On Mindful Parenting: “Discernment Versus Judging” – M. + J. Kabat-Zinn

What is called for in the cultivation of mindfulness, and in mindful parenting, rather than judging, is discernment, the ability to look deeply into something and perceive distinctions keenly and with clarity.

Discernment is the ability to see this and that, as opposed to this or that, to see the whole picture, and its fine details, to see gradations. Being discerning is an inward sign of respect for reality because we are taking note of subtleties as well as the gross outline of things, aware of complexity and mystery. There is a fairness in it, a rightness in it, because it is truer to the whole of reality…

Cover of "Everyday Blessings: The Inner W...

When we bring mindfulness and discernment to our parenting, we come to see how much we tend to judge our own children as well as ourselves as parents. We have opinions about them and who they are and how they should be, and hold them up against some standard that we have created in our minds. When we judge our children in this way, we cut ourselves off from them and us. We also cut ourselves off from ourselves by contracting and becoming rigid. By intentionally suspending judgment and cultivating discernment, we create the potential to reconnect with them.

Discernment includes seeing that even as we attempt to see our children for who they are, we cannot fully know who they are or where their lives will take them.

We can only love them, accept them, and honor the mystery of their being.

Myla + Jon Kabat-Zinn,
“Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting”

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tits + titillation II: the magic of mammaries + the madness of media hype over breastfeeding

I’m recycling my commentary to the Q&A with Jamie Lynne Grumet that I reblogged a few days ago along with related articles addressing the issue, including Dr. Sears’ respond to the hype.

As a mother who has instinctively practiced “natural”, “attachment,” or “connected” parenting, I applaud Jamie Lynne Grumet’s courage to appear on the cover of Time.

The image is undeniably and deliberately provocative.  And, in some ways, problematic.

Though not for the reasons that most folks will immediately think.

Along with the caption “Are You Mom Enough?” this cover adds fuel to thetyranny of comparison (to borrow the phrase that continues to resonate with me long after hearing it in Buddhist teacher Martin Aylward’s dharma talk Work, Sex, Money, Dharma.) between working and at-home mothers.

As well, it excludes from the picture the vital presence of fathers who are equally committed to this way of parenting.

Understandably, Time’s editorial choice was guided by sales as much as shining the light on the legacy of Dr. William Sears and attachment parenting.

I appreciate Jamie’s awareness of the unfortunate negativity (guilt, resentment, judgement, etc.) this will spark and can only hope that the full article will present a more complete and balanced view than its cover.

May all parents be released from suffering
the tyranny of comparison.
May all parents be inspired to be
the best nurturers, educators, and providers 
they can be
and make skillful choices that serve the well-being of their families.

Related articles:

all is full of love: the magic of circles

Osani Circle Game

I was moved by this beautiful image circulating around Facebook last fall.  These children, connected to the earth, connected to one another, through laughter and play, are radiant with the fullness of life and love.  A love that is boundless— permeating and nourishing all it touches, and being fed in return by the breath and hope of all living things.

Seeing this instantly brought to mind these lines from the Metta Sutta (or Discourse on Love):

“Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life,

cultivate boundless love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos.

Let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below, and across.

Our love will know no obstacles. Our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity.

Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake,

we should maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart.

This is the noblest way of living.”

[20 october 2011, dya]

magic of moon wisdom

There’s something magical about waking up with my lovey-boy before dawn on the days that surround the full and change of the moon.

Sometimes for K, it’s a tossing-and-turning to find the right nook to snuggle into, a fluttering of eyes, a murmuring of dreamy words, a giggle- and-yawny stretch. Hands reaching out, knees nudging, toes burrowing—the reassuring warmth of skin. And, once in a while, he’s wired for sound! Popping up to play with cars or to read books as if the sun were streaming brightly through his window.

When I alone am awake, I rest in contemplation or sit in meditation. These witching hours are made for listening deeply and seeing clearly by the twinkle of stars that light the path.

Insight is a gift not the goal. Some things are illuminated, others released. Often, nothing at all appears to be happening. Yet it’s more than enough to abide in the hush, to simply feel and hear my breath subtle and distinct. Quietly, steadily just being me.

Attuned to this spirit time, I feel energized rather than depleted. I am awake—moving easily through the day on merely a few hours of sleep, sustained by the magnetic wisdom of the moon.

Contemplations for Practice: Living Buddha, Living Christ ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

This afternoon I will step out of the family Easter dinner to enjoy walking and sitting meditation with my yoga-sangha.

