Importance of Self-Care for Parents and Caregivers

In a conversation at Heartmind Community, David D, a nurse consultant specializing in suicide and self harm, shares about his practice for processing the extreme situations that he engages at work:
My wife and I both often come home straight from some hospital trauma, have done throughout the more than two decades we've had kids. We've always made straight for each other like homing missiles and encouraged each other to unload, and the kids fully expect us to be standing or sitting together quietly rambling on for a while...! Then, romping around with the kids and the dog for a while and being as childlike as possible myself is great for switching my brain into different mode. Also, I tend to jump into trainers and go for a run, dive into the gross physical for a while, breathe fresh air and generate some endorphins. Its also made daily spiritual practice compulsory rather than an option I can drop.... Hey, occupational trauma can have lots of benefits, come to think of it.....
In parenting groups we talk at length about self-care and how we can't give to others what we don't give to ourselves. Often parents' highest wishes and intentions are to be present for, nourishing and supporting their children. And yet if the emotional tank is empty in relation to oneself, it is not possible to genuinely be deeply emotionally present for another. David's post gives concrete examples of ways to refresh and replenish
  • Make contact with other humans and release excess emotional content
  • Model for children the necessity of this process (self-care) and create routines where children can expect this to be the norm
  • Get active and step into experiencing life that is happening now -- with the kids, the dog, the fresh air, etc.
  • Play, be childlike
  • Recognize what is essential for sustaining such degrees of information input (i.e. spiritual practice becoming compulsory)
David also says that he appreciates this work because:
It s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s me until I end and widens the horizons of being beyond any notion of me.
mmmmm...now that's what living is all about, eh?

How do you care for yourself?
posted by ashley


Images and Thoughts from Today

Today was a beautiful day filled with experiences of sharing, supporting, being supported, learning, remembering, discovering, growing, laughing, crying and lots of loving.

These images capture some the environment that held me close today and I'll share a few nuggets of thought that emerged.

Guiding inquiries: How may beauty awaken this moment? How may beauty transform me?
Possible harvesting questions when working with groups: How will we stay connected? In what ways will we continue to learn together?
Mental meandering: Looking at paths to healing... paths that lead people to unfold expanding fields of health and wholeness. Inquiring around choices to experience healing through a path of agonized suffering and choices to experience healing through a path of courageous love.

posted by ashley


New Beginnings: Looking Ahead with Fresh Hope

Droplets On Cucumber Runner
Originally uploaded by mommamia
The pendant is a Maori design called Koru

"The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new positive beginnings...

The koru, represents the unfolding of new life, that everything is reborn and continues. It represents renewal and hope for the future."

Welcoming Rosh Hashanah, I go to a place that is sacred to me... nature. I perch upon a drifted tree that rests along the Puget Sound shore.

Listening to the waves
Studying their ways
Following reverent lines of life

And reading from my prayer book,
With the setting of this evening sun, united with people of every place and time, we proclaim a new year of hope. Divineness of the universe, let Your light and Your truth come forth to lead us. These flames we kindle are a symbol of Your eternal flame: may they open our eyes to the good we must do, moving us to work for harmony and peace, and so making the world bright with Your presence.

...May we turn from our old errors and failures, and look ahead with fresh hope and determination...and give thanks for the goodness we have experienced during this past year...May the new year bring renewed strength and peace to the world.
posted by ashley


Processing Responses to Death & Grief

A gully of confusion swirls at my feet; a tide of unstable ground momentarily shifting my equilibrium. So many kind and caring people have extended their love and warm regards towards me upon hearing of the death of my grandfather. I feel much gratitude for the genuine thoughts and sentiments shared. I am also struggling with declarations regarding death and grief that some people have thrust upon me.

When people offer me apologies, my general response has been “Thank you… And, I feel like it was a good thing. He was ready to go.” I talk about how my time in Memphis was a real celebration of my grandfather’s life and of our family. Many times people have responded with, “No matter how ready to go someone is, it’s ALWAYS hard. If you love someone and they pass away, it’s NEVER easy.”

The squishy ground around my being is doubt. I find myself doubting my experience. I notice that I want to tell about my relationship with him, defend the distance that was between us due to living far away and being two very different people, and honor the closeness that was between us due to our mutual appreciation of loving life and loving family.

