bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: compassion

Meet your best friend and worst enemy.

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Say hello to cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands, two triangular-shaped organs that live just above your kidneys. At the risk of oversimplification, cortisol is the reason you are here today. If not for this quick-acting hormone, your primitive ancestors would have been gobbled up by bears and tigers thousands of years ago.

Cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone,” shuts down nonessential bodily functions and provides the body with everything it needs to fight, flee or freeze. Cortisol overrides your immune and reproductive systems (you’re not worried about healing a cut or making babies when you’re about to be someone’s lunch) and temporarily disables bone and muscle growth. It increases gastric acid production in the belly and stimulates sebum oil production in the skin. (Maybe if you taste really disgusting you’ll turn off that predator.) Cortisol raises blood sugar and insulin levels for a big burst of energy. It sends lactic acid to your muscles so you can pump those arms and legs, and it forces the oxygen you inhale into your lungs so you can run top speed. All of this and more happens in milliseconds, without any conscious effort from you. Pretty amazing, right?

 

Cortisol is designed to hang out in your body for short stints. If you walked around jacked up on cortisol all day long you’d look and feel absolutely INSANE. Can you imagine feeling stressed all the time? Feeling like you’re always running away from something or chasing something or hiding from something?

 

Hmmmm… Come to think of it, this is exactly how your life may look some days. Traffic, money, terrorists, deadlines, relationships, work, sordid pasts, kids, over-scheduling… all stimulate cortisol production. And those are just the obvious stress triggers. Your life may be filled with other complexities that people couldn’t even imagine! If this describes you, cortisol may overproduce in your body a dozen times a day or more. This is not good. Here are just a few reasons why:

 

1. When cortisol floods your hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for memory and emotional responses), it kills brain cells. Fortunately, the hippocampus protects itself with something called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF. Unfortunately, when cortisol secretes chronically, BDNF cannot keep up with demand and your brain cells bite it.

 

2. Cortisol thins the skin by depleting it of hyaluronic acid, a moisture retainer, stripping it of elasticity and suppleness. Additionally, it triggers inflammation resulting in damaged skin cells. The stress hormone also produces more sebum in your skin. Sebum is an oily substance that mixes with your dead skin cells and clogs up hair follicles. Clogged follicles leads to… you guessed it. Acne, pimples, cysts. Ugh.

 

3. Cortisol interrupts the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that relays messages in the brain, including messages about mood, sex drive and function, appetite, and memory among other things. Serotonin is called the “feel good” hormone, and an imbalance may severely influence your mood and drop you into depression.

 

4. One in ten people experience the discomfort of a peptic ulcer. While ulcers are believed to be caused by a bacteria, stress aggravates them. Remember that increase in gastric acid production provided by your friend coritsol? Yup. Not helping. Especially when it’s triggered multiple times daily.

 

These conditions are often self-induced or self-exacerbated. They’re created through habitual negative thought patterns, unreasonable expectations, and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

 

You may think that tolerating stress is necessary for your survival: it makes you feel needed, important, alive. And if so, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans interpret stress the same way. The fact is, stress is toxic and has become America’s number one killer.

 

Here’s the good news. It’s not too late to reverse some of the chaos you’ve created in your body and mind. Those dead cells in your hippocampus? They’ll grow back. Those pimples and cysts? They’ll go away. That ulcer? It’ll heal. Depression? You can get through it. But not if you keep doing the same harmful things you’ve been doing. In order to create beneficial change, you need to change your stressful conditions or learn how to live above them. This begins with intentional, compassionate awareness of self and surroundings.

You may have heard of this thing called mindfulness? It can reduce your active cortisol production by 30%. Meditation researcher and expert Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” He also calls it “a radical act of sanity,” and never before have we needed such a radical act. This planet is suffering, threats of terror and destruction pierce daily life, and you don’t have time or resources to fix the problems created by the entire human race. Instead of taking on the burden of healing this collective disaster, you have permission to just work on healing yourself.

