Learning, Mindfulness

Step into Space

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The theater seats over a thousand. It isn’t full but it’s come pretty close. We sit together in near silence for a minute with our eyes closed. Inside this collective pause, we pull back from what Tara Brach calls “tumbling into the future.”

This is not a spirit circle at a Zen retreat center. This is parents, teachers, and students packed into a public high school auditorium. At the threshold of something new-but-not-new, the moment tilts. Surreal. A congressman from Ohio takes the stage and tells the story of finding his breath. He is one of several voices reminding us that snapping at our kids to pay attention doesn’t do any good until we teach them how to attend. As always, we’re on the hook to show what we tell.

As the parents, teachers, and neighbors of the kids who walk the halls here every day, we have to be willing to learn. A churning stress and a “trance of unworthiness” keeps us doing, striving, reacting, and fighting. It is up to us to release ourselves from it so we can show our children how to have a say in drawing the map of their own minds.

In a county whose schools always ranks near the top of any performance rating and in a region whose inhabitants are among the most highly educated and overcommitted in the nation, this breath is a call to action.

Or inaction, as the case may be.

Any kid that hasn’t learned the pressure is on by second grade figures it out when they go through the Advanced Academics Program screening. The test determines the quality of their schooling for the next six years and no doubt well beyond that. This workshop, Managing Stress Through Mindfulness, is the first of its kind here. Overdue, of course, and also right on time.

Our children struggle as we do. Our children learn to place their attention as we do (or don’t). It is possible that we don’t need to keep ourselves in the hot grip of imagined success and looming failure to drive us to a good life. We strain towards illusion and flee fear and get nowhere right. Caught in a Chinese finger-trap, we strive ourselves into a kind of frenetic paralysis.

The first step in cultivating creativity and possibly even a sense of belonging in this world is a not forward or backward. It is a step into space.

Over the edge is a place between stimulus and response where the pause quietly waits.
 

Co-Parenting, Divorce

Who We Are Now

To accept your circumstances radically simply means that you do it from the depths of your soul and in every bone in your body. It does not mean that things will never change or that you are not affected by the realities of your life. Radical acceptance just means that you acknowledge reality for what it is.

From Marsha Linehan’s work on Dialectical Behavior Theory

These friends of ours, they say they are envious of our relationship. We seem to get along so well. We both flex to each other’s needs as we raise our son separately but together. I am as baffled by our success as they are. Does some quirk of chemistry allow my ex-husband and I to pull this off? Is it a blip already fading? Maybe all we’ve built will whoosh down the toilet as soon as something really life-altering jiggles the handle.

Or do we help smooth the way together by making some concrete choices about how we engage each other? If this final possibility contributes to our so-far success as co-parents (which it surely must), what are we actually doing? How can we bottle it to bolster our compatriots as they enter into their much trickier dealings with exes?

Continue reading “Who We Are Now”