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OWN IT — Applying the Practice of Compassionate Learning

By March 2, 2017Blog

OWN IT – Apply­ing Compassion

I’m try­ing to do right, but I’ve done it wrong.

I kid you not, I just caught myself writ­ing this text to my 16 year old; “My point is I was­n’t ONLY mad at you. I showed up with your stuff. You asked me how I was and I let you know that it does break up my day hav­ing to bring you warm stuff…” STOP! What am I doing? I am jus­ti­fy­ing, rant­i­ng, feel­ing right­eous indignation.

I have anoth­er go. I try to apol­o­gise and repair but it gets away on me. “I apol­o­gise for being grumpy. If I choose to fer­ry warm clothes to you on ath­let­ics day I should be clear I want to do that and not pun­ish you for my deci­sion. And if I choose not to help you I will have to just live with the fall­out from that too. Just notic­ing I get caught there between not want­i­ng you to be mad at me and then me being mad cos I give up on myself. Work­ing on it.”

 Hmmm. A bit bet­ter. It’s true I get caught. I do some­thing to get out of the fry­ing pan of her anger/hurt etc and end up in the fire of my own, then slide out a nasty side­ways “Thanks for bring­ing in the wash­ing.” Old habit. And it hurts because I’m a moth­er who cares deeply about how I am with my kids and what I set up in our rela­tion­ships. I want to repair what I just broke. I com­mit to pro­cess­ing and learn­ing about this so I can shift this old habit and get some new and bet­ter options.

I’m look­ing at that small word “own” in the title of my book Spilt Milk Yoga – a Guid­ed Self-Inquiry to Find­ing Your Own Wis­dom, Joy, and Pur­pose Through Moth­er­hood. That word matters.

Moth­er­hood is a site of much expec­ta­tion and pres­sure, oth­er peo­ple will be experts on my life; what I should, could and would do and be as a moth­er. Unless I am steady in my sense of pur­pose it’s easy to feel under­mined, or act accord­ing to oth­ers wish­es, or how I think I should. I feel this pres­sure in myself, when I am doubt­ful and uncer­tain about the right thing to do, the right way to be. What I should, could, would.

I have to OWN my behav­iour in order to work with it. The most fruit­ful prac­tices are ones that lead me to find­ing my OWN wis­dom, joy and pur­pose, not some­one else’s, my OWN. In the face of guilt and despair I am seek­ing to know my own mind and heart, even if it is to be clear that I am uncer­tain and that’s okay for now while I fig­ure my way through, it’ll make a huge dif­fer­ence to how I act and feel as a moth­er and best-human-I-can-be today.

Friedrich Niet­zsche said a lot of stuff, but one thing that has res­onat­ed all the way down into my teenagers’ lyric library is “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”. I’m grap­pling with the para­dox that doubts and uncer­tain­ties, as unpleas­ant as they are, are use­ful sources of learn­ing and insight. Stay­ing curi­ous, and soft­en­ing rather than resist­ing is a core premise of yoga, and Spilt Milk Yoga is all about embrac­ing moth­er­hood as path.

Today I will turn toward this spilt milk moment that trig­gered my reac­tive resent­ment and habit­u­al behav­iours. Moth­er­hood is an abun­dant provider of those. Coul­da, shoul­da, woul­da. Judge­ment about my pathet­ic self, pres­sure out­side and in. Today it’s this moment, a pet­ty dis­play of hideous behav­iour, from me. Teen coun­ters it, embar­rass­ing­ly with more per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty than me. And I KNOW me own­ing my stuff will make a big dif­fer­ence to both of us. But I need prac­tices to guide me or I’ll lose my way.

Spilt Milk Yoga Chap­ter 8. Mak­ing Mis­takes; I’m Try­ing To Do Right, But I’ve Done It Wrong. The Spilt Milk Yoga Prac­tice is COMPASSIONATE LEARNING

Recall a recent moth­er­ing moment when you didn’t know what to do, made a mis­take, or got some­thing “wrong”. What hap­pened and how did you respond?

Well there’s my moment, star­ing me in the face. I pun­ished my child for my deci­sion to help her. I want­ed to help her AND I felt resent­ful at giv­ing up my time. I was con­flict­ed. When I’m con­flict­ed I get unsteady in my pur­pose. So I was angry when I dropped her stuff off. Then I felt bad because I chose to help, but I had such a ter­ri­ble atti­tude it under­mined my good­will. I want­ed my sac­ri­fice to be appre­ci­at­ed and noticed. I was “teach­ing her a les­son” I’m not even sure I agree with. I felt angry that I was con­flict­ed. I was think­ing “Oth­er moth­ers don’t fer­ry clothes to their teens, I’m a pushover. Or if they do they do it lov­ing­ly.” With that frame I couldn’t win either way.

What are you learn­ing from this moth­er­ing situation?

That when I am con­flict­ed it’s because I think I only have 2 choic­es and I set myself up to lose.

1) say no (so she feels the burn, it’s my job to teach my teenag­er to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for her­self and that’s how to do it)

2) say yes (and be a pushover)

But my truth is also that I don’t want her to be cold all day at ath­let­ics. And I appre­ci­ate that she was very respon­si­ble get­ting ready for today and she took a warm thing. So I’m weigh­ing it all up. But I don’t align myself, I just have all the con­flict­ing voic­es going.

What are you want­i­ng to move from? What are you want­i­ng to move toward?

From: Get­ting tan­gled up when I feel conflicted

To: Clar­i­ty of actions. Cre­ate my OWN choice, clar­i­fy my intent, own it and get behind myself.

If you prac­tice hav­ing com­pas­sion for your­self what changes?

I admit the com­plex­i­ty and I start to see more options for myself. I appre­ci­ate that when I mess up I engage in repair­ing my rela­tion­ship with my kids. I have more com­pas­sion for oth­ers too.

What might you do dif­fer­ent­ly next time?

Notice when I am con­flict­ed and go gen­tly to cre­ate my own right option. Get clear on my choice before I take action.

3) Make it mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial and say to her “I will come and do this for you because it pains me to think you’ll be cold all day, but I’d like you to do some­thing for me in return.”

4) Err on the side of gen­eros­i­ty and say “I will do this for you because I real­ly appre­ci­ate how respon­si­ble you’ve been, that last night you stud­ied, exer­cised, did bak­ing for the school ball fundrais­er, did your jobs, sort­ed your house colours out­fit… and I get that it just wasn’t such a good out­fit for such a cold day. Here’s your stuff, I love you, have a great day.”

Her text reply just came back; “Love you xx”



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