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Mindful Media: Book Reviews, DVDs, and CDs

We read a lot of books about living mindfully in my family and I love hearing from others when they come across a book that they or their kids liked. We also use other media like movies, music, and spoken word to talk about and practice mindfulness. In this continuing series, I’ll be writing posts about the mindful media that my kids and I recommend. Feel free to share any you’ve come across in the comments and if it looks like it might be a nice complement to the one I’m reviewing, I’ll be happy to review it or add a link to it in my post.
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Still Quiet Place:Mindfulness for young children; playfu practices to promote health and happiness; audio mp3 & cd by Amy Saltzman, MD

Still Quiet Place Cover

Still Quiet Place:Mindfulness for Young Children


by Amy Saltzman, MD

Please note: I am reviewing the mp3 download version of this audio program.

Still Quiet Place: Mindfulness for Young Children by Amy Saltzman, MD, is a collection of guided meditations and mindfulness practices for children. There is a second collection by Dr Saltzman for teens that I think is even better than this one. So, if you’ve got older children, you might consider listening to the sample tracks before deciding which will work best for your family.

The narrator, Dr. Saltzman, speaks slowly enough for kids to listen, without talking down to them-a common pitfall in children’s media. Saltzman’s voice is soothing, although in the longer track 12 (11 minutes), my kids tuned out after awhile and said they preferred one of the less repetitive tracks. My kids have experience with longer meditations and like the rest of the meditations in this collection, so I think it was simply this track that was a bit droning. I still think it is a worthwhile one to reintroduce periodically, both for older kids and for kids who want or need a longer meditation.

Most of the rest of tracks are between 3 and 4 minutes long each. I felt that when one of my kids liked the meditation, this was the perfect length. However, I wish the collection included a tracks of various lengths for the times when we just needed a quick mindfulness fix, for example when transitioning between bath and brushing teeth-often a chaotic time in our home.

Tracks 1 and 13 are introduction to mindfulness and meditation. The first (track 1) is an explanation of mindfulness for kids, and I think does an excellent job of letting them know what to expect from the audio and in themselves as they practice. The second (track 13) is for adults and again, I think is a good, brief introduction for parents.

I think this audio collection is especially useful for helping a child with anxiety. It is an easy and gentle way for kids to learn self-calming techniques and breath awareness. The more they listen or practice, the easier it is for them to pause for a moment to think before reacting.

My kids really enjoyed track 8, “Teepee,” because Dr Saltzman was making animal sounds. Howling like wolves “cracked them up.”

I find “Teepee” especially good when inertia takes over, but I don’t want to amp them up. For example, when everyone is dragging their feet to get ready for bed. I want to help the kids bring their energy level up, but I don’t want them overly excited or it will be more difficult for them to transition to sleep.

Most of the time, I play “Still Quiet Place” when we are doing other things like quiet play with Lego, drawing or after we get home from a hike. It seems to help the kids feel calm and centered, even if they’re not actively practicing. I made a playlist that I put on when the kids seem irritable in the car and have found they don’t end up arguing as much with these meditations in the background.

I recommend the album for parents and kids to listen to together at first so that kids who haven’t experienced mindful meditations can understand better and have a chance to talk about it after. If kids express an interest, these meditations can be self-directed whenever they wan to practice.

I don’t currently use this to help my kids go to sleep, but I could see selecting your favorite track and incorporating it in bedtime routine. It could become a part of the evening ritual that is looked forward to.

Listen to the audio samples to make sure you like her voice because kids can definitely tell if you are not really into mindfulness practices and will respond the same. Keep at it, though, things change so quickly with kids and you may find “Still Quiet Place” a useful tool when kids are stressed by life.

Activities to create with this audio program:

Related Posts You May Like:

Have you tried some good mindfulness media that you’d like to tell me about? I’d love to hear from you.

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Disclosure update: If I’ve done it right, this post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gaute...

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1989, I broke my curfew at home and ran off to New York City to join a march protesting Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. I clearly remember the passion of the crowd as we chanted “Free Nelson Mandela” at the foot of the United Nations building.

