Do You Want to Be a Conscious Parent?

Do You Want to Be a Conscious Parent?

Sometimes we carry ghosts around as grownups. The way our mother spoke. The way our father neglected. Enter your own kids and there’s nothing you want more than for your children to know peace where you experienced pain or upset. And even if your own childhood was somewhat even, you still wonder why you yell or become exasperated.  You still wish you could give your kids more patience, more love, instead of being triggered. Early this fall, I began talking to different parenting experts about what makes some parents able to stay connected to their kids, while other parents stay stuck in the cycle of losing it, feeling bad, compensating, etc. Each person spoke to a particular mindset–the kind of gentle perspective that made space for acknowledging when you’re getting triggered and also keeping the channels of communication open. They called this mindset Conscious Parenting. Since informal conversation has always been one of our favorite ways to connect at Hopeful World, we decided to host a series of kitchen table conversations to delve deeper into this topic, and the result is a beautiful audio series full of stories, laughter, honest confession, hope and practical tips for staying connected to your kids, even when you feel like you’re at your wit’s end. If you’re a parent who wants to do better and is tired of feeling guilty for losing your temper or overpowering your kids, this series is for you. You’ll hear from Dr. Shefali of Oprah fame, on why choosing to parent consciously can change your whole life. You’ll hear from Teresa Brett, social change activist and seasoned mom, on how a tiny shift in perspective can let in so much more compassion. I talked to Bhagavan Bauer of Joy-filled Parenting on how you can start being conscious in any moment, even if you’re a dad who may have not always been parented like this before. I also talked to the hilarious and wise Jennifer Day, founder of Applied Emotional Mastery, on how humor and play can help you address the darker sides of your child’s personality. Rebecca Thompson and I talked about how the brain works in breakdowns and how you can get back on track so fast with one conscious shift. And last but not least, I spoke with Cathy Williams, matriarch and wise elder, about her legacy of love in her own multi-generational family, where conscious parenting was not just a strategy for better behavior, but a way of life. Right now we are offering this instant downloadable audio series for $47. You receive an introductory talk from me along with six recorded conversations to help you find your way. As an expression of our gratitude this holiday season, we are offering this series for $27 when you use the discount code 154FA now through 12/4. You can go straight to the registration page here, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Jen Lemen, your host and co-founder of Hopeful World, at help@hopefulworld.org. I am honored to bring this series to you with the help of my dear friend and co-collaborator Melissa Rivera. Our dream is that thousands of parents will take this gentle introduction and receive the support and encouragement they need to connect with their kids in a meaningful and effective way, triggers and all.

Light the Darkness

Light the Darkness

I was nursing my baby, standing in the kitchen, watching the little television a neighbor had lent me to get through the early days of life with a newborn and an undiagnosed case of postpartum depression. I don’t remember much other than feeling completely flattened listening to hour after hour of coverage, including the distressed voice of a soon-to-be mother of twins ask a newscaster if he could find her husband who worked in the Twin Towers, because she really needed him home. She really couldn’t be without him.
I stood at the kitchen counter and wept.

Today my baby is a middle schooler and my then husband is gone, off to a new chapter, doing the best he can with his new life as I try my hardest with mine.

The new president who won an election on the premise of hope, is arguing for the authority to start something that looks remarkably like a war, and mothers all around the world nurse their newborn babies, listen to the news and hope against hope for their husbands to come home, even when bad goes to worse.

Everything changes, I said foolishly once. Nothing stays the same.

Only when it doesn’t. Only when we get caught up in a loop that looks and feels exactly like a pattern, a pattern that must be broken before we run the grooves too deep in our minds and start to think things can never ever change.

I want to tell you today, that things do change.

Even the most difficult, most painful, most heart-wrenching things.

The kind of things that leave you in a state of terror in your bed at night.

The kind of things that make you feel tiny and small and incapable of taking care of anyone else, let alone yourself.

I know this because I have seen it with my own eyes.

