Friday, July 23, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

Have you ever had an ongoing conflict with someone or a relationship in which you easily slip into an ugly dance of thinking negative thoughts about the other person? It could be with your son or daughter or spouse or your own mom or dad. It could begin as a simple pet peeve about closing cabinets after opening them or putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them on the table. It could be about your child’s requests for a cell phone, a car or a sleepover with friends. Your discussion might begin as a conversation but it always seems to dissolve into the ugly dance. You feel unappreciated or disrespected and the other person is angry. You've attempted to change things, and the problem stubbornly resists. Sound familiar?

Just as dance classes train your body to elegantly perform grand jet├ęs, continued practice of the ugly dance trains you to quickly begin that dance at the first sight of an open cabinet or request for a cell phone. You see dishes on the table and the spotlight is on you as you take the first steps in the ugly dance by thinking, “How many @#%& times do I need to remind him to put the dishes in the sink? He doesn't respect anything I say. He is a brat!” If you have an ugly dance-a-thon happening in your home, check out Wes Hopper’s insights in this article The Heart of the Matter:

"I have discovered from years of work with hundreds of people that when a stubborn problem does not yield, it is because there is a need for forgiveness." … Catherine Ponder

Forgiveness is a subject that many people misunderstand, and as a result they suffer needlessly. It's easy to believe that forgiving someone who has hurt us is letting them off the hook for their bad behavior. Actually, forgiveness is freeing US, not them. Carrying a grudge works havoc in our body and affairs. It takes up space in our mind that could be used for better things. And as our quote suggests, it can cause problems in other areas of our lives that don't seem to be related at all. Forgiveness can clear up health problems, business problems, mental problems, of all kinds. Why would we want to carry that kind of baggage around?

One of my favorite songs is one by singer and songwriter Don Henley about a failed relationship, "The Heart of the Matter", in which he concludes "It's about...........forgiveness." And that is the heart of the matter, whether it's a relationship or some other issue. So set yourself free with forgiveness.

And you'll be grateful you did!

Thanks, Wes, for the insights, and you may be asking yourself how forgiveness relates to your child’s demands for a cell phone or car. Set clear boundaries after you forgive your child for having desires. Forgive yourself if you’ve given up your desires and stoke your fire to live your life more passionately. Forgive him for not knowing how to show you how much he appreciates and respects you. Then teach him how to do just that. Show her how to appreciate you by consciously appreciating and respecting her.

You are your child's guide. It is through your guidance that your child will begin to understand the heart of the matter.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Path with a Heart

In exploring ideas on what to write this week -- while in the Zen-like state that mowing the lawn induces -- it occurred to me to express how meaningful it was to take the Redirecting Children's Behavior course when my daughter was a toddler. She is turning thirteen next week, and the difference that Redirecting Children's Behavior made and continues to make every day in our family life and our relationships is amazing. It shows up everywhere for all of us. Taking the course was also the beginning of an amazing and transformational journey, a journey down a different path -- a path with a heart. Then this article by Wes Hopper, who writes on the power of gratitude, showed up. Couldn't be more perfect! Enjoy Wes Hopper's Have a Heart:

"Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use." … Carlos Castaneda

What do you suppose it means for a path to have a heart? And why would one without it be of no use? Every time we make a choice, we're choosing a path. It may be a short path or it may be a long path. Each time we get to ask - does this choice, this path, have a heart?

That means that it's the choice that we're going to be happy about tomorrow and the next day. It means it’s a path in line with our purpose and our vision. It means that it’s a path that reflects the person we want to be.

When we find ourselves in angry conflict, we're off the path. When we're allowing others to determine whether we follow our dream, we're off the path. When we feel good, the path has a heart. When we don't, that's of no use to us because it's not taking us where we want to go.

And Castaneda's Toltec wisdom is reminding us that we pick our path not in the few big choices that we make, but in every little one, one choice at a time.

Today practice noticing your choices, all of them. See if they have a heart. You'll be very grateful you did.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Freedom to Explore

Deborah McNelis, the creator of braininsights, is a brain development specialist. Her website Early Childhood Brain Insights offers up succinct "Brain Facts." The June 29th and June 30th "Brain Facts" both support concepts that we have spoken about in the past -- the value of being in nature, the importance of unstructured play and the benefits of physical activity. The two Brain Facts are:

  • Freely exploring nature and objects increases blood flow to parts of the brain

  • Physical activity enhances brain function through providing more oxygen to the brain

Unstructured play is not only important to children, it is important to a child's future happiness as an adult. It is vital for children to have time to explore their world, both in nature and at home. You can learn about setting up spaces at home that inspire children to learn and play at Childhood 101. Find time to be in nature and let your child play without an agenda. Seeing my daughter playing with river rocks by a running stream at the base of a waterfall this summer was one of the most fulfilling moments of play I can recall. She was charged up finding different shapes, exploring how they would break and creating "statues" with groups of rocks. She also loves the "swamp walks" in Big Cypress National Park. Talk about sensory learning -- you slog through waist-deep water under ancient cypress trees.

There are so many sedentary distractions for children, from portable media players to cell phones to television. Take time to disconnect from electronic devices and get physical. Those clever animals in the animated film Madagascar knew what they were saying when they sang, "I like to move it move it!" Research from the National Institutes on Health is even showing that being physically fit at 18 is linked to higher IQ and is a predictor of educational and professional achievement later in life.

Use these final days of summer to experience nature in an unstructured way. Be explorers. Disconnect from electronic devices and connect with one another. Hike, bike, walk. Physical activity will not only benefit your child's body but his brain as well.

If you would like to listen to this post as a podcast which can be delivered to your cell phone or heard online, please click here.