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.

In Case You’re Really Hoping Things Can Change

In Case You’re Really Hoping Things Can Change

Go ahead fill in the blank.

Oh, in my family, everyone thinks I’m _______________________ , but I don’t really see myself that way.
Yeah, I never got to do _______________________ . I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me.
Things could be different for me, but this relationship with my (mom/dad/husband/wife/boss/friend) means I really can’t __________________________.
Here’s the thing, life doesn’t just work like that. Not everyone can _____________________.
If only my (mom/dad/husband/kid/wife/friend/co-worker) would stop treating me like __________________________, things would get so much better around here.

Sentences like these make up the story of our lives, and these stories shape up, direct us and convince us of what’s possible for us. They also teach us what can never be ours.

When Ria first started developing The Story of You, I was very much on this page. I was recovering from a divorce and a very intense period in my life where I had decided to put my own responsibilities on hold in order to help someone else who I thought really needed a miracle. The problem was, once I did my part to help the miracle happen, my life was in shambles. Everyone around me could see the disaster coming from miles away, I’m sure, but to me, I felt embarrassed by my mistakes and extremely limited because of the decisions I had made.

Everything felt fixed, and I was sure my work now was to accept things as they were instead of leaning into any kind of hope or change.

Ria uncovered tons of research for The Story of You, which involved talking to people who had spent years examining how the brain holds stories and how the soul interprets them. Her data seriously challenged my doom and gloom assumptions. I was convinced that I had to embrace the pain, go deeper, try harder, but from everything she was learning, that was not the case.

What I did need was a chance to loosen my white knuckle grip on my story, which I was holding like some precious ancient infallible religious text. I needed some way to let in a more hopeful point of view, and one that wasn’t just positive mumbo-jumbo, pie-in-the-sky. I needed balance in my story and the willingness to entertain the possibility that the story of me could be a blessing and not necessarily a curse, because of all my crappy choices.

And the research said I could actually have that. I could have balance. I could have hope. I could have a framework that opened up the future and gave me new options for a hopeful future.

Getting this through my head was NOT easy, which is probably one of the reasons why The Story of You is so good today. Ria had to keep coming up with more and more playful, fun, creative options to shake up my psyche. And the kind that wouldn’t shut me down or scare me, so the change in perspective could come naturally, with the kind of ease that made me more malleable, and less invested in my suffocating narrative.

This is truly a foundational, life-changing class for Hopeful World. And as time goes on, we can really see that the approach presented here, really does help you soften into the kind of shifts that change you forever.

For the next 24 hours, we’re doing an experiment. We are waiving the fixed pricing (the class usually goes for $197) and inviting anyone who feels drawn to this course to pay whatever they would like. If that feels too fuzzy, you can think of it in increments of 25 between $25 and $250, with permission to pay just $2 if that’s what you know is an honest contribution right now. (Yes, we’ve been there, too!)

Our hope is that by doing this experiment we will throw open the floodgates…to our community, to our classes and to our hearts. We are delighted by the story we’re holding for ourselves in all of this which is that we are cared for, we are seen and we are blessed. And so are you.

Will you join us? For The Story of YOU? Pay-what-you-can registration is here.

With so much joy and love,
Jen and Ria

P.S. Want to learn more about what we do? Visit us at hopefulworld.org/join.

A Tiny Tsunami of Hope

A Tiny Tsunami of Hope

It’s 7:27 AM and already I’ve had two good cries. One out of gratitude for a new experience of sweetness. One out of sorrow for my kid who is feeling the loss of two brother-like friends who have been gone long enough now for him to realize they really aren’t coming back.

I have a hate/love relationship with these tiny tsunamis of emotion. Sometimes they make me feel better. Sometimes they make me feel worse. All the time I hold them inside in a hostage-like state of bewilderment. Technically, I know feelings are normal but practically, I have no idea how to deal with them unless they compel me to express unbridled appreciation or serial angst. And even then, I have no idea what to do with their aftermath… that wake of emotion that they appear to stir up in someone else. Sometimes it seems to be for the best, other times for the worst.

