Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (and a winner!)

Over the last two weeks I have been compiling a list of things that have moved and touched me. The list just got way too long for this entry. Funny how we get what we look for, isn't it? I have been schooled in the power of my own choices; and by the way my brain physiologically adapts to what I seek out, attend to, and cultivate. It certainly doesn't negate all the negative but does mean that opening my eyes and seeing all that magic gives me terrific perspective ... and helps me see even more magic.

I've discovered a book that crystallizes what has been happening in my neurology. "My Stroke of Insight," by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a first-person account from a brain scientist who lost the function of the left side of her brain during a stroke. (I implore you to spend 18 minutes watching her talk -- you won't be sorry.)

Guess what the left side of your brain houses. Give up? It's the ego center. Ahhh synchronicity! Turns out it is a pretty useful side and not at all "bad." However, the over-identification of self and the corresponding neural pathways that lead to defensiveness and separate us from the here-and-now has the potential to be pretty toxic. And yet the plasticity of the brain allows us to create and strengthen new pathways and learn from our oft-neglected right side.

I am trying to follow up on Dr. Bolte Taylor's beautiful lesson. She calls it cultivating our garden.

Last week, we visited the Botanical Gardens of Corpus Christi (it's an actual garden -- not a brain metaphor or song by Iron Butterfly, just to be clear). A recent frost made it seem more like the Barren Waste Land of Corpus Christi. My husband and I lamented as we wandered around the death and destruction. However, my girls laughed and played. They even asked if we could go back later. (Hey, it's currently $1 off admission if you go now. I'm serious. They've discounted it if you attend before the life returns!)

I have been pondering what my life would be like with this approach. Zero rumination, zero wallowing in disappointment ... just total acceptance of the situation exactly as it is. Buddhist teaching says the recipe for suffering is pain (multiplied by) resistance. Kind of makes one wonder how much of the misery we experience is perpetuated by our response, and how much beauty we miss because we simply forget to look.

Thanks to all of you for reading and participating in February's discussion. And congratulations to "anonymous" for winning on my drawing for the journal. Thanks to my savvy-ness I was able to figure out who she is and where she lives. Gosh, that makes me sound kind of creepy; don't be scared "anonymous"!

I am asking for your suggestions on right brain activities and practices. I welcome book suggestions, spiritual practices, daily habits ... anything that gives that sense of connection and puts you in the moment. And how do you facilitate and teach this to your kiddos? Since my readership has some of the most amazing and intuitive children around, I am hoping you will share your wisdom. As always, thank you.


  1. I wish I had some wisdom in this area, but I do not. I plan to re-read Dr. Taylor's book and really study what she has to say. I had a plan to really practice after reading it the first time, but then I loaned my book to someone and fell off the proverbial wagon.

    I definitely think this is an area all adults struggle. We are always looking forward to the next thing. Since I work in a school, I am anxiously awaiting Spring Break. But a few weeks ago, I was awaiting the first snow day, and before that it was Christmas break, and before that it was Thanksgiving break, and before that...well you get the idea. How much did I miss while I was waiting for those "big" days? I do this on a smaller scale too...maybe it's waiting for pay day or for the weekend. Good things can happen on Tuesdays too...Mondays, I'm not so sure about, but Tuesdays for sure.

    This is something I definitely plan to work on, and can't wait to read some of your awesome reader's comments to help me achieve my goal :)

  2. Shellody,
    Yes, I am looking forward to those comments too! This blog is my go-to tool for parenting tips, trips, and suggestions. I truly utilize them. It takes a (blog) village to raise a child, so they say.

    Thank you SO much for suggesting this book to me. I don't know how often I can say something truly changed my life, but this certainly did. I have followed up by reading some books on mindfulness and self compassion and I am getting so much out of them--I think it is because this book "My Stroke of Insight" really set the stage. Before I may have just read and forgotten the mindfulness/self compassion books, but when viewed through the lens of brain change and building neural pathway building, things are clicking in a big way. It takes a lot to remember, to practice--but your brain truly delivers.

    I have been thinking a lot about how to cultivate this in my babes. It's a pretty left-brained culture out there. I want them to have strong senses and intuition, and a guiding sense of connection. I believe this has to be done a bit more purposefully than the other stuff we teach them--so looking forward to the suggestions!

    Thank you!

