Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!
I’ve been getting deep into my writing project lately…I’m writing about integrating yoga and family. This is, of course, a journey in holding up the microscope to the way that I live and challenging my ideas and values on a daily basis. It's hard work!
One thing that I’m really enjoying about this process is how so many of the observations and theories I make for and about my children ring true for adults as well, it's just that as we age we tend to mask our needs and emotions and they often appear in more subtle form. Adults often prefer to rationalise rather than feel. I try to think of kids as fully formed personalities, rather than smaller or inferior people, and I believe they have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them.
A beautiful example of how we as adults mirror the more obvious needs of children can be seen when we help our children through an emotional storm. Children have intense and immediate outbursts and tend to move through to the bottom of their feelings more quickly than us - to me this seems much more healthy than stuffing our feelings down and being polite, and (especially for those on the spiritual path of nonviolence, surrender & detachment) often choosing the peace keeping option at all costs.
This idea of guiding my kids through their feelings to acceptance is adapted from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of loss in her 1969 classic book ‘On Death and Dying’.
The stages have been abbreviated as DABDA and stand for:
D - Denial
A - Anger
B - Bargaining
D - Depression (I like to say Disappointment here)
A - Acceptance
The five stages of the Kübler-Ross model are the best-known description of the emotional and psychological responses that many people experience when faced with a life-threatening illness or life-changing situation or event, such as a divorce or loss of a job.
I believe the same basic structure applies to all emotional processes, not just the huge things we can't ignore. - It works perfectly for the small but intense grief or loss a child feels when they don’t get what they want or something hasn’t worked out the way they had planned...when someone has disappointed them. Our job as adults is to help kids move through ALL of their feelings to disappointment, and, eventually to acceptance. The theory is that only once we have truly felt the full spectrum of our emotions we can truly move on. When we start to engage kids in the rational - explaining to them the reasons they aren’t able to have what they want, or arguing on any level, we are helping to keep them in the DAB part. If we can help them through the Denial, Anger & Bargaining (not always in that order) by fully acknowledging their feelings, and all the way through to Disappointment, then they will come to their own Acceptance much quicker than if we engage in the rational or argumentative, calmly or otherwise.
Recently I was really challenged by the behaviour of someone, an adult, who I thought I knew quite well. My initial reaction to have compassion for them and move on in that lovely, detached “spiritual” way became problematic when I realised that there were, in fact, lots of other emotions swimming around in my emotional body and needing to be expressed. I was trying hard to block out thoughts about this person, and I had to stop & ask - how would I help my children if they were feeling like this? Having compassion was not difficult, but if I really wanted to let go and detach, what would I have to face in myself first?
I’ve learned through having a family that Spiritual aspirations have to evolve in order to integrate with life’s challenges. Sometime we have to put aside the ‘peace-seeking’, kind & compassionate parts of our personality in favour of reclaiming our anger, sadness or jealousy. Sometimes, we need to stand up for what is right or true and it can require a fierceness or even a rage. Sometimes it’s as simple as acknowledging your own anger or frustration and simply letting it be there. Sometimes it's really confusing as we can feel the more fierce emotions right along side authentic compassion. It can be as simple as acknowledging your own anger or frustration and simply letting it be there, the important thing is to not rationalise your feelings away.
Emotions are real energy, with real power - they don't magically go away when you ignore them. We have the choice to transform those patterns of blocking and stuffing our feelings so that they don't act as an energetic forcefield against all that we truly want. Embrace your emotions and take the time to listen to, understand & love yourself - even when it's not 'convenient' .
Yoga isn't about detachment - in fact it's the opposite. It's about being completely present for every part of yourself - the light and the dark. Yoga is a tool for polishing the mirror of your heart so that when you look in you get a crystal clear reflection.
Hope to see you on the mat soon
ps. I had a lovely conversation with Ricci-Jane from Lightworker Institute about having a 'conscious family'. If you're interested have a look/listen here.