Monday, June 8, 2015

Tools For Transforming Parenting

I work with Summit Prep School as a contracted parent coach.  This is an article I wrote for their newsletter.

There are times in our relationships with our child, spouse, or partner, when we need a tool to quickly get to the bottom of a conflict or issue.  Here is a fabulous tool I learned from Alan Seale’s book Create a World That Works.  It is called the 4 Levels of Engagement.  I present this early on in my coaching sessions with parents at Summit and use it as a point of reference throughout our coaching. 
Drama ê
The first level is Drama.  You know this well as a Summit parent.  This is a surface level experience, residing mostly in our bodies and fueled by adrenaline.  This is the level when we get all caught up in the story.  We can feel the swirling of the story on an emotional level and in our bodies as we go through the he said/she said stuff.  We find ourselves in reaction most of the time, hooked into the assistance role, the rescuer, the accuser, you name it. 
The focus on this first level is on who is at fault here, how did this happen, can you believe it!  Many of you know this feeling well. 

Take a moment to check in with your body and feel where this resides.  Is it in your shoulders? Neck?  Belly?  Hands?  As you allow yourself to feel at this level, is there a burst of adrenaline that moves you into fight or flight? 

Situation êé
The second level is Situation.  This is when we catch ourselves in reaction and spinning emotionally and we back off and shift into our heads and become the problem solver.  We give ourselves some space to see what is going on, what facts we can see, and the path of what to do presents itself.  You make the necessary calls, you have the difficult conversations and issue the consequences.  You are in the mode of damage control and our fix-it persona’s jump into action.  This is where our co-dependence exists, this is where we set the hook of cause and affect.  You do this, I do that!  As a parent, this is exhausting, and there is no real learning going on here, just a series of actions in and attempt to solve the problem.

We spend most of our time at these two levels of engagement.  We are challenged with the recycling of the same issues, in different forms, with different people, yet the underlying issues are rarely addressed here.  As soon as one problem is addressed, another pops up.  We are managing our children, our families, and our lives, and it is exhausting.

Check in with your body as you read this.  Can you feel your body shift?  What does it feel like?  Can you feel your body tense up?  Your eyebrows come together as you move into your mind for solutions?
                                                                               Management focused
w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w 
                                                                               Personal Ownership
Choice êé
When we stop our managing role and look at our own personal roles in what is happening, we invite in a whole new level of consciousness.  Once we put down the distracting energy of drama and situation, we can step into choice.  We consciously choose how we want to approach each scenario, with curiosity and openness.  Here we are not speaking of the choices about how to fix a situation, we are looking at who we will be in the situation – our relationship to what is happening. 
            Who am I within this situation?
            What is my role in how this situation came to be?
            What is my role in what is happening now?
            How do I choose to engage going forward consciously?

It is in the power of choice that we understand that I may not be able to change the situation, yet I can choose who I am in the situation, and how I want to experience the situation.   This is a HUGE step beyond where most people go.  We are now claiming responsibility and choice in the issue, the door is now open for possibilities of transformation and sustainable change. 

Now, how does your body feel?  Can you feel the weight lift off your shoulders?  Your forehead relax, and your breathing dropping down deeper and fuller?

Opportunity é
Once we can relax and open to the concept of choice, we begin to see all the events as a form of a message or larger picture.  With space and breath, we drop to the deepest level, the one we rarely get to in our culture, and the one where the most profound parenting and leadership is possible.   From this place of self-awareness and empowerment, we ask ourselves, what is the opportunity here?  What wants to happen?

This is where our true power lies.  This situation happened for a reason, it wants to tell us something to help us clearly recognize what is not working or what wants to change or heal.  We learn that drama is a wake up call alerting us that something wants to shift or transform.  When we apply opportunity to our parenting, we magically begin to understand our child on a new and different level.  We become a partner in self-discovery with our child, and with ourselves. 

As a parent, remember, the bigger the drama, the bigger the opportunity!

