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Why Darkness Is Essential In Our Lives – a winter solstice offering

Darkness is essential in our lives.

It is illuminating, by it’s nature to create contrast and perspective, in it’s eternal interplay with light. As the light helps us see our darkness, the darkness helps us see our light – helping us to experience light and bring it into the world.

It humbles us to be real, by the reality that it is always intimately related to light and therefore part of all the processes within us and outside of us.

It connects us to our power by helping us see ourselves more fully – our fears, pains, and limiting patterns, so we can understand them, learn from them, and work through them. Without darkness and discomfort, we don’t grow or evolve – but are instead confined to maintaining the illusions we create to feel whole and stable.

It is a master teacher: If we can make it through darkness – if we can find our way through the darkness, we learn things about ourselves that would never be possible to learn in any other way.

It is fertilizer for the seeds of sweetness, by helping us appreciate the light in all it’s forms, when we otherwise might not be so aware or grateful – like health. Like Vision. Like Love. Like Happiness. Like Peace.

It teaches us how to love more fully, by giving each of us the experience of what it is to long for love, to lose ones we love, or to feel unloved or unlovable.

It helps us experience the connection we have to each other – no one escapes the duality, and we all grow towards the light when we begin to face what lies in our shadows that holds us back.

Sitting with pain heals us.

Sitting with grief heals us.
Sitting with fear, anxiety – being with what ever arises, even if undesirable, heals us.
Running from the darkness means we always are on the run from Truth in some form.

The sacred weaving of light and darkness is as reflected in our days and seasons as it is within our selves and our relationships – learning to love and embrace this is learning how to love ourselves, and each other.


What it takes for your kids to respect you and your efforts.

Anyone that you respect you do so because you get “their world” in some kind of way – that makes sense logically or that touches you emotionally.

Kids are not always mindful of the things that we may be much more aware of, like our efforts, our intentions, our personal experiences, or even that we made a mistake or poor choice simply because we are human and we are learning, too.

Honoring their process

Like us, they only see what they see – yet they are far more likely to fixate only on their limited perspectives because they don’t have either the brain-development or life experience that creates emotional and social intelligence to see beyond their sense of urgency, or to process emotions that can open the door to this bigger, more considerate picture.

It’s harder for them to open to the idea that their sense of reality may be excluding more than they realize.

Because of this, we can’t rely on them to simply go along with what we say or ask of them –  because when they don’t do those things, we need to then understand and respect that they are doing what they are doing because that is where they are in their own process, and their choices are the result of this.  

It is up to us, then, to connect to WHY they are being the way they are being, honoring that process and meeting them there. 

From this place, the tides can turn.  This creates understanding, which fosters in them feelings of safety, which then allows them to move beyond their positional stances they’ll otherwise get entrenched more deeply in if try to push them out of it.

Creating understanding and receptivity

If they are unaware or not mindful of your efforts, your concerns, or your feelings, they can’t honor them.  The crazy thing is that most parents assume that just because their kids have eyes and ears and speak the same language, they should somehow track these things, and even remember them.  They forget that their brains, as well as their specific perceptual lenses that they have developed, are needed to be understood and connected with, first and foremost – start where they are.

You would not help someone understand how to drive from New York to California by telling them to “just be in California”.

While some kids can put themselves in your shoes, most have a harder time doing this, especially when younger, or when they are emotionally triggered.  (Sound familiar?  We all have done this quite a lot).

Therefore, we need to make it normal that we share our inner-world with them (in tactful ways) so that they understand what we feel, why we feel it, and what our efforts are.  That, over time, helps them understand us, and makes possible the opportunity to honor us – which is important because it teaches them to be relational, develop empathy and compassion, and helps cultivate the intrinsic motivations to be consider others more deeply.

Even still, we can not rely on them to see us and validate us – we need to do that ourselves so we can have patience for their development and their learning process (and these things are what creates more mindfulness in the first place).

Respect yourself more than needing their respect

You wanting to be honored is about you.  It’s your need or your desire usually based on the longing for connection or your longing for them to be capable of acknowledgment and responsibility.  It’s your to work with, feeling the pain or fear in it, and getting first to a grounded place before trying to change how they are being.  Not being honored hurts, yet this pain is here to make us alert to what needs to be addressed within us.  This pain can be about sadness and suffering, or it can evolve to be about learning, and healing, teaching us about how to trust the process that is happening in us, in them, and between us both.

Them being able to honor you… is about their ability to see beyond their own experience to be mindful of yours – and this takes some time to develop as well as skillful communication when it’s not in place. It’s not a gimme.

It is not your child’s job to respect you.  It’s their job to be themselves – and ideally evolve to a place where they are more capable of respect.  If they are not in that place to act or be how we want just yet… we will create more issues and can damage trust and connection if we make it a “problem” rather than see it as an opportunity to explore with them there perceptions, thoughts and feelings.


Of course, it is important for children to get the reality they are living in and act in considerate and responsible ways – and the sooner, the easier on everyone.  This helps them be more conscious, conscientious, and responsible, but… we need to meet them in their process when they are not, rather than fight them in their process (which is usually counter-productive).

For you to meet them in their process, you need to be present.  For this you need to work with what ever is in the way of you being present.  It is essential that you learn to deeply acknowledge, validate and respect yourself for your efforts that are being thanklessly received – and accept that there are simply things in the way of such sweet understanding at the moment.  Not a problem, but an opportunity.

This is about breaking the co-dependency of feeling good only when they are validating you.  

It’s about freeing yourself of the kinds of enmeshment that breed reactivity.

Modeling Respect

It is important to ask yourself, “How good of a model am I for acting respectfully?”

Are you being patient, humble and sincere, and taking responsibility for your feelings? Are you owning your assumptions, and able to use validation and curiosity to create deeper understanding and connection of others experiences?

Do you speak to connect, or do you speak to get what you want?

