I felt the need to write about something very profound that recently happened after an amazing retreat that my husband and I went to in Australia. Oh there were so many insights that had pulled away the blinds from my eyes but there was one particular experience that moved me to share.
So it was to be me and my husband's first time being away from our 4 1/2-year-old son for 10 whole days! As the days were nearing for us to leave, my husband and I were a bit nervous I have to admit. This was definitely going to be a great lesson for all of us involved that's for sure. One that would allow us to let go and just be really present wherever we were at. It was a lesson in trusting the process.
Speaking of trust, even though my husband and I were a tad nervous about leaving our son for that many days for the very first time, no matter what though, we always trusted that our son would be well taken care of. And taken care of he was. My mom, our son's nanny and several of the FLVillage friends embraced Family Love Village's Ubuntu program and helped us out by planning playdates with our son so he would feel more comfortable and safe while we were gone.
But during the retreat, there were times when we would call him to connect where the reception was out of whack or days where we couldn't connect at all. Ah yes! Trusting in the process became my motto during the retreat that's for sure! And when we were able to reach him, there were times when our son would just say a brief "Hi!" and run off to play. Those were actually my favorite moments because within that space, it was so freeing knowing that it didn't have to be a drawn out phone call full of emotions on either end. It was reassuring to know that our son was actually fine.
You see, it wasn't when we were gone that made the biggest impact, it was when we actually got home when the feelings and processing began (at least for our son). It was our first night home. It was about 2:00 a.m. PST when I finally climbed into bed, ready to finally snooze happily in my very own bed when my son began to stir. We co-sleep with our son and I think because he had been sleeping on the couch (upon his request) the whole time we were gone, when the bed moved, I feel that the slight movement had stirred him in his slumber. And when this happened, he began to roll around crying in pain.
At first I thought he was in pain because he had sprained his ankle a few days before we arrived home, while jumping on his friend's trampoline. That alone was a wonderful process in itself with just trusting and knowing that our son was ok, even with him not being able to walk and me thousands of miles away with that very big Pacific Ocean in between me being able to be there to comfort my little guy. Wow! Talk about really, really having to trust, right?!
So originally I thought he was crying because his leg was hurting but as he continued to cry with his eyes closed saying, "It hurts! It hurts!" my husband and I noticed that he wasn't touching or pointing to his leg. It was his heart that he was placing his hands upon while he was saying those words. My husband and I felt in that same moment that he was beginning to get in touch with his feelings about us being gone where he felt safe enough to allow himself to let it out.
A day or two later I experienced an epiphany while my son was having big feelings due to play time coming to an end and having to get ready for bed. But I had a feeling it was deeper than that -- even deeper than the fire station he was making out of the blocks that had just crumbled to the floor that got him so upset that he was hitting himself and scratching his face (Oh boy -- talk about big feelings)! Yes, something else was definitely brewing and hi-jacking his thoughts. So I felt it was time to connect with him and help him through his process even further (now that he wasn't half asleep like the night before).
As you may possibly know by now, I'm a conscious parenting advocate and strongly believe in connection with children while validating their feelings. I believe that time-outs only create separateness and are an old quick-fix parenting philosophy that no longer works (or actually never really did). I believe that it's not about children's behavior that need to be changed, fixed or improved -- that what a child truly needs is a "time-in" to get to the root of the issue.
There's a technique called "Staylistening" that I learned from an organization called Hand in Hand Parenting that I actually talk about in my conscious parenting eBook, Taming Your Wild Child: 7 Proven Principles to a Deeper Connection that Fosters Confidence and Compassion While Transforming Behavior, Too! (Don't worry -- it's not actually what it seems... it's not about taming our children's wild behavior. It's about the inner wild child within ourselves that can use some taming in order for us parents to respond vs. react to our children's unmet needs).
