Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately.
By the end of today, you probably have hugged someone you love, looked lovingly at your kiddo, supported a friend who was on the verge of losing it, smiled at a neighbor, and maybe even lent a hand to a complete stranger. But have you looked kindly at yourself, said something uplifting and supportive to yourself, or given yourself a break?
There was a moment last week when I was about to lose it. Just the normal stuff staying home with two little ones. But I was done. Have you been there?!
I called my friend Rachel to tell her that I seriously doubted we’d be over for our playdate. Rachel had this gentle, understanding way of taking in what I said. She herself had just been there this morning. She didn’t try to fix what I was saying or top it with her story, and she didn’t get all caught up in my emotions. She “woke me up” (a mini enlightenment!) and in that moment I realized that I had gone down that path we go down when we are tired, hurt, or frustrated – we feel as though we are the only ones feeling what we are feeling. We harden – our bodies, points of view, and our hearts.
I paused. I paused and took a “metta moment.” Metta means kindness. I softened into my breath and into my heart. And that was enough. It was enough to create some spaciousness, to lighten up, to go easy on myself, and to begin again. I didn’t attack my day with more vigor and determination. I softened.
A classic version of the Buddhist Metta Meditation goes like this:
“May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.”
Sometimes, that comes later – after a simple moment of taking a few breaths and softening. And as we send ourselves such kindness, we can send those well-wishes to others.
But how about you? Do you easily soften, give yourself a break, and lighten up? Don’t give yourself a hard time if you haven’t!!! Just realize this…and soften.
More and more these days I’m seeing that the answers to being happy aren’t complicated. Soften our harsh judgments, high standards, impossible expectations, and cruel self-talk. Soften our furrowed brows, tight jaws, and clenched fists. Soften, soften, soften.
Much of my work as a body-centered and mindfulness psychotherapist involves showing clients how to bring in a little dose of self-compassion to their everyday lives – this moment, this breath, this thought, this feeling. Much of my daily “work” as a mom to two little ones involves getting some breathing space and offering myself that dose of self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the country’s leading researchers on self-compassion, defines self-compassion as “bearing witness to one’s own pain and responding with kindness and understanding.” Instead of going down “that path” of beating ourselves up and getting lost in our emotions, we just pause, lighten up, honor our humanness, and bring in a bit of gentleness. And we soften.
You all know that “softening” is one of my words for this year. In our culture, being soft is seen as a negative thing. Gentleness is often viewed as wimpy. But I am coming to understand that there is great power and strength in gentleness and softness. I am coming to understand the truth of Lao-tsu’s words:
“Softness triumphs over hardness…what is more malleable is always superior over that which is immovable.”
I recently wrote a post about how my husband’s gentle nature has impacted me – my heart, nerves, and spirit. Gentleness creates a sense of expansiveness. It lets in light. It softens taunt nerves and quells anxiety.
Recall the last time someone treated you with gentleness – it probably felt like sweet water for a parched soul. Recall the last time someone responded to you with soft and kind words – it probably felt refreshing and warm.
Gentleness generates warmth – within you and between you and another person. Gentleness and softness infuse any moment with lightness and ground us. They renew a sense of “I am ok, this is ok, all is ok.” Strength, hope, and possibility grow out of that. Now that is power!
I am beginning to see the wisdom of the Dalai Lama’s words: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Every day Brian and I make sure we have good food for ourselves and our kiddos, we take baths, drink plenty of water, and brush our teeth. Every day we do these “basic necessities.” But every day we all need doses of love and compassion – for ourselves and our dear ones. Not as some luxuries or indulgences but as necessities to survive and thrive.
As we give ourselves a break and treat ourselves with kindness, that flows into all we do and all those we encounter. I do believe that whatever we want for this world, we first have to cultivate it within ourselves. I dream of a compassionate world for my children…and my children’s children. One simple act of self-compassion plants the seed to such a world.
And the other day when I lightened up and watered that one little seed of self-compassion?
We all had a better afternoon! I was able to lighten up with my four year old, give up on my one year old napping, and laugh about it (sort of) with Brian when he got home. I also was able to more clearly identify what I needed – a break at my writing desk while Brian took the kiddos outside. I went in to seeing clients that evening with a lighter heart and more acceptance for what it is like to be human and get through a day.