Nelson Mandela was a personal hero for me. I deeply admire his commitment to the philosophies of reconciliation and nonviolence. His words have inspired me to walk my own smaller, simpler path. Mandela’s life is proof that love triumphs over hate; that peace crowds out violence; that seeing yourself in others is the truth of existence.

When I heard that he passed away, I felt sad. I am mourning that there won’t be any new words from him. I am mourning that there isn’t more.

And I see, now that I am older, that life is just as vibrant now as it was for me in 1989. Although, I am less attached to it now than I was then, the solace of a long life before death is a hollow comfort. The world feels a little less bright while I say goodbye.

Maybe the man was ready to go, but I wish he could have stayed with us a little while longer. Certainly he will inspire, but he was one of those special individuals that manage transcend the mundane. We need people like him with us for as long as possible.

Mandela’s legacy will never stop. The way in which he conducted his life will inspire more and more people. His words of peace will grow forever.

My little seed of inspiration from him is something I share with my children. My kids are familiar with my personal heroes: Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Waangari Maathai, among others.

We read books about our personal heroes and talk about the issues around non-violence often. Today, we talked about Nelson Mandela:

I said, “Today one of my personal heroes, Nelson Mandela died. When he was young, he was put in prison because he was organizing against a government of a group of people that were treating his people cruelly, unfairly, and violently.”

He was in prison a very long time. While he was there, instead of hating the people who put him in prison and treated him cruelly, unfairly, and violently, he gave them love and compassion.”

He inspired so many people with his words about love and compassion. That the almost the whole world wanted Mandela out of prison.”

Finally, after a long time, he was released from prison. But, do you know what he did when he got out? Instead of giving hate to the people who put him in prison, he treated them like friends. Soon, he became president of not only his people, but all of the people in South Africa, even the ones who put him in prison.”

So that is why he’s one of my personal heroes. Because he talked about peace even when there was violence around him. Does that make sense?”

The kids asked more questions and we talked more about the story I told them. We read some books and we talked about personal heroes and nonviolence at several times until bedtime.

My seven year old said, “I only have one thing in common with Nelson Mandela: I am a vegetarian because I don’t want to hurt animals. But that’s the only way I am like him. Every time one of my brothers tries to hurt me, I hurt him back. I am not good at nonviolence.”

I answered, “You’re right that you share nonviolence because you have chosen to be a vegetarian. I think what you said is like Mandela. You sound like you wish you didn’t want to hurt your brothers when they hurt you.”

“Yes, but I just get so angry. I can’t help it most of the time.”

“Most of the time you get angry.”

“Yes, but I don’t want to hurt them. But I do want to when I’m angry.”

“Do you remember in jujitsu when you couldn’t do the hogoshi throw? So you practiced. Sometimes you did it the way you wanted to and sometimes you didn’t? But, now it’s an easy throw for you?”

“Yes, now I can do it all the time.”

“Nonviolence is like that. You want to not hit back. So you practice. Sometimes you lose your temper and hurt someone and sometimes you are able to react the way you want to. You keep going. Later, it becomes easier.”

“Nelson Mandela practiced a lot, huh?”

“I think that you have a lot in common with Nelson Mandela.”

“I’m sorry he’s dead. I would’ve liked to talk to him about how hard it is not to hit my brothers.”

Here’s to inspiring another generation of curfew-breakers.

Books we recommend about Nelson Mandela and South Africa:

Mindfulness: There's An App For That on TouchstoneZ

Much has been written about the disconnect created by our constant ability to receive information. More than ever, carving out a space for ourselves to experience full presence while living with ready access to distraction is important for our well-being.

Technology can also be a tool to help with mindfulness. For example, we can learn about mindfulness practices, set alarms to remind us to practice, and record our experiences.

My goal with this series is to share mobile apps that I have found especially useful in cultivating mindfulness practices. I believe that harnessing the power of our handheld distraction devices has the potential to integrate mindfulness into our already overfull lives. Or, as a friend aptly noted, bring balance to the force.

Mindfulness App: Prune Splashscreen

Mindfulness App: Prune Splashscreen

 

 

 

Today’s app is, called:

Prune-Habit Maker, Quit More
by Principal Humanity
Developer Website
iTunes Store

Version I demo: 1..6.2 on iPhone
Cost: Free Today! Dec 5, 2013, Normally: $0.99 US, no ads

 

 

 

Prune-Habit Maker, Quit More is a an app that makes changing behavior simple. It boasts a minimalist interface that is immediately useable. There are instructions included, but they’re unnecessary because the choices are obvious.

If you allow push notifications (fully customizable in your phone settings, of course) it will pop up random reminders about your goal to break a habit.

Mindfulness App: Prune Goals Screenshot

Prune Goals Screenshot

I like that the creators have set up a few suggested areas for habits or that you can create your own, such as a food, drink, activity or indulgence. If nothing else, these categories can get you thinking about how you’re thinking about your habit. The app also has a “resurrect” feature so you can bring back old goals to start again.

Some of the features that I enjoyed are being able to change a habit after you’ve already created it. Other apps I’ve tried make you delete and create a new one. With Prune, you can start anew any time, change the name, duration, et cetera, on the fly. This sets up a “no guilt” goal-setting. You’re the only person you need to be honest with in this app.

Mindfulness App: Prune Social Media Sharing

Prune Social Media Sharing

 

There are options to share on social media how long you’ve managed to go without your habit. You can get some positive reinforcement from your friends that can offset the possible emphasis on going without something.

 

Honestly, I don’t feel motivated focusing solely on what I will do without. Everything I’ve read on willpower says it’s more complicated than that. I think Prune, used in conjunction with a full web of positive reinforced habit breaking and habit replacing can be a good thing.

 

 

 

 

“How to Say No To Almost Anything” explains:

I think, as long as the “I will live without:” phrase motivates you, that the simple, easy interface and thoughtful options for changing and resurrecting your habits make this app an excellent one for breaking old habits.

It’s a good day to try it. Today, Dec 5, 2013, Prune-Habit Maker, Quit More, is free in the iTunes store.

If you try this app, I’d enjoy hearing how you use it in the comments.

Consider adding this app to your device, between Candy Crush and Twitter to bring a little mindfulness into your device, won’t you?

Do you have a mindfulness app that you recommend or one that you would like me to review? Please let me know in the comments below. I would enjoy hearing from you.

Related articles

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Welcome to Week Three of the month-long Carnival of Creative Mothers to celebrate the launch of The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood

by Lucy H. Pearce


Today’s topic is Creative Inheritance. Do read to the end of this post for a full list of carnival participants. 


Join the Carnival and be in with a chance to win a free e-copy of The Rainbow Way! Next week is our final week!

December 11th: The Creative Process.



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Inheritance:

  1. the act of inheriting property; the reception of genetic qualities by transmission from parent to offspring; the acquisition of a possession, condition, or trait from past generations
  2. something that is or may be inherited
  3. tradition; a valuable possession that is a common heritage from nature
  4. obsolete : possession
creativity

creativity (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

The Mavericks

My family is full of fighter pilots and nonconformists. Later in life, these thrill seekers went on to excel in places that required facile tongues and creative thinking.

There’s nothing quite so engaging as being swept up into their interest or as unsettling when that focus moves away. I remember understanding as a very young child that frenetic activity and choices away from the norm were deeply fulfilling, but also carried a heavy cost in anxiety and sadness.

I definitely continue this legacy of extending myself out to create followed by bouts of regression to decompress. I have worked to find a middle ground between the two as I’ve gotten older. I was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD, which has helped me to harness the great skills that come from it while minimizing the down-sides.

The Real Art Teachers

When I first read this topic, I thought that I would have nothing to write about it. I realized that I was holding an idea of myself as an uncreative person. I was downplaying the many creative ways I express myself according to a narrow definition of creativity. Those are pretty big self-limitations.

There are two parts to deconstructing this: What I think a creative person is and Where I picked up the idea.

I know exactly where I first got the idea that I wasn’t a creative person. It was in sixth grade art class. This was what first tied structured art with creativity for me.