Teaching “how to respect others” requires you to be a model for being balanced enough with yourself so that you can be authentic and present with others.  

It requires that you learn how to track what other’s experiences are, and to connect to those feelings, actions and perceptions with curiosity and compassion. 

Learning to respect is a process, as it is tied to working through what is in the way of respect.



The Essence of Cultivating Calmness in Your Family

Creating more calmness and balance is not only more possible every day, it’s also the single greatest teacher of how to raise happy and empowered children. Below is the essence of the what, why and how.

Every kid, like every adult, exists somewhere on the spectrum between being serene and agitated. Their place in this spectrum is mostly dependent on their perceptions: of themselves, of relationships to others, of life. It also relies on their capacity to process fear, discomfort and stress.  This can fluctuate by the month, day, hour and minute.

What makes most people calm or agitated is basically the same. The nervous system is responding to these perceptions, thoughts and feelings, and this response send us in either direction.

We are not our children, but we are one of the greatest influences they have to learn how to respond to stimuli. The level of skill we have in working with our own reactions and responses to stress is the level at which we can teach them in their personal journey towards finding calm, balance, and ease. Even our willingness to work on our own responses affects them.

Imagine asking this question of yourself when you connect with your child:

“What, right now, is in the way of ME being more gentle or patient?

…or loving, receptive, present, calm or even curious?”

This question is like a finger pointing towards the cause that triggers or overwhelms you. It then becomes an opportunity to acknowledge and work with this with greater personal responsibility, simply just by considering the answer. It becomes an opportunity to shift a pattern.

When the waters of our hearts and minds are calm, we relate to life from a more present, joyful and peaceful place. We gain an expanded capacity to connect with others, and to recover from the undesirable events that will inevitably arise.

And so do children.

So what if you drop (or perhaps throw) a stone of your own unresolved tension into their fragile and tiny pool of self-regulation?

It doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a human parent –  but let’s see such slip-ups as an invitation to bring more consciousness into the equation, so emotional intelligence can evolve in us far beyond what we inherited from our own parents.

Their life depends on us having a balanced, present and aware state of being. Because of this, they are wired to subconsciously and automatically track our degree of calm or agitation all the time. That means that because they will react off of us that the work begins with us.

Before the age of 9 or so, most children regulate their nervous systems off of the nervous systems of their parents.  In addition, children’s nervous systems, of course, have far few buffers than those of more life-hardened adults. So in its rawest state as an evolutionary tool used to optimize survival, their system is profoundly sensitive. Its got the volume turned way up.

It makes sense that stressors therefore have a greater impact on them than on us. They lack the capacity to differentiate what to take in, what to block or deflect, and how to process certain uncomfortable energies.

This means that they absorb almost everything directly. Their ability to regulate their nervous system and feel stable, present, and calm is easily knocked off balance.

Your child’s reactions are not always directly caused by you, but the way your child reacts does often relate to how you show up in the moment with them.  

How skilled are you at regulating your own nervous system, so that you can teach or guide your children to regulate their own when they get worked up?

To create calmness in your family, you need to track two things:

First, track and address your own inner world.

Directly work with any thoughts or feelings that get in the way of you being more present, calm, loving, supportive, or patient.

It’s natural to get triggered. Most people simply don’t take responsibility for their triggers and reactions because they tend to assign blame externally to some degree. They don’t work to resolve their reactions, and this feeds the cycle. Think about it. It makes sense, considering most of our parents were not great role models for this. This is why it’s so impactful on our children when we step up to that level of personal responsibility and conscious parenting.

It takes practice, but you can begin to recognize that most of the chatter in your mind is not helpful, and even unwise, even if it seems enlightened in the moment. You can begin to build a new relationship with your mind. Instead of the conditioned banter that continually loops around and around,

dismiss that loop and replace it with the deeper and simpler intelligence of your awareness. Simply pausing often yields better results that lead you to that deeper place.

Along the same lines, you can being to practice being present with what your body is feeling. Tune into the sensations that arise. Emotions are physically felt in the body because your nervous system is activated.  Simply by breathing into different places in your body, for 5 to 20 breaths, helps you metabolize all that undigested emotional energy. The breathing trains you to let go of your attachment to your mind, over and over and over.

In my private practice, I teach this to adults all the way down to 7 year olds. Everyone can get this rather quickly.  Getting support in learning how to do this is perhaps one of the better uses of your time that you’ll ever commit to.  When you get it, you learn the language of how to become more integrated in the moments when stress is high. You not only become a better parent, you become a better guide for your children. Which leads to the second part.

Second, start tracking the mental and emotional inner world of your children.

Once you’ve figured out tracking yourself, your mind, and your feelings, you can support them in processing whatever stressors are present for them. For example, you can help them if they are stuck in limiting or fear-based thinking, or if they are carrying emotional energy they don’t know how to process, with techniques like taking space, breathing, talking about it, being held, etc.

We can all have one spotlight shining inward, tracking ourselves so we can be present with what needs tending to, and another spotlight shining outward, tracking them, honoring their process, meeting them in it, and supporting them in ways they are more receptive to. Over time, we can become mindful of what both the inner and outer spotlights are illuminating simultaneously.

As any observant parent can attest to, most kids and close families are sensitive enough to pick up on energies from each other. Especially those they attempt to hide from each other. Their fears, anxieties, insecurities, anger, shame, sadness, etc. can be felt, often unconsciously, in each other’s nervous systems. In a family, this acts like a wave that leaves each member more agitated and thrown off balance.

The beauty in this is that it pressures us to finally do this work to learn how to process our own feelings.

The work you do letting go of negative mind-chatter and breathing into the feelings your body is trying to process makes you more relaxed, calm, and happy. The opportunity this creates for your children is threefold:

-You’ll be more calming in their company.

-You’ll increase your skills to sooth and calm them.