The Dalai Lama says, “World peace begins with inner peace.” He’s saying, Listen, y’all. You just do you. Fix your life. Deal with your drama. Everything else will fall into place around you. So say “no” to work. Say “yes” to play. Make time for silence. Spend time in nature. Hug someone. Care for an animal. Eat real food. Listen to your breath. Truly be with your children. Smile at strangers. Forgive your mother. Do nothing and be okay with it. Connect to yourself and others with full presence and compassionate awareness, and see how your world changes.

And when and if you feel compelled to engage a formal meditation practice, your friends at Chrysalis Meditation Center are here to support you. We are intimately familiar with your friend cortisol, because cortisol is our friend, too. In fact, we are so intimate with cortisol that we can see it before it arrives, and a lot of times we can even lower the gate before it floods in. Not because we are especially talented, but because we’re watching it closely. On purpose. Right now. Without judgment.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.insidethechrysalis.com

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Vanessa Gobes has been researching, reporting, and writing for 20 years: from spotlights on war heroes for her local newspaper, to the history of women’s golf fashion for 19th Hole Magazine, to mindful parenting for Mallika Chopra’s Intent.com. No topic has enthralled her more than mental and spiritual health. In response to this passion, she cofounded Chrysalis Meditation Center, Winchester, Massachusetts in September 2015.

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.

putting our animals to sleep: is it really an act of compassion?

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This is Rufus “talking” to me at the hospital. Maybe you can hear him, too. He’s beautiful, isn’t he?

Rufus has been moody lately.  I attributed his swings to the new gal in the house – a rescue pup from Tennessee.  Her name is Lolly but we affectionately call her “the rat.”  She’s a dump puppy – predominantly rat terrier, we believe, with a sprinkle of spaniel that makes her ears flop down and her hair stick up.  She’s sassy and playful.  Her favorite activity is growling viciously while hanging off Rufus’ beard by her clenched teeth.  If a thought bubble could magically appear above his head it would say something like, Girl, I’m too old for this.  Go play in traffic.  

But Rufus is too sweet.  When he’s napping in his bed, he simply looks the other way when Lolly wedges her tiny body next to his.  When she scarfs his food, he shuffles back quietly and seeks me out for a snuggle.  When she howls at the squirrels on the fence, he lets her bark be the one that scares them away.  He’s just a great animal.

A wheaten terrier, Rufus is predisposed kidney problems.  At age 8 this predisposition became his reality.  He hasn’t been moody because of his new little sister.  He’s become moody because he’s in kidney failure – and apparently has been for some time.

I discovered the severity of his illness at the vet last month (on my birthday no less).  I climbed into bed that night feeling distraught about what I’d learned that day.  I meditated for a little while, creating a tiny angel version of myself that hovered above my head.  Then I created a tiny angel version of Rufus that hovered above his head.  And we talked for a little while.  What do you want me to do, buddy?  my angel asked.  Let me go, his angel replied.  I tried to make his angel say something different, something like, Fight for me!  I can survive this!  I want to live!  But that’s not what happened.  Let me go, was his reply.  Let me go.  That was it.  There was no denying.

Being the creative child of the Universe I am, I wondered if I could help him through meditation.  Could I do enough Reiki on him to repair his kidney damage and save his life?  Could I channel my inner Christ light and heal him with my mental fortitude?  What if I tried and failed?  Would I lose confidence in the strength of my spirit?  What if I tried and succeeded?  What difference would it make?  And then I remembered what Roof’s little angel guy told me.  Let me go.

The next day was grey in every sense of the word.  My schedule was as messy as the weather.  My emotions were even messier.  I made some calendar adjustments, hired a babysitter, and trucked my boy through sideways rain to the animal hospital where we spent the entire day.  It went sort of like this:  ultrasound, consultation, tears, prognosis, tears, privacy, tears, $530 bill, tears.

The full story?  The radiologist advised me to keep Roof in the hospital for the weekend.  He was incredibly dehydrated and she wanted to flush his kidneys with fluid.  The idea made me uncomfortable, but as the doctor told me emphatically what was best for Rufus, that intimate angel-to-angel conversation from the night before seemed a little woo woo and ungrounded.  I agreed to admit him.