When I realized that my regular Sunday practice fell squarely in the center of the high holy days of Passover and Easter, and at the end of the Religious Awareness Week our local university organized (and at which my dharma sister shared and led a Zen meditation practice), I was inspired to re-read Thich Nhat Hanh’s contemplations in Living Buddha, Living Christ.

Here, I share some of the passages that resonate with my personal experiences of the interbeingness of Buddhism (the practice that began to organically blossom in my life before I even knew it formally as “Buddhism”), Christianity (the practice in which I was raised and often felt at-odds with) and Judaism (the practice of my maternal great-great grandmother that I came to touch through my Jewish dharma sisters who have invited me to celebrate holy days such as Passover and Yom Kippur).  In my practice today, I will touch the earth in honor of my spiritual ancestors and teachers.

“RELIGIOUS LIFE IS LIFE”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To me, religious life is life. I do not see any reason to spend one’s whole life tasting just one kind of fruit.  We human beings can be nourished by the best values of many traditions.

Professor Hans Kung has said, “Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world.”  People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies.  When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.  The second precept of the Order of Interbeing, founded within the Zen Buddhist tradition during the war in Vietnam, is about letting go of views: “Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to receive others’ viewpoints.” To me, this is the most essential practice of peace.

“TOUCHING JESUS”

But my path to discovering Jesus as one of my spiritual ancestors was not easy. The colonization of my country by the French was deeply connected with the efforts of the Christian missionaries…In such an atmosphere of discrimination and injustice against non-Christians, it was difficult for me to discover the beauty of Jesus’ teachings.

It was only later, through friendships with Christian men and women who truly embody the spirit of understanding and compassion of Jesus, that I have been able to touch the depths of Christianity. The moment I met Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew I was in the presence of a holy person. Not just his good work but his very being was a source of great inspiration for me. And others, less well known, have made me feel that Lord Jesus is still here with us…Through men and women like these, I feel I have been able to touch Jesus Christ and His Tradition.

“LIVING IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD”

In the Jewish tradition, the sacredness of mealtimes is very much emphasized. You cook, set the table, and eat in the presence of God. “Piety” is an important word in Judaism, because all of life is a reflection of God, the infinite source of holiness. The entire world, all the good things in life, belong to God, so when you enjoy something, you think of God and enjoy it in His presence. It is very close to the Buddhist appreciation of interbeing and interpenetration…

Piety is the recognition that everything is linked to the presence of God in every moment. The Passover Seder, for example, is a ritual meal to celebrate the freedom of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and their journey home. During the meal, certain vegetables and herbs, salt, and other condiments help us touch what happened in the past—what was our suffering and what was our hope. This is a practice of mindfulness.

“ENJOY BEING ALIVE”

To breathe and know you are alive is wonderful. Because you are alive, everything is possible.  The Sangha, the community of practice, can continue. The church can continue. Please don’t waste a single moment. Every moment is an opportunity to breathe life into the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Every moment is an opportunity to manifest the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit…

You need only to walk in mindfulness, making peaceful, happy steps on our planet. Breathe deeply, and enjoy your breathing. Be aware that the sky is blue and the birds’ songs are beautiful. Enjoy being alive and you will help the living Christ and the living Buddha continue for a long, long time.

On “Loving-Kindness” ~ Pema Chodron

Our personal attempts to live humanely in this world are never wasted.
Choosing to cultivate love rather than anger just might be what it takes to save the planet from extinction.

What is it that allows our goodwill to expand and our prejudice and anger to decrease?
This is a significant question.

Traditionally it is said that the root of aggression and suffering is ignorance.
But what is it that we are ignoring?

Entrenched in the tunnel vision of our personal concerns, what we ignore is our kinship with others.

One reason we train as warrior-bodhisattvas is to recognize our interconnectedness—to grow in understanding that when we harm another, we are harming ourselves.

So we train in recognizing our uptightness.
We train in seeing that others are not so different from ourselves.
We train in opening our hearts and minds in increasingly difficult situations.

~ Pema Chodron, “Loving-Kindness” from The Places That Scare You

[emphasis + formatting,  mine]

a million hoodies, a million hearts: metta behind the movement for trayvon martin

Easily seen is the outrage, despair and fear, the ignorance and insensitivity, the failures of the police, lawmakers and politicians, the complex, provocative and polarizing rhetoric and debate, the uncertainty of justice and the swelling distrust in the systems that are meant to ensure our safety.

Hard indeed to see and to carry hope for the possibility of deep and lasting change.

