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Parenting your parents and forgiveness


I have had a request to write about how to deal with parents or in-laws in a mindful way.  So here are some thoughts.

It’s not really that different from parenting  your children.  The key is the combination of  forgiveness, acceptance, and staying out of feeling defensive.  Think about Turning NO to ON as applied to relationships with history.

Remember the blog titled Interpreting bias in decision-making – posted August 5, 2010?  In it I wrote about the problem with responding from a defensive place and through bias and how this interfered with decision-making.  Defensiveness and bias skew how information is interpreted.  Each skew to the negative and set the stage for reaction rather than mindful response.

Bias is sometimes a result of a belief that may have represented a previous experience but is not necessarily Truth.  Defensiveness can be a result of habit, history or misapplication or misunderstanding of the other person’s intention, tone, or action.  In this way defensiveness can be like bias.

Being clear in a neutral, non-defensive tone, with unbiased and uncharged language allows for fuller communication and an opportunity to re-work old issues with a peaceful and active resolution.

So here are some ways to help you move into neutrality when interacting and also get a handle on what you may be bringing to the situation that is unhelpful, defensive, or a habit reaction pattern from earlier in the relationship.  After you identify that there is something left over, an old unresolved issue or belief then you can determine whether you want to keep it.

These can be applied to any personal relationship or situation, but is most applicable toward parent or in-law relationships.  Our relationships with our parents are very powerful and so hold a lot of complicated meaning about our own power and sense of self.

Defensiveness comes from a need, or interpreted need, to protect ourselves from attack – if we have had miscommunications, or simply mis-takes in how we related with our parents then this can be overly charged and difficult, and can be intensely layered over time.  Following these steps will assist you in working through some of this to increase positive interactions.

  • If you feel defensive wait – stop talking, breathe, open your mind, be open to what the other person is trying to say – move into receive rather than send in your communication.  Try to clarify what you really want from the situation and then focus on that, and only that – don’t get distracted and moved onto a more negative path.
  • Think about, and feel into, what is behind the defensiveness, follow it like a thread back into your history – this gives you a place to tether the defensiveness – then you can determine if that original event or set of events continue to apply, or how you would like to shift the energy.  It is through this process that you can identify where you want to focus your interaction with the other person.
  • If you feel angry, wait – stop talking, breathe, open your mind, try to receive what the other person is trying to say – try to simultaneously discover what is triggering an angry response in you, then as above, consider whether it is something you need to resolve then or let go and refocus on the current issue.
  • If you have a block or just can’t understand – or see – what the other person is saying – stop, try to look at it from a different perspective and see if you can identify what perception or interpretation you have that may be blocking your understanding of the other person’s point of view.  Get the other person to re-describe their feeling, experience in different words or give an example so that you can better understand what they are saying.
  • I am not suggesting that you must agree with their point of view, I am suggesting understanding comes from seeing both perspectives – remember the figure-ground issues – looking at the images below – see the bear and the vase or the duck and the bunny .  This is Steven Covey’s concept of seek first to understand.  When you understand the other, then you can understand where you connect with and disconnect from the other person and this allows for a place of resolution agreed upon communication about any subject or issue.

Increasing your awareness and applying your mindfulness to the situation allows for increased understanding and increased connection.   This may result in a different course of action.  It may not result in a change, but in this case you will be able to support the situation through a more mindful, neutral approach.  It may allow for a negotiation that incorporates both paradigms – not a compromise, but a collaboration or blending that meets the needs or perspectives of both parties.

Just as in parenting your children you are focused on being mindful and interacting in the present moment taking into account your child’s needs and your personalities; this is like turning a NO to ON but focused on your historical relationships and bringing them into present time and creating them to be positive.

Be truthful and honest in the content of your communication; kind and caring in the tone of your communication; and warm and real in your presentation.  This style and these actions will go the furthest to create a space for a powerful and positive interaction that can increase the depth and breadth of your relationship with your parents or parent-in-laws.

You will have wonderful results.

See you tomorrow.


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mindfulness gives you an opportunity to have a view into the outcome


Using mindfulness in your interactions and decisions gives you a broader perspective.

It allows you to see the ramifications of your actions in a way that is akin to seeing into the future.   Through this broader perspective you can see a long way into the outcome of actions today.

How does that happen?

