Tag Archives: parents

questions, koans

sometimes asking the right questions is what turns a problem around. and often making the questions as precise as possible is a good thing. i’m going to take the liberty of using one of raul’s posts. he asked, “why can’t i sometimes help the people i love the most?”  (by the way – read it. it’s quite moving.)

maybe that was the right question. and i wonder, how else could this have been approached?  let’s take the word “sometimes”. when it’s important to indicate that something doesn’t happen all the time, it’s a great word. on the other hand, there are situations where “sometimes” obscures what’s going on. in that case, it might be a good idea to ask something like

“why can’t i help my loved ones who have cancer?”

the good thing about rewriting a question is that it helps us see it in a different light. looked at it this way, i start to wonder, is this really a question, or is it a – a sigh perhaps, a sigh phrased as a question …

what, though, if it really is a question? in that case i’d like to know what the questioner is trying to accomplish, what the exact knowledge is that he wants to gain. in this case, i imagine that raul wants to help his loved ones who have cancer. so we could end up with this question:

“how can i help my loved ones who have cancer?”

this is a question that can be answered much easier, and can lead to action.

there are other times, though, when taking this rational approach doesn’t go anywhere useful or satisfactory.

“why can’t i get over my negative feelings about my father?” is a question someone (let’s call her perl) asked the other day. turning this into “how can i get over my negative feelings about my father?” didn’t have any effect. it was a long-standing problem that just didn’t want to go away. “what will your life look like once you’ve gotten over it?” produced only a lukewarm discussion; it just didn’t resonate, the possibility seemed too far away. “do you want to get over it?” is a question i asked quietly – it didn’t seem appropriate to ask at that particular point. so we were at a stalemate.

then we let go of reason. all we wanted was find a question …

“why can’t i get over my father?”
“why can’t i get my father?”
“why can’t i get it?”
“why can’t i let go?”
“what’s it like to let go?”
“what’s ‘let go’?”
“what’s let, what’s go?”

when we arrived at the last question, perl started laughing. it was a loud, free, happy laugh.

“it’s a koan!” she said, “i found my koan!”

the question doesn’t make much sense. but then not being able to let go of her negative feelings about her father after all these years of therapy didn’t make much sense either.

a koan goes deeper. it pierces through the shield of rationality – an important shield, one we are in great need of, but it’s not the level at which most of our life takes place. “why can’t i get over my negative feelings about my father?” it’s a mystery. so we went to a place of mystery.

what will perl do with this koan?

i don’t know.

where does a koan go?

bon voyage to me

hey everyone – if you’ve been wondering why i haven’t done lots of updates lately, it’s because i was getting ready for what is the most significant voyage for me since 33 years ago, when i took my 4-year-old son and emigrated from germany to paraguay.  my mother is moving into a seniors’ home and i’m going to germany to help her.  such a big change.  she is getting older and ready to let go of a lot of things.  she will move from a huge apartment in which she has lived for 52 years into a tiny little apartment, fortunately just minutes away from it.  hopefully we’ll find a good home for my father’s gazilion pieces of artwork which he left behind.  going to germany is always very strange for me – so well known yet so far away, and not just geographically.  usually when i come back from germany i’m utterly exhausted emotionally.  my hope for this voyage is that i will go there with a servant’s heart and deal with all the physical and emotional work there happily and lightly, that i will have lots of deep and loving connections with my mother and dear friends and family, and that i will not have any panic attacks on the plane.  fortunately, capt. tom is helping me with the latter.  so – i’ll be away for four weeks.  don’t know how much opportunity i will have to blog.  let’s see, shall we?  i’m sailing into a lot of unknowns …

success in 2009 – 3rd and final post

what was your biggest non-monetary success this year? i asked this question on twitter, LinkedIn and facebook. this is post #3 – the first instalment is here, and the second here. (the ones with the @ denote twitter names).

@dorylanenter: new friendships i made

joanna poppink:
transforming my front garden into a gorgeous, free chi flowing rock garden. i kept all the plants that were doing well. i covered bare spots with rivers of flowing mexican black smooth pebbles. the steep areas are now embedded with large black mexican stones. the plants grow better because the rocks hold the slope and retain moisture. the stone change color in different light and moisture conditions.

i use half the water i used before. my neighbors pause to look. children stop to look and ask questions. i get reports now of how people linger on a regular basis and feel better, even nourished and inspired by the garden.

it cost very little because i did it myself. unlike most gardens, it requires little tending. i loved doing it. and now, like most gardens, it keeps giving.

katana: i quit smoking.

airdrie miller: owning my first dog, lucy, is my biggest success of 2009. lucy is a four month old shihtzu poodle. she is my new best friend. i love her.

