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From the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning book about post Civil War times in Ohio, Beloved by Toni Morrison:

After situating herself on a huge flat-sided rock, Baby Suggs bowed her head and prayed silently. The company watched her from the trees. They knew she was ready when she put her stick down. Then she shouted, “Let the children come!” and they ran from the trees toward her.

“Let your mothers hear you laugh,” she told them, and the woods rang. The adults looked on and could not help smiling.

Then “Let the grown men come,” she shouted. They stepped out one by one from among the ringing trees.

“Let your wives and your children see you dance,” she told them, and the groundlife shuttered under their feet.

Finally she called the women to her. “Cry,” she told them. “For the living and the dead. Just cry.” And without covering their eyes the women let loose.

It started that way: laughing children, dancing men, crying women and then it got mixed up. Women stopped crying and danced; men sat down and cried; children danced, women laughed, children cried until, exhausted and riven, all and each lay about the Clearing damp and grasping for breath. In the silence that followed, Baby Suggs, holy, offered up to them her big heart.

She did not tell them to clean up their lives or go and sin no more. She did not tell them they were blessed of the earth, its inheriting meek or its glorybound pure.

She told them the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they could not have it.

“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick them out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavings instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I am talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I am telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver – love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that, too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.” Saying no more, she stood up and danced with her twisted hip the rest of what her heart had to say while the others opened their mouths and gave her the music. Long notes held until the four-part harmony was perfect enough for their deeply loved flesh.

You can read more about the story Beloved at http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/tonimorrison/beloved.htm

This excerpt was recently shared with me from one of my mentors and friend, Barabara Wetzel. I can’t thank her enough for her guidance, wisdom, and inspirations!!! She has been an ongoing role model of how to apply grace and humanity to “real” life in any given moment. You can check out her recent book at  http://theergonomiccouple.com/main.sc

Years ago, I was awoken in the middle of the night by a horrific dream… By the clothing and shapes of cars, it seemed to be set in the 1950’s. A gang of adult and young males tore through an alley, randomly shooting people and taking up young boys. My dream centered on one boy, age 7 or so. His dark skin glistened with sweat as he stood frozen. I saw utter shock and confusion in his eyes. Fear seemed not even to hit him yet as a 14 yr old boy pulled on his arm demanding he come. The little boy refused to budge. An older man, dressed in a suit, then pointed a gun at the boy and said that he will die like his friend there if he doesn’t come. The boy looked to his friend whose face was shot off, then grabbed a neon, plastic dart gun from his friend’s bloodied pocket. The older man grinned as he watched the boy do this and run to a waiting car.

My dream didn’t end there… It then went another scene, where the older man, the leader, spotted his 16 yr old daughter talking to a fellow on the street.  The young fellow took off when he saw the girl’s farther approaching them. The father grabbed and stroked the button flap of her black, wool petticoat as he questioned why she was talking to that boy. The daughter seemed oblivious to the fate of the fellow pursuing her and irked at her father for disturbing her fun. She didn’t even notice the blood on her dad’s hands, and even giggled. She seemed to be daddy’s little girl. I awoke as I could see the dad’s stained blood hands rising up to my collar.

I don’t know if these people or situation was an accumulation of media, movies and news coverage, or scenes from another life. My heart was pounding, my mind numb. I could not shake the image of the daughter, the older man, and the little boy. My conscious became flooded with emotions. This is one reason why I do not watch violent movies or the news because my chest tightens and my stomach turns.

I feel the suffering, the desperation, the hopelessness, the fear.

I want to run screaming, fighting, and crying.

I know this is real life some where, every where and even right now as I type; someone is being tortured by someone who was tortured, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I cannot rest with all this pain.

As I lay in bed processing all these images and feelings, the song from En Vougue played in my head:

“Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don’t be so shallow…
Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind don’t be so shallow….Free Your mind!

