Two Days of Silence, Two Months of Silence

Next week I am going away on a 5 day mindfulness retreat through an amazing organization called Mindful Schools.  I took their Mindfulness Fundamentals cologo.pngurse and their Mindfulness Educator Essentials courses last fall/winter and loved them.  They were 100% online, self-guided courses with weekly practice and reflections and were the perfect combination of information and guided practice to start a more formal mindfulness/meditation habit.  They offer a 5 day retreat for graduates of those courses so next week I leave for the Garrison Institute in upstate NY and I am SCARED–in a good way, I must add, but also a little in the stressed way.  Here’s why:

  1. Leaving the kids and husband for 5 days.  I know my husband is an amazing dad and he will hold down the fort, but managing two kids (and their summer schedules as referenced above) for 5 days will be a lot. He has prepped with help from a friend on camp pickups and my parents for the kids to have an overnight one night but still….its a lot of shelpping and prepping.  Deep bow to all the single parents who have to do this daily.
  2. The other thing about leaving the family is that I also am just goingtomiss them.  There are days my kid comes off the camp bus that I think he looks older…and thats just a day camp!  Thank goodness for FaceTime, but I am going to miss their huge hugs and little bodies SO MUCH.  I am also going to miss my husband, I must add (love you, hun!)
  3. I am vowing not to beat myself up or feel guilty for taking this time for myself, but I probably still will have those feelings.  My renewal and growth as a human is vitally important to me, but even more importantly to everyone around me.  If I am feeling defeated, down, or depressed I simply cannot take care of those around me the way I want to.  So while it is a long time to be away, I am trying to keep it in perspective–this is not a month, a half a year or sometime frame that is really life-altering, this is 5 nights which have been planned for months. Deep breaths.
  4. The retreat consists of 2 days of silence (and other days of workshops and seminars).  Yup, you read that right.  2 days of not talking AT ALL.  What exactly does this mean? I honestly don’t really know.images.jpg  I am sort of anticipatory anxious/excited about this.  On one hand, I can totally see how blissful this could be, on the other hand….2 freaking days.  That’s a lot of not talking.  Am I going to be able to sink into the silence and enjoy it….or will I be in my head screaming for 2 straight days?  My gut is that the first few hours may be challenging and then I am hoping to get to the sweet peace of it.  But who knows?!

So, finally, I must apologize for the two months of silence since my last blog post…summer break got me like whoahhhhhh and I honestly needed sometime away to reflect and renew on my purpose here in the blogosphere.  The silence, in that regard, has helped immensely.  I am ready to get down to business and create a community of parents who are trying to be more conscious of their parenting and mindful of their living.  By coming together through facilitated groups, classes, and private coaching we are stronger, we are wiser, and we are calmer.  And this task ahead of us–the raising of our kids, matters.  A lot.

So 5 days away starting next Wednesday. I am planning on blogging about it so that everyone can know what goes into a mindfulness retreat and how the silence goes!  Have you ever done a retreat with some days of silence?  How did it go?

(c) 2017. Nurture: Family Education & Guidance, Emily R.Rittenberg, emily@nurturefamilyeducation.com

 

Conscious Grandparenting: An Interview

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Goldie Shawel, a grandmother who came into the conscious parenting movement a few years ago as a grandmother.  We were intrigued to find out that conscious parenting is not just for parents of young children.  As Goldie explained, it made perfect sense.  A parents job is never really over and how you approach those moments of connection, even with your adult children, really makes a difference.

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Goldie Shawel (aka. Nana) and Dr. Shefali Tsabary at the Evolve Conference on Conscious Parenting in October, 2016.

Nurture: Tell me a little bit about yourself…

Goldie Shawel: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents who were Holocaust survivors.   My parents had five children.  I had a challenging childhood–my parents couldn’t process what they had been through and had no peace.  Sadly, it robbed them of much of their lives.  Financially we were fine, but emotionally they were never available to me the way I needed them.

Not understanding the effect of my parents experience on their parenting ability and style, I created a similar life for my 5 kids.  I was always physically present with them but wasn’t able to connect with their essence they way they, and I,  deserved.

Now all my kids are married and now I have 12 amazing grandchildren who call me Nana.

N: How did you hear of Conscious Parenting?

GS: I heard Dr. Shefali Tsabary on Oprah one day and thought “Ok, I messed up” and turned off the TV.  A little while later I saw her again and something struck a chord and I was mesmerized.  After that, I began seeking out Dr. Shefali and saw her work again on Facebook.  She used to do a program called “Conscious Card Tuesdays” which was just posting a thought to her audience and taking questions from people.  I engaged Dr. Shefali in discussion and went from there.  As a grandparent, some of my parenting issues are the same as the newer parents, but I also have some unique issues like being an in-law to 5 adult children and grandparent to 12 unique individuals.

One of the most important teachings that I have learned about Conscious Parenting is that it’s not just about parenting.  It’s about relationship building.