@patientanon becoming even closer 2 someone where the relationship had 2 already withstand unbelievable trials 2 stay together over years

sanjib: my biggest non-monetary success in 2009 was getting into plan B trying to anchor myself in canada as a new immigrant. i used to be a journalist back in my home country of india as well as in taiwan. but now I am working in both the fast-food as well as retail sectors to learn and equip myself with those extra skills necessary to be successful here in canada.

@crpitt i think just keeping it together when the mum had her leg amputated was a success, using the power of humour and doodling

corinna carlson: the renewed relationship with my parents… was time there when i thought that was it, we wouldn’t be speaking again, they almost got a divorce this year, we ‘rescued’ my mom from bali while i dealt with three embassies and foreign affairs to get her out of bali, and somehow we’ve worked it all out and are a real family again..

@blissfulgirl i beat cervical cancer. it doesn’t get much better than that 🙂

@DTSuites finally getting my composter in the garden working efficiently, taking several theta healing workshops which have pushed me more toward energy healing and awareness than before. new year’s resolutions are now all about my continuing shift in awareness, personal and lifestyle goals…back to basics

@kattlea my non monetary success – healing enough to start playing guitar (although that cost a lot of money)

hera (a recent canadian immigrant): my success – got along with the canadian working environment more and more, completed several projects including writing the reports.

karen: firstly, all my successes necessarily have to be non-monetary: i was let go of both my contract gigs, and now i’m an overworked graduate student working part-time and not pulling in rent! i’m not ready to write-off the year entirely

looking back, i think the most important success i can name is really coming to grips with how important knowing thine self enables being true to said self. acknowledging, accepting, relentlessly cataloguing, reminding, remembering… it never really dawned on me how quickly it can shift and how much i’m still thinking of myself as i was 10 years ago, until really just now. i think realizing that is a success in and of itself! everything flows from this first and foremost: what i want to do, what i’m good at, where i can provide the most value, how i go about asking to be paid for this awesome i do…and how best to communicate this to others and to ask for acceptance for who i know myself to be.

monica: i have to say speaking as one of the keynote speakers at a conference was quite a success. as usual, i was (very) concerned about doing a good job (i’m a little nutty like that), and was quite relieved that it went well. (here is the video)

craig (a piano player):   howard and i had a concert called “a nutcracker christmas” scheduled.  the day before the performance, howard came down with such a severely sore throat that he could not perform. almost all the planned repertoire was not useable without the clarinet part. with just 24 hours to go before the performance, it was not possible to find a replacement.

for a fleeting moment, my old being visited and i thought about canceling. include embarrassment, loss of income (the hall was rented) and frustration in all that.  but, i am strengthening the muscle of stepping over my fears, and i quickly (like in 5 minutes) decided the show was to go on.  the concert was just 2 seats short of being sold out. i was sticking my neck out.  45 minutes before the performance was to begin, i had all my christmas music spread out on the chapel floor and i was creating a program from scratch.  we had promised the nutcracker, so i chose three of numbers from that suite that would work as vehicles for improvising. i had not tried this before.  i chose 8 favourite carols that i could extemporize on.  i had 3 classical masterpieces i could play.  i walked into the music hall and calmly greeted all the guests as they arrived.  then i entertained them for 2 hours.  just about everyone went out of their way to say how delighted they were.

as recently as 5 years ago, i never, never improvised in public.  as recently as 3 years ago, i only improvised in situations where i was background music and know one really seemed to be listening.  i wrote down on my life rocks form when catherine wood was coaching me that i had the dream of being able to do a solo concert that was almost entirely improvised. and it happened …

@janaremy sent me something on twitter the moment i asked – and i just realized i lost her post.  i think it was this one – it’s entitled what’s your dream? and starts like this: ‘a few years ago i dreamed that someday i would start each day with paddling on the ocean. but i thought to myself how ridiculous that was given my physical limitations, the difficulty of actually getting to the beach on a daily basis, the expense of procuring a boat, etc. it seemed…impossible, implausible, impractical. undo-able.”

finally, creativity coach roger von oech sent me his personal highlights for the decade, which involves, among other things, swimming, a fascination with the greek philosopher herclitus, and putting something whacky on a communist grave in russia.

sooo … what was YOUR success?

resentments, eckhart tolle and the present

“my parents should have never let me go to that camp for a whole two weeks when i was six.”

“i should have taken better care of my hamster.”

“my boyfriend dumped me for my cousin. i’ll never forgive her for that.”