Not only to the controversial and dangerous law that gave a misguided vigilante license to act upon his fear and racism with unnecessary and deadly force.

But also to individual and systemic institutional practices that reinforce our prejudices, feeding and fueling them to become rampant antis-, –isms and -phobias.

Easily seen are the differences between us: skin, hair, race, gender, age, sexuality, religion, education, politics, economics…

Hard indeed to see are the threads that tie us together:
blood, breathe, heart, soul, histories, joy, suffering…

But for my practice of the buddha-dharma,
I might sit heavy with visceral rage, terror, disgust and disappointment.

Stomach-churning, heart-racing, tear-choking, breath-stealing anguish

For Trayvon,
my son,
my mate,
my father,
my brothers,
my nephews,
my cousins,
my friends,
my neighbors,
and others known or unknown to me who could be snatched from their loved ones
so brutally, so easily.

And not just sons, not only males.

Our daughters, mothers, sisters, and aunts are always vulnerable too. 

This cruelty, this pain, this suffering does not discriminate.
It leaves no one untouched.

So with my practice I sit.
Breath-, Love- and Hope-filled.

In full trust of the ever-evolving nature of all things.
In full remembrance that there are causes of and an end of suffering.
In full awareness of the victory of each sweet breath.

I sit to cradle my simmering feelings—
giving them space to stretch out, unfold, take new shape in their own time.

They are natural, they are human, they are mine.

Yet they are not me.

Touching the dharma and continuously taking refuge in the Five Mindfulness Trainings,             I am determined that my feelings will not feed or fuel choices that are unskillful, harmful or deadly.

I grow steady with each breath.
My anger and fear cool, soften and slowly transform into
the compassionate vigilance of mindfulness.

I listen deeply, see more clearly what is the true, necessary and wise course of action for me in this moment.

I touch the Metta Suttasending compassion and lovingkindness
in all directions with every breath
so that any habitual inclination toward anger, numbness, despair or avoidance will be released.

I step back—filtering out the discord, limiting what I consume from the media.
Tuning in—to my breath, my intentions, my dharma, my heart.

From this space, I listen deeply for:
facts, resolution, and the aspirations I hear beneath the pleas for justice.

From this space, I see clearly the faces:
brown as my own,
also darker, lighter—matching the full spectrum of hues and tones of people I know and love—reflecting my sadness, my questions, my aspirations.

From this space, I see clearly the hearts beneath the hoodies.

I feel them beating, bleeding, bursting wide and tender with compassion
for Trayvon Martin, his heartbroken parents and loved ones,
and all others who are suffering from such tragic and profound losses.

Hearing, seeing, feeling completely, I touch those aspirations that connect us all.

I chant them silently, I chant them aloud to my son each night, I chant them for us all.

With each nourishing, energizing, life-sustaining breath:

May we and all beings be happy,

May we and all beings be safe,

May we and all beings be well,

May we and all beings have peace.

My path and practice are affirmed.  I know this is the only way for me.

 Trayvon‑Martin‑009_540x405.jpg

  • My son: My ray of light, my bell of mindfulness, my clear intention for practice.
  • My mate: A miraculous odds-smashing survivor of a random act of road rage, he was shot in the head at 19. He happens to be white. The shooter, who served the minimum sentence on a plea, is black. His parents–my loving “in-laws”—and family members who are models and practitioners of faith and forgiveness.
  • The Dhammapada (Verses 252 – 3) as quoted in Come See For Yourself  ~ Ayya Khema         We read and discussed the chapter “The Faults of Others” in my root sangha (lamc.info) several years ago, and it continues to resonate.
  • The Places That Scare You: A Guide To Fearlessness in Difficult Times ~ Pema Chodron    I’m currently re-reading this book (slowly digesting the practices), and my bookmark was resting in the middle of her chapter on Compassion.
  • Metta for Children ~ InvitingtheBell.com                                                                                         Matt wrote about introducing this “magical” practice to his daughter (exactly one month ago today) and, auspiciously, I read it shortly after putting my own child to bed with thoughts about how to incorporate age-appropriate bedtime blessings into our evening ritual. Every night since, I sing my simple metta chant to him.
  • ‘Million Hoodie’ March  ~ Newsone.com

squeeze + smooch: the magic of hugging meditation

“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

My clever kid was about 15 months old when he abandoned nearly all requests to be picked up.