I know it because when faced with a choice to make things different for one another, so often there are moments of magic where we set aside our restraints, our limitations, our preferences and choose, even out of our own lack, to make things different for someone else.

This is the heart of kindness. And when we stay open and tender to that possibility, we embody the essence of hope.

Today, in honor of September 11, I’d like to invite you to visit The Light of Human Kindness Project, an online experience and interactive mural in Richmond, Virginia. Hopeful World is a proud sponsor of the mural and played an integral part of the hopeful story the wall tells. The wall is a work of art, but more importantly it is an invitation to the Kindness Revolution as each light on the wall will only be illuminated in real time when someone like you shares hope in a dark place. You can read more about the wall (which goes live tonight!) here.

And if you’re reading today, thinking, I cannot possibly do anything for anyone else, then I invite you to sink into some serious self-renewal with me. It’s okay, to be the baby that needs to be carried for a while. It’s really okay to need the care of a divine and indefatigable mother.

All my love,
Jen

P.S. If you’re feeling blue today, send a message to help(@)hopefulworld.org. I’d love to hear how you’re feeling on this day in particular, where you were on September 11, and what it was that helped you then (and now) hold on to hope.

photo credit: Aimee T. McNamee Photography

The Hope Jar

The Hope Jar

I’m overwhelmed.

It’s a feeling I know well, many times it comes because of too many tasks or too much emotion. In this case, I am overwhelmed by all the hope and kindness — by Jen’s sweet declaration of appreciation, by a mailbox overflowing with your notes for the Hope Jar.

Just fyi, since our official P.O. Box is down the street from me, it makes sense that Crowdsourcing Hope was my project to manage. I wish I could share with you the physical sensation of opening an overflowing mailbox and having your letters tumble out. It feels like Christmas morning!

I am buoyed that you would write to a stranger, your simple words of encouragement to a nameless soul who suffers — the kindness of picking out a hopeful thought that holds meaning for you, finding an envelope, rummaging in a drawer for a stamp, sometimes even including extras. You wrote to us from Montana and Florida and Maryland and Texas and New Mexico and Canada and too many more places to name. After collecting and pasting them all, we filled 19 pages!

If you’ve been receiving these weekly reflections for awhile, you might have noticed this for yourself — that a particular struggle or pain that Jen gives voice to is your own, and perhaps you find comfort too, knowing that you’re not alone in it. It’s been a turbulent summer for me. I lost a grandmother. I lost my adopted dad. Your letters and the Hope Jar have become an anchor for me as I swim in the deep end of grief and loss. As I read each note you sent in, I felt my head nodding and discovered that truly, they were for me! Sometimes silently and sometimes out loud I found myself saying, Yes! I get that. Or, Yes, that’s true. It’s really something, people — this physical experience of being together in our darkness and the lightness that comes with each expression of hope.

Our shared darkness makes it possible for me to be here, to go where I’ve never allowed myself to go, to feel safe in excavating old hurts and a lifetime of unacknowledged losses, understanding now that even though I myself have not been in it like this before, many of you have… and have come out on the other side, somehow burnished by your sorrow into a stronger version of yourself.

This, to me, brings hope. This is a beacon that I cling to in my all too real experiences of loss, that I too will discover a depth for feeling that I didn’t have before, and a new understanding of myself and my place in this world that wasn’t available to me just a few short months ago.

So today I offer yourselves back to you, along with all the love and kindness with which you sent your tributes of hope, multiplied a hundredfold. As you make your own Hope Jars with the full collection of hope notes you can download here, remember that across 50 states and several countries, you are joined by me and Jen and Henry and so many others who are with you in this small way of making a more hopeful world for ourselves and each other.

With so much gratitude and always hope,
Ria

p.s. If you are inspired, we invite you to post a picture of your Hope Jar on the Facebook Page.

p.p.s. A thousand blessings to you who sent in notes. Your SASE are on their way! xo

In Case Mother’s Day is Hard for You

In Case Mother’s Day is Hard for You

(with my mom, who understood so deeply the pain and beauty of mother’s day)

Let’s be real. Mother’s Day can completely blow sometimes.