I loved creative expression and art (sometimes separately, sometimes together) until I ran into this teacher. I remember that she returned my work to me almost every time with the request that I “try harder” to meet the assignment requirements. There were notes that the piece didn’t have enough detail or it wasn’t orderly enough.

I remember working on a metal etching. I poured all of my passion into it, only to have it returned with a giant, black sharpie marker “X” across the sheet of metal. That was the last time I remember creating for the pure joy of it.

The school I went to allowed teachers to give 3 grades: an overall letter grade, and effort and attitude on a scale from 1 to 5. I can’t recall the letter grades, but I still remember getting my first failing effort and attitude scores that year. Whatever it was that was going on with that teacher, the upshot was to destroy my love of creating pretty effectively.

My definition of a creative person is what I did before I ran into this art teacher: pure, in the flow, enjoyment of the creative process without any self-consciousness. I struggle with this today still, but watching my kids’ uninhibited creativity is coaxing me out of my shell. I’m learning more from them than I ever did in school about creativity.

 
I look back on the genetic and nurtured inheritance of creativity that my family has given me with deep gratitude. I even look back on my sixth grade teacher with gratitude now.

The experiences with both family and teacher were so deeply profound that they’ve created areas for self-awareness. I hope I am able to pull from the very best that my ancestors have gifted my children with to help them hold on tightly to their creative spirits.


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25% off ALL Lucy’s books, 4th Dec only. Use code RAINBOW25.

ORDER YOUR SIGNED COPY of 
  • exclusive access to a private Facebook group for creative mothers
  • a vibrant greetings card and book-mark of one of the author’s paintings.

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Or order from your local bookshop.

  • Carnival host and author of The Rainbow Way, Lucy at Dreaming Aloud celebrates her creative fairy godmothers, and gives thanks for the creative blessings that each has gifted her.
  • In
    ‘From Trash To Treasure: Christmas Decoration’ Laura from Authentic Parenting shares fond memories crafting with her mom and a little
    project her mom did recently.
  • Lucy Pierce from Soulskin Musings celebrates the rich creative inheritance of her mother’s poetic soul and artful ways. 
  • Is thinking differently a curse or a gift? Zoie at TouchstoneZ susses out whether her family legacy might hinder or encourage creativity.
  • Dawn Collins at TheBarefootHome Dawn thinks we’re all born with a creative inheritance from the mother we all share…Mother Nature.
  • Licia Berry at Illumined Arts looks at the creative inheritance passed on by our ancestral lineage, discovered through sexuality and the Sacred Feminine within in “Sexuality and the Sacred Feminine”
  • Alex at The Art of Birth explores the nature of creativity. 
  • Handcrafts are prayers, that’s what Corina from PatchScrap learned from grandmother.
  • Jennifer at Let Your Soul Shine retraces her creative inheritance from her childhood and all the way back to the 19th Century.  
  • Kirstin at Listening to the Squeak says “I have always known my creative inheritance and it is so very important for my children to know theirs.”
  • Becky at Raising Loveliness reflects on her experiences of creativity.
  • Creative Inheritance is a Beautiful Thing, says Aimee at Creativeflutters and discusses where her creativity comes from and what influences in her family have helped her on her artistic journey. 
  • Georgie at Visual Toast shares her creative inheritance.
  • Esther at Nurture Workshop expresses the gift of a creative mind and the doors that are waiting to be opened for those who are willing to explore.
  • Whitney Freya at Creatively Fit is inspired by the sacred spark within each of us, a spark that transcends time and is infinitely creative.
  • Denise at It Begins with a Verse  looks back at her family’s creative inheritance.
  • Womansart shares her reflections on creative inheritance.
  • Lys at Stars and Spirals looks at the creative inheritance as described by the astrological chart, drawing on her personal journey into motherhood and reawakened creativity.
  • Biromums wrote poems about their creative inheritance.
  • Kae at The Wilde Womb reflects on the various artists within her family and how it has shaped her identity and what impression she wishes to leave her own children. 
  • Marit’s Paper World shares her creative inheritance.
  • Lucy at Capture by Lucy  reflects on her experiences of creativity.
  • Knitting blankets and the inner landscape–my mother’s life’s work, writes Nicki from Just Like Play
  • Something Sacred – Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From writes about how the creativity of the women in her family has influenced her.
  • Mamma Bloom at Breathe and Bloom writes about her creative inheritance.
  • Mama is Inspired shares how she loved to make holiday ornaments as a child, and now is continuing that tradition with her own child.
  • Ali Baker is a creative mama to twin girls who reignited her creative energy and sense of who she used to be by just doing it and creating whatever needs to be created in an imperfect way. 
  • KatyStuff hopes inheritance is a long way off, but, when the day comes her woodworker father has already said he is comforted by knowing his work is in so many homes.
  • Jasmine at Brown Eyed Girl realizes that the creativity she craves for so deeply may actually be something that runs deeper than just her imagination.
  • Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her creative journey.
  • Rising on the Road shares her experiences at Finding Life in a Death.