  3. I do believe we, as a culture, place far too much importance on academic performance, and forget how important everything else is. I completely believe tenacity, manners, a positive attitude, kindness, gratitude and intuition will get you further in life than will algebra, biology, history, etc, etc, etc.

    Because of an insightful friend, my daughter and I talk a lot about that little voice inside us. We've had lengthy discussions about when you get that tummy ache and don't really know why and something tells you 'this is a bad idea.' We always, always, always listen to that voice. Talk to someone about it. Sometimes, it's gonna be just normal jitters (testing, a new experience, etc), but sometimes, it's something more. I'm trying to teach her it's particularly important to be aware of it when it's about people. If someone makes you nervous, get away. She's still young, but I think we have to start young. We do some much socializing on being polite and not hurting people's feelings, I think it's important to lay the intuition groundwork FIRST. Sometimes that little voice might make you hurt someone's feelings...and that's ok.

    She is more fearful of men, and always has been. I have no explanation for this because she has her father and grandfathers as very active male role models in her life, but I like to remind myself there doesn't have to be a reason (I truly believe it has a lot to do with her earliest days and all the male doctors). The other day she was talking about being safe, and said the most alarming thing...she said something about how there are some bad people, and sometimes they want to hurt people. I said, yes, that's true (we have talked about that a lot), and that it's important to remember you can't tell by looking at someone if they are bad or not. That's why you only go with people you know, yadda yadda yadda. And she replies, "well, unless it's a woman, because women can't be bad." RED ALERT!!!!!! I about had a heart attack. How did we teach her THAT?!?!? After taking a deep breath, I explained that some women can be bad and try to hurt others too. I also explained that most people are good, and you don't have to be scared of all people, but since you can't tell if someone is good or bad you have to be cautious.

    Not sure how this ties into living in the present, but I know this post started that way!

  4. That is so funny. I remember having really strange ideas in my head from my childhood. Maybe to give her experiential learning you could introduce her to some really bad women. I kid, of course.

    I totes agree with you about focus on achievement. I see this in sports and current school curriculum. I am thinking about it so much more because big kid will be in kindergarten next year and I just want to make sure that we are having a nice balance here at home. Listening to the voice is a great starting place. I am so drawn to a daily spiritual practice partly for this reason. That stillness and quiet, listening and trusting something greater than yourself fills you with silence and trains you to listen. I have been neglecting a spiritual practice for almost 2 decades now because I just can't comfortable with anything. Too traditional feels bad and too "new age-y" offends my western kansas sensibilities. But I think it is past due and a great opportunity to teach something not linear or achievement oriented to the ladies.

    Thanks for concrete idea and the insights!

  5. So the book that we discussed (and that, yes, you may borrow again) is "The Wise Child: A Spiritual Guide to Nurturing Your Child's Intuition" by Sonia Choquette. It is a great guide book for many of the ideas discussed above.

    As far as advice from the mom of older kids that one very special blogger has labeled as "creative and intuitive"...hmmm. I can't really say that I have DONE anything to make them this way although that would be a great thing to lay claim to. Intuition is a natural thing. I think more of what I have done is allow them the space to develop those traits with a little gentle nudge here and there. (OK, sometimes I flat out pushed, I confess.) I think children are a lot more skilled in those areas than most adults and I tried to not mess that up. Tried to stay away from telling them how things were, what they should think, how things should happen, how they should feel and allowed them space to figure that out for themselves. It was not that we were all free-form and wishy washy more that we steered away from black and white thinking.

    Another great book that we utilized a lot was "Philosophy for Kids: 40 Fun Questions That Help You Wonder...About Everything!" by David A. White, Ph.D. Some of the questions, which are followed by brief expansion, more question, quotes and opportunities to apply or role play, are: "Can you lie to yourself?" " How do you know who your friends are?" and "Are you a fair and just person?" This was a great tool for starting conversations that were SO much more organic and authentic than you would think could happen considering that is the purpose of the book. (Did that make sense?)

    Also, just occurred to me, another book recommendation: "Raising peaceful children in a Violent World." By Nancy Lee Cecil. Discusses foster peaceful relationships, in the home, at school/work and also as a society at a global level. In order to foster intuition and an authentic sense of self, you must have an environment where respect rules. If you don't feel free to talk about your ideas for fear of being mocked, if you can't create something without the fear of getting it wrong, those traits we are focusing on today are choked back. If there is a certain time and place and way that you do everything, with no variation, then why would it occur to anyone to come up with a new idea?

