bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: awareness

monica / me

In January 1998 I arrived in Washington DC, a bright, young intern for a national news broadcasting bureau. When not in the newsroom, I spent most days hanging around The White House pressroom, eager for Mike McCurry to sputter some juicy soundbites about stained dresses, or chasing down senators at on Capitol Hill in hopes of snagging a word or two about impeachment. Monica Lewinsky was THE story in DC and I had a front row seat.

Monica and I had at least three things in common: We both spent our 22nd year getting to know the scene at The White House, we both had the same hair cut and long black wool jacket (I cannot tell you how many times I walked past a sidewalk stakeout and heard photogs yell, “Monica! Monica!”), and we both had a crush on Bill Clinton.

I remember the first time I heard her name. I was sitting in a classroom, waiting for our morning presenter, ABC’s Ann Compton, to arrive. She was late. Finally Ann dashed in breathlessly, unbuttoning her royal blue blazer and wiping her brow. She had big breaking news and we lucky students were the first to hear her account. “President Clinton had an affair with his former intern Monica Lewinsky,” she reported. She colored a shocking picture for us. Her raw enthusiasm was intoxicating. I couldn’t wait to get to work and hear all the salacious details. And I wasn’t disappointed.

My own newsroom was absolutely on fire. People were laughing and speculating and gossiping, imaginably excited to switch gears from dry Congressional hearings examining black lungs and dead cowboys (thank you Phillip-Morris) to blow jobs and slippery cigars.

Procuring news about Monica was part of my job. And I wouldn’t consider my attitude about this procurement neutral. Like I said, the scandal was downright thrilling. I heartlessly joined the crowd of news shapers and rode atop the wave of public humiliation crashing over Washington.

I never considered Monica the young woman. I never imagined her crying into her mother’s arms at night, afraid to leave her house, dreaming of ways to end her life, while we in the newsrooms reveled in her humiliation.

I may have imagined myself in her shoes from time to time, but certainly not in a way that was inspired by compassion. Amongst us students, “Would-you-or-wouldn’t-you do it with Bill?” was a hot party topic. I myself fell into the “would” category, along with the majority of my girlfriends (and a few of my guy friends).

Fortunately for me, my only access to the President was from 20 feet away during press conferences in the East Room. And also, fortunately for me, my own boss was not a charming world leader, but a 50 year old lesbian whose claim to fame was getting fired from her last gig for throwing a chair at a cameraman. Clearly the question of “inappropriate sexual relations” with my boss was a non-issue.

Fast forward 17 years. I’ve moved on. Grew up. Got married. Had kids. Found peace. My internship in Washington DC is a fond, fading memory. But until this day, watching Monica bravely deliver a TED Talk on public shaming, I never stopped to think what happened to her. Never considered that 17 years later a part of her is still the girl under the desk in the Oval Office. A part of her doesn’t get to move on. A part of her will be 22 for the rest of her life.

I reflect upon my own contribution to that gotcha-style news coverage that ravaged this young girl’s reputation. Granted I was just a kid, an intern, but I was there. I was a part. My energy fed that beast, too.

I stop. I cry. I reconcile.

I’m humbled and grateful to Monica for this lesson.

Check out Monica’s most excellent TED Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame?language=en. And #clickwithcompassion.

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Me working The White House beat, age 22.

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My friend and I having a grand old time with Paula Jones at The White House Correspondents Dinner in 1998. I chose this picture because it shows the back of my head. You can imagine this bouncy black hair paired with a long black wool coat might cause some confusion.

tips on teaching kids to meditate

Relax your expectations when meditating with small children. If they want to meditate with their feet in the air or their eyes on the ceiling, let them. Posture will develop as they engage consistently in practice.

This short video is of me introducing meditation to my son’s kindergarten class. They are on their third round of mini-sittings taking place over five minutes. Each mini-sitting lasts between 30 seconds and two minutes. During this round, they are using their ears to count how many times they hear my bells chime. My son is assisting with the ringing – he’s excited to be an active part of the exercise.

Notice the children’s creative posture… but also notice that they are participating attentively. They’re hanging in pretty nicely if you ask me! Giving kids a little wiggle room (literally) will help them acclimate to silence on their own terms.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

“and now instead of him watching TV we all sit around and watch him”

the blog title and pic above are of shel silverstein’s famous  jimmy jet.  the following quote by robert thurman is in ed and deb shapiro’s book BE THE CHANGE, how meditation can transform you and the world.

