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How to Cultivate Generosity in Our Children

 

Nearly every spiritual tradition has a practice of generosity and giving. We call it Dana in some traditions, Caritas in Christianity, Tzedekah in Judaism, alms or communal sharing in others, or in the United States, “The Holiday Season” stretching onward from Black Friday through the New Year. These spiritual (and commercial) practices existed long before the term “positive psychology,” but the principles overlap significantly. We know now that making a practice of kindness and generosity leads to physical and mental health and social and spiritual benefits.

In families, children are often in the “getting” role, while adults are in the “giving role,” but how can we encourage that spirit of generosity in the next generation?

We are wired to be generous, and both neuroscience and well-worn clichés tells us we feel more joy in giving than in receiving. However, our consumer culture tells us the opposite, that getting will make us feel better. These messages run counter to the spiritual and scientific wisdom showing health and happiness come more through giving than getting. Just imagine if our society received just as many messages urging us to give than get, if people camped outside stores for days just to donate to the latest charity.

Among the many benefits, generosity also builds trust between people. Studies show that the giver’s brain regions associated with trust and connection light up, fostering optimism, reducing depression, and creating healthy attachments, showing us why cultures develop practices related to gift-giving. The benefits even extend to just witnessing an act of generosity.

 

So how can we encourage generosity our families? Here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Involve your kids in the decision for charitable giving, taking into account what your family’s values are: Social justice, the environment, health issues that have impacted your family, presents for children or families in need, and so on.
  • Follow the lead of my friend’s grandmother who gave the grandkids $100 each year, with $50 to spend on themselves and $50 she would donate to a charity of their choice.
  • Remember that giving can also include your time or your support. Volunteer as a family, a practice shown to boost happiness, empathy, and build closeness.
  • Give experiences; the happiness will last longer than the lifespan of a toy. Perhaps travel, theater tickets, or museum passes.
  • Donate toys to make space for the new. Notice together which toys are getting lonely and would be happier in a new home, saying thank you and goodbye to old toys, and imagining the happiness they will bring after they’ve been donated.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

 

Excerpted from Raising Resilience by Christopher Willard, Pysd.

Christopher Willard, Psyd, is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in bringing mindfulness into education and psychotherapy. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, teaches at Harvard Medical Schools, and leads workshops worldwide. For more, visit drchristopherwillard.com.

We Dare You to Rest This Holiday Season

When to say “No” & “Yes”

One of the most exhausting stress loops for women starts with saying “yes” when we feel “no”. Becoming your most authentic self is the first step to learning what a “no” and a “yes” feel like in your body. We often tell women to say no more, but equally as troublesome is that we also don’t feel and then follow our yeses.

Here’s a quick way to practice sensing what “yes” and “no” feel like to you:

  1. Put your hand on your heart and gut.
  2. Place your attention at the space between your eyebrows (your third eye).
  3. Inhale from the space between your eyebrows to the base of your spine, while mentally saying “Sooooo.” Then exhale from the base of your spine to the space between your eyebrows while mentally saying the sound, “Hummmmm.” Repeat twice more.
  4. Be still as you rest your attention on your third eye for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Call up a question you want an answer to, and see if you feel a “yes” or “no.”

For women who have lots of decisions to make, like mothers, I often suggest making a list of all the things stressing them out, and then, on the same day every week, doing this practice, seeing if they get a “yes” or “no” for each item on the list. This is also a great practice to do weekly when you’re pregnant, because giving birth centered in your true self, knowing your “yes” and “no,” is the best gift you can give your baby.

Using this practice to help make decisions will help you stop overdoing. You begin with feeling, drop your ego, and then, from your true nature, make decisions that end the worn-out feeling. Beware of mistaking things you love to do as a “yes.” For example, many of the creative moms I work with love to cook, but when they use this practice to ask whether they want to stay up cooking cupcakes late at night for their children’s school when they have work the next day, the answer they get might well be “no.”

Sometimes you may be faced with a difficult “no”: your inner wisdom will tell you that saying “no” to something will liberate time, but saying “no” may not feel good right away or may disappoint someone. If this happens, I encourage you to say “no” anyway. If you want to feel well-rested, you need to make the choice that supports your wholeness.