I wish I wasn’t always at a loss. I wish I didn’t have so many feelings about how I feel about my feelings. I wish it was simpler for me like it seems to be for everyone else. I wish it didn’t feel so complicated.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. Maybe it’s because essentially I’m a thinker, but for the longest time I’ve been able to pass in regular society as a seemingly intact person when it comes to emotions. I can talk about them, so I’m good, right? But over time I’ve realized that talking about how I feel isn’t quite the same as letting those feelings do their wise work in my soul and in the relationships I value so much.

In fact, my inability to express them when it counts, to really let myself feel them and the people I love see them is actually becoming the number one reason in my life why I still so often feel disconnected and isolated when what I’m longing for most is tenderness and belonging.

Sigh.

Is there anyone else out there struggling with this?  Can someone please say I’m not the only one?

I know there’s hope for me on this point — yes, at 44 years old — because the Universe keeps bringing people into my life who deeply care about the things that are troubling me most.

Enter Melissa Rivera, for example. Gentle, persistent emailer. Secret whirling dervish of fiery wisdom and passion. Wicked smart researcher, PhD holder and Harvard grad. Just so happens we’ve been circling each other for years and now she’s working on the embodied practice of emotional mastery with brilliant author and method-maker, Jennifer Day.

Just so happens that Jennifer Day has a thriving practice in the UK and the most joy-filled, down-to-earth way of helping you get to the heart of things without feeling stupid or silly for needing to know.

Huh. Coincidence? I pray to God not.

I’m diving into deep waters with these two women at the end of July and it would mean the world to me if you would join me. Registration is here. I am genuinely scared of my feelings. There, I said it. They feel so overwhelming to me at times, but I’ve found in these two women a lightness and a strength that is making it feel safe for me to gently explore what’s up for me about this. And I know I have to do it (did I mention I’m 44?) and I really want to experience deep love and connection in my life in ways that heal and strengthen me before it’s too late.

With warmth and so much hope,
Jen

P.S. It would mean so much to me today especially if you would write and let me know if you’re in the same boat with this feeling thing. One of the most painful things for me on this point is feeling like I’m somehow a freak or the only one. Your “yes, me too!” would be a real boon and a blessing.

P.P.S. The first 20 people who join me will receive one-on-one deep listening calls from Jennifer, Melissa and me. If mentoring is not a possibility for you at this time but you know you would benefit from a personal touch, this is truly the Hopeful World experience for you. xo

On Saying Goodbye and Other New Beginnings

On Saying Goodbye and Other New Beginnings

Two kids. Two promotional ceremonies in two days. By the end of last week, I was the proud mother of a middle schooler and a high school student.

Kids are growing up over here, people.

It’s heartbreaking.

I wish I had a dollar for every minute I laid in bed promising myself I’d do just a little better by both of them when I woke the next morning. If that were the case, I’d be a millionaire by now.

Maybe you can relate.

Instead there’s this deep longing twinged with traces of regret as I look at their sleeping faces and question if there’s any possible way they could know how much I think of them, how much I love them and how challenged I am by all the very human things about myself that are right this instant shaping their own wounds and wonder.

It’s an ego trip, this parenting thing. We want to do it perfectly so at the end things can be easier and we can know we did it right and so, of course, no one will have to suffer. Such fiction.

But suffer we do and wish we might. And the wishing is so strong it ends up playing out like an addiction that keeps us coming back for more. Show me anything, we silently beg them, that says I didn’t completely screw this thing up.

Thank God, underneath all our good intentions is something even better than regret, longing, perfection or ego. It is Love. And it is the thing that makes our very bodies a homing device so they can always find us, no matter what happens. Yes, there might be years in therapy. Agreed, they will not always be happy with how we raised them. There might also be great denials about failings, and in the worst case scenarios, inquisitions and god forbid, great separations.

But even in all this: the chaos, the misunderstanding, the floundering, the hurt, the moments of redemption, there will be Love.

Today as you’re waving your sixth grader goodbye, as you’re looking your young graduate in the eye, as you’re feeling that last baby on your hip, as you’re packing for camp, as you’re trying to talk sense into your ten year old or hoping the best for steely silence with your teen, know this: it’s not too late to put in words the things that don’t always get said.

I am always always always here for you.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, can make me stop loving you.

I’m so glad you’re mine.

I have loved being your mom so much.

You’ve brought me more joy than you can really know.

Believe it or not, I did my very best.

I know you can do this. I believe in you.

It’s my fear that makes me like this. It’s not you, I promise.

We’re together the whole way, no matter what.