To him, the briefest pause was an eternity.  Of course, toddlers have no tolerance for waiting, and any effort—no matter how gentle—to introduce the concept of delayed gratification or patience is futile.  They want what they want when they want it, so GET IT TOGETHER, FOLKS!

K had quickly come to realize that I could not resist his yumminess.  Throughout the day, I would snatch him up for sniff (ah, that baby-fresh scent), squeeze and smooch!

I’m sure you can see where this is going…

Yup, K understood that whenever I was deeply engaged in an activity (usually cooking dinner) all he needed to do was stand at my feet, stretch open his arms, flap his hands and beg  for a hug!

How could I not instantly drop whatever I was doing to oblige him?  Every. Single. Time.

Nothing is more important than assuring my child that I see him, hear him, and feel his need to be connected.  But, of course, there are moments when I feel stretched to complete a time-sensitive task and cannot immediately give him my full attention.

So I talk him through it—I hear you, lovey. I know you want Mommy…this is what I’m doing now, then we’ll do X, Y and Z.  And soon as it is possible, I hug and kiss him wholeheartedly  for a few breaths and go about the task at hand.

Often that is enough.  But when it isn’t, I keep him next to me and do what parenthood demands we master (or fail miserably trying): multitask!

Other times, however, I require space and uninterrupted solitude.  In those instances, the multitasking continues.  My attention is concentrated on the activity while my heart is reaching toward him.

I acknowledge the subtle twinge of guilt and release it.  Breathing into it, I trust that he’s been properly fortified by every loving touch we exchange and that his sense of our connectedness will sustain him through the healthy, naturally-unfolding experiences of separation between parent and growing child.

But the instant my work ends, I grab K and love him up—breathing deeply as I squeeze and smooch until he’s had enough.

Learn more about the  practice of  Hugging Meditation.

hugging meditation
Image via PlumVillage.org – Art Of Mindful Living

on the mindfulness in motherhood

Samatha.*

Embodied.

Senses.

Engaged.

The body, the mind, the activity.

Stopping.

The belly, the lungs, the nose.

Breathing.

The eyes, the heart. 

Looking.

The ears, the heart.  

Listening.

The opening.

Fully…of laps, of hands, of arms, of hearts.

The receiving.  The allowing.  The cradling.

The embrace.

{Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.}

on the madness in motherhood

Cackling, with laughter to keep the tears at bay.

“From cool to chaos” — whirlwind-tornado-tsunami — in a split second.

MESSY

 …sticky, stinky, sloppy, smushy and sometimes…

STRANGELY GLORIOUS

 …to be freed from the insistent call to order

from shelves, drawers, closets and containers.

LIFE

…spilling

…out:

ALL VIBRANT.  LOUD.  REAL. 

Wailing

Pouting

Shrieking

Bellowing:

HERE, HERE, HERE!

NOW…NOW…NOW!

NONONONO!

And then, sighing:

OKAY? OKAY. OKAY!

YES…YES…YES.

And now:

Laughing.  Softly.  Deeply.  Easily.  Always.

{Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.}

out on a walk: tandem tumbling

tandem tumbling: view from the bottom of the hill

In between snows this past December, our tot-friendly neighborhood “sledding” hill provided the perfect soft slope for teaching K how to tuck into my arms and roll…

dude, where’s your dad?!

Without question, I’m my kid’s best friend right now.

“Here, Mommy!”…He insists, stuffing a car (or five) in my hand.
“Whatchu doing, Mommy?”…He inquires, looking into my eyes while sitting on my lap.
“Where are you, Mommy?”…He shouts, moments after I’ve told him I’m heading to the next room.
“Mommy-Mami-Ami-Ami-Ami-Ami!”…He chants when he needs me and no one else will do.

Even while writing this, K has wedged himself between me and the laptop—checking in now and again for cuddle time.

In these moments, I recall the word samatha  (Pali/Sanskrit for “calm-abiding“) and the practice I’ve adopted to touch that quality: stopping. breathing. looking. listening.

So I accept the cars.  I explain what I’m doing (talking to you, drinking coffee, reading a book).  I report my location.  I respond to his moment of distress as soon as it is possible and reassure him with hugs, kisses and my full attention that I am here for him.

Then from that place of calm, I can laugh and remind K that he does in fact have a father…who is often waiting nearby with arms wide open to receive him.

mindfulness + motherhood: counting breaths

Learning to spend one LESS breath doing something that doesn’t serve me and learning to spend one breath MORE being fully present to experiences that support me.

 

[originally posted 3 Oct 2011;  dharma yoga arts on FB]