“Meditation is a neutral and very powerful tool.  The choice is what are we going to meditate on?  Most people let themselves be guided by a culture that this trying to make them buy things or make them afraid through the news.  When we watch television and we see a commercial, it is like a guided meditation on dissatisfaction.  We have to guide our meditation in a positive direction.  We do this when we meditate on freedom, on penetrating to the deep nature of reality.  In other words, if we meditate on being egotistical, we will become more egotistical, but if we meditate on being selfless, we will become more caring and altruistic.  When we experience ourselves as totally integrated with everyone, we are naturally going to be compassionate and kind to them.”

i never really thought of tube time as meditation, but after reading these words i can see how this is so true.  so often, we sit in front of the television and vegetate.  vegetating is meditating, right?  so whatever is streaming into our consciousness is going to marinate for as long as we sit on the couch with the tube on.  and then it becomes a part of us.  this could be scary.  powerful.  advertisers are changing who we are on a cellular level through commercials.  seriously.  this is true.  and this is CRAZY.  it’s like brainwashing.  no wonder why every kid i see has a friggin pillow pet.  that commercial must run a hundred times a day.  they almost have no choice but to put the thing on their christmas lists.

i just had a conversation with my daughter’s montessori teacher yesterday about how different children are these days – how much bolder they are with adults.  how quick they are to inflict an abrasive comment on their teachers.  there is little doubt, for me, that the kids learn this snarky behavior from TV.  the way children act on “family” sitcoms is atrocious.  the characters are rude to their parents, they are rude to their neighbors, they are rude to other children’s parents.  (i’m thinking of shows specifically on disney and nick – “icarly” and “good luck charlie” such.)  whether we choose to believe it or not, the fact is, our children are modeling their own behavior after these characters.  they think that these actors are cool.  and they think that the behavior of these characters is…  wait for it…  NORMAL.  yes, that’s right.  scary.

and then, of course, is the programming that is pouring into that wide open channel in our adult brains while meditating in front of the TV.  through most news media and dramatic programming we are being programmed to fear.  notice how the tense of the verb changes.  we are no longer actively making a decision about how our brains are functioning; the television producers are making decisions for us.  we ARE BEING programmed.  not to get all big brother on you, but, well, it’s sort of like big brother.  right?

early last year, i banned all real housewives and most news programming from my house.  this was a big decision for me.  i reaaaallllllyyyyy loved my housewives.  BUT.  while watching the new york housewives reunion on bravo, my husband walked into the room and sat down on the couch.  the women on TV were verbally slaying  each other and hubby goes, “oh, v, my jaw is getting tight just listening to this.”  and then i scanned my own body.  my chest was tight and i had a big lump in my throat.  i turned it off and walked away for good.  and then i noticed the physical reactions i had while watching other programming, specifically local news.  i’d get tight and squeeze-y.  i encourage readers to do a physical scan while you watch TV.  it’s madness.  so now i limit my TV intake to programming that lifts me up or educates me.

my kids love TV.  i usually let them watch PBS, animal planet (they love “river monsters”) and some nick jr.  but as of today i’m pulling in the reins.  (oh, god, please give me the strength to do this.)  if they are going to do something as powerful as meditate on an idea for 30 minutes, it’s sure as shit not going to be what some money-focused CEO at disney wants for my kids.

meditation is a powerful tool.  maybe THE MOST powerful tool.  make a mindful decision about how you use it.  start by turning the channel.

from mine to yours,

vanessa

(this entry is reposted with edits from my blog “everything old is new age again“, may 18, 2012.)

BUB’s new theory: the real reason our kids are totally freaking out

i’m overwhelmed by the show of support.  as it turns out, i am not alone…  which is relieving, but also scary.  because that means all of us are living with kids who are on the brink. i spent a good hour talking to friends yesterday about what happened and three hours returning texts and emails and facebook messages to many truly amazing and loving people who reached out to me to share their own experiences. friends offered ideas and self-help strategies and stories or just a voice of support.  some of the advice was dead on.

my friend KF, who understands how my household runs and knows me all too well as a mother, told me i need to institute formal discipline and stick to it.  she helped me work out a plan and suggested how i could approach PG with it.  i did that last night and it went over very well.  oh, and she also reminded me to make sure she’s got a fully belly.

my little mamma VR looked at me after the kids left for school and said, “don’t let them see you cry.  be strong in front of your kids.  you can cry when they’re gone.”  check.  words to live by.  must work on this.

and then i spent a lot of time cleaning out my basement.  i scrubbed and purged and analyzed and came up with this:

our kids are acting like freaks because they are freaked out.  they are growing up in complex, confusing, chaotic times.  and it’s scary.

in kindergarten, one of our children’s first lessons is on the rainforest, which is quickly disappearing.  our children are obsessed with animals and sea life, which are are nearing extinction.  we send them to the safety and comfort of school each day, where there are mandatory drills to protect our kids from not only adults but other children who want to shoot them with a gun.  our children need to eat healthy food to grow strong, but vegetables are filled with pesticides and meat is filled with hormones.  the list goes on…  there are parents who can’t find jobs, there are children dehydrating to death in africa, there are terrorists who fly planes into skyscrapers.

as adults, we process this through prayer or action or mature discussion or nightmares or complete disconnection.  whatever it takes to get through the day.  but kids just absorb it.  they don’t have the emotional or intellectual tools to handle this kind of information.  so they carry it around with them.  it’s not just a one-time frantic freak out.  it’s woven into their list of daily thoughts and fears.  they bring it up at bedtime, over dinner or on a long car ride.  when their minds are quiet and focused, these questions crop up.  they are scared, they are confused, they are stressed.  it’s messing with their basic, primal need for safety.  we’re talking root chakra.  foundation.