 

Love Yourself First

Most of us have heard flight attendants on an airplane say, “Put your own oxygen mask on first, and then secure your loved one’s.” This is an important message that well-rested women get in every bone of their bodies: love yourself first. The first thing your loved ones need is a healthy you. Here are two ways to do that.

 

  • Give Kindness
    • When you’re spinning in mental loops and stressed out, it’s hard to be kind to yourself or others. But as I always say after yoga nidra, I feel like I drank a cup of kindness. To capitalize on and reinforce this feeling, repeat this loving-kindness meditation.
      • Say to yourself:
        • May I be happy.
        • May I be safe.
        • May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
        • May I be able to recognize and touch harmony and joy in myself.
        • May I nourish wholesome seeds in myself.
        • May I be healthy, peaceful, and strong.

Notice how you feel in your body. When you’re ready, you can move on to saying the words for others: May (name of a loved one) be happy. May (he/she) be safe.

 

  • Go on Wonder Dates
    • Schedule quiet time for yourself. My friend and colleague Jeffrey Davis, of Tracking Wonder, a creative branding company, loves to say, “Wonder is not kid’s stuff. It’s radical grown-up stuff.” That’s right, taking time for wonder is an essential multi-vitamin for adults, too. It helps clear your mind and relax the body.
    • What’s wonder? It’s a time to be curious, to not know something. It’s the gratitude and amazement we feel when we see a shooting star or a beautiful full moon. Try finding a quiet space to read poetry, or sitting in a tree and then journaling about what you see and how it makes you feel. Many spots in nature call up wonder. Wonder sparks ideas, so the more time you spend in wonder, the juicer you will feel when you return to your everyday life.
    • And if you think you don’t have time, think again. Jeffrey has two little girls, and as he says, he “sculpts time” for wonder by intentionally planning space to wonder into his calendar.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

 

Excerpted from Daring to Rest, by Karen Brody.

Karen Brody is a speaker and the founder of Bold Tranquility, a company offering yoga nidra meditation for the modern women via downloadable products and workshops. Her work has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and she’s a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. She’s also a critically acclaimed playwright. Karen had a long personal history of severe panic attacks until she found yoga nidra meditation over a decade ago. At that time, she was a sleep-deprived mother of two small children on anti-anxiety medication. She signed up for a yoga nidra meditation class simply looking to lie down for a nap. What she got was “the best nap of her life.” As she continued to practice yoga nidra regularly, her deep fatigue lifted; she wrote a critically acclaimed play, got off anti-anxiety pills, and started to teach this yoga nidra “power nap” to every exhausted mother she knew.

A Guide to Restoration: November 2017

Welcome Dear Friend,

The Fall and Winter months are often noted for their long nights and cool temperatures.  It is also a time for hibernation, hunkering down with loved ones and contemplation.

Restoration is our guide for the month of November!  Restoration is defined as the act of restoring; renewal, revival, or reestablishment.  Just as dusk comes sooner these days, we also hope the light and warmth burn brightly.

November will be filled with weekly content on rest and renewal.  Please check out our content guide for dates!  We look forward to going on this adventure with you!

 

With love on the journey,

Your friends at Sounds True

How Self-Compassionate Are You?

Do you have a critical voice? What do you find it saying to you?

This video is a candid, vulnerable and compelling portrait from our own folks here at Sounds True.  We get their take on their own journey with self-compassion.  Discover the power of self-compassion and learn simple practices to transform your moments of moments of suffering into moments of love. 

 

Self-Compassion & Self-Reflection: Recommended Re...

Exploring the Science of Self-Compassion

 

The Art of Empathy by Karla McLaren

What if there were a single skill that could directly and radically improve your relationships and your emotional life? Empathy, teaches Karla McLaren, is that skill. With The Art of Empathy, she teaches us how to perceive and feel the experiences of others with clarity and authenticity—to connect with them more deeply and effectively.

Informed by current insights from neuroscience, social psychology, and healing traditions, this book explores some of the following:

  • Why empathy is not a mystical phenomenon but a natural, innate ability that we can strengthen and develop
  • How to identify and regulate our emotions and boundaries

 

 

 

The Science of Compassion by Kelly McGonigal

Stories, dynamic meditations, and innovative writing exercises to spark creativity and spiritual awakening.