In some ways, him being alive the last few years was harder for me than him passing. It has been challenging watching as his world got smaller and smaller (he’s a big guy in all regards) and he himself would say (not to me but to others), “I’ve lived too long.” I believe that he continued to live because he didn’t know anything else to do. He was an amazing survivor. He had a tremendous amount of determination and will. Living was what he knew how to do and so even as his body and mind declined and his abilities to interact with the world lessened, he kept a smile and hung onto living. I often wondered if he knew that he could die… that it was okay to also let go. Of course, he could have been fully aware and there were reasons that he needed to live a life that was less than what he desired for his last few years. Perhaps it was for others that he stayed alive. Of course I’ll never know. However, the belief that I carried that he was ready to go meant that many times over the last few years I’ve sat with the thought and feeling experiments of feeling as if his life were over. What would it be like if he died today? How would his passing effect the rest of my family, his loved ones, right now?

On August 20th my grandfather came over to my dad’s house for brunch with my dad, Cathy, Ryan, Melanie, Thomas and me. He looked beautiful in his orange shirt with white squares. And he looked tired and worn out. I constantly wanted to have my hands touching his soft skin… and did. Watching him eat breakfast was such a lesson to me. He put so much care and attention into each motion he made, trying so hard to make sure that his fork made it to his mouth. I sensed that his effort was for our benefit. He wanted us all to feel comfortable and to enjoy this occasion. He didn’t want to scare anyone or cause people extra work by needing someone to help him. So with determination and persistence, every bite made it to his mouth on a shaky hand and slow journey.

Early in the morning, while my hands were resting upon his shoulders, I began to energetically give my grandfather permission to die. Within my being I told him that it was okay to die; that he had lived a wonderful life and that if he was ready, he could go. I told him that we all love him so much and we love each other and will take care of each other and are here to support one another. If he wants to go, it is okay. We will miss him, we love him and if he is ready, we will be okay. I lived that morning as if it was the last time that I would see him. I lived that morning as a prayer in honor of his life and in reverence to his passing.

Three weeks later on September 10th my grandfather died. I’ve written a little bit about his last few weeks. I truly feel excited for him to be through this stage of being alive. My grandmother died 14 years ago. There is a part of me that is thrilled by the thought of them ‘being together again’ regardless of whether I believe in such a thing!

In this moment a new awareness arises. I have a life long habit of worrying that ‘there is something important going on and I am missing it.’ On a smaller scale, a habit that has existed since I was a much smaller girl, I wonder about what I am missing when I am in another room and missing a conversation next store. And on a larger scale, I worry that in my process of experiencing life, there are important lessons or sensations or feelings that I am not perceiving. So when people tell me that this time is hard and I’m not experiencing it as hard, I worry that I am missing something important… that there is something I should be feeling that I am not feeling… and even worse, I doubt my own experience. That's a dumb thing to do!

The last few months many people that I love have lost people that they love. Death and grief have been an integral part of my experience. One of the things that is so clear to me is that I feel a lot of pain and sympathetic animosity around the ways our culture responds to and deals with death, dying and grieving loss.
posted by ashley


Maps of Happiness

I've been hearing a lot of buzz around the recently released World Map of Happiness that begins with the happiest nations of
  1. Denmark
  2. Switzerland
  3. Austria
  4. Iceland
  5. The Bahamas
  6. Finland
  7. Sweden
I'm wondering what would a happiness map of my internal world look like? The first things that come to me
  1. Appreciating the rain
  2. Loving others (relational heart)
funny... more what comes to me are the centers that aren't happy. Top on that list was
  1. Desiring more sleep
  2. Wanting the house clean
  3. Needing to slow down
update: I forgot that earlier this morning I remembered that I have a dishwasher. Hopefully this afternoon I'll remember again and use it!
posted by ashley


Reverence for Life and Love

Moments weaving together. . .

I'm sitting shiva with my family. We're gathered together in the house of dear family, sharing stories, talking, chatting, and exploring. The custom as I know it is that we are here with one another to support each other and also to provide a place where friends and family may stop by to pay their respect.

A moment: My cell phone rings. It is the mother of my godson. She is calling to share a lovely story with me. Three weeks ago when we were in Atlanta celebrating my godson's 3rd birthday, he and I had a conversation about how lucky we are to be god-friends. Today, out of the blue, Ethan runs up to his mom and grandmother and announces, "I have a god-friend!"

Another moment nearby: The house phone rings. It is our cousin who lives in Israel. I met and had a lovely visit with her when I was in Israel two and half years ago. We haven't spoken since then. She sends her love and regards to the family. I ask how she is. She shares that she is living in post-war, things are okay, thank god everyone is safe, and it's a difficult time here... and all over the world. I don't know her well, but I hear what sounds to me like a strain in her voice. My being tries to take in how is it to be living in post-war. She says she imagines there is even craziness in Seattle... but it's so different. She sends her love to the rest of the family. I assure her that "I'm a good one to have pass on love."

As the moments weave, I wonder about being god-friends, about connecting through and sharing love, and about how this relates to and shows up within all the pain and suffering in the world.