-Perhaps most importantly, you’ll be a qualified teacher and role model for them in handling the classic human condition of having stressful thoughts and feelings, and getting stuck in agitating mind-chatter.


Children are always giving you the medicine you need in order to realize, interact with and eventually heal all of your unhealed parts.  

In this lies the sacred call for you to work on yourself so that you can be more balanced and present in every way. You’ll personally weave a new wave of conscious, emotionally responsible parenting deep into the story of your own lineage, passed down from your children to their children, and so on.


3 Questions That Can Transform Your Relationship with Your Child

Here is a quick, simple and very doable process that can create deeper connection, greater understanding, and a more solid platform for better support.

When we talk to children, or anybody, for that matter, there are so many of our own personal issues that easily and often get in the way of being fully present with them. Human as it is, our own assumptions, perceptions, attachments, beliefs, and old unprocessed feelings can be hard to see in the moment. These personal issues are the main forces behind the disconnection between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

When you talk to your child about anything, I invite you to consider the following questions, and to write them down daily for a month straight to make it a practice.


What is my intention in talking to my child right now?  


Is it to truly connect and understand, or, is it to only get to the outcome that I want, perhaps regardless of connection? Not focusing on connection tends to backfire, making everything harder and take far longer in the end.


What am I stubbornly attached to?


What do I believe needs to be different than what is actually happening? Can I first be with what is happening, and then meet my child there? Can I then explore a possible shift? Am I pushing an agenda that gives him/her the message that we are on different teams, creating a power struggle?


What will create more connection?


First and foremost, how can I understand and validate my child’s inner-world more? How can I honor my child’s process? Secondly, how can I share my own process as well, without imposing it on my child? Can I rather help him/her better comprehend my intention, even if it isn’t well received?


From this place of respect and understanding, it becomes way more possible and productive to address the issues that you may disagree on.



When you find yourself lacking empathy for your child….

Life has its challenges, and parenting adds to that. Parents get worn down and they develop a few rough edges. It happens, but refreshing ourselves does not have to be elusive or difficult. When we feel stressed out, exhausted, scared, frustrated, or hurt, we automatically go into self-protection, short-fuse mode. It’s a reaction designed to reach an immediate resolution or change.


Yet it’s a heart wrenching move. It only creates heartache on both sides. It not only drives us away from understanding and compassion for the child’s process (and our own), it drives us towards our own tendency to disconnect more, layer on more conflict.

No parent can escape this situation, because it’s native to the experience of being human and learning that we are all heir to. We need to focus on gentleness, not guilt. We need to love ourselves enough to become devoted students to what life wants to reveal. As adults, it’s our responsibility to learn how to take care of ourselves, and doing so lovingly is the only way to do that effectively. We have options that can quickly help us to be our best own best resource when we can’t ‘just get over it’ during a tense moment.


Step One: Reach out.


Reach out for support. We can’t do this in a vacuum. We are social animals, and we need empathy and support from those trusted friends or family members that can love us up. Even if they can’t change the circumstances, knowing they’re there in that difficult space with you at that moment is restorative. Even a few minutes on the phone with a close friend can change the weather, or make it easier to walk through.


When it’s hard to find empathy for your child,

it almost always means that you need empathy too.


Step Two: Pause. Don’t respond. Bite your tongue.


FYI, biting your tongue is a legitimate spiritual practice. We can choose to pause and take a very deep breath because we all know what happens. When we’re triggered, we can’t fully trust our own decision making process, and the words that fly out of our mouths are more about survival and less about the big picture thanks to our brain’s idea of rational and reasonable in that moment.


Step Three: Put your mind in its place.


Notice the ranting of your mind, and know that you don’t need to follow it. Let it be background noise, rather than the authority. It’s the same chatter as always, spinning virtually endlessly in a closed loop. It is only the pent-up energy of your past subjective experiences righteously blathering seemingly insightful and seemingly true garbage. Facing this is a painful learning and growing process. It steers you toward a deeper surrender that creates healing and awakening. Do your best to let it blur into the background. Tune out of your own crazy radio, and into your bodily sensations instead.


Step Four: Sit in the Fire.  


We are built to process emotions. That’s how our nervous systems get us back in balance. All it requires is for us to be present with our bodily experience. By being present, we begin to metabolize the emotional energy. This looks like sitting in the fire of our activated feelings. It’s not a real fire, but we usually avoid it because we conditioned to avoid discomfort.


It looks like actually breathing into the places in our body that feel annihilated by discomfort, and while we exhale, we relax into the intensity in that place. Intensity is basically information for the nervous system. These flames know what to burn off.  


Step Five: Move It.


Be it a run, a bike ride, a yoga class, or even if it’s only five minutes of walking briskly, move. The energy in your body is likely stagnant, and simply by moving, you shift your state physically, emotionally and mentally.  


Your kids are the medicine you need. They’ll easily expose your wounded parts, revealing where and how you become divided from love, patience and empathy. They are there to help you see where you can be more skilled in how you relate to your experience.


The more capacity you have to feel empathy for your child, the more you will model and teach them how to do this for themselves.


“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged,

sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and wrong.

Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.”

– Siddhartha Gautama


Helping your kids learn how to stress less and get unstuck.

Many of our recurring problems stem from lack of awareness about our own patterns. When we are unmindful of our patterns of excuses, fears, biases, and attachments, we tend to focus on externals. From that place of blindness, we blame others, bemoan life, and work furiously to change people and circumstances. Sadly, we neglect the urgent and abiding need to look within and work fervently to change our own patterns and perceptions.   

Sheikh Jamal Rahman


Breaking limiting patterns is about realizing the bigger picture of our experiences. Here is the easiest and most simple way to help your child become oriented towards learning, growing and healing so they have a happier human journey:

Children have their own spiritual paths

Many of the lessons they will learn in their lives will not come from the teachings of their parents, but from their own direct learning processes. This is the same for each of us.  The School of Hard Knocks will knock them hard eventually, so what do you do to help them learn from the challenges that arise?

