The summer before 6th grade, my parents moved me and my four brothers across the country–away from my best friends Ann, Karen and Laura–to an alternative school on a yoga commune in the Sierra Nevada mountains of CA (this was part of their plan to simplify our lives; if you’ve read my memoir-ish new release Nurturing the Soul of Your Family you know what follows!)
This past Monday, my eleven year old entered 6th grade. While I’ve been aware that this period in his life has been triggering some jitters for me (ok, let me be more honest: I’ve been anxious as a hen), I didn’t realize to what extent until I did some inquiry around this with Buddhist teacher Tara Brach at a recent meditation and mindfulness conference I attended in CO.
Through a process she calls R.A.I.N., Tara asked us to bring to mind an issue that was causing us stress (I chose my son’s middle school transition). After naming what she calls, “The cat hair in our body,” we each brought awareness to and investigated the bothersome issue. I was in a group with three other women–each exploring their own “cat hairs.” As I began our guided inquiry process, I thought a bit smugly, “I know I’m triggered around Jonah entering middle school because I was forced to leave my friends and move at the same age.” Intellectualizing my fear and anxiety–like I often tend to do–felt comfortable and safe. I had this issue all tied up with a nice neat bow, ready to be placed on the top kitchen shelf.
But, my body had more to impart. As I sat with my anxiety (Tara said on average strong feelings only last 90 seconds), it morphed into waves of sadness and strong feelings of abandonment. I could feel in my chest and belly that age eleven wasn’t just about leaving my friends, it was the point when my parents “cut the cord” emotionally–communicating non-verbally but strongly that they believed I was ready and strong enough to be on my own. Perhaps they figured I was so uber-competent they should leave me be and focus their energy on my four younger brothers. Who knows?! Regardless, as a result of this release, I perceived our parent/child connection to be broken … and I felt their support slip away.
Big stuff. But what a gift this revelation was. A few days later, I now feel more expanse and release around this and my anxiety has almost completely dissolved.
After this revelation, I returned to my family clearly seeing how I’d been projecting my worries onto my son (by the way, he’s doing fabulous and is beyond excited about this new life stage). I now see how my experience when I was his age has absolutely nothing to do with him or his transition to middle school. Or most importantly, our relationship.
As we move thoughtfully into the new school year (I recently wrote 7 Back to School Strategies to Help You Stress Less and Simplify Your Life for my publisher–which actually helped my family find our center this week!), I am grateful for the gift of awareness. To know that I can pause. Examine what I’m feeling. Investigate its origin. Feel what’s true and what’s not. Breathe space into and around the discomfort. And ultimately, let it go.
Noted Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” I look forward to challenging my thinking (and the status quo) and continuing to explore and heal my inner world–so my son can fully embody his own unique experience.
P.S. Interested in learning how to bring mindfulness and stress less in your daily life? I’m passionate about helping men/women enhance peace and harmony in everyday life–join me at an upcoming event (new events added weekly).