It’s normal to be terrified.

Go. Go. Go.

And if those words feel too hard or big, try these:

You don’t have to be perfect.

Being true to you is more than enough.

I’ll be right here waiting to hear everything.

Promise.

Write to me today if what you want to say to your kid just doesn’t feel right for public consumption. I’m happy to hear your worries and your unspeakables. Know that this ache we feel, this deep longing, is just a reflection of the way we ourselves need to be held. It is a distant reminder of the parts of us that still need reassurance and our own special declarations of belonging… from our own days of leaving and saying goodbye.

With love and light,
Jen

P.S. If you appreciate thoughts and sentiments like this, please sign up for our weekly messages at hopefulworld.org/join. Our hope is to bring radical acceptance for who you are with every message. And as always, we would love it if you shared this post… because we believe radical acceptance, belonging, and hope are messages worthy of sharing. Thanks!

Everything Happens

Everything Happens

I have the hardest time being gentle with myself.

Maybe it’s because I can see how deeply responsible I am for my choices and the life I’ve created. Maybe it’s because I think when I’m suffering as a result of my mistakes or missteps I deserve punishment more than any comfort or companionship.

Are you ever hard on yourself in this particular way?

I wish I could tell you I’ve got this great new trick I do that helps me not isolate or hibernate like this, but I don’t. What I can say is that I’m beginning to realize there are so many people around me who can see my dilemma and are willing to offer me solace if I’m willing to admit things are not okay.

Choosing to acknowledge that we are loved more than we can sometimes say breaks down the case for thinking we are alone. It gives us back our power to open up and acknowledge the host of people around us who are trying to get through, the dear ones who want to be near even though we can’t imagine why and had our sights set on others who were more distant and elusive.

Last June, during a particularly painful time, my dear friend Corinna Robbins came to visit me for a weekend of making art and hanging out. My oldest friend Maya Story flew in from Portland to stay with us in the big yellow house. We didn’t realize at the time that this would be the very weekend that my housemate and dearest family friend Rachael Maddox would see the final break in her marriage and agree with her husband Brian to part ways.

Brian and Rachael more than any other two people I know believe that even at the darkest moments you can experience hope, connection, comfort and light. We spent the weekend filming both their last moments together in between bouts of crying, laughing and being quiet with each other on the couch. The whole weekend was surreal. It wasn’t until we were in the editing process that we realized every single person you see in this video was living through a major life transition when we filmed, even the kids.

It’s been almost a year since we were all together. I had to leave the big yellow house. Brian and Rachael have forged an honest friendship. The little boys you see who were like brothers to my son have moved far away to Turkey. The woman celebrating a birthday is beginning a new life. Corinna is on the cusp of breakthrough as a filmmaker, and I’m not nearly as low as I was that day Corinna filmed me, sprawled out on my bed saying all the things I myself most needed to hear.

Everything changes. And when we can remember that during the low times, our hearts can fill with hope. And when we can tell each other this in the good times, our hearts can fill with gratitude. No matter what, we can be gentle, we can be kind. And we can remember, that even in this, we are never, ever alone.

Here’s the link to our first Hopeful World short film here… we know this content is not for everyone, but for those of you who are walking through big changes or who are feeling the pain of loss and regret, please accept it as our acknowledgment of what you’re going through and of the hopeful future that awaits you.

With so much love,
Jen

P.S. Thank you so much for sharing our Mother’s Day post. Ria and I were so honored by the way this message of comfort spread far and wide, in part because of you. We hope you’ll continue to share anything we create that you know will speak to someone who is hurting.

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

Your Story Matters

Your Story Matters

Why do our stories matter? Because every day, we make meaning by taking pieces of our daily experience and weaving it into narratives for ourselves. We can’t help it. We’re storytelling animals. What we are often unaware of is that the story we choose to tell ourselves about ourselves actually has the power to shape our life experience — and that story can drive us apart or bring us together. I happen to know this because… well, let me tell you a story….

Last spring, Jen and I piloted a class called The Story of You. My contribution to this project was sharing my life story and unravelling it, tracing my journey and my reflections along the way. In the process, I discovered a deeper story that was hidden underneath, one that explained why I kept re-creating scenarios that I would just as soon… um, not!