N: Is being a grandparent disqualifying for changing your parenting style?  Is it too late?

GS: I have children from ages 27-37.  I don’t think it is ever too late.  Children, of any age, are a mirror.

 

Dr. Shefali’s latest book on Conscious Parenting.

 

When I wanted to share the conscious parenting teachings with my children, I didn’t want to be too pushy or overzealous–especially with my children’s spouses.  Dr. Shefali suggested that I buy my kids her books so they could read and process her teachings and speak up if they were interested in learning more.

N: How has it affected your relationships with your children?

GS: I am closer with all of my children as a result of sharing these teachings with them.

N: Has it affected your relationships with your grandchildren and the way you approach being a grandparent?

GS: Yes.  I used to be grandma that shells out money and brings gifts.  Now I do not that do that.  We pick out gift together but our relationship is more about being with each other than giving or receiving stuff.

N: How do you resolve the feelings of guilt or remorse for lost time for not being more conscious earlier?  

GS: I had a lot of guilt and sadness for not being with my mother more on an emotional and connected level but with Dr. Shefali’s help I realized that there is no good in beating myself up.  I had the same feeling about my time with my own kids.  I head to learn to accept the way it had been and appreciate that, albeit later than I wish, I had found growth and am at peace with that.  When you know better you do better.

N: What is something you wish more grandparents knew?

GS: Time spent with your children or grandchildren is the gift.  Simply being and doing with the child is the gift.  Allow yourself to be quiet with them and observe them.  Resist the temptation to do, do, do.

N: How do you approach being a Conscious Parent with your children in law?

GS: I heave learned to tread carefully and take cues.  At first I was extremely excited about this movement that had allowed me to find peace with my life and my children and I wanted to push Conscious Parenting on them.  I now know that you just can’t.  They have to be ready and open to it.

N: Do you have any thoughts on what is like to be a Jewish parent and a Conscious Parent?

GS: As a Jewish mom, it is easy to find myself overly enmeshed with my children.  I used to find myself shaming and blaming my children and have learned now to just accept them for who they are.  I have to stop myself from telling my adult children what to do.  I can make suggestions but I have to realize that those are just that, suggestions.  Also, part of the Jewish culture has encouraged parents to be a martyr and constantly give, give, give.  I have learned to relinquish this part of my upbringing and am focusing on taking care of myself first.  I can’t be emotionally available to my children and grandchildren if I haven’t taken time to rejuvenate and recharge my own batteries.

Are you a conscious grandparent? Tell us about your experience below.

At Nurture: Family Education and Guidance, we offer private coaching, facilitated small groups, and larger seminars to teach parents and other educators the art and science of living consciously.  Contact us at (585) 420-8838 or at nurtureconsciousness@gmail.com to learn more.

(c) 2016. Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Introduction to Mindfulness for Parents and Other Educators

Breathe in to the count of 5.  Breathe out to the count of 5.  Relax your body.  How does that feel? That took about 10 seconds. Do you feel a little more calm? A bit more in the moment? A little more aware? That is what mindfulness is all about.

A lot of people are talking about mindfulness these days. This Q & A will help explain some questions surrounding this ancient tradition and its modern uses in your home or classroom.

Q: What is Mindfulness?

A: Mindfulness is cultivating a non-judgemental awareness and acceptance of the present moment.  One can be mindful at any time in any location.  It involves 3 main skills working in conjunction with each other: sensory awareness, mental clarity, and equanimity.  (Equanimity is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.)  

mindfulness-300x225.gifQ: Why do parents and other types of educators need mindfulness?

A: Parents and educators can use mindfulness to help them become less reactive and more responsive to the needs of the kids they work with.   If you ever have found yourself saying (or being told!) to “calm down and pay attention”?   Mindfulness can be helpful in teaching how to calm down and how to pay attention.

Q:  My kid is learning mindfulness at school.  Isn’t that good enough?

A: That is great that your school is open to mindfulness and it will surely be a skill they can use for the rest of their lives.  If you really want to integrate more calm into your life though, it is not just about “fixing” your kid.  Any sort of change you want to see in your family or class, begins with you, the leader, making a committment to learn a different way of being.  Simply showing up with calm energy you want them to exude can actually change their brain chemistry.

Q: You can change brain chemistry with mindfulness?

A: Yes! The pre-frontal cortex is literally strengthened when you pay attention to your feelings and reactions such that you can begin to create space between those and give a more thoughtful response when being challenged instead of an automatic reaction.  Further, when someone has a response to a stimuli, the people around that person can also experience similar firing of neurons if they can anticipate what comes next.  This concept is called mirror neurons.  For example, your child just has a joyful lick of ice cream; their neurons are fired and dopamine (the happy chemical in the brain) is released.  You are watching their joy and delight and feel a similar feeling of dopamine release in your body without ever having touched the ice cream.  That is the powerful effect of mirror neurons.  The same thing happens with all different sorts of emotions, even calmness.

Q:  What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?