when the foundation is not solid, the rest of the body is unstable.  and it creates a child who is off balance, a child who turns into a maniac when just one more challenge is thrown at them.  to add to the instability is the complexity that WE create in the lives of our children. we’re way past self-help books, mommies.  we can unearth tools in books and lectures that can help us harness our strong willed children, but these collective tools are only a bandaid on a bloody gusher.  the real problem isn’t them.  it’s us.

it’s modern american culture.  it’s this big, fast, flashy, plastic american childhood we offer our kids.  i’m guilty of this.  so i am not pulling a self-righteous tirade.  but i truly believe that the solutions to our child-rearing problems are not to be found through books, behaviorists or bandaids.  the solution is found in mindfulness and simplicity.

i think that children who are less stimulated will have fewer behavioral issues.  the homework, the competition, the tutoring, the television, the team sports, the social calendar, the scheduled activities, the playdates, the closet full of clothes, the parties, the toys… each on its own is manageable.  but glopped all together, it’s downright overwhelming.  we can barely handle being responsible for all these things.  and we expect our kids to be?  and what is the purpose for all this activity?  seriously, let me inquire again.  what is the purpose for all this activity?

so now what?  what do we do?  how do we pull in the reigns?  b/c growing up at the speed of life is just too much for our kids to bear.

first, we need to provide our children with a solid foundation in the intangibles.  if there is no time for discussion about spirituality in the day, what the hell we all here for?  to learn to color in the lines?  to be the best athlete on the playing field?  to get into a good school so we can make lots of money and buy shiny things?  well, those things are part of development, part of the human experience, but are they all?  i’d argue no.

i’d say that we are here to learn about love by way of these experiences.  and if our sole purpose here on earth to learn about love, shouldn’t we talk about love more?

when i say love, i don’t mean, “i love my dog,” or, “i love the smell of grass after a rainstorm.”  i mean LOVE.  the love that connects, the love that is infinite, the love that empowers and restores and awakens.  for me, love and god are interchangeable.  and there is nothing that i love to talk about more.

but i admit, for as much as i write about love and talk about love with friends, there is only a casual, sporadic mention of love throughout the week with my children.  we are very busy DOING, leaving very little time for devotion.  so let’s start talking with our kids about god, buddha, love, spirit, allah.  whatever you like to call this magnificent life force.  start with a simple question like this:  where is god?  and just see where the conversation leads.  everyday, try to ask another question about spirit.  if you need prompting, ask me.  i’m happy to provide ideas.

second, with the earthly shitstorm brewing outside our homes, we need to create a sense of hope for our children, mixed in with a dose of acceptance.  because as it stands right now, everything they love is in big fat trouble.  we need to tell them that this planet will survive, that mother earth is STRONG.  we need to present to them examples of this earth regenerating and evolving.

we also need to make sure our children understand that we each have an enormous responsibility to take care of this planet, because this is our home.  and every corner of the planet is connected, just the way each of us human beings is connected.  we need to encourage our children to actively participate in the improvement of our surroundings and show that they can not only carry hope, but also use their own personal power to create a better world.  it doesn’t take a lot to do this.  we can start by doing something as simple as picking up litter while we take a walk.  or giving them a little lesson at the grocery store about buying local and why it’s important.

and then you can instill bigger lessons.  when i visit the city, i try to remember to pack a bag of oranges and bananas.  my kids and i offer a handful of sunshine (oranges) or smiles (bananas) to homeless people that we pass.   i do this because my heart aches for those folks who are suffering.  i imagine how that juicy burst of flavor will feel in their dry mouths.  and i feel like i’m spreading joy.

i want my kids to understand this and learn small ways to help people.  i never know if these lessons stick, but a few weeks ago, PG said to me out of the blue, “remember that time we stopped and talked to the old homeless guy on the street and he didn’t have any shoes on?”  i didn’t remember so she went on.  “well, you asked what he needed and he said, ‘shoes,’ so you gave him 20 dollars and a banana.”  i asked her why she was remembering that story and she said, “because i liked it.”  i told her that it’s important that we help that man who needs shoes, but we can’t take away his suffering, because he is here on earth learning a very important lesson.  and when someday he is an angel he will remember us and thank us for helping him that day.  in retrospect, i should have continued the conversation by asking her some more questions.  but i’ll be sure to do that next time.  i hope that through these lessons i provide my children with tiny shifts that will carry them through adulthood and encourage them to use their superpowers for good, and provide them with a stronger sense of hope and acceptance.

i truly am confident that reminding my children of their own divinity and providing them with a lighter load of activity will help quell these frantic, chaotic, home-wrecking freak-out sessions.  when the world gets too much to bear, take a breath and return to source.

love you guys.

from mine to yours,

vanessa