Welcome to the December 2013 Carnival of Natural Mothering!

This article is a part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlower, Every Breath I Take, I Thought I Knew Mama, African Babies Don’t Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month’s topic is Natural New Year’s Resolutions. Be sure to check out all of the participants’ posts through the links at the bottom of this page.
Bloggers, visit GrowingSlower to sign up to write for next month’s carnival.

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Six Steps to Stop Screaming and Start Parenting Mindfully

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. ~Chinese proverb

Today was not a good parenting day. This morning I woke up and I was sick. It was the kind of sick that involves curling up in fetal position and not moving much. It was the kind of day that I can’t parent through alone.

The buck often stops with mom even with the support of a coparent. So, I did a fair amount of parenting from the bathroom floor. I tried to divide my attention between what my body was telling me and what my kids were doing. It pushed me beyond my patience many times.

My 7-year-old and my 3-year-old were antagonizing one another throughout the day. My usual tactics of listening, distracting, and the reverse psychology of insisting that they separate weren’t working.

They kept escalating their arguments and I kept damping down the flare-ups, but I could feel it was still smoldering underneath.

They knew my attention wasn’t fully on them and they felt that I was under stress. Finally, I missed an interchange between them and it turned to hitting.

I was sicking up at the time and upon hearing them, became angry. I was furious that I had to hold back my nausea to separate them yet again.

I wasn’t the parent I try to be. I yelled. I threatened punishment. I stomped off to the bathroom. I cooled off.

I resolved to be a better parent. Then the cycle began anew.

Now, if you go back to the top or read to this sentence three of four times, that was the day: I feel sick, I have to shoddily parent anyway, the kids react to my stress and argue, I yell, then I try for a fresh start, I feel sick, I have to shoddily parent anyway, the kids react…

As I listened from the bathroom to them bickering for the umpteenth time, I was wrapped up in my thoughts about the unfairness of it all, until I had to laugh.

I caught myself thinking, “Why are they hitting? Don’t they know I’m sick?” As if any of this was about me at all.

And that is the key to stop screaming and returning to a place of mindfulness. It’s not about me.

It’s not about getting through the day. It’s not even about my kids. Resolving again and again to parent mindfully is all about creating fulfilling connections with those I love.

Once I recalled that, I was able to stop blaming myself, my kids and my partner (oh did I leave him out? I’m sure I yelled at him a few times in that endless spiral.) I was able to get some breathing room and make the changes that I truly wanted.

Step 1: Allow Anger

I reminded myself that it’s okay to feel anger. This is a difficult one for me. I’m afraid of anger and don’t know what to do with it.

Anger is neither a positive nor a negative emotion. It is normal to feel mad when things aren’t going the way I want.

Anger isn’t an emotion I like to act on (which I did above.) I can sit with anger and resist the impulse to vent.

The urge to lash out in frustration becomes less pressing the longer I wait until finally it subsides enough that I think more clearly.

Step 2: Think loving thoughts about my child

I try to be gentle with myself with this step because hitting can be an emotional trigger for me. I may have to go back to step one several times until the anger has resolved.