A:  Meditation is setting specific time aside for mindfulness.  Meditation is usually in a silent seated position.  The word “meditation” has some religious connotations (from Buddhism–like zen and karma).  Mindfulness can be a religious or a secular pursuit and can be done anywhere, at anytime.  One can be mindful of everything: how they move, what they think, what they are eating, or how they are feeling or acting.

Q: I am so busy and this is just one more thing.  Is this really valuable?

A:  Well, we can’t ascribe the value it will be to your life but if you are so busy, this could very well be the skill you need the most.  Mindfulness will allow you to show up to each activity you are a part of with presence, awareness, and openness so that you are able to attune to your (or your child’s) actual needs and don’t feel as overwhelmed with everything you have to do.

Q: How can I learn to be a more mindful parent or educator?

A:  An amazing resource is called: “Getting Started with Mindfulness”.  We also recommend you find a community of people to practice with so you can hold each other accountable as you grow and flex this new muscle.

 

We offer seminars, smaller facilitated groups, and individual coaching.  Contact us to learn more at emily@nurturefamilyeducation.com or leave your information below.

 

(c) 2016. Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Gift Yourself Presence to Your Heartache

I am in Fundamental Political Shock. Shocked, surprised and sad are just the beginning.  Hurt, deceived, angry, and stupid are also some of the feelings.  I want to hug my children and explain to them…explain what?  Today we are just surviving.

The first and last thing I want my kids to learn from today is that when we are on our Anger Mountain* lets start by focusing on being gentle. To ourselves.

The healing and recalibration process begins by starting with our feelings.

But its hard.  On one hand it’s personal.  This was not an affront or attack on our physical body but on our ideas.  But our ideas are just that ideas.  They are not who we are: we are our spirits, our hearts, our souls.  So let’s extend a physical hand and actually share our convictions, dreams, hopes.  Lets accept our vulnerability and be open to the differences percolating out there.  Lets not come up a cognition-driven explanation to satisfy our egos need to understand.  The reality is that people all over the world and our country are really different from us.  That is what we supposedly celebrate. So let’s walk with them. Let’s just be present with them and not try to talk through the differences or even celebrate our similarities-first lets just be.  And find a way to be OK with not doing–pro or against their ideas.

But I also feel stupid because I bought the lie.  I guzzled it up and proselytized it: Media made us believe that it was about a binary option; that this was: bad vs. good, intelligent vs. stupid, morally elite vs. financially elite.  This was never those things and we all drank the media’s kool-aid.

The lesson for our kids is that it is ok to be and not do.  We will do tomorrow. Today we will just be in our feelings.  Feel our feelings.  Accept our humanity.  Adults don’t always have all the answers and we can teach our kids that we do not always use our brains to solve problems. Our hearts come first.  And right now our hearts ache so let’s start there by dwelling in that, allowing the feels, and being gentle to ourselves.

*Anger Mountain is a way I illustrate anger to young children.  Being angry is like hiking a tall mountain–every step towards the top is harder than the last and at the top, you burst with feelings and end up feeling smaller, less empowered, more enraged.  The opposite also exists: Happy Hills.  Happy Hills are also steep, but hopefully more frequent.  And when you get to the top you feel bigger, exuberant, empowered.  So the goal when the child starts to feel Anger Mountain is to help them identify and choose to take other “paths” that can lead them towards a Happy Hill.  The paths don’t have to be positive emotions but rather useful feelings to get through the journey: sadness, fear, helplessness are just some.  It is ok to be in those feelings and need some time to work through them.  And holding hands with the right partner on those other paths always makes them easier to travel.  (And as a sidebar to that; as a parent, I hope to be that partner for my children but it is important to accept if they choose a different journey-worthy person).

What are you feeling?  What are the physical symptoms you feel?

How will you be gentle to yourself today?

 

(c) 2016, Nurture: Family Education and Guidance

Self-care and Compassion Fatigue

As people in the care-taking professions know, the caretaker is no good if they feel exhausted, spent, and totally worn out.  Parents are the ultimate caretakers–their job is 24/7, including nights, weekends, and vacations.  Self-care is of the utmost importance–not just so the parent feels better, but so your child is getting the best version of you.  When training in any helping professions, students learn about something called “compassion fatigue“.  This phrase refers to how tiring caring can be.  Sure, it is an amazing responsibility, filled with so many positives, but that does not mean it is not enormously exhausting.

So what is self-care? Simply put, it is putting yourself first for at least for a little bit so that you feel some sense of rejuvenation.

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Self care could look like this:

  • date night
  • reading a book
  • drinking a cup of coffee on the porch…alone
  • EXERCISE
  • treating yourself in someway
  • spending time with friend
  • a hobby

I can help you identify your needs as a parent and help you find ways to fulfill those needs.

*If other issues arise as result of an honest assessment of how you are doing and a higher level of intervention is deemed appropriate, I can refer you to other appropriate mental health professionals and work collaboratively with them.  As always, our work together is completely confidential.