How long did it take you to learn how to not procrastinate? 

Or to not take things personally?    

Or to have good self-care?   

Or to choose good friends?  

Or to take responsibility?  

Or to have discipline with the addicting forces of digital media? 

You are still learning or refining many of these things. Do your children know that it’s been a process for you as well? Do they understand that it’s a life-long learning process for everyone?

Learn to say “yes” to what may be undesirable. 

The undesirable is real for all of us, and it is utterly futile or foolish to resist what is actually happening though denial, complaining, repression or avoidance.

It is easy to label the undesirable, painful or even terrifying experiences we have as ‘problems’. This is a way that our conditioned mind can categorize it, and give us some sense of stability.  For most of us, it is what was modeled by our elders.

But when we, or any children, see something as a ‘problem’, we immediately start to judge and fixate more, and understand and try to relate to the cause of the problem less. This is why all of us get stuck from time to time in painful patterns. We are not listening deeply enough because we lack a certain kind of receptivity to life. 

Think of the times when your kids are struggling greatly, when they are stuck, and even suffering?  The tendency is to rush in and fix it, because seeing a child toil often triggers (amongst compassion and other feelings) our own discomfort. The trap is to constantly “handle” such situations by “making the problem go away”, leaving your child without the experience of not learning from the experience at all.  That’s helicopter-parenting, and it makes your child less prepared for life. You “rescue them” from their own natural learning process.

Of course you should step in where you must, or feel it’s wise too, but be aware of your own projection that “discomfort is always bad”, of your personal urge to eradicate discomfort. Pain and struggle are big teachers, especially when we can learn from them.

If you consider yourself a role model, or just simply a parent who wants your kids to thrive, then it’s your responsibility to let the light in on this fundamental reality. Don’t keep your kids stuck in the dark.

What if you shared with them how you became as skilled as you currently are with such things, and why it is that you continue to work with it?

Normalize what it actually and truly looks like to be a human growing and evolving. The process is humbling, beautiful, messy, ugly, natural, perfectly normal, and it’s OK. It’s an invitation to be gentle with ourselves as we burn through layers of ignorance, old belief patterns, and learn to face and process all the emotions that will arise.

How can you teach your children to face problems? When life gets challenging, what are you modeling in terms of relating to challenges? What do you orient towards, in order to work with issues that arise in a wiser way?

Say “yes” to the problem.

Make it normal to say “yes”.

Part of the issue is that we were taught in school or by our families that the “outcome is more important than the process”. It’s truly misguided and destined to pull your children away from the deepest impulses of their own creativity and development. We were not taught the habit of orienting towards learning, towards opening up to a more profound understanding of what there is to learn and grow from. We’re stuck labeling things as “bad”, or as “problems”, and we fall into a righteousness that disconnects us from actually understanding how the situation came to be, or how to work with it. We ride the crazy train towards “‘getting it right” or “not looking bad”.

This means, amongst many things, that we must learn how to live with the inevitable reality of discomfort. We must learn to not neurotically try to remain comfortable all of the time. It means not falling into the trap of believing that happiness or empowerment will come by rearranging or eliminating unavoidable external circumstances. We must sincerely accept what is happening in our lives in the moment, even if it’s painful.

“Yes” brings us towards alignment with what is happening so we can learn from it and move on. This normalizes orienting openly, courageously and humbly towards life as a learner.

So be with what is happening. Feel your feelings. Notice your beliefs or interpretations, and breathe into the intensity of the moment in order to find the ground under your feet. You have to walk the walk, and take the bitter medicine of your own fear, pain, and insecurity so that you can integrate, heal, and learn. This is how you’ll be able to help your children learn to do the same. They’ll receive the gift from you, the opportunity, to see themselves more clearly when a problem is facing them.

Our nervous system knows how to process the feelings of these intensities – but at times we may need help in learning how to really do this efficiently.

So for those of us who want to better help our kids become more skilled at relating to life, the invitation is to look at how we receive or resist what is happening inside of us.

How have you learned from your experiences? What did it take? How have you resisted, only to be humbled into being receptive?

Where are you still resistant, and likely stuck, and can you own that with compassion? Can you accept that your resistance is simply part of your learning process?

What takes the place of blame or shame when you accept that we’re all learning and growing at the best pace we can, given our histories?

We are always a model for our children in how we choose to live, and when the School of Hard Knocks comes knocking, it is the learners who will process the lesson more easily, and walk the road of their lives with less struggle, less suffering, and far more empowerment, humility and capacity for love.


girl grass back alone











The Art of Imposing Rules Into The Lives of Children

Children want to experience freedom. Most parents will see the need to limit a child’s freedom if they fear them making terrible choices or creating negative, self-limiting habits. This creates the most common, consistent and emotionally draining conflict in parenting. With no guidance or boundaries at all, most kids could end up creating their own version of Lord of the Flies; a mess that you’ll have to parentally clean up eventually. Fortunately, when applied skillfully, rules do far more than keep kids on a healthy track. They help kids cultivate their decision-making ability, and profoundly increase their self-awareness while strengthening your relationship with them.

The 5 things you need to consider when making rules that your kids will follow:

1.  Rules may be important, but without a strong relationship in place, they tend to be less effective.

When your child hates a rule, more often than not, they’ll still follow it if they have a good relationship with you. To tend this relationship, it’s therefore important not only respect there struggle with it, but to also try to help them understand why it is that you feel it wise for them to follow rules they don’t feel are necessary. Why?