She left the room to start paperwork.  Roof jumped off my lap, where he’d been curled up for the past hour, and put his chin on my thigh, looking for eye contact.  He’s always searching for my eyes these days.  It’s amazing how much a person can learn just by looking into an animal’s eyes.  We stared at each other for a long while and once he felt like he’d been heard, he squeezed under my chair, flopping down with a humph, his legs sticking out from under the chair like a frog’s.

He was hiding, nervous.  He didn’t want to be there.  Instead of helping Rufus by admitting him, I felt like I was making frantic, harried, desperate repairs on a sinking ship.  I called my husband who was indecisive but leaned toward admission.  I called my sister-in-law.  She was supportive of my intuitive urge to take him home.  Clearly this was my decision and mine only.

When the radiologist returned I apologized up and down for spending hours sniveling and waffling then told her I would not admit my dog.  I loaded up on IV bags and Priolosec, paid the extraordinary hospital bill, and carried my furry boy back into the rain.

Rufus doesn’t understand time.  He lives only in the NOW.  And his NOWS have been so happy.  He’s had a great life.  If this is his time, it’s okay.  I started thinking about the lessons we’re both here to learn and what brought us together.  Why me?  Why him?

People who practice Buddhism do not take life.  Not even to end the struggle.  Those who practice understand the karmic purpose of the struggle.  We struggle through the lesson and find the wisdom in it, when we accept the wisdom, we no longer need the pain.  We completely align.  The pain ceases to exist.  It is a delusion, just like life.  I keep wondering if Rufus has chosen me because I will allow him a *full* life, with all its joy and all its pain.  If I end his life early, even by a few hours or days, will he have to return to physical form again in order to learn that painful lesson?  One I could allow him to learn now and possibly evolve his spirit?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what to do.  I mean, I think I know, but the norm is to provide compassion to animals in a way that relieves them of their pain.  I’m just not sure if physical compassion is aligned with spiritual compassion.

Spirit is our most natural state.  Our physical bodies are just the vehicles through which spirit functions in this world.  We settle into the physical with discomfort and we’ll transition out of it with discomfort – if the lesson of discomfort needs to be learned.  I think of childbirth, of how incredibly painful that experience was for me.  When I had my first baby I thought I was going to die.  My intention was to give birth naturally – no drugs, no epidural – but 3/4 of the way through I was searching for my doula’s eyes, sort of like Rufus searches for mine.  Help me.  Please help me.  I don’t want to do this.  I’m terrified.  I’m not strong enough.  But she looked at me and stroked my hair and said, “It’s just the baby coming.  It’s just the baby coming.”  I trusted her.  I trusted my body.  I trusted my baby’s transition into physical life.  Within minutes I was fully dilated and ready to push.  I had my baby naturally.  It hurt like hell but I understood the purpose.  I learned the lesson.  I had to trust the process and let go of the fear.  Paradigm shift.  When I had my subsequent babies, the labors were much more manageable and free from fear.  And I never once considered calling the anesthesiologist.  Never once.

Can I be that person for Rufus?  Can I help him through the transition naturally?  I think I can.  The vet has clearly told me that when the time comes, the only humane thing to do is put him to sleep.  But I keep going back to these questions – What’s so wrong with death?  Death is a release, a return, a reunion.  Death is natural.  And why are we all so afraid of pain?  Through my own fear of pain am I stifling my animal’s spiritual development by disallowing him the full experience of life?  Am I really helping him?  

Compassion to me looks different now.  Can I find the spiritual compassion to let go of my own fears of physical death in order to transition this animal to his natural state of spirit?

So we’re home, Rufus and me, riding out the storm.  My vet and I are on the same page with his treatment.  No extraordinary efforts.  I give Roof a bag of subcutaneous fluids combined with a little Reiki three times a week plus a few inexpensive meds twice a day.  This will keep him as comfortable as possible over the next few weeks or months.  I will not interfere with the course of Roof’s life but I will pray for mercy.  That is the plan.  And just as I knew that epidural was nearby when I gave birth to my first child, I’ll have the number of my vet nearby if it all gets to be too much.