To aid the process, I try to think of a memory that brings up feelings of love, such as snuggling and reading together. Looking through photos can help, too. If all else fails, I send loving thoughts until all resentment is replaced with a calm feeling of connection.

Most of the time, this step is easy because that anger I was holding on to really isn’t about my child, but rather my reaction to what occurred. I can see this more clearly once I’ve finished step one.

Step 3: Examine Expectations

After I’ve let go of anger and have returned to feeling the connection I have with my child, I can begin to look at what my expectations were before I became angry. My expectations in this case were that my kids would “behave” because I was sick.

When they didn’t meet my arbitrary definition of “behave,” I became resentful that I couldn’t be sick in peace. And when their disagreements escalated to hitting, my expectations were that my kids get along well or that my partner would step in before it occurred. I notice that nowhere did I explain my expectations to anyone.

I didn’t even look at my expectations consciously or I would’ve seen how ludicrous they were. And that word, “behave.” Well, that’s something I made a note of to unpack later because that’s an unconscious label I picked up somewhere that doesn’t make sense.

My kids aren’t bad or misbehaving. They’re simply having trouble managing their big emotions. Once I reconnect that, I replace my false expectations with this reality.

Step 4: Feed the Needs

Once I’ve looked at my expectations, I can identify my needs and figure out how to meet them. Identifying needs is probably the most important part of making better choices.

I learn to clarify what I observe about my anger, what emotions I am feeling, what false expectations I was holding on to, what values I want to live by, and what I want to ask of myself and others.

Identifying my needs means that I no longer have the urge to use the language of blame, judgment or domination. I can experience the deep pleasure of contributing to my family’s connection.

On this particular day, my needs were for peace, a harmonious house, healing, authenticity, and to be understood.

Step 5: Use “I” Statements.

In order to meet the needs that I identified above, I need to communicate them to myself and to my family. Using “I” statements, or sentences that begin with “I feel” or “I need” create a more non-judgmental conversation, free from blame or defensiveness.

I hope that in stating my feelings and needs in this way, I will both feel heard and be able to listen well. I consult this NVC list of needs when I need help.

Today, I said:

  • to my partner, “When I am sick and the kids are fighting, I feel stressed. I need peace and quiet so that I can heal my body. Would you be willing to have full responsibility of the kids so that I can rest for a few hours?”
  • to my kids, “When I hear everyone arguing, I feel worried that someone will get hurt. I need everyone in the house to feel safe.”

These were good starting places for us to talk and create connection. I felt understood and we all had a clear understanding of expectations after we talked about it.

Step 6: Learn from the experience for next time.

There will be a next time. I am not always successful at curbing my anger and I will yell again. But, I resolve to be a better parent every time.

I learned today that when I’m sick, I tend to set unconscious expectations for myself and for my family. I am faster to react with anger because I am exhausted and don’t feel well.

I already knew that screaming and hitting are big triggers for me. But, I hadn’t realized that I wouldn’t communicate these things clearly until I was able to diffuse the selfish thoughts with amusement.

It is important to remember that I will make mistakes as a parent. Failing and resolving to change is nothing to be ashamed of.

Each mistake is a chance to remember what I already instinctively know about how good it feels to authentically connect to another human being.

What are your parenting resolutions? Do you have some that you work with dynamically, like in this post, and some that are more concrete? I would enjoy hearing from you.

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Please visit the rest of the posts on Natural New Years Resolutions by clicking on the linky:

thank goodness it’s over!

I’m at the end of NaBloPoMo: blogging every day for the month of November. The last time I attempted this challenge, I learned about myself as a person, a mother, and a writer.

That was November 2011. I thought I was done having children. I had mourned for the child I felt I’d never have and I had let it go. That month’s writing challenge was a sort of test run to see if I was ready to concentrate on writing, training, and teaching projects that were my passions that were separate from being a mom.

I was ready to move into the next phase of balancing parenting and personal passion. I spent the following month outlining my ideas and pulling together resources.

 

Then I became pregnant with twins.