The problem is that children don’t see or fully understand the bigger picture that you are considering, or they straight-up don’t care. Most rules parents introduce add stress to the parent-child relationship. Young ones can end up believing their parents don’t understand them, and they can’t comprehend the bigger-picture benefit of rules that trigger their pain or fear. Instead of feeling overpowered, they need to feel understood. Whether or not your children challenge and break your rules, doing your best to help them understand your reasoning as it relates to their fears or stress is a critical first step. It creates a mutually respectful foundation for rules to rest on, so stress can be tempered by the softer connection and hopefully greater comprehension.

Without the resiliency of this bedrock of understanding and connection, rules that are enforced are more likely to create resentment and/or rebellion.  Here’s my simply formula for that:

Rules – Relationship = Resentment and/or Rebellion

Your kids may still be upset with you and your rules, but there is a tremendous difference in the kind of frustration that your child will recover from in a day or two, and the kind of frustration that creates distance and deeper disconnection for months, that predictably arises when the quality of the relationship is not given enough attention.


2.  If your rules protect and support them in some some way, they come from a deeper place.  Be willing to sharing this with your kids.

The fastest way to make your kids resent you is pulling the ‘because I said so’ card. It means you’re fixated on what you want or don’t want your kids to do, without much reasoning or real guidance behind that fixation. If you want your children to model transparency and reveal vulnerability, you need to do the same with your actual reasoning for a rule. Knowing why you are making a decision is important to kids, even if they don’t agree with you. They don’t have to agree, or even fully understand you. That’s simply part of the reality of having less life experience, less brain development, less impulse control, and the strong tunnel-vision of a kid. You’re not just making a rule. You’re setting an example.

Before making a power play that invites a power struggle, communicate from the heart. Speak to your kids about the needs and feelings a parent has that drive parenting rules. Make sure you explain with simplicity and tact, so they wont be overwhelmed with trying to process complex emotions they can’t handle yet. That urgent situations where you only have time to set the rule/boundary and must forgo explaining are, in reality, very few and far between.


Don’t know where to start? Share the answers to questions like:

-Why don’t you like setting rules, but feel you need to as a parent in a certain situation?

-What fear, needs, or knowledge do you have that are behind setting a rule?


Of course, making sure rules come from a deeper place means you’ve got to be responsible for the rules you create. If your rules come from a selfish place, and not a healthy one, they will come back to bite you and damage the connection between you and your child. Double standards have the same effect. If you can explain your decision in a way that is honest and effective enough to actually help them understand you, it’s much better for your relationship. Remember, children’s brains do not process like yours, and can interpret things incredibly differently.


3.  Process your feelings first. Then you can respond well, rather than react poorly.

It’s hard being a kid. They tend to be totally unaware that their responses or decisions are born from the impulse to feel better in some way (to have a more regulated nervous system), and they often can’t see past a craving or an urge, acting in ways that can be incredibly frustrating to deal with.

As understandable as this is, parents who can’t process their emotions well will have more conflict in their relationships with their kids. Your needs and feelings as a parent can drive your parenting towards balance, understanding, and respect, or off-road into a ditch or worse. It all depends on how well you can process your emotions as you interact with your child.

Arguing for more screen time, for example, kids don’t realize that they are responding from a truly addicted place. They truly think that their own choices, actions, and words represent what’s best for them, and can’t see otherwise. Your reaction on top of that can make it worse. 

If you choose to dominate them so you “win”, and therefore feel less triggered, it will be temporary to you at best, and damaging to your child at the worst.  

Face your feelings.  Notice where you literally feel the physical sensation of them in your body, and breathe into them.  Your nervous system is designed to calm you down by directly processing the intensity you feel if you can be present with it for even a few breaths. Notice your familiar, and likely frantic, mind-chatter. See it as nothing more than conditioned thoughts pulling you away from processing your feelings… and return to your breath.

Remember, your kids, like you, are doing their best, even if it looks like crap. Kids also give you a very important opportunity to learn how to better process your own triggers and reactions. They are the medicine you need to heal this. Fight it, and the issues will keep arising over and over and over. Be gentle with yourself, breathe into your feelings, even preemptively, when you know a situation is coming that will trigger you.


4.  Get to the real reason they break a rule… and explore it.

Every rebel has a cause they feel is just.  Think of your own reasons when you were their age: You didn’t agree with the rule. You felt it was unfair. What you wanted was worth the consequence of breaking the rule. You wanted to piss your parents off as a way of feeling more empowered. Maybe you simply forgot about the rule. The list goes on.

Ultimately, however, breaking rules is most often a symptom of one simple reality. Kids are more committed to another choice, and this reality is not seen and/or not being addressed or explored.

Breaking a rule opens up an opportunity to explore what is really going on within you as a parent, within your relationship with your child, or what is going on inside the heart and mind of your child. Tracing the reason for why rules are broken almost always leads directly some critical deeper need or feeling that is longing to be met or avoided. Don’t talk in circles, or argue about the broken rule. Get underneath the rule breaking to find the sacred places where true understanding, compassion, and connection are born. Children need help in seeing themselves more deeply, so nix your great, insightful speech, and instead ask great, insightful questions. Help them see the unseen forces within them that drive their behavior by exploring their choices with them. Ask them: What are the forces, fears and beliefs behind their resistance?


5.  Avoid power struggles.  Let them know the truth: They DO have a choice.

Once you have honored their needs and wants, and after you have shared your feelings behind why you are setting a rule, point out to your child that they are free to follow the rule fully, partially, or totally disregard it.  Their choice. BUT let them know, all choices have consequences. Make sure they are totally clear on the consequences of breaking or even bending the rules.

Be clear on what the consequences look like, even if you have a child that argues every rule or decision no matter how lovingly transparent you are about your reasons.  If they refuse to stop arguing, let them know that they can choose to keep arguing or choose to stop, and then be clear on what the different results of each of those choices will be.

Giving kids the power to make choices, even poor choices, teaches them how to think critically, embrace a bigger picture, work on being more able to delay gratification, become more socially intelligent, and more.