The extra words aren't present for the sensation moving through me... the reverence for life and love glows ever strong.
posted by ashley

Love Doesn't Die

Yesterday (the service and the day) was a genuine celebration of life... life that has been, life that is and life that will be. My family and I celebrate my grandfather, the life he lived and the relationships and memories we share and will continue to share. We celebrate our fortune in having a family that cares about and connects so deeply with one another and we celebrate our futures where we may continue to experience love, growing even more so into the people we are becoming!

Here is a poem that the rabbi read at the service that touched many of us deeply:
When I Die
by Merrit Malloy

When I die
Give what's left of me away
To children
And to the older generations that wait to die.
And if you need to cry
Cry for your brother
Walking the street beside you.
And when you need me.
Put your arms
Around Anyone
And give them
What you need to give me.

I want to leave you something.
Something better
Than words
Or sounds.

Look for me
In the people I've known
Or loved.
And if you cannont give me away.
At least let me live on your eyes
And not on your mind.

You can love me most
By letting
Hands touch hands.
By letting
Bodies touch bodies.

Love doesn't die.
People do.
So, when all that's left of me
Is love,
Give me away.
posted by ashley


Natt Cooper, 87, Husband, Father, Friend

I am in Memphis, Tennessee right now, celebrating the life of my grandfather, Natt Cooper. It's an honor to share with you the touching obituary that my dad wrote
Natt Cooper, 87, Husband, Father, Friend

Whether it was through wit, sarcasm or warmth, Natt Cooper always managed to invoke smiles from those he shared his life with and touched. Born in Memphis in 1919 and the youngest child of Jacob and Fanny Cooper, Natt passed away peacefully Sunday morning in Atlanta, Georgia with family close by. Born and raised in Memphis, Natt served in the Army Quartermaster Corps during World War II and returned to Memphis and wisely chose to wed his guiding light Mary Louise Krakaur. Mary Louise and Natt lived, loved, worked and played together and raised their three children in Memphis. Mary Louise passed away in May of 1991. Natt’s personal drive and sense of loyalty allowed him to begin working at Acme Paper Company and remain there as it grew into Cleo Wrap Corp. At the age of 70 Natt retired from Cleo as Vice President of Sales. Not only was he a fixture at Cleo Wrap but was also actively involved with Temple Israel, The Dixon Gallery, The Wonders Exhibits and the Memphis Children’s Museum. He was an active tennis player until age 82 when he moved to Atlanta, Georgia to be closer to family. His love of family and genuine warmth to others are his true legacy. Honoring his memory and the goodness of his life are his children Ken and Charmian Cooper, Melanie and John Umberger, Paul and Cathy Cooper and his three grandchildren Charmian, Ryan and Ashley. Funeral services will be graveside at The Temple Israel Cemetery at noon on Wednesday. The family requests that any donations be made to Temple Israel in memory of Natt.
These last couple of weeks, my grandfather has taught me so much about dying. In his sleep and in his waking he's been very active, mumbling, speaking, and making motions that seem to be aspects of reliving and reworking parts of his life... connecting with loved ones alive and not alive... and doing a lot of 'work' that I don't know how to describe. I feel like he's taught me a little about the process of dying, of finishing up life, of making sure all the currents are flowing, all connections are honored with reverence, life vibrating in the fullness of its radiant existence with a peaceful hum of acceptance.

Thank you, Papa. I love you.
posted by ashley


Exploring Human Behavior

As you can see if you're at the site (or not if you're reading the feed), I've added a Flickr photo stream to the side bar. Every time you refresh the screen it loads new pictures. I love that!

There are also a few new links. One of which is Their Circular Life which is an exploration about human behavior. It's a visual and audial experience. Make sure to run your mouse over the 'tips'. And if it inspires you, the project has gone open source so you can create your own flash video.
posted by ashley

Discovering Sweet Realities

suspended in presence
guided by wholeness
dedicated to respect

thank you for accepting love
thank you for receiving
thank you for expressing joy
thank you for just being

golden waves of wonder
winding through eternity
electric lines of clarity
threading bonds of unity

blessed is this sacred life
that spreads its wings
bears its soul
opening heart
in humility

I wrote in an email yesterday that "as of today, I'm officially surfacing from... well, not yet sure where from, but I'm surfacing... so I look forward to connecting with you." And here I am blogging, so you know life is shifting! Saturday Thomas and I went to Wallace Falls for a ritual celebration of our birthdays. This balanced bhuddette perched within the riverbed, inviting stillness in a passageway of waters' flow is one of my teachers right now. And cleaning off my desktop I rediscovered a Sweet Reality. I'm open this morning, following threads of awareness and listening to the hum of golden wholes.
posted by ashley

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