Why oh why must it be this way?
Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me…”

song writers:  GERALD EDWARD LEVERT, DENZIL DELANO FOSTER, THOMAS MCELROY

Read more: En Vogue – Free Your Mind Lyrics | MetroLyrics

“It is time for the good guys to fight back, not with fists but with rules of engagement that reboot our culture, so that kindness and decency and empathy are cool, and ruthless assault are not. ” Joel A. Dvoskin, Ph.D., ABPP

http://vachss.com/av_novels/heart.html

http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/bullying-gets-graphic-new-novel

Here’s a link some thoughts on this social dis-ease: https://compassiondw.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/victim-or-bully/

Not long ago, I had two teacher figures say that my son was “emotionally immature.” Now any one who knows me or reads this blog could surmise that I am passionate about emotional intelligence, especially helping children to cope with emotions. Honestly, these complaints were very hard for me to swallow on many levels.

I, as respectfully as possible, accepted and validated their comments because of course he is emotionally immature: he’s six years old. I felt defensive, shocked and angered. I just wanted rip my son away from these people who I had entrusted to care for him. I even home-educate my son because most affordable school environments in my opinion are emotionally neglectful and abusive.

I internally chewed long and hard on their statements. I really had to grieve this situation. I typically blame my self when ever negative situations occur and worried intensely if I had messed up somewhere… I felt guilty for adding stress to the teachers; Was I crazy for teaching him to question authority and share his feelings? From their point of view and context, I could see where they were coming from yet it sickened me that this is the mind frame of most. I want to just shine a bight light on the world.

You see society thinks that one is emotionally mature because they handle their emotions. This is true to a degree, but one needs to have opportunities to express their emotions in order to learn how to handle their emotions in various settings and relationships.  There is a learning curve for every new dynamic or experience.

It seems we give kids till they are about one to three years old to work this out, then we demand they listen and obey us without whining or tantrums. Sadly, what many think as emotionally mature child is one who is appearing obedient under the guise of actually feeling fear and freezing (like in fight, flight or freeze mode). They don’t know what to do but have learned that more negative energy will be directed at them if they don’t just stop.  Eventually this leads to suppressing emotions and even dissociating when triggered in stressful environments. (There are uglier paths but I won’t dig there.)

Here’s is one my favorite quotes about emotional development and children:

“What is a normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No, that is not what he is like. The normal child, if he has confidence in mother and father, pulls out all stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wrangle, and to appropraite…At the start he absolutely needs to live in a circle of love and strength (with consequent tolerance) if he is not to be fearful of his own thoughts and his images to make progress in his emotional development.”

-Donald W. Winnecott, The Child, The Family, and the Outside World

Now, back to my sweet, sensitive son… Any one who knows him well has seen his empathetic, kind, and resilient nature as well as his ability to regulate himself . He started initiating group hugs when he was two and doing the meditative “ummmm” when he was in pre-school. He made a dragon from legos to guard his baby sister’s ashes and deeply mourned the loss of his great-grandma. When I am stressed, he echoes the words of the sage in me. He’s my buddha boy, and this is just a quick snapshot of the gracious qualities he shines upon me.

Currently, he is overwhelmed with contradictory messages. He now complains to me about how come other kids can just hit other kids and their siblings. I tell him that they are not supposed to and still in the process of learning to control their emotions and behaviors. That their brain gets flooded and they can’t get to those loving files. I validate that it is confusing and may seem unfair yet stress he has learned a special skill and can control himself even when he feels so angry.

He has also been asking why he cries so much but no one else seems to cry. He agonizes about what’s wrong with him and feels stupid that he cries so easily. I validate his pain yet stress that he cries because  he has a big heart: he cares so much about what people think of him and the quality of work he produces. That although he appears weak and dramatic by society’s expectations for “normal boy” behavior, he is indeed strong, brave, spirited and willful. Sadly, with so few kids to empathize with him, he is starting to wish he didn’t care so much.