The best writers say their work comes from a source beyond the thinking mind. But how do we access that source? “We must first look inside ourselves and be willing to touch that raw emotional core at the heart of a deeper creativity,” Writes Albert Flynn DeSilver. In Writing as a Path to Awakening, this renowned poet, writer, and teacher shows you how to use meditation to cultivate true depth in your writing—so your words reveal layers of profound emotional insight and revelation that inspire and move your readers.

 

 

The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren

Emotions—especially the dark and dishonored ones—hold a tremendous amount of energy. We’ve all seen what happens when we repress or blindly express them. With The Language of Emotions, empathic counselor Karla McLaren shows you how to meet your emotions and receive their life-saving wisdom to safely move toward resolution and equilibrium. Through experiential exercises covering a full spectrum of feelings from anger, fear, and shame to jealousy, grief, joy, and more, you will discover how to work with your own and others’ emotions with fluency and expertise.

Here is a much-needed resource filled with revolutionary teachings and breakthrough skills for cultivating a new and empowering relationship with your feeling states through The Language of Emotions.

 

 

 

Awakening Compassion by Pema Chödrön

On Awakening Compassion, Pema Chödrön, one of the Western world’s best-known lojong teachers and practitioners, shows you how to use your own painful emotions as stepping stones to wisdom, compassion, and fearlessness. You will learn how to make friends with the painful parts of your life experience and how to use your natural courage and honesty to transform even the most difficult situations.

With an informal teaching style, both playful and insightful, Pema Chödrön makes this timeless way of bringing compassion into the world easy to understand and apply to your own life. More than seven hours of practical, compassionate guidance for shedding your cocoon and meeting your world with fresh appreciation. Includes a nine-page study guide with lojong slogans and additional resources.

 

 

The Force of Kindness by Sharon Salzberg

Distill the great spiritual teachings from around the world down to their most basic principles, and one thread emerges to unite them all: kindness. In The Force of Kindness, Sharon Salzberg, one of the nation’s most respected Buddhist authors and meditation teachers, offers practical instruction on how we can cultivate this essential trait within ourselves.

Through her stories, teachings, and guided meditations, Sharon Salzberg takes readers on an exploration of what kindness truly means and the simple steps to realize its effects immediately. She reveals that kindness is not the sweet, naive sentiment that many of us assume it is, but rather an immensely powerful force that can transform individual lives and ripple out, changing and improving relationships, the environment, our communities, and ultimately the world. Readers will learn specific techniques for cultivating forgiveness; turning compassion into action; practicing speech that is truthful, helpful, and loving; and much more.

Getting Grief Right

Dear friends,

Only a few months ago, I received word that a dear friend’s child had been tragically killed in a car accident. Although I have worked with hundreds of bereaved people in my 38 years as a grief counselor, I felt worried as I went to be with my friend. “What will I say to this dear man about his loss?”

Then I remembered: “I don’t need to be anxious about the right thing to say. My purpose as his friend is to be present for whatever he might need.”

Supporting someone in their grief is a tall order if ever there was one. How, exactly, do you show true compassion for a grieving person? Here are a few ideas I mention in my new book, Getting Grief Right:

  • Simply and sincerely say: “I’m very sorry.”
    • No more words are necessary. Really.
  • Show up at the house, visitation, or funeral; express simple words of sorrow; and then let the mourning person dictate what happens next.
    • She may open her arms for a hug, or she may clearly want to keep people at a distance. He may want to talk about his loss or about baseball. Be with them wherever they are.
  • Just simply be with that person and be compassionate.
    • Being with a person in grief is a unique, one-way intimacy. Don’t try to fix it or make him or her feel better.
  • Listen with your eyes and respond with nods that convey, “I get it.”
  • Laugh with them when it’s time to laugh. Cry if tears come.

And remember, even after the last casserole dish is picked up, many who mourn feel forgotten.

  • Bring a meal on the two-month anniversary of the death.
  • Take your friend to coffee six months after the death and listen carefully to what they share about their story of loss.
  • Speak the name often of the one who died.
  • Donate to a relevant memorial at the year anniversary of the death or on the birthday of the one who died.

I hope these ideas will help you to create a compassionate community for those who you know are grieving.

Most Sincerely, 

Patrick O’Malley

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