This whole experience has caused me to think more deeply about my own life.  I made a birth plan for myself, I can make a death plan for myself, too.  I’ve now dedicated years of my life to spiritual evolution, and every day I feel more trust in the Universe.  I trust that the Universe can provide peace for me better than any clever manmade invention.  I’ve begun to think of my own physical departure as just another experience in life, and I’m not sure dulling it in any way will benefit my spirit.  If part of my divine plan is to suffer, I hope I can accept it and learn from it.  And if I can do that, I know I will be released from the suffering with mercy.

Kind of a lot to think about.  You are so welcome to join me in this conversation in the comments below.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

no wonder wonder is a best-seller

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Have you read this book yet?  No?  Well then, you must.  While the target audience is Young Adult, the benefitting audience is ageless.  Wonder is a story of inspiring compassion unfolding among the very unlikely ranks of middle school city kids.

Ten-year-old Auggie was born into a body that is, to put it diplomatically, atypical.  He describes the way he looks in the first chapter: “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s worse.”  His is a face that only a mother can love, though as it turns out, his is a heart that is loved by all.

Auggie’s is the collective voice of not only those with deformations or disabilities, but also of every person who has ever struggled with finding his place in the world. As a reader, I absorbed his perspective without judgment or pity – just deep compassion and lots of tears.  My children responded similarly.

My 9 and 7 year old girls devoured this book.  (My little one went cover to cover on a Sunday from noon to 5pm, forgoing a hike in the forest with her family to stay home and read.) They were completely invested in Auggie, his friends, and his family.  And after they read the last sentence, they wiped their eyes and said, “Can we read another one like that?”

Our children crave inspiration and compassion.  They want to know how to love without limits.  This story makes acceptance acceptable, love lovable.  Through Auggie’s vulnerability they were able to share their own soft spots with confidence.

This is a superb family read and is guaranteed to inspire even the most tight-lipped of children to share from the heart.  We’ve been talking about Wonder all month, as there are countless ways to weave Auggie’s story into our own lives and experiences.

Wonder is wonderful.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

great programming for young boys courtesy of PBS

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Every Sunday night, all summer long, my 4 year old has been asking me this question:  “Mama, Mama, Mama, does Supewhewo Camp stawt tomowwow?”

Finally, two days ago I was able to give him the answer he so desperately wanted to hear, “Yes, buddy!  Yes!  Tomorrow is the first day of Superhero Camp!”

“Woohoooo!” he yelped while punching at the air with his tiny, happy fists.  “Mama, Mama, Mama, can I weaw my Supewman T-shiwt?”

“Sure, bud!”

“Is it clean?”  (Sadly my response is too often what he so desperately doesn’t want to hear but that day he was in luck.)

“Uh-huh.”

“YESSSSSSS!!!!!”

He took off for his room to pack a bag and lay out his clothes for the following day.  Then he came back down, “But Mama.  Mama.  Mama,” he said patting my rear end, “I need anothew Supewhewo shiwt for the next day.”

“You can wear your Wild Kratts T-shirt, dude!  Chris Kratt is the best superhero ever!”

“The Kwatt bwothews awen’t supewhewos.”

“Whhaaaattt???  Of course they are!  They rescue animals don’t they?”

“But, Mama, they don’t F-LLLYYYYYY.”

“When they have on their falcon creature power suits they can.”

“OH YAH!!!!!  I’m going to be Chwis Kwatts.  WOOHOOOO!  Can I weaw a cape wiff my T-shiwt?”

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If you have a little one at home, you are probably familiar with the Kratt brothers on PBS.  They are animal experts who are known for getting down and dirty with creatures of all kinds, first with their show Zoboomafoo and later with their hit show Wild Kratts.  They don’t hesitate to roll in the mud or tromp though a swamp…  and they’re fun to watch.  My kids love these guys.  Especially my nature-loving boy.  Honestly, “nature-loving” might be an understatement.  Nature-ADORING, Nature-OBSESSING, Nature-WORSHIPPING boy is more on the mark.  My oldest daughter regularly entertains us by singing the Wild Kratts theme song to the rhythm of her own clapping hands while Nature Boy spins wildly in circles and hurls his body onto the floor.  (This primitive behavior is considered dancing in my household.)