It is a function of allowing your vision to become clearer about the way in which connections happen between phenomena. This can only happen from a neutral, observing, interested focus – the lack of push from ego ( I want or it is) allows you to be open to an underlying relationship or interaction or truth.  Sounds kind of esoteric, I know but let’s examine how it may work.

Think about those pictures at the mall with all the different colored dots.  When you first look at them they don’t seem to represent anything but if you stare at them in a relaxed way an image begins to appear.  The seemingly unconnected dots begin to connect and a picture appears.  If you try very hard to see the picture you see only a mass of different colored dots but if you relax and allow the connections to reveal themselves you see a ship or hippo or some other recognizable image.  This is a type of mindfulness – it incorporates the action of allowing, observing with interest but not a preset notion of what is there.

Observing your own action and the actions of others in this relaxed, neutral, calm, interested – mindful – way allows you to perceive a recognizable pattern or outcome.  If you are trying very hard to see something then nothing will present itself; but if you are open to an outcome and simply follow the thread then you will be able to identify several potential outcomes or one outcome.

Following a thread includes paying attention to word choice/meaning, energy, non-verbal cues, sound, and timing.  It includes actions and speech that a person takes and uses directly with you as well as what you observe of that person with others.  It includes how they present themselves verbally and non-verbally in various situations.

An example is to notice how an other is responding to your success.  Is that person able to align with you or does he respond in a competitive way?  Does he shift his energy as you get closer to a goal from being focused on your success to an energy of co-opting your actions to create success for himself.  The former action is one that comes from a person who perceives himself as successful and whole; the latter action is a person who perceives himself as small and needing to fight to maintain an equal position with you.

Observing behavior in this way, and incorporating your observations into an internal mindful perception without judgment, allows you to have a view into the outcome.  It increases your understanding of the unspoken aspects of relationships in general and the specific relationship being observed.

It provides an understanding of the parameters under which you can depend on that other person.  This allows you to guide and direct your own actions accordingly and without malice, fear, or disappointment.

The concept of risk changes when you apply mindfulness to a situation or relationship.  This is due to your increased capacity to analyze risk with respect to your actions, the actions of others and various situations.

With mindfulness you simply have access to more information and more layering of behavior and emotion.   You feel more empowered, more free to create interdependency successfully and less reactive, dependent, or fearful.

This is the figure and ground concept from a layering and sociological perspective of history and biography that is present in all human communications and interactions.

Mindfulness allows you to center yourself, your experiences, and your actions, so that you may have a 360 degree view of the situation or circumstance.  This increases your view into the outcome.

Practice mindfulness.

Be willing to observe, take in information, and respond from a neutral, interested, and peaceful perspective; this will increase your opportunity to have a view into the outcome and increase your ability to take an action that is consistent with your observations and your centered-self requirements.

See you tomorrow.


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Parenting as a way of transmitting your gifts


Often it is the milieu in which a person is raised that allows her to see the world from a distinct paradigm that changes her perspective and leads to innovation.

I was a huge Star Trek fan as a kid.  Loved the original and the Next Generation.

Shatner’s character Kirk had an episode where he was challenged to get rid of the trauma of his life and be free – he said he needed his pain, it’s what made him who he was.  And Piccard did a vignette wherein he had a whole lifetime of experience, that was distinctly different from that of being a captain, all transmitted in a dream.  Through that dream he was able to know an entire group of people who had since become extinct and it changed his perspective of what to do in future situations.

I remember even as a young person these ideas held deep meaning for me.

In my experience, your response to adversity is what makes you unique and can create space for a new perspective in the world, a new paradigm through which to view your world or circumstances.

Parenting offers a way to transmit your gifts from your early experiences to your child so that he or she can learn through your adversity and have innovative approaches to old problems.

This is one of the very best actions that you can take to assist your children, to openly and directly approach and discuss controversial and profound issues with innovative and honest ideas.

Certainly one of the things that interferes with this is when you are holding on to a hurt and feeling injured.  That injury can cloud your full capacity to understand and learn the gift presented through your injury or trauma.  That clouding can actually create or allow for the transmission of prejudice, hatred, and stereotypes.

The best way to clear up the injury or cloudy perceptions is to use a mindful approach to the traumatic experience.  To use a paradigm shift in how you perceive the events, making an effort to shift from figure to ground – from the injury (figure) to the background and context of the event (ground) to more fully understand their relationship to each other – it gives you a more holistic picture.

