Parenting in the best of times can be hard – parenting during a pandemic is intense!
“Putting your oxygen mask on first” is not a cliche, it’s a necessity to create a healthier you which directly results in a healthier child and family.
Join Krista Kotz, PhD, MPH and Roxanna Smith, MA for a free, one-hour webinar where we will share findings from brain science about how you can strengthen the mindful circuits in your brain to allow you to be more of the parent you want to be.
We will also discuss simple concrete ways to reduce your stress levels and create a healthier, more relaxed environment at home.
More than just a meditation class, you’ll get tools to apply “in the moment” when stress levels are high and resources are low.
After this webinar, we will be offering a 4-week online series that willdelve more deeply into the unique environmental challenges you face collectively as parents in Lamorinda, as well as your own individual childhood experiences that shape who you are as an adult and impact your parenting.
We’ll spend time helping you learn to identify and mitigate your triggers. Every class will feature techniques to apply at home, and opportunities to share with the group.
Both Krista and Roxanna live and work in this community. Krista raised and educated herchildren in Orinda. Roxanna raised and educated her children in Boulder, CO, a community with similar opportunities and challenges.
“The best work is done with either the heart broken or overflowing.” Mignon McGlaughlin
A favorite quote of mine. Sometimes the heart can be both broken and overflowing.
This past weekend was beautiful in California. All the winter rain has brought spring flowers, blossoming trees and the most life-affirming color of green everywhere! In the grasses, the leaves, the hillsides.
This past weekend was also my daughter’s 20th birthday. On April 20th. Which also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. I remember calling my father in Denver to tell him he had a granddaughter (his first grandchild) and he said “Thank God something good happened today.” He then told me the tragic news that had happened in Colorado. In the United States. Right on this phone call, our hearts breaking and overflowing.
15 years later, living in Boulder, the baby now a teenager. She was cutting her body. Depressed. Questioning life. 5 years ago today, I woke my daughter up at 5:30am and told her that we were getting on a plane. We flew to Durango and 2 wholesome looking strangers walked up to us and took my daughter away. (Staff from the Wilderness program her father and I had chosen.) I never exited the airport, just got on the next flight back to Denver.
Yesterday I got a text from a friend: “Call me when you can.” My first thoughts were ‘who died?’ and ‘who has cancer?’. The news: A friend’s son had taken his life. A howling black hole of wordlessness. Tears.
All I could do is cry and play this Mantra. Chattr Chakkr Vartee by Aykanna. It is a mantra used to remove fear, anxiety and phobias. It is a mantra to lift one out of despair. “Chattr Chakkr Vartee is the mantra for the heart center, it gives direct energy to it. When you are sinking, if you know this mantra and can sing it, you can totally recuperate yourself.” — Yogi Bhajan
Meditation class last night – I’m leading a group for some of the parents of the preschool I work at. Sweet, young parents of sweet, young children. It’s all about being in the now, practicing presence. I wondered how much to share at check-in. I decided to tell the group what I was sitting with – talking about heart ache. About child loss and parent grief. Appreciating the ‘ALL’ of life. Celebrating that both of my kids have bumped along in adolescence and for right now, just for today, they are both in such sweet places in their lives. Heart overflowing with love for both of them. It was a beautiful group, with tears, kindness and connection. Heart overflowing with love for these sweet, earnest parents, and their worries and their struggles.
I taught them a Buddhist meditation, that my dear friend Sue taught me many years ago. It’s my ‘go-to’ when there are no words. When I don’t know what to do, or say.
“Tonglen is one of the richest and bravest practices that we can do.This is one of the great meditation jewels that offers a way us to cultivate our natural mercy.”–Joan Halifax
The practice of Tonglen, or Giving and Receiving, is done to develop our compassion and our ability to be present for our own suffering and the suffering of others. Pema Chodron teaches that Tonglen is a practice of “sending and taking,” an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion. With each in-breath, we take in others’ pain. With each exhale, we send them relief. I like to think of myself as a being of light, composting the darkness. Breathing in the sorrow, transforming it and exhaling out love.
