I think we need community and connection and family provides a connection that can be like no other.
In the end, I want to honor how any of us transition to something new and give ourselves lots of room to have whatever feelings. No need to rush to being "ok". What if "OK" is how you are? What if this is doing transition? I want to trust that It's ok to be however we are as long as I'm not harming myself or others . I just want to be aware of my feelings and thoughts so I get connected to what's important to me- what I'm longing for and what I value.
It seems the one thing we can count on in life is that there will be transitions, and many of them and so if we can give ourselves permission to do it at our own pace, I think we can contribute a lot to the world. So if you notice someone else going through a transition, maybe check in with them and give them room and permission to be however they are. You don't have to agree with how they're doing it, you can just connect with what it's like for them to be a human having thoughts and feelings about where they are. What's important to them right now is something you can relate to and offering that resonance can be the biggest gift. And most of all, do this for yourself. Check in with yourself and give yourself permission to have your feelings. As Rumi said in his poem Guest House,
"Be grateful for whoever (feelings) comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."
That's really all I ever wanted for my children. I wanted them to know they had a safe place to have all their feelings and to have room to get understanding of what was important to them and that I would hear that - a place of unconditional love. And that's what keeps us connected now, even if we aren't in the same nest all the time. Maybe my new role is to just be there when they call, that in knowing I'm there with unconditional love, I contribute and I nurture.
Thanks for reading. I hope it contributed something to you.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this. Please post any on the facebook link.
When we're wanting to change how we communicate and we're learning Nonviolent Communication we often focus on trying to apply the language and the consciousness of compassion during the most difficult situations - conflict with our loved ones. One of the most helpful things I was told while trying to integrate nonviolence into my life was how important Empathy for Joy was. What does this mean?
Empathy for Joy is noticing when Needs are met - when we're connected to what we value. Notice when you have connection, when you feel reassured, when you feel included and have a sense of belonging. Notice when you feel love, peacefulness, calm, excitement and ask yourself "What Needs of mine am I connected to?" or "What Needs are met right now?" Name them - "Ahhh, Connection, Belonging, Hope, Reassurance, Fun & Play."
Recently, a Meditation group I'm part of that meets monthly began studying Rick Hanson's book Hardwiring Happiness (which I highly recommend). AND you can watch him on You tube for some quickie ways to actually balance out what he calls our brain's Negativity Bias. In short, this isn't about making more happy things happen by getting that special job, or having everyone in your life be perfectly ok in any moment, or about having a certain someone, or car or vacation. It's about NOTICING when Needs are met and letting it sink in. His process is called HEAL.
Have a "good" experience - meaning notice when your Needs are met.
Enhance it - Take a few moments to name the Need met, and feel it in your body, notice what it's like to have this need met. Pause, take it in.
Absorb it - Even saying the Need and relishing how important this need is, visualize it filling your body up. You can do this for 30 seconds and it has an effect.
Link - This part is optional. Link the good experience (Needs met) to a time when you didn't have Needs met. He says to have caution for this part to have support if it's a big trauma or trigger. Start small, if you're feeling inclusion link this to a memory you have of being at a party and for a moment having no one to talk and feeling a bit awkward, longing for acceptance.
For years I've had a practice as I get ready for bed and settle in for the night, I name 3 Needs of mine that were met that day. I often drift off to sleep while naming many, many Needs met. And now I've learned that this and other Empathy for Joy practices are actually hardwiring my brain for Happiness. Balancing out my brain (and everyone else's) bias for what is wrong. We now have the science behind the importance of Empathy for Joy and the power of Empathy. It may even make it more possible to have empathy when Needs aren't met because as Rick Hanson says, we fill our bucket up drop by drop. So put a drop in the bucket today! And give empathy for Joy to others! When they are excited, happy, joyful, or peaceful guess what Needs of theirs are met - "Wow, you look really excited about the meeting. Do you have a sense of contributing and being seen for your expertise?" or "Sounds like you're really grateful that you have a such friendship in your life?"
For this week - try 3 times a day, pausing and noticing Needs met and then trying the HEAL process for 30 seconds, notice how you feel. Or just notice the Needs that are met and notice how you feel in your body and what the state of your heart is. Notice when others have their Needs met.
Let me know how your week goes! Please put comments on facebook! (It inspires others).
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WHAT Universal Needs are - click the link above that says More and choose Resources. At the bottom of the page is a list of Universal Needs that Marshall Rosenberg created as a core part of Nonviolent Communication. Universal Needs means that it is a value that everyone wants to be able to thrive. Everything we say and do is to meet or connect with a value or Universal Need, therefore having awareness of Needs, or a Needs consciousness, increases our ability to be aware and clear about what it is we value that is up for us in any moment. When we clarify what is important to us, we move toward it - it is on our radar. And when we notice when Needs are met we are more likely to continue to do the thing that contributed to our Needs being met. It helps us have compassion and self-responsibility for ourselves. Needs awareness also helps us have compassion for others - we are able to see them as human again. We need more of this in our lives.
IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS POWERFUL STUFF look at the classes I have coming up and come! Or look at the books I list under Resources and start reading today!
I always seem to get an epiphany while I’m running. Things that relate to life.
It’s a place for me to practice "being with" and noticing what happens when I don’t resist. Often while I’m running I begin to feel fatigued or something hurts and I want to stop. I begin to resist and I tense up, which takes me out of a better form for running. So, I decided one day to look at what I was telling myself. I realized there was an unconscious part that was saying,
“You’re getting too tired! You can't do this. It's not ok! You need to stop!”
It's the part of my brain that monitors my physical state and wants to keep me alive. Once I was aware of the thoughts then I could gain perspective, and check if they were true.
Funny how in life there are thoughts in the subconscious, but just by bringing them to light, they lose their power. Different than just “thinking positively”. To me it’s about increasing my tolerance just to be with however I’m feeling. First I need to notice the underlying thoughts. Because it’s my thoughts that bring about my feelings. I learned this when I learned W.A.I.T: What Am I Telling Myself? And then I look at what I’m feeling when I’m telling myself those thoughts.
So after the thoughts I noticed my feelings. I felt worried and stressed, because I wanted reassurance and trust in my body. And I wanted well-being and definitely comfort. So instead of running and thinking, “When can I stop?! ” or “I can’t do this. I can’t handle it”, I decided to experiment and just be with the feelings of worry and stress and relax into "this is where I am. I have some resistance."
And suddenly relief came, much more than when I resisted the thoughts or tried to talk myself out of them. The more I just said “Yup, I’m tired and worried because I'm wanting to trust I can do this and I want ease from discomfort.” - the more I felt at ease running and enjoyed the journey. As soon as I accepted and stopped resisting, I began to be less tight and my true, natural form of running returned. I began to look at the trees instead of my watch, and worried less about when I could stop. I experimented with just saying what I valued - trust, well being, reassurance and that I could keep going. Then I began to appreciate the parts of my body that felt strong.
And I thought how important this is for me to do in life. Be with what is and keep going and get to gratitude. Not resisting when pain or worry comes up, not beating myself up for having my feelings, but mindfully choosing to be with it and, most importantly, getting to what it is that I value – Reassurance, Trust, Care for others, Peace of mind, etc. Then I begin to move towards what I’m wanting. When I resisted it was like those feelings went downstairs and lifted weights and came back when I didn’t expect it! “What we resist, persists.” In allowing I found more gratitude in the process, too. I never thought I would learn to be OK with any feeling and be able to handle life. Such a tool for empowerment!
So the next time one of my kids did something that triggered me where I found myself furrowing my brow and sighing, I stopped and did WAIT. I was telling myself that they weren’t functioning and so never would. That I was messing up for not teaching them better. That they weren't safe.
"Really? Is that true?"
Just noticing this gave me a bit of distance from having thoughts and having them be my reality and the truth. I realized I felt anxious, scared, and discouraged. I remembered Tara Brach’s Yes Meditation. And so, although I felt a bit silly, I said out loud to myself,
“Yes to worry." Breath. "Yes to fear." Another breath. "Yes to discouragement.”
And I realized I wanted reassurance for them being ok, to have Peace of mind and to Trust. When I became aware of these values then requests came as to how I could trust and find reassurance. That gave me compassion so I could be aware and act out of choice rather than react out of fear. Whew. That felt reassuring. I could decide to trust. I felt so much more resilient.
Maybe THIS was all I needed to teach my children. Help them know how to be with any feeling that comes up. And to show them how to look at what's important to them that's connected to that feeling, what they value. Then I’d be reassured that THEY can increase their window of tolerance and be resilient, too. Rather than resisting life, they, like me could run towards life.
2. W.A.I.T. What Am I Thinking? What am I resisting?
3. What is my body telling me - What am I feeling? What do I feel in my body?
4. Connect to my core, literally and figuratively. What do those emotions point to?
What is important to me? What are my Universal Needs?
5. Breathe into what's important to me. Picture breathing that need into my heart. Savor it. Rest in Gratitude for those precious values.
6. See if any requests come.
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And repeat three times "It's not, it's not, it's not about me,
Marcia has been studying and practicing Nonviolent Communication since 2005. She has experienced immense joy & gratitude while learning this consciousness. This blog reflects some of that learning.