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What I love about Chris and Martin Kratt, and why I’m writing about them today on BUBs, is that they’ve created a wholesome program that is centered on compassion, education, nature AND adventure.  This is especially important for our young boys who are almost always attracted to shows, events and toys that involve destruction and fighting.  Caring for and rescuing animals is a beautiful lesson in compassion and I’m standing up applauding these guys and the work they do.

Animals are a wonderful way to teach our little boys about reflexive compassion.  When we witness an animal in trouble, compassion is automatic.  And once that feeling of compassion becomes part of a child’s emotional foundation, they can have a better understanding of how to apply it when dealing with people.  Let’s face it, it can be hard to have compassion for humans sometimes.  As a mindful adult I find that I consistently have to remind myself to be compassionate when people around me are acting like jerks.  Imagine how challenging that is for a kid!

So there was a study that came out a few years ago.  I can’t remember who conducted it, but it was a happiness study based on words posted by children on social media sites (happy, love, peace, etc.).  Guess which state was voted to have the happiest kids in America?  (Go ahead and play some thought-stimulating Jeopardy music in your head while you ponder…  Doo!  Do-do-do-do-do-do.  Bom, bum!)

New Hampshire!

Yah baby.  Go New England!  I’ve gotta say, I’m not surprised.  Have you ever been to a New Hampshire State Fair?   One conversation with a young person about how they feel when caring for their animals is all you need to be convinced of the cornerstone of their happiness and kindness.  Farmer kids and 4-H kids are so damn nice.  The way these kids love and care for animals is inspiring.  So in a state like NH where nature prevails and farms are everywhere, I’m venturing a guess that the reason for being the happiest state in the nation has something to do with animals.  At least that’s my unscientific, un-researched theory.  But pretty a good one, right?

Kindness and compassion, though two different qualities, support each other in every way.  It’s impossible to have one without the other.

So in this spaghetti test called life, I suggest to toss the Kratt brothers against the wall and see if they stick.  My son is still only in-the-making of a man but from what I see so far, I have little doubt that his deep and passionate love for animals and nature are helping him to build a strong foundation of compassion and kindness.   Big props to my favorite superheroes for their contribution in supporting his development.  PBS made a great investment when they plunked their taxpayer dollars down on Wild Kratts.  Check your local guide for listings.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.

Please share if you enjoy this.  😀 ❤

does your kid have superpowers?

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Some superheroes wear capes and masks, crested unitards and holsters packed with magical tools.  But there’s another kind of superhero.  The kind that wears smocked dresses with patent leather Mary Janes or grass stained jeans and Red Sox caps.

My kids are the latter kind.  At least I’ve always told them so.  When they were tiny I’d tell them that they were born with superpowers:  the power to make people feel good by showing kindness and forgiveness, the power to end sadness by sharing their toys and offering a helping hand.

If they ever doubted the strength of their powers, I’d say, “Go on and test it out.  See that little boy crying by the monkey bars?  Ask him if he’s okay.  Use your superpowers to see if you can make him feel better.”  And they would.  And they’d be convinced.  “See?  That’s the power of compassion!”

One day ages ago, I was at the splash park in Belmont with my daughter and her friend.  The girls were whispering and pointing at a woman across the water wearing a beige burqa, black gloves and purple Merrells.  Her face was veiled, just her eyes were visible.  Those eyes were focused intently on her baby girl splashing playfully and wildly in the same pool as my crew.

“I’m afraid of her.  She’s a stranger,” said my daughter’s wide-eyed friend, laying eyes on a fully covered Muslim woman for the first time.

“No, no, she’s not scary.  Let’s go say hi to her and she won’t be a stranger anymore.”  The girls looked at me like I was totally insane.  They resisted and skidded as I grabbed their rigid slippery hands and sloshed across the puddles.  As we approached, the Muslim woman was chatting on her cell phone.

