Friday, February 20, 2009

Mindful parenting

There are books that we read and re-read. This book is one of those for me.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of seeing with a different pair of glasses...

On a blog, someone said: It is one of those lovely books that is really more of an experience than a read, and like a beautiful hike, an experience that can seem different to you once you've grown and changed.

And my friend Carrie said: This book affects me deeply each time I read it, and each time I peel another layer of myself back in the process.

Those two affirmations are so true for me too...

I just wanted to share a couple of excerpts with you.

Mindful parenting is hard work. It means knowing ourselves inwardly, and working at the interface where our inner lives meet the lives of our children. It is particularly hard work in this era, when the culture is intruding more and more into our homes and into our children’s lives in so many new ways.

Maybe each one of us, in our own unique ways, might honor Rilke's insight that there are always infinite distances between even the closest human beings. If we truly understand and accept that, terrifying as it sometimes feels, perhaps we can choose to live in such a way that we can experience in its fullness the "wonderful living side by side" that can grow up if we use and love the distance that lets us see the other whole against the sky.

I see this as our work as parents. To do it, we need to nurture, protect, and guide our children and bring them along until they are ready to walk their own paths. We also have to be whole ourselves, each his or her own person, with a life of our own, so that when they look at us, they will be able to see our wholeness against the sky.

This is not always so easy.

On the other hand, if we can let go of our idea in such a moment of how things "should be," and embrace how they actually are with this child; in other words, if we can remember that we are the adult and that we can look inside ourselves at that very moment and find a way to act with some degree of wisdom and compassion, and in the best interest of our child-- then our emotional state and our choices of what to do will be very different, as will be the unfolding and resolution of that moment into the next. If we choose this path, she [the child] will have taught us something very important.

Exercises in Mindful Parenting, by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

1. Try to imagine the world from your child’s point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child’s point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, and what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.

4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children and consider whether they are truly in your child’s best interest. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.

5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn’t some common ground, where your true needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.

6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still and meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking, even good thinking, and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what needs to be done. If that is not clear in any moment, maybe the best thing is to not do anything until it becomes clearer. Sometimes it is good to remain silent.

7. Try embodying silent presence. This will grow out of both formal and informal mindfulness practice over time if you attend to how you carry yourself and what you project in body, mind, and speech. Listen carefully.

8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. In Zen and the Art of Archery, Herrigel describes how he was taught to stand at the point of highest tension effortlessly without shooting the arrow. At the right moment, the arrow mysteriously shoots itself. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. Simply bring your full awareness and presence to this moment. Practice seeing that whatever comes up is “workable” if you are willing to trust your intuition. Your child needs you to be a center of balance and trustworthiness, a reliable landmark by which he or she can take a bearing within his or her own landscape. Arrow and target need each other. They will find each other best through wise attention and patience.

9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing. An apology demonstrates that you have thought about a situation and have come to see it more clearly, or perhaps more from your child’s point of view. But be mindful of being “sorry” too often. It loses its meaning if you are always saying it, making regret into a habit. Then it can become a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Cooking in remorse on occasion is a good meditation. Don’t shut off the stove until the meal is ready.

10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.

11. There are important times when we need to be clear and strong and unequivocal with children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness, generosity, and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid, domineering, and controlling.

12. The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness. This ongoing work can be furthered by making a time for quiet contemplation in whatever ways feel comfortable to us. We only have right now. Let us use it to its best advantage, for our children’s sake, and for our own.


  • Part One - The Danger & the Promise: The challenge of Parenting; What is Mindful Parenting; How Can I do This
  • Part Two - Sir Gawain and the Loathely Lady: The Story holds the key
  • Part Three - The Foundations of Mindful Parenting: Sovereignty; Empathy; Acceptance
  • Part Four - Mindfulness: A Way of Seeing;Parenting is The Full Catastrophe; Live-In Zen Masters; An Eighteen-Year Retreat; The Importance of Practice; Breathing; Practice as Cultivation;Free Within Our Thinking; Discernment Versus Judging; Formal Practice; Letters to a Young Girl Interested in Zen; The Stillness between Two Waves
  • Part Five - A Way of Being: Pregnancy; Birth; Well-Being; Nourishment; Soul Food; The Family Bed
  • Part Six - Resonances, Attunement and Presence: Resounces; Attunement; Touching; Toddlers; Time; Presence; Jack and the Beanstalk;Bedtime; Gathas and Blessings
  • Part Seven - Choices: Healing Moments; Who's the Parent; Who's the Child; Family Values; Good Consumers or Healthy Children; Body Madness and Yearning for Intimacy; Media Madness; Balance
  • Part Eight - Realities: Boys; Pond Hockey;Wilderness Camping; Softball Breaks Through the Gloom; Girls; Tatterhood -- "I will go as I am";Advocacy, assertiveness, accountability; Mindfulness in the Classtoom-- Getting to Know Yourself in School
  • Part Nine - Limits and Openings: Expectations;Surrender; Limits and Openings; Minding Our Own Business; It's Always Your Move; Branch Points
  • Part Ten - Darkness and Light: Impermance;The River of Buried Grief; Hanging by a Thread;Losing It; No Guarantees; Lost; It's Never Too Late
  • Epilogue: Seven Intentions and Twelve Exercises for Mindful Parenting; Intentionality -- Parenting as a Spiritual Discipline, Twelve Exercises for Mindful Parenting


Anonymous said...

Bonjour Catherine,
Cet auteur me semble très inspirant, je n'en avais jamais entendu parler. Est-ce que tu connais le titre du livre en français?
Je lis chaque jour avec plaisir quelques pages de ton superbe blog, merci pour toute l'information qu'il contient!

Catherine said...

Salut Isabelle, malheureusement, je ne crois pas qu'il ait été traduit...