I grew up skateboarding. It was my escape plan. It took me places. I learned mastery from skateboarding. I learned to hide injuries from my father, cos’ the pain of the falls are less than the wrath of my father.
I recently watched a video of a girl learning to do tricks on a skateboard over a 12-month period.
It’s incredible. It’s like watching a time-lapse video of a plant grow. She made incremental gains, some bad falls, and also some giant leaps.
But what was striking was the recurrent comments made by others about the video:
I worry that we have been hyper-conscious. In literal ways, the mirror is overy-reflected back on ourselves (Read this: Point Your Camera to the World). We can’t help but obsess about how our hair looks on a Zoom call.
An aside: This is also why if you are learning to practice a speech, despite conventional wisdom, the worse thing to do is to practice in front of a mirror. The focus isn’t about you. It’s your audience.
We all need to find a way to lose ourselves, and get deeply engaged into things that make us come alive.
Here’s one my best mates, psychologist and ex-Navy officer, Eng Chuan, learning to skateboard at age 57.
The experience of grief is not something we would ask for. Grief does not ask for our permission to exist.
Grief is not only losing something or someone outside of our selves. When we lose someone we love, we lose a part of ourselves. It is heartrending.
Steeped in our everyday exchanges , we are sublimated not to think about death. In my Chinese tradition, some might say it’s bad luck to speak about dying. In response, we say “Choi,” in Cantonese, to ward off the words – or even just having those thoughts – articulated.
You could say that reckoning with grief is like trying to stare at the sun. If you look at it directly, it blinds you. But, it illuminates everything. Our world revolves around it.
“Grief is a way of loving that which has slipped from view… and love is a way of grieving that which it has not yet done so.”
And if we can stand in the sun and take this in for a minute, I believe this will lead us to a place of love again.
Put another way, befriending grief on a daily basis passes us through a threshold from floating along in live to a certain sense of wakefulness.
Like the emphasis we give to our dental hygiene, what we need now is a society of individuals who values and engages in the process of waking up on daily – twice a day.
Wakefulness is the hidden prerequisite to presence.
And what constitutes this contemplation of daily waking up? To be a practitioner of grief.
This is not a grim and austere exercise. Instead, it rends our hearts open to reality… a reality that doesn’t need our consent, that life is finite. Because of its finality, evermore the poignancy of our living.
Buy a flower and put it on your dining table. Its presence differs to a plastic creation. The living flower will wither, the fake models what’s real, but never so. Yet, the flower’s existence penetrates into our consciousness (and if we learn to take it in) of both its temporalness and its gravity of beauty.
A way to grief is to slow down time to love, and a way to love is to befriend grief.
It treats the people who delivers the service solely as a means as to an end.
It fails to notice that those who give care, also needs to be part of a community of care.
It dispenses wellbeing gift wrapped and surrounded with the rah-rah cheerleading of “Self-Care,” and not address the need for communal caring.
Ultimately, the greatest violation is the violation of the dignity of the human spirit.
An organisation that is sick is not able to heal those they seek to heal. Rather, they perpetuate a disease.
An organisation that is designed to help others needs to make sure that people who are in the caring profession are cared for.
The moment we push for more, as if we are productive bots, we engage in a form of violence.
Here’s Thomas Merton talking about this exact issue more than 50 years ago.
“There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist…most easily succumbs: activism and over-work. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.
The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work… It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her)…work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
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 PsychotherapistDevelopment 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!
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.
Like it or not, we are all homeschoolers now. As a recent articlestates, 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 yourFREE guide.
Do you have other tips for home schooling? Love to hear your ideas. Share them in the comments below.
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.”
When we feel the weight of love and joy for the people we care about, we begin to feel the full potency of loss.
Love’s near other is loss.
This surge of pending grief can be almost too much to bear, but if we find a vessel, a holding, a way of living to contain and channel this reality, this has the potential to fully awaken us to the participation of living with presence.
Living with presence in a way that is accord to our true intentions, while penetrating through the noise that permeates most of our existence.
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.
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.