I was compelled to look at my personal narrative through a completely different lens. And what do you think happened? Retelling my story created a radical shift in my life. I’m not just talking about an internal perspective shift, people — I’m talking about new experiences, new places, new people, new relationship dynamics — including being able to spend a magical week with my family on the other side of the world! I would share more but that would be a spoiler… since we’re offering another session of The Story of You and we’d love for you to join us in the experience.

It’s a five-week class designed to help you own your story and explore personal storytelling as a vehicle for transformation, growth and healing. You’ll learn why stories matter and how the narratives we tell ourselves have the power to propel us toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and those we love.

I will again share my own process of reimagining my story to help you uncover how your own narrative can become a blueprint for personal growth and change. In addition, audio conversations and story sharing between me and my friend and veteran guide, Jen Lemen as well as one of my favorite storytellers, world-renowned author, Oriah Mountain Dreamer will help you see where thoughtful story exploration can take you. And, weekly activities will give you clear direction as you develop a practice of looking at your stories through the lens of gentleness and courage.

The online class runs from October 15 – November 16. Class registration is $99/each or $170/for two (since everything is even better together).

REGISTER here for $99 or here to sign up with a friend for $170.

I can’t wait to have you join us, as together we celebrate, explore and honor the story of YOU!
Ria

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.

Ordinary Courage is Knowing You are Worthy of Love and Belonging

Ordinary Courage is Knowing You are Worthy of Love and Belonging

Sitting at my desk today in my pretty pink bedroom, listening to a few hours of original audio recordings that Brené and I recorded last year this time in preparation for this.  They’re so funny and raw and wise and tender, I feel so happy and lucky that those conversations ever happened.

I have the funniest history with Brené and her work.  I’m always asking her, What are you talking about? What are you even saying?  To which replies, Brené, You really haven’t read my books, have you?  And then I say, No, no I have! and we both laugh.

But I have to say that more and more I think I’m getting what Brené is about.  I’m coming to the edges of my vulnerability…those spaces where I wonder if I made a mistake (guilt) or if I AM a mistake (shame).  I think of my new frontiers of exploration…love and relationships and see all the places I obsess, wondering if I’m too much when the real question is Is this a safe space for me to reveal what’s in my heart? or this very important question… Do I have the courage to reveal what’s going on with me, even if it means I might face bewilderment, indifference or rejection? even if it means I’ll be welcoming in unnerving sweetness, kindness or joy?

In less then a week, we’ll be on Day One of Ordinary Courage again, a six-week class where Brené shares her field-tested wisdom about shame resilience, and I ask a lot of questions and make a lot of safe space for you to wonder out loud, too.  It’s beautiful work, really, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.  If you wanted to join me there, I promise you won’t be making a mistake and you’ll be glad to realize that you’re not the only one who needs to grow ordinary courage.  God knows we all do.

Register here.

…too

…too

When I was growing up, my grandmother taught me a valuable lesson that I sometimes forget. “Never be the one to let go of a hug first.” So you can imagine a hug from my grandmother took a really really long time. Not letting go of a hug, to her, was affectionately saying something she also loved—it was saying “…too”. A hug was saying, “I love you” and not letting go was saying, “I love you too”. I used to find a competitive fault with my grandmother’s way. “Why do ‘I’ always have to be the one to say ‘too’? Why can’t I hear it?” Or, “I always say, ‘I love you’ first. I want to say ‘too’ for a change.” It was a never ending battle and one I’m glad I lost time and time again. There was no out loving my grandmother.

I find myself, when reaching out with an intimate statement to those around me, with an “I miss you” or “Have a great day” or “I don’t know” or “I’m scared” or “I need you”…or, “I love you”, wanting to hear that back followed by that resounding “too”. I don’t look for magical words or an emotional one up, I simply want that someone to mirror back my moment…myself. I want to know that in that slight, or not so slight moment, that I’m not alone. That exposing myself will, in turn, be met with exposure. Things are not always safe and I accept that and welcome all those real and capacity growing experiences, but I also love the safety of the shared. The knowing that my emotions are empathized with and, while may not be exactly understood, are joined and accepted.

As an adult and outside of those small precious moments, I can internally debate all of those possible issues of insecurities, need for controlling outcomes, etc. But, in that moment, in that smallest and potentially overlooked moment, the small boy in me simply wants someone with my grandmother’s way. Someone who wants to out love me.