I waved at her and wrinkled my eyebrows apologetically, “Would you mind if I interrupted your phone call to ask a question?”

She looked a little surprised but smiled at me with her eyes and hung up her phone, “Oh yes, is everything okay?”

“My daughter and her friend were feeling a little afraid of you because of your burqa and I wanted them to meet you.”

“Come!  Come!”  she beckoned with one gloved hand.  She pulled the veil away from her nose and leaned into the girls.  They peeked down her dress (as did I) and admired her gorgeous face.  “I only wear this when I’m outside.  But when I’m at home I wear anything I want.  I wear my hair long, I wear make up.  My favorite color is pink.  What’s yours?”

“Purple and turquoise and orange and yellow.  And pink,” said one girl.

“Rainbow and pink,” said the other.

“Come and talk to me anytime.  Don’t be afraid.  I’m a mom just like your mom.”

The girls asked a few intrusive questions, as kids do, and I thanked her as we splashed away, figuring out which superpowers we’d just activated.

“The power of friendliness!”  my daughter shouted, bounding over a shooting stream of cold water.

“The power of fearlessness!”  I cheered.

“The power of pink!”  laughed her friend.

Then we extended our list of superhero garb to include bathing suits, aqua socks and burqas.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Please read this story with children in your life who have superpowers.  Tweet, pin, tumble and share wildly, please.  Thank you!

the butterfly circus

an oldie but goodie.  inspiration week continues…

compassion doesn’t always come naturally

Last night my 7-year-old whacked her big sister in the head with a hard toy.  Big sister cried out in pain and started to sob dramatically (a bit too dramatically); little sister walked away casually, shrugging her shoulders, “I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Well your sister is in tears over there.  Ask her if she’s okay and give her a hug.  Apologize.”

“But I didn’t mean to do it.”

“But she’s crying.  Your mistake hurt her body.”

With another shrug and a little eye roll, she did what came naturally – ignored us and went back to playing with her toy.

Sound familiar?  I assume that I am not the only mother dealing with this sort of behavior.  It’s so frustrating.  My husband attributes this inability to react with compassion to a combination of stubbornness and pride.  He might be right, it sure makes sense to me.  But how do you fix that?  Or can you?

My oldest and youngest  children have a natural compassionate tendency.  Though they don’t understand diplomacy, a tool that helps us to employ our compassion interpersonally, the feelings exist and they’re well on their respective ways toward a lifetime of caring.

There are lots of kids, like my 7-year-old middle child, for whom compassion is not innate.  She just has to learn and develop the feeling.

After last night’s toy-smacking episode, I sat down with her in bed and the conversation went something like this:

“We’re all born knowing things.  You naturally have a beautiful eye for fashion.  You are creative and colorful and instinctively know how to sew.  You are naturally curious and love to read.  You naturally have terrific rhythm and are musically inclined.  These are all gifts.  But there are things that are important for you to understand that don’t come naturally for you.  Like compassion.  Do you know what compassion is?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me.”

“I don’t know, Mommy.”

“Compassion is deeply understanding how another person or animal is suffering.  Does that make sense?”

“No.”

“Okay, picture yourself walking home from school in winter time.  There’s a toddler on the sidewalk, alone and underdressed.  He’s shivering cold.  How would it feel for you to see a little boy that way?”

She stuck up her thumb and then slowly turned it to point down.

“Okay.  Would you imagine how cold he must be?”

Her head nodded.

“What would you do?  Would you walk by?”

“No, I’d take off my coat and put it on the baby.”

“Well that is a show of compassion.  You could imagine how cold that baby must have felt and that the baby was suffering.  So you used your power to help him.  Did you smile at him when you helped him?”

“Uh-huh,” she smiled big and climbed into my lap so I could rock her like a baby.

“So you showed him kindness, too.  That’s great!  But you know, when we learn a new skill, it’s important to spend some time practicing it.  If we want to be good at something we need to practice.  Just like the guitar or sewing.  So how about I give you a little assignment?”

“What?”

