Month: February 2015

Unfixing Fixing

It is my tendency to want to fix things.  Broken things.  But also things which cannot be broken, like uncomfortable situations, heavy emotions and people.  My two year old tests me on this issue multiple times a day.  He is a sensitive soul, feeling everything to its deepest possible level.  I have the deepest admirations for his courage to feel it so deeply then move on.   I am trying to learn from him.  But in order to learn, I need to accept it as a viable way of being.

I often find myself trying to make him feel better in some way.  I used to say things like ‘you’re alright,’ which is anything but reassuring.  I have been growing my ability to distance myself from his emotional whirlwind, so that I can be present with him rather than his emotional state.  I need to be able to fully listen, empathize with his feelings, and just be there to support him through the process.  When I try to step in and minimize his reaction or impose solutions to my perception of his ‘problems,’ I am sending the message that I am not valuing him, his emotional state, or his own resources.  When I put it this way, I can make a strong connection to the contrast between conventional gardening and forest gardening – stop fighting what is already there, what wants to be there, and work with it instead.

Rob and I have come to the conclusion that our disagreements usually happen when we aren’t showing up for each other.  Most often we get bristled when we feel the other hasn’t heard what we are saying.  Compassion and empathy needs to come first.  Full listening.  Once we feel we’ve been heard, it’s much easier to have our ideas challenged from a place of security and safety in our relationship.  When I’m constantly cutting Rob off mid-thought to try and interject my own ideas or solutions, I am doing the same thing I do to my two year old.  Rob is well spoken and very willing to venture into conversations of self-awareness, offering me insight into how my behaviour impacts those around me.  I also know that when I have a problem, I don’t want advice unless I ask for it.  I just want to be met with empathy and compassion.

I have been following the work of Janet Lansbury for a while now.  She is an educator for an early childhood development strategy known as RIE (Resources in Infant Education) that was developed by Magda Gerber.  The main idea of the philosophy is to make this connection between the world of adults and children; treating small children as human beings with capacity and capability.  Limit setting happens in similar ways as it would with friends or adult family members.  The work of RIE reflects the permaculture principles so frequently that I find myself nodding when I read posts on Janet’s Blog.  I love her resources, because sometimes it is just so hard to shake myself out of the habitual role of being a teacher.  I am also finding connections abound when I think through RIE as an approach to being with people, not just infants.  We all have an inner child that needs nurturing.

When I am trying to fix a problem for my children, I am only taking away their opportunity to learn how to fix it themselves.  I have shifted problem solving to them, offering suggestions when asked for, or when there is a stalemate.  I have come to know that there is no need for me to be their teacher; people don’t learn skills by being told what to do.  Our home has shifted focus, now centring on communication.  There are still fights (hitting, snatching, and the like), but now the kids are learning through each one.  They are having to navigate the reactions of the other person involved and have to respond to that information by coming up with solutions that work for both parties.  Similarly, when I try to minimize an emotional reaction, I am failing to recognize it as a vehicle for learning. When I fail to nurture my child with presence through an emotional reaction then I’m making it about me.

In an effort to unfix the urge to fix, my new mantra has become, “I don’t need to fix this/it/him/her/me

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Nature Knows No Perfect

Reductionism.  Rob and I have been commenting a lot during discussions in our home about this phenomenon.  It is one we come up against again and again.  One which permaculture seeks to override with its tenet of ‘integrate don’t segregate.’  Our culture often tries to reduce things to their very essences in an attempt to understand them.  Examples would be in our diet (‘fats are bad for you’), healthcare (‘high cholesterol causes heart disease’), consumerism (‘it’s the cheapest price’), or any other number of other approaches to justifying our choices.   But what is lost when we have this ‘tunnel vision’ is that life cannot be reduced to its ingredients.  Just as bread is bread once baked (and even once mixed into dough)  It is only when something is in its wholeness that it can be fully understood.

Our calendar of days must be adjusted for leap year every five years because nature doesn’t operate on mathematical schedules.  Even in music, as you go up by octaves, the notes become slightly ‘off-pitch.’  Modern instruments have been adjusted to accommodate this natural phenomenon, so now when we hear a ‘natural’ scale, it sounds out of tune.  Our minds can’t seem to handle nature, uncertainty, and the possibility that we can’t get it just right.

I have veins of perfectionism that run deep…ingrained from years of engaging with the traditional education system.  I am afraid of messing up, and this fear comes up more than I would like.  I am trying to accept this emotion, by acknowledging it but not investing in it.  If I can embrace the fear, it won’t have to shout quite so loud to be heard above the clatter of my life.  I am trying to understand it as part of my wholeness and to have compassion for its presence in my life.

