Reflections #21. Honouring resistance 💌

Reflections
Reflecting on my parenting journey, may you see yourself reflected.

Honouring resistance
Issue #21, November 2016

Namaste is a powerful symbol of honouring the other.

Welcome

Do you often feel like you have to push up hill in your life, specially with your kids? During a healing session I had a powerful insight that has dramatically shifted that feeling for me. Reflecting on that shift, today I offer you are some ideas on how to stop swimming against the currant and start going with the flow.

A little window into my life

 

Something big had been stirred up in my relationship with my beloved. I had a Hakomi session to help me with what had been triggered inside. The therapist asked what the problem was. As soon as I went within, I found huge resistance to investigate my feelings. She said: ‘Connect with your resistance’. I tried; I went within, and a little story evolved as if on a screen in front of me. I saw myself as a toddler, calling for my mother. She was busy in the kitchen and there was a baby guard at the door, so I couldn’t reach her. The toddler-me cried and cried for mummy, clinging to the railings of the gate, pulling her arms through them; but mum wouldn’t come. The adult-me came into the memory and held the toddler-me, comforted her, told her she was loved. But I still felt unresolved.

I told the therapist all that. She asked: ‘Where is your resistance? Did you manage to connect with it?’ I went back within, back to the memory. I saw my resistance like another adult-me, watching the whole scene from the sideline. I turned to her and realised she was the one that kept the toddler-me crying, kept her asking mummy for what she wanted, kept her fighting for what she knew was her need and right to have: her mum’s attention. I saw that, instead of comforting the toddler, I needed to acknowledge and connect with the resistance.

I said: ‘Thank you. I see you are doing an amazing job there’. ‘Yes!’ she said. ‘Without me you would have given up, and all hope would be lost!’ I was moved by the passion in her voice. ‘I understand, now’, I replied with tears in my eyes. ‘You know what feels right in our heart. You wanted mummy to prioritise our emotional needs over making dinner. Giving up on that, stopping the crying, would have meant betraying our inner truth’, I explained wanting to make sure I understood. ‘It would have meant death’, replied Resistance with an unshakable inner knowing. I hugged her and sobbed, waves of grief sweeping over me as I realised how important it was for Resistance to hold on to what was dear to us, how crucial was her task.

After the wave of grief had passed, I sat down with her and said: ‘Thanks for what you have done up to now. From now onwards I would like to find a different way of holding on to our truth and asking for what feels right in our heart.’ Hearing that, she wept with relief, for all those years of resisting had left her exhausted. She had bashed on to closed doors with tight fists, and felt bruised and sore from the effort. She was very happy to look for a different way. Finally I felt at peace.

The theory behind the practice

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.


Phew! that was a long one!
And it feels like it is still brewing,
so if you have anything to add to the pot
I would love to hear from you! 

Thoughts, questions, personal shares… all welcome!

Resistance is a flag,
telling us where we need to stop and listen.
In doing so,
we counter our habit of fleeing from pain,
with the trust that we can survive it.
In that trust there is a sacred honoring.
That honouring is the beginning of healing.
Maira 


Namaste: the sacred in me
acknowledges the sacred in you.

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Aware Parenting
Drop-in Support Circle
Every 1st Wednesday of the month, 10 to 11 am
(3rd Tuesday next year!)
$10 per session, first one free
Bookings required
Ring or text 0427 088 096
latest by 8 am on the day. 

The October Circle was SO beautiful! I loved the depth of connection and intimacy created, the sense of support, and meeting so many mums inspired by the idea of parenting with awareness. I felt very nourished by it and I am really looking forward to the next one.

AwP Workshops
with Marion Rose
4th of December 2016
Mullumbimby, NSW, Australia

Babies workshop: 10 am to 1 pm
Toddlers workshop: 2 to 6 pm

For bookings and enquiries, email me at maira@inspiredparenting.org

Playful Parenting workshop with Lawrence Cohen

Sunday 27th November
9.30 am to 5.30 pm
Mullumbimby

For more information go to
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Inspired Parenting Glossary

Balance of Attention:
Aletha Solter borrowed this term from co-counselling and uses it to indicate the relationship, at a particular moment in time, between a sense of safety on one hand and the feeling of a difficult emotion on the other (Solter, A. Helping young children flourish). This balance is perfect when there is enough safety for the difficult emotions to be released and healed through the vehicle of laughter, tears, shaking, sweating or yawning.

Aware Parenting:
Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing that has the potential to change the world. Developed by developmental psychologist Aletha Solter and based on current research in child development, Aware Parenting questions most traditional assumptions about raising children, and proposes a new approach that can significantly improve relationships within a family. Parents who follow this approach raise children who are cooperative, compassionate, competent, nonviolent, and drug free.

Inspired Parenting, on the other hand, is the parenting support business I have created to express my passion in the world. The ideas underpinning my Parenting Coaching are based on AwP, but I also add everything else that has resonated in the past from years of personal growth and that still comes my way constantly.

Empty the bucket:
Term of mine which describes the release of pent up emotions in a therapeutic way.

Sweet Spot:
Term created by Marion Rose to indicate the place where pent up emotions are stored up in our system.

The Aware Parenting Dance:
Marion Rose’s term to indicate the way in which a parent or carer will consciously flow between Loving Limits and following the child’s lead (with Attachment Play or other ways of staying connected) in order to best create a safe space for the child to release pent up feelings.

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