“Tomorrow night when you come home, I want you to tell me one act of compassion or kindness that you showed to someone during the day.  Can you do that?”

“Mom, that’s embarrassing.”

“Honey, this isn’t embarrassing.  This is life.  Life is hard sometimes, isn’t it?  And it only gets harder.  But there are some tools that can help make the hard times a little easier.  Your breathing is one tool.  Compassion is another.  But you’ve gotta start practicing now.  There’s nothing embarrassing about that.  What do you think?  Wanna try?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you listening to what I’m saying?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, give it a shot for just one day and tell me what happens.  Will you try?”

She shook her head.

We spent a few more minutes snuggling then I tucked her under the covers.  We’ve had a hundred conversations about compassion and honestly, I’m not sure why the lessons don’t stick.  But I’m confident that my little lectures are seeping in somehow so I’ll continue to give them.

This morning while she was still sleeping I crept into her room and climbed under her covers, “Wake up, sleepyhead.  It’s a cold day today.”

She rolled out of bed, hair tangled in knots, and shuffled toward her closet, “Is it cold like milk?”

She’s naturally funny, too.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

🙂 🙂 🙂  Please share this post if you like it.  I so appreciate your support and hope this message reaches just the right person at just the right time.  🙂 🙂 🙂

 

advice on dealing with difficult people: watch this. it’s fantastic.

My sweet sweet friend DM introduced me to a new teacher this morning:  Ajahn Brahm.  Enjoy this is a fantastic sermon about solutions to dealing with difficult people.  If you’re short on time but would like to enjoy a powerful lesson, fast forward to 12:45. the story will take about 15 minutes.  This is a great one to share with kids, too!  Have them watch and learn about how to deal with bullies in school or challenging teachers and coaches.

We do have a responsibility to help others, don’t we?  People aren’t born assholes.  They become assholes.  This means that they can become kind-hearted, too.  Let’s make our relationships more peaceful by spreading kindness and giving our children tools that can allow them to do the same.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

a new contender in the race for the oval office?

barak?

mitt?

who do you like?

my social views are very liberal, so i lean democrat.  but if a quality moderate republican comes along i’ll swing my vote in the other direction.

my greatest concern has always been social policy.  don’t take our rights away, that’s all i ask.  live free or die, baby.  the issue closest to my heart is gay rights, which should be re-termed “human rights”, because love is a basic human right.  who we love and how we display commitment has absolutely nothing to do with government, federal or state.  my quick story today is spun from this idea.

when we were kids, my sisters and i played house a lot.  one girl would be the mommy, one girl would be the baby and one girl would get stuck being the daddy.  you might as well tell that poor girl to go clean out the garage while the others play.  for a girl, being the daddy sucked.  so every time my daughters play house with their friends, they inevitably start squabbling, “not fair!  i want to be the mommy!”  and inevitably, my girls realize, “it’s okay.  girls can marry each other.  let’s both be mommies.  yay!”

it’s such a simple act of imagination.  but it’s also a beautiful act of acceptance.  kids today provide me with an extraordinary feeling of hope for our future and pride in this generation of parents who are rearing children to be open and accepting of others as they have been created.

with this in mind, i see clearly that the man in the oval office may wield power over current domestic  policy, but the future of this country lies in the hands of a new generation.  the tides are changing, people.  the emerging generation is aware.  they are awake.  they are becoming mindful.  they are innovative.  they are compassionate and sensitive.  they are already changing the world.  and i have nothing but faith and confidence in these children.

this morning while i was making chocolate chip pancakes, my son XG, my 3 year old son, *3 YEAR OLD SON* said out of the blue, “mamma, did you know giwls can mawwy giwls?”  my husband MG and i looked at each other then looked back at him.

“that’s right, buddy,” said MG, waiting patiently to see where the conversation would go.

after a minute i said, “you are very smart, little man.”

“yup,” he said.  “boys can mawwy boys, too.  and batman defeats spidewman.”

well, that decides it.  XG gets my vote this november.  oh, and he gets an A+ on his acceptance and compassion lesson this week in buddha school.

from mine to yours,
vanessa
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