Once we have identified the opportunity, what wants to happen, we then get to choose how we want to engage with it and what role we will play.  We move back and forth between Choice and Opportunity.  Each level reveals more about opportunity, and the deeper we go into the opportunity, the clearer our choices become.  As a result, our perceptions start to change.  We create movement towards a different relationship.

Now, how does your body feel?  An you feel the deepness of your breath?  Can you feel the expansion of your own sense of empowerment?  The acute awareness of all the details in the world around you, such as the colors of the room, the vividness of the way you can take in all the details without attachment?

Here is a quote from Alan’s book.  We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations”.            ~ Charles R Swindoll, American writer

Enjoy the invitation to shift into choice and opportunity with this article and let your student’s therapist at Summit know if you would like to explore this tool in parent coaching. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Are You At A Choice Point?

Wow.  The holiday events are over almost and the celebrations to mark the end of 2014 are only a few days away.  How are you doing?  How are you really doing?

I would imagine most of us are experiencing a deep level of exhaustion.  There is physical exhaustion, yet were talking about something much deeper than just the physical.  This kind of exhaustion is physical, mental, emotional, and maybe even spiritual.  This happens every year for most of us.  By the time we plan and plan, then host or attend gatherings, deal with people and expectations, we ‘re done.  Totally done.  We still go through all the plans and gatherings, yet we are burnt out.  Does this feel familiar to you?

Usually this week is when we hit a choice point.  This choice involves our opportunity to step back a bit and begin self-advocating or ignore the inner tapping and go further into “I don’t care” mode.   The choice is about you and what you are able or willing to do at this time, on this day.   With all the festivities continuing, there is food, alcohol, over activity or inactivity, and lack of sleep.

This is the key choice point that can turn us around, ground us into ourselves, and prepare us for the year to come.  Perhaps you need to stop with the sugar, immediately.  You may need to go for a walk or get some exercise.  Or you need to take a day off and rest.  Perhaps you can resist filling your wine glass again?  What is it that your inner knower is tapping you about and how can you take a moment and honor that tapping with listening?

This has been one of my biggest challenges during the holiday season.  I usually get ramped up with excitement starting mid December and slowly slip on what I know is good for me, and my body.  I start cheating a little here, and there…first with sweets, then with food choices, with wine, and I don’t get enough sleep.  By the time I get to the post Christmas week, when company usually likes to come to ski and be on vacation, I can feel my body’s struggle with the excesses and loss of routine.  I can also feel the disconnect to my soul and this ends up creating reactions to life that are fed by triggers, body aches, and a short fuse J

I am at my choice point.  It is now, today, that I know it is time to choose me again.  It is time to return to the support of my yoga and my routine.  It is time to get more sleep.  It is time.  Where are you in this choice point?  And what can you actually do about it this week?

First, do a mini check in.  Feel your body.  Feel your energy level.  Feel your connection to yourself.  Feel your connection to those around you.  Feel.

Next, choose one thing you can do for yourself today to step out of the chaos that may surround you.  This might be a choice to stay home, away from the stores and crowds and take a nap, or a long bath.  You might choose to move to a quieter room tonight and journal or read a book and go to bed early, and let the rest of the house continue on.  You might get up tomorrow morning early and do your exercise routine, or get outside for a walk and reconnect to yourself.    

Then, once you have made once choice for yourself, check in again and see how you feel.  Can you feel your body craving the self-attention?  Is there another choice you can make that will continue you to get you back on track?  Can you do this within the world of family and friends and still enjoy their exuberance and activities? 

Last, how can we be in the flurry of celebrations and activities that accompany the holidays and nurture ourselves?  When we are run down we are not fully present.  When our bodies are unhappy, we are not fully present.  This choice point always arrives when we know we are or have disconnected, and we get to decide if we take this deeper and just let it all fly, or if we catch ourselves and realize we can really have more fun when we are connected and fully present. 

This week, choose yourself.  Give it a try and see how different you may feel.  Remember, we choose to gather with those we love so we can feel the love.  If you are rested and balanced, the love flows easier.   Bringing yourself back to center is a fabulous way to give the gift of the true you to those you love.