 

My projects were put on hold until I passed morning sickness, then until the chronic pain stopped, then until I wasn’t so huge and exhausted, then until after the birth…

It wasn’t until my babies were 2 months old that I really said good-bye to my projects and felt content with the decision. It was difficult, but incredibly freeing to trust that those opportunities ended, but ones I hadn’t thought of would be there when I was ready.

So, is this year’s NaBloPoMo a test drive for future projects? I didn’t think so when I started, but now I do. I feel like my creative well has been released and I have new ideas for projects, both new and old.

But, I learned last time to write everything down in an idea journal so I don’t lose them. And for now, that journal is enough. I will slowly pursue my passions because as I was reminded this NaBloPoMo, I am still content with my choice to invest my energies in parenting and any extra I will put into the things that refill my bucket.

As I write this, I feel like that might sound a little sad. If the reaction is that I’m deferring what I want, so that I can be a mom, then I wonder if there’s an unconscious “just” in front of  “a mom.” In reality, mom is not who I am (except to my kids) but it is what I do. Without mom on my resume, I wouldn’t have nearly the rest of the passions I have for writing, yoga, and everything else. Parenting provides continuous fuel for energy in my life.

I cannot understate this: Being a mom, inspires me to be better than I am, not for anyone else (although that’s available to me, too, of course) but for myself. When I look over my gratitude post, those are the things I’ve learned from writing every day this month and they all spring from inspiration I feel from parenting.

I am content to move out of the fast lane onto the country road. I want a lower speed limit so that I don’t miss anything along the way.

In keeping with NaBloPoMo tradition, this post is going up raw: no proofreading, no editing, and only a little cringing from me about that.

In gratitude to my readers this month,

Zoie

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Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than formatting, proof-reading, researching or editing as much as I’d like. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

NaBloPoMo November 2013

The Toxic Avenger

Important: Everything in this post assumes that you are in a safe place and that you are not being physical or emotionally threatened or abused. If you are in an immediately dangerous situation, please call emergency services. If you are in an abusive situation that is not immediate, please get help. Some resources: Abuse Help Guide. The core message in this post is that the only thing you can control is yourself, please reach out for help if you need it. For you. Because you are worth it.

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Toxicity

Toxicity (Photo credit: TheEverlastingFallout)

How do you give compassion to those who seem least deserving? When you’re in a situation with someone that has harmed you in the past or a person whose negative energy drains everyone around them, where do you find the balance between keeping yourself protected and not causing greater harm to the toxic person?

When you are honest with yourself about your own feelings when around this person, then compassion for yourself can expand to include the person who is causing the suffering. But, this is not something you can make happen because you decide to. It can only occur after you have surrendered into self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.

Choosing to excise the person whom you feel toxic around may be the most compassionate choice. However, reality is that we will have to deal with these situations when we do not have the opportunity to escape. So, while you either mindfully choose to set aside  the practice of digging into why these feelings of toxicity arise or are walking the path while still dealing with the person, this is list of five things to do when dealing with toxic people.

1. Set Boundaries

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • The first boundary is around yourself. Think about the things that happen during toxic interactions that are harmful to you. Decide ahead of time on a limit, such as length of time or offering help once then leaving the interaction.
    • The second boundary is around the other person. Picture a shield or bubble around the other person that cannot be broached by negativity. The words they say will stay with them instead of you. Get clear with what you need where you need to draw the line so that once you feel that boundary being pushed against, you can end the interaction.
  • In the moment:
    • It’s easier to remain calm if you already have your boundaries in place. If you know that you will make an excuse to leave the conversation after a certain limit has been reached, it is easier to feel like there is more choice available to you.

2. Act, Don’t React

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • If you know that someone else is going through some upheaval in their life, reflect that there will be some blowback and prepare how you would  like the interaction to go ahead of time. In easier conversations, practice listening without reacting so you will feel better prepared when confronted with a negative one.
  • In the moment:
    • Pay attention to what the other person isn’t saying by listening. If acknowledgement of their situation feels appropriate, express it. If noting something from the past that can remind them of something positive, do so. It might change their train of thought or at least provide a distraction for them.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    •  Become more familiar with what the negative person is triggering in you. Remember that you, in particular, are incidental to most people’s negative talking points. Most of the time, they are unaware that they are being hurtful, tactless or cruel. Even if the person seems to be intentionally mean, the object of their displeasure is only reassigned by some criteria unrelated to you. Once you’ve created personal boundaries and become comfortable with your reactions, the toxic person will receive less of whatever it is they think to get from you.
  • In the moment:
    • When you begin to feel like the toxicity is hitting a little close to home, check in with your triggers and try to set them aside until later. For example, if the volume of their voice triggers you, change your proximity, have headphones or ear plugs handy when you see them coming. If they’re being harshly critical, repeat to yourself that it’s okay to review any healthy criticism later, but you don’t owe the other person any response in the moment that doesn’t treat everyone with kindness.

4. Support Without Enabling

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • If the negative person knows that they can drag you down with them, they will continue attempting to do so. If you research some concrete help or prepare some words of empathy that can help you sort out whether the person needs to feel heard, needs resources or is trying to pull you under with them. You can offer the life jacket, but not give them yours as well.
  • In the moment:
    • Temper your responses so that you can still offer kindness without a big emotional reaction. It’s important to balance your emotional health with lending a shoulder. After you have offered what you have decided to and listened to them, try to change the subject to something innocuous or that at least feels safe for you.

5. Return to Compassion

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • Research has shown that people who express more negativity, often have depression or anxiety. If you remember that the other person is in pain, it helps to diffuse the anger and frustration you feel for them. You can still keep yourself protected from toxic people without allowing yourself to be drained by them.  Remembering that the only thing you can control is how you react to them, can release your own anxiety about upcoming interactions. Once you see things are they really are, you can make the best choices. Be gentle with yourself when you recall past interactions and visualize yourself reacting to them the way you wish you had.
  • In the moment:
    • Remember that most people are so absorbed with their inner self to notice that their words or actions hurt others. Recall that they most likely have no way to deal with their inner pain other than to give it to other people. If you feel your ire rising because of the conversation, give yourself some empathy. Remind yourself that you are in control of how you react to the toxic person. What you offer to yourself and to them reflects whether you are reacting from your heart or not.

A final note:

Remember that there is no way you should behave during these toxic encounters. It isn’t about being the way you envision a compassionate person would behave. Be truthful with yourself about where you are. Accept yourself and your reactions. Let them be and let them go. The more you’re able to not identify with your feelings around toxic people, the less these encounters will trouble you.

Walk away before the relationship becomes damaging to you or others. This can mean walking away for the moment to compose yourself, walking away for however long you need to fill your bucket or to get clear on your boundaries and needs or walking away permanently from those who are too toxic for your mental and emotional health.

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In an upcoming post, I will address how to deal with toxic people when you are ready to dig deep into what they are there to teach us about ourselves.

How have you dealt with toxic relationships in your life? I would enjoy hearing from you.
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Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than formatting, proof-reading, researching or editing as much as I’d like. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

NaBloPoMo November 2013

APBC - Authentic ParentingThe Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, co-hosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and Laura at Authentic Parenting, is hosting a blog hop this month onToxic Relationships.

Have you ever been in a relationship that was so bad it affected your whole life? As parents, we should be even more careful picking the people surrounding us, because the way we engage in a relationship guides our children in the way they see the world. How do you handle dealing with toxic relationships? How do you make your relationships better?

To participate, just add your old or new post to the linky below sometime before December 27, 2013. If you would like to share anonymously, let us know and we will find a safe place for you to share your post. This is a touchy subject but an important one.

Blog hops are a great way to generate blog traffic and build a supportive community. Your blog will receive links from many other blogs and you and your readers will have the opportunity to discover other blogs with similar goals in mind. Please join us as we embrace Authentic Parenting! We hope you will consider joining us every month as we discuss ways to bring authenticity into our lives and our parenting.

Want to help host this blog hop on your own blog? Grab the code and share everyone’s posts with your readers!

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