Nature is not perfect.  It can’t be.  If it were, it would not perpetuate itself.  It is through diversity that species survive and growth is able to happen.  A few weeks back during one of our many discussions about my fears, Rob said to me, “There is no perfect, there is only nature.’

Truth and Grace

I have been struggling lately with the idea of ‘speaking my truth.’  I have come to many conclusions about the way I am choosing to live my life that differ greatly from what conventional culture is doing.  Venturing out into the world has become increasingly difficult, as avoiding discussion of my life choices in is next to impossible.  So this leaves me in a place where I am feeling unsure.  A place where I don’t really know how to respond.  When I am questioned about something, like the food I eat, or try to gracefully decline the boxed cookies that have been offered, I am usually met with an inquisitive mind wanting to understand my reasoning.  The problem is that I am not able to give people the full back story or even a taste of all the thought and feeling that has gone into a decision.  I can only provide some reduced version of my conviction which generally doesn’t even address the heart of the issue for me.  This is because usually, the heart of the issue is just that…it is part of me.  I consider my acts of transition to be a spiritual practice; one that I live out on a daily basis.

It is hard work to live radically.  Not only is my family different, which is becoming increasingly apparent when we venture out into the world, but we are often met with defensiveness.  People often perceive our life choices as judgements on what they are doing.  This reaction is often unprovoked, and seems to bubble up when I explain a bit about why I live a certain way.  While my thought processes often involve judgement of ideas, I do not find any reward in comparing myself to others.  In fact, the act of judging myself against others is what often leads me to feelings of fear.  My life goal is to live in line with Gandhi’s ideal to ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’  My judgement of issues is solely for the purpose of living out my own truth.  I do not claim to have the answers for others, never mind the fact that I just plain do not have the capacity to think through transition issues beyond the scope of myself and my family.

So I am left feeling at a loss for how to integrate with integrity.  I often feel that it would be much easier to just not integrate, but this goes against my very belief in community.  For a long time I have just kept quiet, not wanting to make waves with others.  But more recently I have found it too difficult to carry on this way as we push further toward being outliers.  I now find myself trying to navigate my way of being in the world as a radical.  I never wanted to be a radical.  So now that I am living as one, how do I proceed?  How do I live my life in accordance with the spiritual path I’ve chosen, yet have the grace to meet the world where it is.  I want to show compassion and live with (com) passion.  But I am struggling to live out my passion without pushing those around me away in the process.  I am working up the courage to ride the waves of my truth, but for now I’m floating in the shallow water, waiting for the day I can cut the tether.

Polarities

I often feel like a pendulum.  One day feeling like I’ve got things pulsing at a nice rhythm, and the next feeling like I’m wildly swinging out of control.  It is at the extremities of my swing, at the edge of it, where I feel the most potential for growth.  Perhaps this is because these are the moments that are easiest to recognize as areas for growth.  I like swinging rhythmically most and want so badly to contain it, but recognize that when I do, I’m settling into a pattern.  One without change.

When I can label the polarities of my swinging, I have taken the first step toward change.   I often underestimate the power of awareness.  All that is needed to create movement within myself is a gentle awareness.  When I can recognize the co-existing polarities of an issue, I can then start to postulate about what it might be like in its wholeness.  We have come to polarize so many of our issues, taking out the grey areas.  In my mind, the grey areas are where we exist in reality.  The most fertile space is where the two polarities come together, and when I can hold them both and allow something new, a new wholeness to exist, there is the opportunity to birth something new from within.

Motionless

It has been unbearably cold here for the past week or so, with temperatures that ‘feel like -35″ (however that is figured out).  So we have been going outdoors for only short stints, and some days not at all, despite my pledge to do so.  I miss it, and I’m starting to feel its effects.

It is easy to fall into the human trap of feeling superior to other beings, just because I have consciousness.  The long genealogical history of human attraction to intellectualizing things has gotten us into quite a mess and much of our instinctual knowledge has been lost.  I find when I do have moments where I catch a glimpse of my instincts, I have a general distrust of it.  Perhaps because I take clear notice of my instinctual self when I enter into ‘fight or flight’ mode, so my instincts are often equated to negative reactions.  I am aiming to be someone who responds to the world, rather than react to it.  If I have preconceived notions or ideals (my mind), this is when I get into trouble, often over-reacting to situations.  By holding on to expectations, I am actually limiting myself from taking risks.  The more I can be grounded and listening with my physical self, the more I am able to push into vulnerability.  True will never comes from default settings.

