This Hakomi session landed in my body something that, up until then, had only been a concept in my mind: how important it is to honour our resistance. This is not valued in a society where the goal is to constantly achieve in the shortest time possible. Or where there are so many rules one “has to” follow. The sense of duty arising from externally imposed rules tells us to do things regardless of how we feel about them. Like a steam roller, we squash our resistance, and that attitude makes it hard for us to sense both the resistance and whatever it is protecting (for more on rules and duty, see my newsletter “Reflections #12. Sense of duty”).
The main repercussion of this insight on my parenting is a new awareness of the Balance of Attention. It is a common occurrence, when we learn from Aware Parenting how important it is for our children to Empty their Bucket, to go to considerable extents to get them to have a cry.
We want them to feel the peace, joy, contentment and connection that come after a good release. We want to help them be happier. Yet, we know that crying is only healing and useful when we have achieved the Balance of Attention, when they feel safe enough. And for that, we need to honour their resistance.
Resistance is there as a protector of something inside that, for one reason or another, is precious to them. If we don’t honour that protection, they will feel threatened and it will fight even harder to protect themselves. What we resist, persists. The tears arising from such a struggle are not relieving our children from their stress and pain, but adding to it.
It is extremely difficult to find that Balance of Attention when we were overpowered as kids. Pushed, minimized, made quiet, rushed, forced, punished, censored, told off, ridiculed, lectured, admonished and required to fit our multi-shaped selves into identical square holes, most of us have insufficient personal experiences to refer to.
Yet here we are, trying to really see our children, trying to sense into their truth and to reflect it back to them instead of imposing ours, trying to respect their timing in spite of our daily timetables, trying to be deeply respectful, understanding and compassionate. It’s a big task. It feels to me like an incredibly delicate and subtle inquiry, where all our presence is required to sense that elusive perfect balance.
Before my Hakomi session, I used to puzzle at the fact that, even though I was A LOT gentler and more considerate than my parents had been with me as a child, my children still didn’t release much through tears. Now I see how even more gentleness, sensitivity, respect, compassion and acceptance were required to get to the Sweet Spot. Even more letting go of expectations and more trusting of the inner rhythm over the outer restrictions imposed by the clock or my beliefs of “I know what’s best for you”.
I love about Aware and Inspired Parenting that we can tackle such a challenge from two ends: we can practice with ourselves and with our kids (which is the only way, really, because what we don’t know for ourselves, we won’t be able to apply to our relationship with our children). That gives us plenty of daily opportunities to get better at finding that Balance of Attention. I see it as an exercise at refining my inner sensor, intuiting that perfect balance.
To help me with that, I have been using resistance as an ally. She is the one that raises the red flag saying “Pay attention, please!” In the past I would not hear the call, and now I sometimes do and still don’t listen. But I am getting better at noticing it, stopping and creating the space to hear what she’s got to say. Here are some examples.
A personal one: in the past I would have gone into my meditation space and “force” myself to do some tai-chi or energy work to center, sit in silence for a while and regulate my emotions so I could be present with my children. But it wasn’t very effective and very quickly something during the day would knock me out of my center.
Now I notice the inner resistance to do my energy work and I know inner girl has something to say. I know by now that most times she wants to hide under the blanket. So I lie down, cuddle her and ask ‘What is it?’ I no longer try to be centered; now I listen, I give space for the emotion to be heard and healed. After that, peace naturally follows, centeredness the only possible result. I don’t need to work or push myself to get there, and the state resulting is a lot more solid and lasting.
With my children it’s a similar process. With my daughter it comes up when she is upset. I sense her coming close to a Sweet Spot, I set a Loving Limit to help her come closer to the release, and she slips out of it like a fish. All of a sudden she becomes playful, and I realise she is not feeling safe enough to go closer to the pain. That means we’ll have to do The Aware Parenting Dance, that I will have to be more patient and ever so inquisitive to be able to find how can I best help her.
I remind myself that this is not my journey, but hers. I remember that it is easy to prescribe to someone else: ‘just look at your shadow now; aren’t I here to help? What else can you possibly need?’; but it is a lot harder to come close to my own pain and ‘stand in the middle of the fire and not shrink back’, like Oriah Mountain Dreamer puts it in her poem “The invitation”. I am asking her to stand in the middle of her pain; it will easier if, at least, she does it in her own timing. Over the years I have come to trust that timing and focus mainly on connection. And I see more and more the results, her easing into my arms, her tears flowing more often than her aggression… So beautiful.
With my son my “resistance awareness” comes up often when I make requests of him. He either does not hear, or responds with an absent ‘I don’t know’, a ‘Maybe’ or a ‘Wait’. In the past, those reactions and every possible variation on them would exasperate me. I knew he did not want to hear my request and I felt like my voice was like water over a duck’s back; I felt powerless to make him listen.
Now I see his resistance and I remember he is a very sensitive boy. The simplest of requests can be overwhelming for him when it has even the slightest emotional charge, because he is so incredibly sensitive. And 90% of the time, the requests he receives are charged, even if just with a judgmental thought like: ‘he should listen to me’.
So I remember that I love him, that I believe more sensitive men are needed in the world, that I want to nurture that instead of squashing it. That remembering helps me soften. I get close to him, I touch him, sometimes I apologise if the remembering came seconds too late and I got grumpy first (still work in progress!). He feels my love and acceptance, he does not need to resist any more, so he softens, too. I voice what I believe his need is, and he feels seen. Then I voice my need, and he can hear. We are back working as a team, and together we find a way to meet everyone’s needs.