Get still, close your eyes, feel free to place your hands on your heart.Inhale through the nose and breathe in any painful emotion that may be coming up for you (shame, anger, rage, fear, anxiety, frustration, judgement).Stay neutral to the emotions, just breathe them in and allow them to be.On the exhale through the nose, release these emotions and cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself.Allow the emotions to release through you and surround yourself with an energy of unconditional love.
Note: My daughter gave me permission to write and post this.
This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van. His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.
By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life. Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school. I had no idea what to do or how to help him. Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me. What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.
As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment. What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road? What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler? As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up. Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.
Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan. Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life. He became motivated and finished 9th grade. He joined a gym and is working out daily. He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living. We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October. He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip. We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.
We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:
Vancouver to Baja from September through December.
Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.
Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening. People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31! Finances are an issue. I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.
I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes. And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do. I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.
Donations will go toward:
Online Educational Consultant
Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
NOTE: 5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens. This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.
There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway. As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him. Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017! #roadschool2017
Vishuddha – Throat Chakra – Sound, Creative identity, (self-expression)
This is the chakra located at the throat and is related to communication and creativity. When open, you are free to speak your mind, express yourself fluently, and feel as if you have a right to your voice. I’ve been hesitant to write about the 5th chakra because I’ve been in a funky place of self-doubt, insecurity, and writer’s block. The antithesis of a flowing 5th chakra. But then I realized, I was waiting until I had something “good” to write, instead of just sharing what is living in my heart and speaking my mind. That I can do.
This is the time of year I always, always begin my descent down into the underworld, to shed my layers and hang on Inanna’s meat hook. I feel like my insides are exposed and I get protective, isolated. Something about the holidays and my birthday approaching. And an internal wisdom to hibernate and go within that bumps up against our society’s demand that we Celebrate! with a capital ‘C’.
Yesterday was the Day of the Dead. The veils are thin at this time of year. I feel it. The clocks have turned back this morning, and while I write this, the sky is putting on a show for me; rose pink, lavender gray and pale orange behind inky trees.
Where does the time go? I spent Halloween night quietly, not a lot of trick-or-treaters on our street. I spoke to Andy, alone on Halloween just like me, in another state. We texted each other using emoji’s = Modern Love. We were walking down memory lane about past Halloweens with our kids. I was looking at old pictures of parties we used to have. I was feeling melancholy looking at the small fresh faces in all the photographs, dressed in their costumes. Pirate cheerleader, angel, ghost. “I know, those days are gone forever” texts my husband. “Thanks for cheering me up!” I text and include a gun emoji pointed at my head. (my sense of humor)
I had one tiny little girl who stared at me with wide eyes and, when prompted by her parents, whispered a hushed “twick or tweat”. My heart ached with the purity of that age – her family’s future spreading out before them in an amalgam of hopes and dreams. I’ve aged. I’ve become cynical. My heart is broken. This is the first Halloween ever that I haven’t spoken to my daughter. I can’t. She’s not here. She’s in a therapeutic boarding school. This is our life right now.
Gazing upon my trick-or-treater’s face, I felt like Scrooge looking down on Tiny Tim and felt my heart crack with her innocence. I ran upstairs and got my daughter’s fancy tea set all packed away in a wicker basket (I remember when I bought it at a fancy toy store in town that has since closed) and handed it to the girl’s mom. “Enjoy it, use it” I said. One more childhood token removed from the house.
It feels cliche for me to write about the “cycle of life” but it always comes up for me at this time of year: birth, death, dreams, heart-ache, babies, teenagers, the truly egregious wounds that family can and does inflict, Spring, Fall, candycorn, rotting pumpkins, plump cheek, wrinkles, baby, crone, dropouts, honor roll, fresh air, meds, the redemptive power of LOVE in family = it all swirls inside my brain and my heart and collects in an aching lump, in my throat. Glad I got it down in words today.