Don’t get blindsided.  

Know that as your children develop and become more independent, they’ll need more understanding about your rules. This is why you want to start early if your kids are young.  If they are not challenging your rules yet, it’s coming. Definitely, absolutely and certainly.  

Begin now to create that more connected relationship and more intimate mutual understanding that is foundational to a lasting, strong bond with your children.



photo credit:

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23 Ways To Keep Your Kids In Balance With Digital Media And Technology

The most vulnerable, formative, and psychologically impactful time in a person’s life is childhood Children are in a time of their lives where they don’t fully know who they are, or what their place in the world is or even means, and so they are looking for it, mostly subconsciously – the nervous system is always seeking a state of regulation.  Add in the fact that technology is one of their main conduits through which they create this sense of themselves, relationships, and ideals, is based on mostly superficial and brief interactions, and that it is run by corporations who’s primary goal is to make profit, not raise consciousness.  Then add in that it’s totally awesome to them, and incredibly addicting.  To make it more confusing, it also has tremendous positive aspects as well, of course.  Put all of this together, and balance is a very, very easy thing to lose touch of, and even sight of.

The formula that your parents followed to protect you from dangers and negative influences, as well as to support you with exposures to healthy and positive experiences, was pretty simple: Basically know where you were physically and who you were with.  What they may have protected you from on the “street corner” are the kinds of things that your children, through smart phones and computers, have 10,000 fold more exposure to now, from their pocket or bedroom.  Parenting in a way that raises healthy, balanced children now requires more savvy, skill and self-responsibility than ever.  It has been proven that over exposure to certain kinds of technology can and does increase narcissism, entitlement, and anxiety, and decreases empathy, self-esteem, and resiliency – to name a few.

So how then do you support them in having balance with something so highly addictive, disruptive and normalized … in a way that is effective, that they’ll be open to, and that doesn’t get mired in power-struggles?

Parenting in this age can be incredibly challenging if you don’t have the skills and understanding to work with it.  If you do, and if your are willing to look deeply at yourself while you do it, you will be able to handle just about any reality that certain kinds of excessive exposures to technology and media can have on them, while creating connection and understanding.  That said, it’s first and foremost your work to come from an integrated place as much as possible when you address these issues.  If you put control and strategy before or in place of connection and understanding, it will not be effective and will only stress the relationship.  Remember, your kids don’t know any time other than the time they are born into, so have compassion, and be careful to not project your fear and frustration onto them.

Below are 23 of the most important strategies that I see as essential, from working with families on these matters for over a decade – methods that work if you work at them.  Go through this entire list and begin to find the places where you can begin to make shifts.  If you need support, seek it out.  Ignorance and the lack of personal accountability are two of the greatest impediments that can be overcome.  Find your commitment to parenting consciously in this digital age, and let love be your strongest motivator.

#1: Work on yourself
Parenting is less a strategy and more a way of being. Become emotionally and mentally the healthiest person you can possibly become with this life of yours – go for it: as it will radically impact your parenting. It will impact the adults your children will become (which is especially more needed in this digital age). Do whatever it takes to heal, grow and evolve. Get support in breaking out of old habits and blind spots and learn to create deeper connection with your own inner world and those of your children.

Many of our recurring problems stem from lack of awareness about our own patterns. When we are unmindful of our patterns of excuses, fears, biases, and attachments, we tend to focus on externals. From that place of blindness, we blame others, bemoan life, and work furiously to change people and circumstances. Sadly, we neglect the urgent and abiding need to look within and work fervently to change our own patterns and perceptions.

– Sheikh Jamal Rahman

#2: Walk the Talk
If you are not balanced with YOUR screen addictions and excessive use, don’t bother trying to support them in having balance with theirs. Take full responsibility for yours, and address it. Get support. You can even find many answers by looking for support online
– Here are some examples:
Beating phone addiction
Adult internet addiction camp
Email/phone addiction 

#3: Become computer literate
Raising kids in the digital age requires you to educate yourself and what is out there. There are many websites and videos that can teach you about every single aspect of technology, it’s risks and creating healthy habits.

#4: Raise a Healthy Child
Do you know how to help them cultivate emotional intelligence, critical thinking, self-worth and authentic communication skills? Most parents are not that great at these things, specifically. Get support, join one of my parenting classes, read articles, books on parenting. All their choices come from this foundation.

#5: Relationship before rules
Relying too heavily on methods of control will only create power struggles. Creating understanding and connection is the foundation upon which all the strategies stand.

#6: Start conservatively
It’s easier to give them more slack as they earn it, then take it back once they’ve had it. This is the essential to avoiding excessive entitlement.

#7: Privacy & Guidance: Avoid re-enacting “Lord of the flies”
Kids need guidance, as they live in a world of intense and excessive pressures while not yet knowing who they are – creating opportunities to lose themselves greatly, or get stuck walking down dangerous paths. Privacy is not a right for minors, for specific reasons. Kids need to earn certain kinds of privacy – this way you are not protecting them from life, but preparing them for it.

#8: Track their levels of understanding
Help your children become aware of issues and the forces that influence their choices. Explore with them what they know about the various aspects of screen addiction, social profiles and connections, cyber- bullying, sexting, reputation management, marketing, pornography, etc – when you feel they are ready for such discussions – yet don’t wait too long.

#9: Learn with them
You don’t need to be a master to explore these topics with them – learn by their side.
Assure that they are educated by learning with them, through videos, articles, and regular dialogue. Your role in this will support their critical thinking and perspective. Pick a topic and google it. Search for videos or articles that you can watch or together – quality education or entertainment. Examples of topics and videos to watch with your kids are below.

#10: Make a “Family Use-Contract”

You’ll likely need to make some adjustments to these contracts so they work more specifically for you family.