The biggest kick in the shorts for me is that when a kid or even an adult for that matter is being emotional, that is actually a sign of trust; that they feel some what safe to process their hard feelings with you. These emotional outbursts are opportunities for connection and growth yet we as listeners can’t even handle the feelings. We feel too uncomfortable and just want to contain them as quickly as possible. Teachers fear they are disturbing learning environment in stead of seeing it as an intense learning experience. Even with my successful experiences of utilizing intense emotions, I still get triggered with fear and just want to stop the discomfort and run away. It is also hard to hug an angry child especially when the child in you just wants to fight back.

Now next time a child is giving you grief, take a deep breath and give them the gift of your attention, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on, and listen. You don’t even need to think of things to say just be still then reflect back what you are hearing them say.

‎”When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” ~Haim Ginott

The first three years of life provides the template for all future relationships.” ~John Bowlby

When a baby is in the womb it is the emotional state of the mother which decides how her baby’s brain will develop…he gets his dose of mother’s molecules-of-emotion through the placenta. If a baby is flooded in the hormones of stress he puts his growth effort into the part of the brain that is designed to deal with stress and threat – the flight or fight part of brain. He cannot do differently…When the baby in the womb is marinated in hormones of peacefulness, then he is free to get into to developing  his higher brain functions. These are the structures he will need for highest human qualities like love, trust, beauty, respect, empathy, and truth…

…the womb provides everything the baby needs…the mother-baby couple is the First Partnership. It is from this partnership that the baby learns to make relationships…Wise cultures are child-wise, and child-wise cultures do everything they can to ensure the mother and baby get off to the best start in the first 3 years of life. They understand the health of their culture depends on it…If the baby has a bonded relationship with mum, he grows heart-brain connections for the highest human qualities and so can make peaceful relationships with everyone in the group.” ~Pennie Brownlee, Dance with me in the Heart

Please watch this series on cutting edge research on brain development and relationships. Our world desperately needs this level of understanding if we are to maximize our human potential and achieve peace:

http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/series

If your baby could tell you what she really wants from you, she would tell you that she would like these three wishes: to feel safe, to feel loved, and to be respected.” ~Pennie Brownlee

Click this link to watch the webinar on Parenting with the Brain in Mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1LwEdsVImk

What is done to children they will do to society.” ~Dr Karl Menninger

Littering has always been one of my pet-peeves. On a walk back from the beach, where we cleaned up trash, my then 6yr old son raced back home as my 2 yr. old daughter and I lagged behind. My daughter spotted a beer bottle in our path, exclaimed “garbage” and darted to grab it. My mind instantly flooded with worry…what if she cuts herself? the germs? What would people think if they saw her holding a beer bottle!?

Yet, my heart wondered how I could tell her no? How confusing the message would be if it was OK to pick up trash at the beach but not here. Was it worth scolding to thwart a genuine gesture? She joyfully picked it before I could finish this internal debate. I thanked her and asked if I could hold it for her. She refused as she was determined to throw it in the bin herself.

I took a deep breath and chose to let it be yet struggled to stop worrying. I kept thinking about what if someone took a snap shot of this little girl holding a beer bottle. Would they call human services on me? How sad it would be that people could judge me without any context and awareness of the level of introspection that has gone into this moment.  I felt angry at myself that instead of celebrating my daughter’s level of consciousness and sense of accomplishment, I was stuck in fear.

I was reminded of this story when on another outing my kids spent 20 minutes cleaning up cigarette butts from our downtown area. My son was going off on how people could treat the earth like this. I started to worry again but couldn’t get them to stop cleaning so I finally joined in.  We made a game out it and it felt good.

There have been times where I did make some excuse about why we shouldn’t pick up litter and my son expresses, “It hurts my body to see the trash on the ground and have to leave it there.” I get teary eyed just repeating that statement. Both my children truly understand that the world is not a garbage can and take full responsibility to make it beautiful.

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

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