This isn’t to say to negate the pain but rather to look at what benefits came out of the trauma. To investigate what aspects of the experience were due to a lack of clarity on your own part, what had to do with an internal misbelief or misunderstanding, and what about the experience was a catalyst to change your life for the better.  There are experiences, like the death of a child or loved one, which will not offer any of these kinds of insights – in those circumstances the way through the cloudiness or pain is to discern how to change your response to the adversity or how to keep the positive memory of that person alive through your actions.  In my own personal experience I learned to always let my loved ones know they matter whenever I took leave of them because that may be the last time I would see their faces or hear their voices.  I learned to think about how I relate to others so that it is mindful and not hurtful.  I have seen others start profound agencies to help others in response to a profound loss.  In this way the loss has given rise to the gift of helping others on  a large-scale.

Through this process you can allow yourself to perceive events in a new way and offer a new perspective on how to be or act in the world.

Your actions create a webbing or thread connecting you to others and your future to your past.  Acting from  a mindful perspective increases your focus and purposive action/creation in your world.  Transmitting your gifts through parenting assists your children to have fuller more clarified lives.

It is a ripple effect; you are transmitting a new way of being that is based on mindfulness and wellness responses to adversity and stress.  The effect of which will be more balance and health for your children.

See you tomorrow.


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less attitude more gratitude


Mindfulness offers a way to shift attitude into gratitude.  And routine meditation can shift the way your brain functions and communicates; shifting how you perceive your environment and allows for increased connection and positive perspective.

This may explain the  power of prayer often described among healers and healthcare providers.  It allows for paradigm shifting not only cognitively but physically too.

Attitude, here, is defined by a sense of negativity, rigidity or defensiveness.

If focus is on what isn’t working, one’s limitations, or injuries than an attitude develops of neediness, negativity, self-centeredness, discouragement, and self-pity.

If focus is on what works, strengths/or gifts, compassion, and connections than an attitude of gratefulness and gratitude develops; one feels more in sync with the environment around him.  This has a relaxing and opening effect.

Buddhist monks who do meditation called compassion meditation,  (Metta, or Lovingkindness meditation which includes focused deep breathing) have been shown to modulate their amygdala, along with temporoparietal junction and insula, during their practice.

In an MRI study, more intensive insula activity was found in expert meditators than in novices.  Increased activity in the amygdala following compassion-oriented meditation may contribute to social connectedness.

Amygdala activity at the time of encoding information correlates with retention for that information.  However, this correlation depends on the relative “emotional quality” of the information.  More emotionally arousing information increases amygdala activity, and that activity correlates with retention.  Amygdala neurons show various types of oscillation during emotional arousal, such as theta brain wave activity (linked to increased creativity, relaxation, intuition, right-brained activity, emotional and subconscious connectedness).

These synchronized events could promote synaptic plasticity (which is involved in memory retention) by increasing interactions between neocortical storage sites and temporal lobe structures involved in declarative memory.

For an example of a Lovingkindness meditation please see blog Meditation on Lovingkindness posted on June 10, 2010 – on this site.

Smiling creates a relaxation of our shoulders, jaw, and neck muscles and increases neuron firings in the connected areas in our brain that regulate emotion, memory and cognition (amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus).

Breathing deeply increases this sense of openness and relaxation.

And these areas are negatively affected by stress.

Furrowing ones brow leads to increased tension and strain on our shoulders, neck and jaw and a reduction in firing in these same areas in our brain which leads to increased depression, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, a sense of isolation and disconnectedness, and memory issues.

During stressful times people tend to decrease their breath to shallow breathing.

Simply allowing yourself to focus on deep breathing and then attending to the positive elements of a situation,  its benefits, lessons, positive outcomes, or it’s attributing gifts can shift your perspective from negative to positive – from feeling sorry for yourself, defeated, or fearful to a sense of gratefulness and positivity.

These simple actions can infuse your brain with positive sensations that allow for creative resolutions to your challenging situations and problems.

Having a routine of meditation and mindfulness can keep you primed for just such opportunities and reduce your chance of developing many stress related psychological and physical illnesses.

So for your mental/emotional, spiritual and physical health remember:

  • Breathe deeply and fully
  • less attitude more gratitude
  • Smile
  • Meditate daily with an eye to compassion and loving acceptance
  • And consider what positive may be connected to the negative situation you are facing – paradigm shifting.
See you tomorrow,