The more modern, 20th century attempts to mechanize our species have made matters worse, pushing our culture toward a much more sedentary lifestyle.  Our species is intended to move; to be as active as our mammalian counterparts.  I don’t move enough.  During the winter, I don’t have the need to, and it’s starting to wear on me.  When I think about what I now know about the body mind connection, I am not surprised that I’m feeling unsettled and dissonant.  I have fallen back into some old patterns of passively spending my evening time and have also found myself feeling the urge to shop for new-to-me clothes, despite my efforts to reduce my wardrobe. This is a frequent pattern for me to revert to undesirable habits deep in the winter months.

I am happiest when I am grounded in my physical self, present in the moment, and engaged with nature in some capacity.  I often feel as though my brain does not want me to experience the world this way.  It seems to always be trying to spin some sort of tale or divert my attention in some way.  I wonder why…but there I go again!

The Elusive Nature of Time and Space

I have taken a break from my blog for a little while (only a week or so), to see if my inner transition progress would be hindered by not writing about it.  I think taking breaks is important as it often helps me to realize the true value of something I have established.  Over the past week, I have found that my thinking has not been as clear, and I have not been pushing myself as hard toward change. ‘Writing through’ my issues gives me the space to come to a deeper understanding of the feelings I’m experiencing.

In the past week when I haven’t been taking the time to write, I have found that my independent hour (we call it ‘rest time’ in our home) has been eaten up by various other things which are not yielding the same results.  At the end of the rest time, I find myself wanting for more time, feeling unsettled and emotionally unprepared for the afternoon.

The things I was able to get done last week were those which had repeatedly been ‘left for another day,’ because I’d rush to the computer to lay down my thoughts instead.  Over the course of the week, I came to realize that those things which I hadn’t made time for were the things that should not be part of my life.  For example, if I don’t really want to spend my time fixing something that has been broken, perhaps it is time that I just not own it.

I thought a lot about the issue of time.  I frequently find myself saying to myself, “I don’t have time…” when in reality this is not true.  The truth is that I haven’t made the time by setting that item as a priority.  When I have only so many hours in a day, and so few of them for myself, I have observed myself getting very defensive of my time, wanting to spend it in a certain way and feeling frustrated when I’m unable to.  I am observing that this reactive method to unmet expectations is not doing me or my family any favours!  Rather than creating expectations for what should be done, I am trying to focus instead on what I want to be done.

I yearn to live a more conscious life, a simpler life.  As I head into the edges, pushing toward this ever elusive destination, my consciousness about what it really means to simplify my life is changing.  I am growing to know that it is not the things which surround me that define how ‘simple’ my life is, but rather my reaction to them.  Living a simple life is yet another inner transition issue.  The things in my home elicit strong emotional reactions, as they represent my holding; whether it is holding on to the past, or cultural conventions.  As I press into my patterns of holding, I’m finding that these are the places where the clutter resides; physically, emotionally, and mentally.  I am working to be alright with the emotions that these holding patterns bring up, facing them, observing them, and having the patience to watch them pass.  When I am able to give each holding pattern space and listen to its message, its importance dissipates, and so does the importance of the ‘stuff’ that represents it.

As our family makes the descent into a future with less carbon footprint, I remind myself that the journey is slow.  It is meant to be.  For it to be real, it must be.  We will head down slowly, carefully, and keep ‘righting’ ourselves when we veer off course.  For me this means making the space and time to do that which makes my heart sing.  The journey requires me to be present with how I’m spending my moments, continuously evaluating my unsung motives.  It is here, in this space where I am able to tease apart my tightly wound ball of yarn…and so I have returned to writing after a very short hiatus…

30 Second Smile

The other night we were having a difficult dinner hour.  In our house, this consists of whining, shouting, tapping of spoons on plates, food waste, and pretty much any other shenanigans the children can get up to while seated for dinner!  Rob was inspired by our recent discussions related to my blog post on posing to try and help the kids out of their ‘funk’ by playing a game called ‘The 10 Second Smile.’  Little did they know that he was subversively leading them out of their discontent…

They participated in the game willingly.  Calling something a ‘game’ usually helps to increase the appeal of participation around here.  In any case, we all held our smiles while Rob counted to 10.  Then the rowdiness resumed.  After a few more loud minutes, Rob suggested we play ’30 Second Smile’ instead.  They again participated willingly, perhaps because the ‘game’ was creating a safe space for them to be silly.  After the second round, the children were more calm and generally happy.  Rob’s ‘game’ bought us about 20-25 minutes of time where the children were responsive and engaged, just enough time to get through dinner.