OWN IT – Applying the Practice of Compassionate Learning

By March 2, 2017Blog

OWN IT – Applying Compassion

I’m trying to do right, but I’ve done it wrong.

I kid you not, I just caught myself writing this text to my 16 year old; “My point is I wasn’t ONLY mad at you. I showed up with your stuff. You asked me how I was and I let you know that it does break up my day having to bring you warm stuff…” STOP! What am I doing? I am justifying, ranting, feeling righteous indignation.

I have another go. I try to apologise and repair but it gets away on me. “I apologise for being grumpy. If I choose to ferry warm clothes to you on athletics day I should be clear I want to do that and not punish you for my decision. And if I choose not to help you I will have to just live with the fallout from that too. Just noticing I get caught there between not wanting you to be mad at me and then me being mad cos I give up on myself. Working on it.”

 Hmmm. A bit better. It’s true I get caught. I do something to get out of the frying pan of her anger/hurt etc and end up in the fire of my own, then slide out a nasty sideways “Thanks for bringing in the washing.” Old habit. And it hurts because I’m a mother who cares deeply about how I am with my kids and what I set up in our relationships. I want to repair what I just broke. I commit to processing and learning about this so I can shift this old habit and get some new and better options.

I’m looking at that small word “own” in the title of my book Spilt Milk Yoga – a Guided Self-Inquiry to Finding Your Own Wisdom, Joy, and Purpose Through Motherhood. That word matters.

Motherhood is a site of much expectation and pressure, other people will be experts on my life; what I should, could and would do and be as a mother. Unless I am steady in my sense of purpose it’s easy to feel undermined, or act according to others wishes, or how I think I should. I feel this pressure in myself, when I am doubtful and uncertain about the right thing to do, the right way to be. What I should, could, would.

I have to OWN my behaviour in order to work with it. The most fruitful practices are ones that lead me to finding my OWN wisdom, joy and purpose, not someone else’s, my OWN. In the face of guilt and despair I am seeking to know my own mind and heart, even if it is to be clear that I am uncertain and that’s okay for now while I figure my way through, it’ll make a huge difference to how I act and feel as a mother and best-human-I-can-be today.

Friedrich Nietzsche said a lot of stuff, but one thing that has resonated all the way down into my teenagers’ lyric library is “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”. I’m grappling with the paradox that doubts and uncertainties, as unpleasant as they are, are useful sources of learning and insight. Staying curious, and softening rather than resisting is a core premise of yoga, and Spilt Milk Yoga is all about embracing motherhood as path.

Today I will turn toward this spilt milk moment that triggered my reactive resentment and habitual behaviours. Motherhood is an abundant provider of those. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Judgement about my pathetic self, pressure outside and in. Today it’s this moment, a petty display of hideous behaviour, from me. Teen counters it, embarrassingly with more personal responsibility than me. And I KNOW me owning my stuff will make a big difference to both of us. But I need practices to guide me or I’ll lose my way.

Spilt Milk Yoga Chapter 8. Making Mistakes; I’m Trying To Do Right, But I’ve Done It Wrong. The Spilt Milk Yoga Practice is COMPASSIONATE LEARNING

Recall a recent mothering moment when you didn’t know what to do, made a mistake, or got something “wrong”. What happened and how did you respond?

Well there’s my moment, staring me in the face. I punished my child for my decision to help her. I wanted to help her AND I felt resentful at giving up my time. I was conflicted. When I’m conflicted I get unsteady in my purpose. So I was angry when I dropped her stuff off. Then I felt bad because I chose to help, but I had such a terrible attitude it undermined my goodwill. I wanted my sacrifice to be appreciated and noticed. I was “teaching her a lesson” I’m not even sure I agree with. I felt angry that I was conflicted. I was thinking “Other mothers don’t ferry clothes to their teens, I’m a pushover. Or if they do they do it lovingly.” With that frame I couldn’t win either way.

What are you learning from this mothering situation?

That when I am conflicted it’s because I think I only have 2 choices and I set myself up to lose.

1) say no (so she feels the burn, it’s my job to teach my teenager to take responsibility for herself and that’s how to do it)

2) say yes (and be a pushover)

But my truth is also that I don’t want her to be cold all day at athletics. And I appreciate that she was very responsible getting ready for today and she took a warm thing. So I’m weighing it all up. But I don’t align myself, I just have all the conflicting voices going.

What are you wanting to move from? What are you wanting to move toward?

From: Getting tangled up when I feel conflicted

To: Clarity of actions. Create my OWN choice, clarify my intent, own it and get behind myself.

If you practice having compassion for yourself what changes?

I admit the complexity and I start to see more options for myself. I appreciate that when I mess up I engage in repairing my relationship with my kids. I have more compassion for others too.

What might you do differently next time?

Notice when I am conflicted and go gently to create my own right option. Get clear on my choice before I take action.

3) Make it mutually beneficial and say to her “I will come and do this for you because it pains me to think you’ll be cold all day, but I’d like you to do something for me in return.”

4) Err on the side of generosity and say “I will do this for you because I really appreciate how responsible you’ve been, that last night you studied, exercised, did baking for the school ball fundraiser, did your jobs, sorted your house colours outfit… and I get that it just wasn’t such a good outfit for such a cold day. Here’s your stuff, I love you, have a great day.”

Her text reply just came back; “Love you xx”