Here are some ideas:

From PureSight      From Common Sense Media 

From Psychology Today      “Flipped Parenting” Article and example 

The App “Ignore no more” – locks their phone if they ignore your call.
#11: Keep the computer in a common area
Keep it where you can monitor their use to some degree. Avoid putting a computer in a child’s bedroom.

#12: Limit Multi-tasking opportunities
Have devices with games and apps on a SEPARATE device than the one they do homework on.

#13: Gather up all devices at night
Charge them in your room.

#14: Set limits on time usage
Have black out times, tech-free zones, and time-limits on usage (to the degree that you can hold them accountable).

#15: Be in control of internet usage in your home
You can control this through your router’s setting (through the website of you ISP – Internet Service Provider), or through OpenDNS or other parental controls listed below. ***Know that your child may be able to access internet through their phone line, using their phone as a wifi hotspot (which you may be able to disable), or using a neighbors open wifi.

#16: Support authentic, in-person, tech-free connection time
…with their friends, or new kids and groups. During “play dates” require time that is tech-free (collect or shut down their devices). Virtual relationships are not an adequate substitute for non-virtual ones.
Consider having your kids join my Authentic-Relating Teen Groups.

#17: Get them out in nature for  e x t e n d e d  periods of time!
Do this every single year… as it will help them reconnect with who they really are, beyond the social image that they can confuse themselves with, and free of the distractions that divide them from their deeper experiences. It will reconnect them with who they are beyond who they are trying to be.

Why nature? 

Nature is unique in the way it helps us experience ourselves in that we can’t project our issues as well onto the natural world – and this creates a more inward, accountable and reflective process. Nature also gives us feedback in a way that nothing else does – clear, blunt, indifferent and to the point: This supports a kind of learning process that fosters deeper self reliance and self-resourcing.

The reason I encourage extended periods of time in nature is because it takes about 4 days to unwind, and another few to drop in more deeply, and another few to recalibrate their nervous system to this more authentic and regulated place. I strongly believe most kids need at minimum 2 consecutive weeks, 2 times each year. (This strong belief of mine stems from running 4-week trips with teens for over decade. It really does work to create balance and self-connection like nothing else I’ve ever seen do).

For longer trips you may need to connect them to organizations similar to:

Outward BoundWoman’s WildernessNational Outdoor Leadership School, or camps that do not allow phones or internet (many
actually still do).

Here is a list of a few local outdoor opportunities (near Boulder, Colorado). If you are living elsewhere, research your local options:

For girls/women only:

#18: Know the recommended Guidelines
Though most parents don’t follow them at all, there is science behind these recommendations.

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The above Technology Use Guidelines for children and youth were developed by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist and author of Virtual Child; Dr. Andrew Doan, neuroscientist and author of Hooked on Games; and Dr. Hilarie Cash, Director of reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program and author of Video Games and Your Kids, with contribution from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society in an effort to ensure sustainable futures for all children.

From handheld-devices-should-be-banned_b_4899218.html

 When introducing younger children to digital devices and media:

#19: Establish the privilege of it / Safeguard against entitlement 
It’s not a right, but a privilege. Explore the difference with them.

#20: Create a shared email account 
This will allow you can monitor who is sending them messages.

#21: Teach your child about the specific dangers of the internet
Discuss rules for your kids to follow to maintain the privilege:
– If it’s not OK to say or show or do offline, it’s not OK online
– Never reveal personal information (including address, phone number,school name or location.)
– It IS addictive for most, so establish that you will monitor that
– Be kind to those you communicate with
– Educate! Share with them age-appropriate educational videos (below)

#22: Bookmark your child’s favorite sites 
This will keep their use habits focused, create easy access, and limit the chance they’ll access inappropriate content.

#23: Help their brains develop in a balanced way!
Make sure you are not leaving it up to them and “life” that they’ll choose such things over excessive screen use.

– Attention and Focus-cultivating activities
– like reading, certain games, climbing, dancing, writing
– Imagination and creativity-cultivating activities
– Art, building things, unstructured time, story telling
– Relational-development games
– Where they interact non-virtually with others
– Board games, card games, play games (think about your childhood)
– Unstructured play time
– It’ll help them develop their brain in more well-balanced ways. ***Games like chess, projects like origami, experiences like cooking with you, repairing projects with you, listening to different kinds of music with you, and even exploring fun, educational magazines, books and even websites – these all have profound impacts on development.

The human spirit must prevail over technology
~ Albert Einstein


Ending anxiety, struggle and resistance to life

This is one of my spoken word poems – about what it takes to deeply heal.  Fully.  Sincerely.  regardless of what you are carrying.  I wrote it when I was in towards the end of my 8 year journey through cancer.


Every moment has it’s truth to reveal

From facing late-stage cancer to stressing over red-lights

– they’re both calls to heal

Insecurity, confusion, you’re too good or not good enough

To short fuses and drug abuses – only you can really call your bluff

Bitterness, guilt, resentment – I think you get the jist

Welcome to the human race, but don’t let those ways persist

Just because you can’t put your finger on it

Don’t mean it doesn’t exist


So lets take all the keys that are up for the taking

And unlock all the doors without pushing or breaking

And start making our way through – even though the next turns a guess

Keeping it real, no faking – though you may feel pressure like a test

It’s not a question to stun but a quest that’s a pun

Where you feel like it’s dark – yet you shine like the Sun

You shine like the Sun.

Know that you shine like the Sun

And so do all like a day that is never done

And don’t run when you hear the starting gun

For there is no competition when there is only One

And the race doesn’t end ‘cause it has never begun

Like a spider’s web spun all things are connected

Touch one part of your being and the rest is affected

So come corrected after your minds been inspected

And where you hold fear

It’s like a disease

You’re infected

And it’s contagious  – this intelligence amiss

Separated from bliss – into a turmoil consciousness

Where Light dances with Darkness intimate like a kiss


And with time and grace you see the pace

How, when Life gives you teachings, they unfold in your face

And there is no second guessing when you know it’s a blessing

Going into the healing and out from the stressing

But now you must yield, and no longer front the role

For now is the time to make friends with your Soul

And when it’s all said and done

Through great pain and great fun

There is nothing more important than being whole


And the start of healing is in understanding illusion

How part of you is Truth and the other part intrusion

That disrupts the alchemy of fusion

That separates you from Unity by some negative or righteous perfusion

Would you rather be right?

Or be healed?

It’s through humility that all Truth is revealed

I kneeled down the other day

When my plans got replaced by ‘come what may’

‘Cause at the end of the day

There have only been moments where we actually had say

And we can do nothing to stop the blue skies from turning gray


One thing is true, but it’s rather hard to say

Because the deal with Light is that is shows us the way

And it shows us our ignorance, and our crazy wack trips

And oftentimes people aren’t ready to get tips

But that thing is this – and I speak it with humility:

One thing we must accept is full responsibility

Or else we blame, blame, blame

Getting burnt by the same flame

There’s no need to protect your name

When all you want to do is step out of the rain

We are responsible for how we interpret the game

An suffering is simply the judgment of pain

But that’s human, and that’s normal, and in fact it’s a sign

Seek to learn, and it’s answers you’ll find


Good and bad are nothing

But perspectives


That’s it.

Any more isn’t legit -so be real and don’t quit

When you need to heal negative thinking doesn’t fit

For Fear finds all the time in the world

To bind you from the Light and keep you blind

So you resign positivity with seemingly logical design

That’s nothing but the Illusion

See through it and walk free

Get the full understanding and ride the Duality

For knowledge and intuition combined is the key

So free yourself up and lift that Cup

And if it leaks – then patch it up


Reality floats on a mystery

And healing is always possible

To align yourself with humility and love is to be energized by the Unstoppable


We choose how we receive and, again, how we send

Some follow circles and look for its end

Others go with the Flow

And don’t break

When It bends.


©  2014 Michael Vladeck



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The heart of intimacy: the impact of curiosity and validation

Curiosity and validation are two of the most powerful relationship tools, yet, ironically, they are also two of the most underused.

Just how often your partner, friends and children feel your curiosity about them (their feelings or experiences), and how deeply they feel that you really understand them (their perspectives, ideas and feelings) are very indicative of how much trust, understanding and connection will exist between the two of you.

Often our deep longings to feel loved, safe and connected in our relationships play out in wanting palpable experiences that we… simply… matter… to the other person – and this is usually through feeling honored for who we are, where we are, and what we are experiencing.

Validation in a relationship context is very different than validating a scientific theory or a case that is presented by an opposing debate team. Rather, in a relationship context it means that we understand that their point, perspective, feelings and ideas are truly valid to them. Based on their personal perception and experience, we see and honor the basis for that.  In other words we see them and their experience as legitimate and worthy of respect.

The common lack of bringing curiosity and validation into relationship, I believe, are born from not experiencing it enough personally, as well as being projected on and not understood by parents and peers going all the way back to our childhood.   Most of us didn’t come close to receiving enough deep inner-world curiosity and validation, and our nervous system remembers that.  This got us in the need to protect ourselves with walls, beliefs and perceptions, egocentric patterns, in order to create a sense of self and a sense of security.  As a result of this, we may have developed a sense of co-dependency, clinginess or reactivity when our friends, family, partners, or even strangers do not see us for who we are, because they are too caught up in their own basic human distractions and delusions.  This is why, in the journey towards creating very healthy relationships it is so important for us to see, understand and unconditionally love ourselves first – or at least be on the journey towards this simultaneously. And this is why, in part, conscious relationships are so healing, especially when we can find the courage and ability to work through the inevitable pains that arise.

The shift occurs when we are able to face and work with these old patterns within ourselves, allowing us to become more “mutual-understanding-centric”.  That’s when we rise above our own walls, and when the love and connection (and curiosity and validation) we want to see can really begin to flow in the midst of that vulnerability.

Being curious about and acknowledging another’s experience invites a shift from relating mainly to our own thoughts and feelings and towards a critical bridging of the gap.

Curiosity says that we actually care enough about them to want more – more connection with them, more of who they are, more understanding between both of you.

Validation is born from a deep recognition that the other person has their perspective and feelings as the result of their vantage point, combined with their conditioning from all the things they have or haven’t experienced, healed, realized or understood.  It’s an expression that you understand how their point of view is culminated (though it may be different than yours).  It’s expressing that you get them.  And when we are able to process and integrate any of our own contracted feelings that may be arising, we are able to let them feel that our love and respect is still able to flow towards them.

When we resist validating another person’s experience it is usually for these common reasons: we don’t agree or see the truth in what they are thinking or doing, we believe their feelings have no legitimate basis, or we are concerned that if we validate them then it might mean that we agree with their perspective or, worse, that we’ll enable something we’d like to see come to an end.  There is also the possibility that we are stuck in righteousness and any other angle on the situation is basically a threat for us to consider.But when we de-validate or resist validating others, more ripples are created than just them not feeling understood. The problems this can create is that they will pick up on our lack of trust and openness to them- which they’ll certainly react to, perhaps deepening the conflict by becoming defensive or offensive or damaging the foundation of the relationship, or they’ll further internalize it, exacerbating the triggers they already likely have in this arena, and retreat from their true selves, becoming more insecure – in an attempt to stay in relationship with you, or to avoid what they may perceive as shame coming at them.

When we are aching for the warmth of love and connection, the fires we seek for in others may not consistently give off the heat we need.  Distractions and head-trips can do that to the fire tenders.  The fire that keeps us the warmest, thankfully, is from self-love.  Learning to tend this fire is part of our sacred purpose.  And it allows us to show up more receptive and open to others, with things like curiosity and validation.

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