February 2, 2011

The Slippery Ice of Conclusion

“Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.”
~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (simply, Rumi)

We’re inclined to think of hard times as rigid, inflexible: hard edges, icicle points and horrible coldness. Our mind creates this landscape by freezing our options and putting us face-to-face with what aches of the worst-case-scenario outcome. Frost bite. Frozen pipes. Stuck head-first in a snow bank.

In truth, every situation is fluid. Options are flowing, ebbing and waving gently. Our mind wants to lock down a label or an answer, but that is not the way. Each moment is spacious and fluid. Get silent and welcome this expansion because from this stream natural action emerges, the next step arises. We can’t force a familiar path into the flow; we’ve got to be open to it as it infuses us and gracefully sweeps onward. This energy passes through us onto the next destination, a place where it is needed most. This is nature’s patient way.

As adults we often struggle with this, allowing our minds to cram for answer after answer, clue after clue rather than being open to what is. At times, being present and vast is natural for our children, especially the younglings. At other times vastness is a struggle, particularly as children skirt the adult world. This is normal, this is all right; they’ll learn flexibility as they grow. Be a generous teacher and demonstrative parent; when your child wants to jump on the slippery ice of conclusion (or you do!) present these touchstones:

Crazy Talk: Ask them outlandish questions and encourage seemingly unreasonable outcomes (what if a balloon-helicopter landed on your school? what if an overgrown dog got on the bus?). Get them to think outside of the typical for not only the answers but also the questions.

Be Here Now: Remind them that every moment is fresh and new, every moment is special. Kids don’t always grasp impermanence (ok, it can be hard for adults too). Introduce them to the concept that being impatient for the birthday party that is happening tomorrow puts a shadow on playing at the park today.

Bored. Bored. Bored.: Remember feeling young, bored and invincible? You had hours, weeks, years to waste with plenty more ahead of you. Seems like yesterday, right? Help your child avoid using boredom as a crutch to get to the next moment of fun and fulfillment. Remind them that being bored is a reaction, it isn’t real. A couple of things to note here:

Don’t constantly entertain them in order to chase away boredom. This is dangerously cyclical behavior that will have you reaching into your backpack-of-tricks a thousand times a day, flooding distractions at your child to keep them happy.

Don’t toss out ideas (clean your room! eat a banana! read a book!) while you focus on something else. A little thoughtful enthusiasm will show your kids that you find the suggested activity meaningful and worthwhile, not just an act of busy-work to keep the child out of your hair.

Release It: Present the tried-and-true remedy: make a donation. Kids can hunker onto a toy or household item, even when its use or interest has passed. Giving the item to someone else nudges them to see that it is not really theirs, but a part of the whole. Through loving generosity, kids can feel that they too are part of the whole.

Keep an open spirit, in good times and bad, guiding your children to do the same. This is a blessing of parenthood, the gift of passing along that which brings peace, gentleness and quiet to a frozen world.

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