    Now I know it sounds like I am saying throw all structure to the wind, but every parent can provide these opportunities no matter where they fall on the order spectrum. (is there such a thing or did I just make that up?)

    Now here is the good news...we as parents have the luck or the grace or the blessing to be a part of our children's growth and development. Now if we are thinking about creativity and intuition, we can play many different roles: teacher, role model, facilitator, paint cleaner upper, musical instrument designer, audience member, driver to countless lessons, museums, concerts, etc, listener,or holder of rocks and leaves. Guess what we get out of it? The job of cherishing the moment. Living for right now. Endless opportunities to put aside our busy thoughts and worries and listen to the impromptu concert, have a picnic in the living room, listen to their thoughts and cares, or to sit and watch the clouds. And if we model that ability to live in the moment, the kiddos might learn to do the same.

  6. Kay,
    I am so in love with this comment; let me count the ways: referring to me as a "special blogger" (blush), that you invented an order spectrum, that you gave lots of book titles (you know how I love specific direction being a bit higher on the order spectrum), and finally that you concluded by so poetically stating our humble role. And that when we are willing (especially more difficult in techno-crazed world) to play that role and look up and pause for the impromptu concert, picnic etc. we are also facilitating that development. Probably not possible if we are too crazed, too busy, or convinced that crayons only work at the table. Then it is just a matter of time before they are too crazed, too busy, convinced crayons only work at the table. Cats in the Cradle, yo. It all comes full circle to being in the moment; mindful living. So beautiful, thank you SO much.

    And an FYI to my readers, Kay's kids are SO cool, intuitive, and truly different that upon meeting them I asked Kay and her husband to be my friend and give me parenting advice so that my children (who were then just a hope) could maybe turn out half as great. It worked. They are my friends and my kids are great. So you probably want to read all of these books and do the stuff she says.

  7. Um, you leave out the part where, through your phenomenal work at a nice little local elementary school, you saved my youngest boy from caving in upon himself and made a huge impact on the older one. Mutual admiration society meeting is now called to order.

  8. Something tells me your boys would have been just fine without me, but I am eternally gratefully for the chance to connect with your whole family. Yes, this is a gushing mutual admiration society meeting indeed--feel the love!

  9. Okay I really don't mean to keep talking about Will's deployment in all of my comments on here, but it is a big part of my life. I have a dear friend that has been deployed 3 times in 5 years. During his last deployment, he missed a year of his daughter's life. He is now safely home and they have since welcomed a new son! At any rate, his wife (one of my besties) gave me some great advice. I mentioned that I hated that his deployment had started, but a part of me was SO relieved that we could just start counting down. She said she knew what I meant, that the anticipation of the deployment is awful. Then she said something that really stuck with me. She said she felt she had spent too much time of his last deployment counting down & wishing the time would just speed up instead of enjoying the moment. I'm glad she said that, because it makes me put forth an effort to enjoy & cherish each day. To be thankful and joyful in all seasons. I have 2 precious boys and this is their babyhood---babyhood is but a flash in the pan. I want to focus on them and each exciting new thing they are doing and not just wishing that the time would fly since Daddy is gone. And I don't want to teach my older son (who totally "gets" that Daddy is gone for a long time) that life can't be good during this season. I want to put on a happy face for him and continue making great memories together. My friend's advice is the most useful I've been given in a very long time.

  10. It is good advice for anyone at anytime--it just makes so much sense and it is so easy to get in the "get through this" type of mindset and miss the magic. Thanks so much for sharing it, if you can accomplish that while your husband is gone the rest of us can surely manage to quit wishing away things like not sleeping through night or what have you.

    I was hoping that you could speak to the process of right brain, intuition, etc through music. It seems like the kind of thing that when teaching kids could be overly structured and kill the soul or when done well (like how you do it) unleash creativity. But you can totes keep talking about W's deployment too! This blog is here for you.

  11. As I told Sister 1 already, I have requested My Stroke of Insight via interlibrary loan and can't wait to dig in!

    I would share one amazing book that has changed the way I approach art, and the way I interact with my kids when it comes to their own artwork.
    It's called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. (Or there's a new edition: "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.")

  12. Hey Wendy, thanks so much for leaving the author and title. I so love a detailed compilation with each post!


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