By using the tool of Staylistening, this is actually how I was able to help him go even deeper into what was making him so angry (which is really an emotion that stems from fear), whereas a couple of nights before when he awoke from his sleep crying I was unable to help him process because he was half asleep. In that particular moment, all I could do was hold him and kiss him whereas tonight I was able to help him reach within to get to the root cause since he was wide awake. By me being there with him (even in the throes of him protesting for me to "go away"), I allowed him the space to let it out with me by his side. I continued to let him know that he was safe with me and gently mentioned that I wasn't leaving to go anywhere. And in that instance, after saying those words, is when he crumbled like a leaf, started crying and reached for me.
See it wasn't really about the blocks falling down or that playtime was over. Those were just additional "problems" that were adding fuel to the fire. The real cause was him processing through the feelings of both his mommy and daddy leaving him behind for the retreat for x amount of days for the very first time. And how I was able to feel this as his Truth was how he immediately reacted to when I said, "You are safe with me, I love you and I'm not going to leave you."
So going back to that epiphany, what I realized is that the process with Staylistening is similar to the concept (or shall I say the philosophy) that my mentors from the retreat, Amir Zoghi and Ghazaleh Lowe have been sharing with me in their programs: to actually feel our feelings while simultaneously giving loving space to process the feelings in a way that can be expressed in the here and now. The fascinating thing that I didn't even realize before is that the work I am doing for myself, I have been doing all along with my son!
For those who are wondering what the heck Staylistening is, here's an excerpt from my book about what this tool can provide:
"Staylistening allows a child to offload his/her feelings while the parent/caregiver stays close to the child. This is also known as a "time in" (which is the opposite of a "time out" where the child is isolated by themselves). As we know from Chapter Three, time-outs only act as a band-aid and don't work towards getting to the root of your child's behavior.
When you take the time to be there for your child, calmly and lovingly, he will trust in you and feel safe enough to cry without feeling abandoned and left to deal with his feelings on his own; he also won't feel forced to stop crying and feeling. The end result when this tool is used is a child who feels heard, supported through the big feelings, and more able to cooperate...
This Staylisten process could take anywhere from ten minutes to thirty minutes to even an hour with your child. It just depends on how big their pain is around the hurt and if there are any past, old hurts that were never given the chance to offload. But no matter how short or long the process takes, the connection that is created during this time and the cooperation that can occur afterwards is priceless!"
After realizing the synchronicity of what I have been remembering into this vessel of mine about the philosophy of Oneness... that it's not about the "you and I" being "One" because that right there would then be a dichotomy around duality (that's another article in itself that perhaps I will write about soon) but that what I have been doing all along with conscious parenting and the work I have been doing on myself have been one in the same.
This put a smile on my face, knowing that not only am I creating space to work through my processes by joining the various programs from the organization, Be Free People with Amir Zoghi (that I have been with for over a year) but that I'm creating the space for my son to work on his processes in a safe and loving environment early on in life, as well! And of course, by allowing my son to move through his feelings and not suppress them, I'm already sharing information with him that can potentially save him many years of therapy.
And then BAM! It hit me -- like so many times Amir and Ghaz have mentioned -- that we are really in fact, reflections of one another. There was a wonderful analogy that Amir so beautifully shared at the retreat (which I have "known" and "heard" echoed before): that we are not just pieces of the broken mirror; that if we were to just stand back a bit of a distance, we would be able to see that we are the whole mirror itself.
I then began to drop deeper into what I am manifesting here by attending the Be Free People workshops and the retreat: that the processes that I am experiencing, the processes that my husband is experiencing and the processes that our son is experiencing are reflections of the ONE processing simultaneously. That it all has been supportive towards the next step I am embarking on for my organization (Family Love Village).
So as the ONE in me continues to shed the layers and re-birth myself into anew in the here and now, in every single moment -- I am also giving space for the ONE in my son to do the same; the ONE in Family Love Village to do the same. That the more present I am and allowing myself to feel whatever needs to be expressed, the more I am validating and modeling to my son to express what he feels (even if it seems challenging and painful at times), it is the process being reflected, as the reflector and the reflectee (ok perhaps there's no such word but hopefully you get what I mean).
Mmmmm... can you imagine the impact if all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, other family members, teachers and other authoritative figures were able to validate our children's feelings and staylisten with them in the here and now? Wow! The ripple effect wouldn't just move the ocean, it would BE the ocean.