You want to be cheerful. You want to be with the program. But some years there are all these little points of pain that will not go away.

The baby you never had.
The one you gave up.
The kid you lost to something bigger than you.
The child that slipped away before you ever held her.
The one that was never born.
The one you worry you’re failing.
The one that failed you.

The mother who’s so close and yet so far.
The one you loved so much who couldn’t love you back.
The one you could never love because it hurt too much.
The one you lost too soon.
The one who is slipping away.
The one you can never please.
The one you wish you could live up to.

There are no cards to honor these children or these mothers. There are no holidays to contain all the parts of you that fall outside the lines of generally understood sorrow or celebration.

But there is this moment, this incredible moment, where you can feel it all. Where for once you can’t stuff it down or forget it. Where you have to be with it, because it is not going away.

And here, my friends, is where something important happens. This is where we connect, where we understand we are frail, where we are human. Where we see in new ways what life means. Where we are issued a compelling and persistent invitation to mother ourselves. To cut ourselves the breaks we didn’t get. To ask for the help we always needed. To let tears come and say, This is how it is. I’ll ask in this one tiny moment, for the courage I need to let everything just be.

No matter what your point of pain or challenge today, I want you to know that you are not the only one. Somewhere over a silly Mother’s Day breakfast, there is a woman faking a smile who feels just like you do. Somewhere in a very silent house with no one to call, there is a woman who is tending the ache of her loss, just like you. Somewhere standing in a shower there is a woman who is feeling it all and letting the tears come, just like you.

As you go about this day, know that over here, Ria and I have candles lit for all these unspoken things, and that we are holding the space and thinking of you. You — the faraway, soulful you — will be in our meditation and in our warmest thoughts. We are sending you light and love and the deep wish that you would know today of all days, nothing is wasted and we are together in ways we cannot always see but are just as true. That the night can never last. That even in our darkest moments, there will be someday, the surprise of a laugh, a comfort, a dawn.

With so much love, hope and light,
Jen

P.S. Will you share this around? We know there are so many women who are feeling it today. And if you know you appreciate things like this, please sign up for our weekly messages at hopefulworld.org/join. Our hope is that everything we send out brings radical acceptance for who you are and relieves your suffering. Thanks!

photo by Patience Salgado of kindnessgirl.com

The Lead

The Lead

I see them walking quite often—an older man, his son and their dog. The man is very tan, very thin with a large mustache—if he dressed the part, he would strike quite the pose of a wiry codger from the Old West; his son, a larger young man with special needs who has a quiet gentleness about him that only true innocence can have. The older man and I speak and seem to have a certain kinship, most of our language is a nod or a quick smile—rarely words. We are both few in that category.

Walking today in their usual and comfortable cadence, the man with the dog on a lead, his son following his usual five paces behind. I watch from afar today and note how both the dog and man seem to be on different types of leads. The dog on his obvious one and the man on an unseen one held by his son. The dog never turns to look for the man. The father never turns to look for his son. The tether that reaches between them is as apparent to me as any rope you might see between two climbers, an unspoken assurance between them — the young man’s need to hold on and his father’s need to be held.

Within those short five paces there seems to lie a soft love, comfort and confidence that neither will let go and that there is true equality between the holding and being held; that there is a recognition, without struggle, of the large gray expanse between guiding and being guided, between leading and being led.

I have no real idea of what was unspoken between this father and his son. I realize that the true dialogue is my own. How willing am I to lead or to be led? To hold or to be held? To love or to be loved? And, what are the real differences between them?

I can accept the obvious vulnurability of being protected, but can I accept the vulnurability that comes with being trusted enough to protect? Can I be attached to either end of that lead and accept that the other is held or holding? Can I surrender to true love, trust and the faith that is needed?

Turning the corner, me heading north and them east, I look back to see if they’re still there. A look, occuring to me, that they will never give one another.