As the end of this year draws to a close, and you have been reading these blogs and getting some ideas of how to navigate in a different way, what do you think about creating a new and different way of ushering in the New Year?  Whether you have plans or prefer to stay home, here is a little exercise to do on the Eve of the New Year, or on January 1st. 

Enjoy yourself.  Enjoy how wonderful you are this week and it is my hope that the anticipation of what is possible in this year ahead fills your heart with love.

Next week will be the 7th and final blog of this holiday series.  We will talk about how to create spaces in our lives for new energies to enter.




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Sunday, December 21, 2014

4 Steps Back Into Consciousness

This is the third week of December.  How are you doing?  I would imagine there are a plethora of emotions going on inside.  The sheer level of activities and expectations may have started to take their toll on our energy, our patience, and our presence. The many different forms of emotional experiences can change hour by hour as we jump around from emotion to emotion by this time in the season.  Perhaps we can focus this week on being kinder to ourselves and create a way to break from the jumping around and just trust ourselves to monitor and adjust smoothly as the month and excitement continues?

For me, I notice three different ways I jump around in December.  I am an ecstatic little child with a big smile, enjoying all the decorations and the excitement.  I live in a small little mountain town and love the swelling of people returning home or here on vacation.  The local coffee shop is packed with college kids telling each other stories, parents and children and new babies, and large tables of laughter.  The energy is intoxicating for me.

I can also notice the wise mature woman who is watching the ebb and flow of activities, enjoying the times and able to breathe deeply and see all the energy swirling around us.  It is such a gift to choose when and how to jump in and play with it, and when to watch it from a place of non-attachment.  That is when I am wise.

Then I have those not so wise times.  These are those times I notice I am smiling on the outside, while out in the store or in line at the post office, and yet, just under the surface, there is this electric tension in my body.  Have you ever felt that?  The “just below the surface” tension that will not cease without real conscious effort. 

This is what I call the half-present participation in what is in front of us.  We are there, participating in the activity and the conversation, yet not really there.  Part of us might be reviewing old memories of previous Decembers, another part is emotionally maintaining.  Or we catch ourselves in task master mode.  Or maybe part of us is just holding on while we managing grief.  All of this is going on just below the surface.

When we can actually identify this kind of inner chaos going on, we get an opportunity to do something about it.  It is in the recognition of what we see and feel, that the opportunity to shift appears.  What might this look like?

There is a tool I use in parent coaching.  It is a four-step process of creating a shift…anywhere, anytime.  First, it starts with identifying what we are doing.  Here’s an example.  You might be home, hanging out, believing you are relaxing and present with the people you love.  Yet there is this activity going on in your head and then you realize you not really all the way there.  Boom.  You are not really present!  You might be going through the motions of talking and connecting, and yet you are not really connecting…to yourself or to anyone else.   You have IDENTIFIED what is going on.

Once you catch this, and realize you have a slight disconnect, the next step is to STOP or freeze where you are and refuse to continue.  This is an active step, and the most crucial.  For it is when we choose to take action, to pull back and refuse to continue that we allow ourselves to shift direction.

Now that you have made the choice to stop, the next step is to APPLY a tool that you know will redirect you back in to being present.  One that works really well is the using breathing and doing a body check in.  Briefly close your eyes and take a deep breath and feel your toes, your knees, if your sitting down feel your bottom on the couch, loosen your shoulders, and bring yourself back into you body.  Do this as many times as you need to in order to feel completely present.

The last step is the most important and one we often skip over.  ACKNOWLEDGE to yourself that you were able to identify what you were doing, caught it and stopped it, and applied a short and simple tool to change the direction you were going.   It is in the acknowledging that we honor ourselves and provide gratitude for what we just did.   Also, if someone else is involved, take a moment to let that person know you have re-corrected and are now fully present!!  Yay!

So, with that said, I am sure you will have ample opportunities to practice this over the next few days and through the busyness as we go into the end of the month and all the swirling of activities that often accompanies the end of the year celebrations.

