THE BLOG
09/28/2011 11:52 am ET | Updated Nov 28, 2011

What's in Your Curriculum as the Kids Head Off to School?

September brings a parade of parents each year to the consulting room. This year is no exception. Fueled with concerns about classroom size, cuts in the education budget and capsizing special programs, both afterschool and during the school day, mothers and fathers describe a higher degree of anxiety and stress than I've ever seen.

Who can blame them? Parents are running this way and that, just to keep caught up in their gerbil wheels, and they are exhausted. Some have lost jobs and have had to move to new districts that are easier on the wallet. Others contend with signing divorce papers over the summer.

Increasing numbers are dealing with the ramifications of having their kiddos diagnosed with disconcerting, stress-related diseases. Those who have jobs are concerned about inadequate time available for helping their children with homework activities and finding funds to support programs their kids need that cost more than they've got.

Recently, a mother came to make corrections in her son's behavior this autumn. As she fears, he is not progressing as he should. The problem is that he is 47, and she is 72. While we may think "back to school" is only for the young, the fact is that the need to educate ourselves never ends.

In this case, Mabel has spent decades trying to rearrange George's life, to improve his motivation and course correct his relationship with his wife (so that the daughter-in-law is more appreciative of the mother-in-law). Recently recovering from a heart attack, big mama was told by her cardiologist that she needs to de-stress, relax and calm down. Hence, her arrival at my door.

So, I asked Mabel: "What do you believe would help you relax, as your doctor has suggested?" She grinned. "Simple," she said. "If my son would do as I say, his wife would be nicer to me, and we would all be better for it." Hmmm. These are the moments that can make you doubt your career choice. When the level of understanding is so low, where do you start?

It seems that what this mother has on her curriculum of course correction for her offspring actually needs to be redirected to herself. She's not the only one around who might benefit. How easy it is to believe that school is over for those of us more advanced in years than the little ones, the teens and our young adults. What we miss is that the school of life never ends. If we are still here, we are in "the classroom." The question is, what is it that we need to learn this year in order to advance our own awareness and awakening to live our lives with greater joy, aliveness and vitality?

To answer this for yourself, consider the following:

1. Prowl around your digs, and by that I mean your spiritual home within. If you do not believe you have one, that is okay, because all you need is a sense that there's more to you than you know. As Oscar Wilde quipped: "Only the shallow think they know themselves."

2. Become still.

3. Wait in the silence .

4. Welcome what comes, a nudge, an intuition, an inspiration or permission.

5. Take an action step in the direction of your own internal guidance system.

6. Record whatever happens at least once a week.

Coaching

This process cannot begin in any significant way until you give yourself permission to relax. Unburden yourself from outer demands during this practice. Welcome a deeper state of kindness and self-compassion to arise within you. Welcome whatever ideas come, no matter how small or insignificant to the outer world of appearances. Trust kindness more, and trust doubt less, for the purpose of this exercise.

Perhaps you sense a guidance that says: "You need more time like this to take it easy." Perhaps you sense direction to express love to someone in your life, or forgiveness for someone in the mirror. Trust and follow your inner knowing in gentle little ways. Let life flow through you. By the end of the coming school year, you will have advanced in the direction of your innermost wisdom that "speaks" from the heart and soul of who you really are, underneath ego constructions.

Last week, I met a 3-year-old little girl. She was hopping up and down. I asked her, "What's got you so excited?" Hopping gleefully up and down her answer was: "Today is the very first day of my very first school." What if we could relocate such joy for ourselves?

Practice: For the willing do the following.

Turning "it" over -- the concerns, cares, anxieties and stressors at least four times a day, for 60 seconds. Discover what awaits that's useful. No matter how busy you are, surely you can take a few minutes a day to value youself. Finding your own deep level of truth as your best informant to handle the upcoming year is up to you.

Your turn.

I'm taking on this commitment for the next year as a gift to myself. What about you? What would life be like if you were willing to let the life force move through you with less resistance and greater ease? What will your life be like this time next year, September 2012, if you keep fighting your innermost wisdom? I say, let's find out. Let's make our attendance in the school of life be the best time we've ever known. Let me know. I'm listening and learning from you, my teachers.

For more, see carabarker.net. For updates, contact me at dr.carabarker@gmail.com. To save time, click on Become a Fan. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with The Love Project, including "Practicing Love." Follow Dr. Cara Barker on www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker.