Full Circles

Reflections on Living

Category: Psychological (page 1 of 3)

Homeschooling?

A Smorgasbord of Tips to Keep Your Kids Engaged, Learning and Connected During Home Isolation.

Note: This article is cross-posted on two of my blog sites, Frontiers of Psychotherapist Development  and Full Circles. While FPD aims to help therapists, and FC is more for a general audience, I figured professionals and parents might equally benefit from this.

Click on the buttons below to receive an entire list of ideas to engage your kids during this pandemic that has affected all across the world…plus more relevant resources to dig in a little further!

DOWNLOAD THE HOMESCHOOLING GUIDE

When we were having our first child, we decided that we are going to enlist the help of a Doula. “Do-what?” you might say. Here’s an explainer.

The way I saw it, she was like our personal coach and companion before, during and after the birthing process, a critical bridgecrossing phase.

What we learned about our doula Catherine was that not only did she have 4 kids, they were all homeschooled!

Maybe your reaction is like my wife and I. How is that humanly possible to home school a kid 24/7, let alone 4?!

I can imagine Catherine’s response to us neophytes at trying to homeschool our kids during this outbreak. Truth is, from what I’ve understood from Catherine and reading books on homeschooling (e.g., I highly recommend Brave Learner by Julie Bogart or check out this website), what the majority of us are doing is nowhere near  what homeschooling really is about. It’s more like “isolated”  schooling. The “home” in homeschooling is not confined to our place of residence. It’s much more expansive than outsiders might think (If you are interested, read more about Jonathan Holt’s views on homeschooling.

But this doesn’t mean that we should throw our hands up. What are going to do stuck at home with our kids during this pandemic? Maybe you might be confronted with feeling inadequate as a parent, but the truth is, parenting is less like a fixed classical music piece with musical sheets to follow, but more like a jazz improvisational jam; you never know what’s come next.

When I first read Jonathan Holt’s seminal book, How Children Learn, I remember one of the early advice in his writing was “to trust kids.” This could not be further from my educational experience growing up in Singapore. Schools told you what to learn. What Holt, and perhaps more Montessori-typed schools promote is to be child-directed.

But if you dig a little further, Maria Montessori said,

 ”Follow your child, but follow your child as his leader.” 

 

There is no other more important thing for parent(s) to take the lead than during a critical crisis period that has swept the world.  We have to “follow your child” and their curiosity, but also dance in this fragile balance of exercising leadership.

I argue that the leadership we need as parents is to design our home environments that nurtures not only the mind, but also feed the soul with how they experience humanity and the world around us. (While we try to juggle working from home and caring for others, be it elderly parents and young ones).

The last few weeks, my family and I, like many others around the world, have been in home isolation. My wife and younger child developed symptoms of fever and cough, and the only prudent thing to do was to self-isolate for the next few weeks. We don’t know if it’s COVID-19, as they do not meet the criteria for testing, but speaking to our GP on a telehealth consult was reassuring.

 

DOWNLOAD THE HOMESCHOOLING GUIDE

We are all homeschoolers now.

Like it or not, we are all homeschoolers now. As a recent article states, this pandemic “will bring about an education reevaluation, if not revolution” of how our education system.

Majority of the ideas in this list to keep your kids engaged, learning and connected during these home-bound times were “guinea pigged” in our family of four, with our 6 and 3-year-olds. Some were figured out along the way, and many were grafted from resources I’ve picked up across the years (see below for some of the good ones), and others were employed through the years in my work with families as a therapist.

If you would like to have a buffet of ideas to engage your kids, moving beyond just “isolated” schooling and borrow some of the richness of homeschooling during this period of home isolation, click on the link below to get your FREE guide.


Do you have other tips for home schooling? Love to hear your ideas. Share them in the comments below.

Anaesthetic vs. Aesthetic Experience

Reading a book is like having a deep conversation.*

Watching a movie is like experiencing vivid dreaming.

Listening to music is like hearing the sound of emotions.

Viewing a photograph or a painting is like stopping time.

All forms of art, provides an opportunity to engage in an aesthetic experience.

A doctor applies an anaesthetic when she wants the patient to feel nothing. If aesthetic is numbness, an aesthetic awareness is a door to wonderment.

So much of what we consume today is like anaesthesia. Yet, what is needed is aesthetics that un-numbs us, that provides us a waking up to the inherent beauty that is possible to be engaged with.

As Proust says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Engaging in art has a way of clearing the fog in our eyes and waking our senses. 

Art might be “useless” in a conventional economy paradigm, but it is highly valuable from what it means to be human.


Footnote:

* If I can say anything about poetry, reading a poem is like listening to the the truth, told “slant”.

Photo by Mr TT

Look Outside of Yourself

As a modern species, I wonder if we have become explainaholics. We start to theorise, analyse, and explain things away, and thus become detached from a lived and engaged reality. (I talked more about the phenomena on becoming an “explainaholic” in my other blog site, Frontiers of Psychotherapist Development.)

Particularly, there is a danger of that happening in what I do as a psychotherapist, which can sometimes slip into an over-focus “interiorising.”

Here’s what depth psychologist James Hillman recommends why we need to look outside of ourselves:

Say you pass a homeless man on the street and you share that with your therapist. Your therapist says to you that you feel for this man because it resonates with the homeless part of you. By the time you make that reflection, by the time you have interiorised, you have passed the homeless man on the street… you lose the emotions to the world by interiorising.

There are inner conflict and wounds that need tending to on the inside that is not visible to others, but I would argue we must not stop them. Life is outside waiting for us to be engaged with. To learn, to love, to have our hearts broken, and mended back. To create, to relate. To make blunders, and to rediscover ourselves. 

 

In his new book, Life’s Great Questions, the author Tom Rath shares a speech made by a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

 “Life’s most persistent and urgent question…

What are you doing for others?”

 

MLK was only 29 years old at that time.  Rath goes on, “Yet it is easy to see how, in the remaining decade of his life, Dr. King dedicated almost all of his time to answering this question. In doing so, he showed us how orienting your efforts outward creates perpetual growth for generations to come.”

 

Maybe we need to flip things around:

 


Image of Fremantle, WA by Charlene Nguyen 

How to Travel Light

When we travel, my wife reminds me that I have two kids now; it is IMPOSSIBLE to travel light.

Admittedly, I may be a minimalist by desire, but I pack like an opportunist. I bring stuff like an extra shirt, markers, 3 books in case I finish 2 in one trip, post-it notes, USB/HDMI/VGA cables just in case I might need them for work…

The question I asked myself is how do we carry a sense of lightness of being in ourselves?

We approach life with bows and arrows. We relate with life and what’s to come like targets. We walk around not only with blinkers on, but with a certain sense of heaviness and visceral tension.

One quality that manifests as a weight on our being is the invisible act of rumination. This mulling and chewing over stuff makes us travel with overweight suitcases in our tow. Not only that, many of the things in this mental luggage have low utility and value.

But here’s the thing: telling someone to stop thinking about something that’s bothering them isn’t exactly going to solve the issue.

Perhaps we have to learn to clear our minds, like the way we do with our real-world and digital trash. When we are done with the item, we place them in a bin. When the bin gets full, we empty the trash. In our inner life, we seem to think it’s okay to retrieve the banana skin off the bin and scratch off more of the fruit to eat.

We can only hold so much in our heads if we want to be present in life.

In psychological studies, we call this cognitive overload. We need to learn to overload stuff from our minds so that we can tune to the unfolding of each day. Try writing, doodling, bullet journaling, create to-do lists (don’t forget to pair this with a done list, mind mapping, gantt charts, Eisenhower matrix… and if your life is complicated, use project management softwares to assist you (Trello is one of my favorites).

~~~

Do you know of people in your life who travel lightly, who has a lightness of being when you are with them? Emulate them.

Happy 2020,

Daryl

Time Management vs. Attention Management

We are in desperate need of attention management. Not of others, but of our own. Corporate society thrives at captivating our attention. In many sense, your attention has more currency that money.

Maybe it’s not time that we have to manage directly. Time moves at a constant, regardless of our approval. Time is experienced differently depending on how you navigate this moving terrain.

It’s not time management that we need, but attention management.

Mindfulness has been all the rage in this period of writing. This has been associated with the notion of “being present.” Yet, intention precludes attention. We can only enter the cracks of mindfulness through the seeds of our intention. In another way of putting it, our intentions can only take shape when we do a bit of “time travel” into our future, so that paradoxically, we can eb more present.

The closer we live our lives based on our intentions, the better well spent our time is, the better our wellbeing.

This calls for a form of intentional living. Not going through life “by default,” but “by design.” A design that is shaped by your choices, within the constraints of givens and circumstances.

Design is not just for aesthetic, “beautification or prettification” reasons. Designing something is to cultivate an environment that is conducive for our intentions to flourish.

Our experience of life is truly where our attention is. If left to a default mode, our attention is compelled to act like a suspectible scatter-brain, easily sucked into the cesspool of clickbaits, autoplay videos, and algorithmic “recommendations.”

We need to take the steering wheel. We need to craft, redirect and steer our senses towards where we want to go.

Why bother with such deliberation? Because that is where you will be. Our attention leads us moment by moment into a personal future, and you are the only one who will experience this one life.

The Invisible Essentials

Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by a greater suffering.”

~ St. Augustine

Yes, we all have invisible wounds. At the same time, what’s truly essential is also invisible to the eye. And in some sense, we wake up to joy after the ordeal of trials and tribulations.

The impulse of desire, knowing what we want, is the seed of vitality. It’s a powerful life-force inside each of us exist, if we learn to tune in, adjust and calibrate the frequencies like an old transistor radio.

This life-force within us is a creative force. Not just in an aesthetic or artistic sense, but a potent energy waiting to be nurtured and shared generously with others.

Others people would often fail to see this seed of desire within you. Only those who know you in a deep way are able to sense this providence, and only a fewer selected people—mentor, teacher, wise friend—can help unearth this with you. If you know such individuals, stay close to them. If you don’t have such individuals in your life, seek them out. Everyone on this journey needs a guide, especially in two particular phases of life:

  1. Periods of struggles and ordeal, and
  2. Periods of renewal

One way to begin tapping into this creative force is to sit with this one question, “What do you want to create in this life,” [1] and refrain from settling with familiar and norm-based responses. Because each of us, given the matrix of our unique burdens and blessings, have something remarkable to give.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance.

The Invisible Wounds

Some of our most painful wounds are invisible.

Many of us not only carry them throughout our lives, but we bag them up and lug them like dirty laundry. We walk around as if one shouldn’t have clothes to wash, and silently seeking a place to find solace and relief from these painful and intense emotions.

These difficult emotions often manifest from

Traumatic experiences

Chronic pain

Experiences of violence

Imposition by others on how you should lead your life

Loneliness

Abandonment

Rejection

Unspoken fears…

If you live long enough, you are bound to have these happen to you. 

It is also our rejection of these emotional experiences “I shouldn’t feel this way,” that causes more suffering. 

We need to find a way to soothe and heal from these invisible painful emotions. Not in solitude, but with companions. As Thomas Merton would say, “Suffering is wasted when we suffer entirely alone.” (No Man is An Island, p. 85).

We must learn to not “harden our hearts” but to find a quality of grace and tenderness for those who suffer in way that our eyes can’t see—and that includes ourselves.

“The biggest questions have already been answered”

Why bother asking the big questions in life (“What brings meaning and purpose?” or “What is a good life?”), since these questions have already been tackled by philosophers of old?

The main issue is not just having the answers, but the willingness to ask the questions, and sit with the ambiguity, patiently waiting, and using questions as an arrow to guide towards what matters most.

Everyone needs to ask the big questions. Because each person’s answers are not only different, the road that leads there needs to be traveled and discovered; it’s a pilgrimage.

No point reaching the end of your holiday destination without having traveled through the new places.

Is “How Are You?” A Greeting or a Real Question?

Since moving to Australia in 2010, I could never wrap my head around the social convention of asking each other “how are you?”

I took the question too seriously at first, and I soon realised I didn’t really need to contemplate the meaning of life as all I needed to say was “Fine thank you. And how are you?”

I think I’m getting the hang of it. I’m accepting that it’s really a hello or a G’day.

But 9 years later, I rethinking the “how are you’s.” Here’s what I think we should do to this social convention:

We should ask ourselves, on a daily basis, “How are you?”

And then patiently wait for a full-bodied felt response.

We don’t check in with ourselves enough. Most days, we are bustling around getting from one place to another, nailing down one task to another, from home care to schoolcare to the workforce. Meanwhile, we neglect to listen to our bodies.

Our mind is there to take care of the mind and the body. This is not just about being self-aware, because you can self-aware and still fail to ask fully embrace this beautiful question of “how are you.”

Hint: Like a call-and-response, if you ask this question to yourself and let it ring through from the top of your head to your pinky toes—and give yourself time—you might find yourself automatically letting out a sigh. That’s a good sign.

So, how are you?

Recalculating

Jewish Buddisht teacher Sylvia Boorstein said,

“The GPS never gets mad at me… It just says, ‘recalculating.’ No matter how many times I don’t make that turn, the tone of the voice stays the same.”

Instead of being rigid and demanding of what we expect of life, perhaps our approach to parenting, relationships, and work should be have an improvisational quality of recalculating, recalibrating, or re-routing, and being openly responsive to what life presents.

The real challenge perhaps is how to stay unfrazzled.

Here lies a paradox: while we hold steady to pursue or goals and maintain our focus, we must continually let our expectations die. When we learn to let go of our demands of life, then maybe we can encounter life; the opening to live.

Daily, we must recalculate. And let the tone of our voice be fiercely gentle. 

Note to self: Remember this when my kids don’t do what I tell them to do.

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