It occurs to me that the Winter Solstice is tonight and tomorrow.  If you have not participated in this celebration before, this might be a wonderful opportunity to gather some friends and family together and do something really cool and grounding.

Hope this blog provides a small moment of grace for you.



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Sunday, December 14, 2014

How do you give and receive love?

We are almost to the midway mark into December.  How are you doing?  Are you relaxed?  Open to what comes your way?  Ready to be present with those you love and will spend time with during the upcoming celebrations?  Or are you stressing?  Most of us are in various stages of stress at this time and if you are like me, I am aware of the approaching deadlines for shipping my family something to let them know I am thinking of them. 

Seems the more we get busy and start stressing, the more we put aside our awareness of how we are feeling, how we feel love, and what is really important to us.  We table all our inner needs and drop into focusing on the mass of outer needs calling at us right now.   I am pretty sure that when we table our needs, they build up and begin to out weigh the happiness and joy surrounding us.  We get buried and become more out of touch with ourselves… we go into overwhelm.

Here is an unsettling concept… What if you are on track, managing your overwhelm and putting your head down and “making” the holidays happen, and it is making your relationships worse because those around you need a different form of love from you?  What if all your task mastering and acts of service miss the mark completely?

I want to share a very reliable tool for how to honor yourself, your loved ones, and pay attention to what we all truly need over this holiday, and everyday moving forward from this December.   There is a book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages.  This book has a simple, beautiful way to explore how you feel love and how you give love.    Although this book has been around for the last 10 years and some of us have opinions on whether it is hokey or not, or too simplistic, I am asking you to give it a try.  If you allow yourself time to explore and prioritize how you feel  and give love, I can promise you, it will awaken a beautiful way for you to connect to yourself and to those you love.

Per Chapman, there are 5 ways we know love.
  •  Words of Affirmation
  •  Quality Time Together
  •  Receiving Gifts
  •  Acts of Service
  •  Physical Touch

We all have one primary way of knowing we are loved, feeling love, and giving love. and we each prioritize the remaining four in different orders.  (See more on the printout card below)

A couple of years ago, my partner Ted and I took this list, read the descriptions, and wrote the five languages out in the order of importance for ourselves.  Then we shared our lists with each other.  We both had the same primary choice, our second and third were in different order, yet our fourth and fifth we exactly the same.  Made sense to both of us.  We understand how important our top two or three languages are to our relationship and we pay attention to how we cultivate love and help it continue to grow between us. 

Taking this a step further, when we can step outside our core relationships and move to explore these five forms of love with our children, our aging parents, our friends and extended family, we create a path to giving and receiving love beyond our partners.  It is a guide to how to create the vibration of love with anyone…once we know how love is perceived by another…you meet them in a way they can feel it.  Love is that easy.

What if you think you are being loving and you are off?  For example, what if your primary form of love is acts of service and you are running around doing–giving-expecting acts of service for everyone around you.  What if their primary form of feeling love is in quality time together and you are busy hustling around “making” the holidays wonderful?  Imagine how hurt both of you can feel when the rush of this holiday chaos takes over?  You are giving and giving, and your partner is waiting and waiting for some love.  These hurt feelings can start to take over until they are simmering just under the surface and the whole idea of a beautiful gathering becomes an event to endure, because we don’t feel the love.

We all need love.  We all want to know we are loved.  Knowing what is most important to you can provide a level of freedom to these next couple of weeks of holiday chaos.  How?  When you take the time to discover what means the most to you, you then have the ability to choose.  You can choose to tell the ones you love, and ask for what you truly need.  You can choose to become curious about what the ones you love need and how they prioritize how they feel loved.  And then you can choose to give them love in the form they can receive it.

This week, explore your own love language.  Get curious about the language of the
ones you love.  Maybe even sit down and craft a plan for how all of you can put
something on the schedule that let’s you know you are love. Giving and receiving love IS the gift . . . everything else will fall into place.

Next week we will explore ways to create peace within the chaos.



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