“i wish my wife wouldn’t have talked me into buying that honda. the ford would have been much better.”

resentments.

one of the most popular articles on this blog is  letting go of resentments.  a suggestion there on is about meditation:

meditation, especially buddhist meditation, is often all about letting go. in insight meditation, for example, one experiences feelings and thoughts like clouds on the horizon of our awareness. they come, they move from here to there, they disappear. i find this particularly useful because practicing this kind of meditation helps us realize that we are not our feelings and thoughts, and that we don’t have to be ruled by them. it’s the other way round: they are part of us, they belong to us, we decide what to do with them.

meditation is about being in the present. lately, i’ve been looking quite a bit at eckhart tolle’s ideas, and how they relate to resentments. here’s one thing

… there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past…you are not fully here. you have not quite woken up yet. in the meantime, the conditioned mind is running your life….if you are one of those people who have an issue with their parents, if you still harbour resentment about something they did or did not do, then you still believe they had a choice–that they could have acted differently. it always looks as if people had a choice, but that is an illusion …

and

negative states of mind, such as anger, resentment, fear, envy, and jealousy, are products of the ego. (once again, let’s leave aside the discussion about what the ego is and how “bad” it is – a discussion, though, that seems to be overdue here)

lastly, here is one of the many things he says about being present

ask yourself what “problem” you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or fove minutes from now. what is wrong with this moment?

we can probably all agree that resentments are problems. it turns out that resentments are all about the past. look at the examples at the beginning of this entry. and it makes sense. re-sentment is feeling something all over again (and over and over and over again, as i said in the earlier post).

so if we stayed in the present, we wouldn’t have to be bothered by resentments, right?

eckhart tolle again:

when the compulsive striving away from the now ceases, the joy of being flows into everything you do. the moment your attention turns to the now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace.

understanding parents

a few semi random musings on parents …

through my parents, a lot of challenges came my way. but through them, i also learned how to build the tools to overcome those challenges. for example, creativity was highly encouraged.

parents irrevocably shape most of the way we view the world. some of that can be changed. we can add to it. we can move the furniture of our world view around. we can accept the limitations of our worldview and strategize around them. but the basic neural pathways that our parents influenced in our first years cannot be completely changed.

parents are people, first and foremost. as adults, we need to acknowledge that. it’s hard to do that, both intellectually and emotionally. it’s much easier to comprehend intellectually. our parents muddle through their lives, they understand only a fraction of what’s going on inside and outside of themselves, most of their mistakes are honest mistakes, they are sexual beings, they want to feel useful, they want to feel loved – just like everyone else. on an emotional, subconscious level, it’s difficult to grasp that they are not particularly powerful, that they can’t read our minds, that looking after us is not their primary task.

if parents don’t look after themselves emotionally, they have a hard time looking after and appreciating the emotional needs of their children, whatever their age may be. yet 99% of all parenting books are about the feeding and caring of the child. a parent who never understood, when you were a child, how to feed and care for themselves as parents, may have a hard time understanding your needs as an adult.

parents make big mistakes. miss-takes. they honestly think that grounding you was a good idea when you kept coming home after midnight. little did they know that being cooped up in your room was one of the major things that contributed to your depression. how were they supposed to know? so much of human development is a mystery; there are just so many forks in the road, all day long. yes, there could have been more communication; perhaps much more communication, and that’s maybe how they could have known. but the truth is that we live in a culture where honest, in-depth, loving, peaceful communication is not supported, and we all get swept up in that culture – some more, some less.

kids drive parents crazy. even the best parent pulls out their hair when little lance or teenage tom or college colleen whine, play blaring headbanger music and leave jam on the counter for the 1,482,487th time. because wanting to pull out your hair is a fabulous memory anchor, most parents find it hard to forget those lovely character traits and still interact with you as if you whined all day long, even when you’re 42 and have become a university professor specializing in rational communication.

forgiving your parents is a tricky thing. you need to figure out for yourself what you mean by forgiving. is it acting as if the thing (the incest, the yelling, the stony silence) never happened? is it behaving civilly, without engaging in behaviours of the past? is it stopping punishing your parents? is it creating your own little truth and reconciliation roundtable? something else completely? whatever it is, i recommend to put off forgiving them until you actually mean it. in the meantime, behave like an adult.

carnival of eating disorders #20

this month’s carnival of eating disorders is hosted by laura collins at are you eating with your anorexic?

please visit, she has done a fantastic job – she’s turned it into an actual carnival!

next month’s will be here again, on october 31 – yes, the hallowe’en issue. if you have an article about any of these topics

– anorexia (or “manorexia”)
– bulimia and exercise bulimia
– overeating or binge eating
– orthorexia
– body image
– EDNOS (‘eating disorders not otherwise specified”)

please submit it here.

(please, no articles that are just about recipes or dieting. thanks!)