3 CONCEPTS & 1 ACTIVITY THAT CAN INFLUENCE OUR EFFECTIVENESS IN OUR FAMILIES

ONE
The first is the most important, and that’s the concept of principles. Principles should and actually do guide everything in the universe. Principles are true to all human beings all over the world. They are unchanging, unarguable, and self-evident. They are those things that all of us know in our hearts to be true. Principles are not internal as we may think, they are actually external to…

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3 CONCEPTS & 1 ACTIVITY THAT CAN INFLUENCE OUR EFFECTIVENESS IN OUR FAMILIES

ONE
The first is the most important, and that’s the concept of principles. Principles should and actually do guide everything in the universe. Principles are true to all human beings all over the world. They are unchanging, unarguable, and self-evident. They are those things that all of us know in our hearts to be true. Principles are not internal as we may think, they are actually external to us. We can fail to live up to our principles, but the principles themselves remain, forever unchangeable.

Principles may be in harmony with our values, but they may not be the same as our values. Values change — they are what we like from time to time. But principles are true and unchanging. Gravity is a good example. You may not believe in gravity, you may not understand gravity, you may not like gravity, but if you jump off a building, you will experience gravity. There is no way you can change that. We have to go to great lengths to escape its pull, but when doing so we don’t change the principle of gravity. Principles are natural laws that involve cause and effect. They are long term. What you do today because of your principles influences you and your family and the people around you for generations to come.

Principles are true for all religions. We think that principles would be different in two very different sets of philosophical views, but they’re not. There is a basic agreement in every culture about principles such as integrity, kindness, and honesty — we all know they are essential for a healthy society.

TWO
Practices, on the other hand, change. Practices are the things we do that change with changing times. We may do something differently because of new knowledge. For example, a long time ago they gave babies opium when they cried. Now that would be considered child abuse. Obviously that is not a principle, it’s a practice. In the midst of complexity we always seek security in practices, so it is very easy to teach practices. A nurse mechanically rubbing a baby in a nursery is an example of practice without principle; the underlying principle for the practice of infant massage is the bonding between parent and baby. You may get short-term value from practices; you may get limited benefits. Principles, however, give you long-term benefits — on every level — that never end. President Thomas Jefferson’s words are worth reflecting upon:

“In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

THREE
A paradigm is a way of seeing things; it’s the picture we have in our minds of how our universe works. It’s our best guess at how things are, our best assumptions about how things work, where people are coming from, and what is true.

Paradigms, though, may be based on inaccurate information. Let’s say I invite you to my house in Colorado, and I mistakenly give you a map with a misprint — it says, “Colorado” at the top, but it is actually a map of Illinois. You get in your car and you get lost because you do not have an accurate map. That’s what a paradigm is : it is our map of the territory. But the map is not the territory. So our paradigms are subject to updating. This is where we try to cultivate teachability or humility, the frame of mind where you think you know what is right, but you are always open to new information.

For the longest time, we thought that babies couldn’t see at all when they were born, much less see in utero, so we behaved accordingly. Then suddenly — seemingly overnight — we discovered they can see and actually they can see quite clearly. It shifted our paradigm of what the infant’s reality is — and that shift continues to happen over and over again.

As soon as we think we know all about an infant’s experience — what the world looks and feels like to them — we discovered they know and experience more than we thought. At one point we also thought babies couldn’t feel until a certain age — that they didn’t feel pain! That paradigm was very convenient for adults, but it wasn’t true.

We correct our paradigms by listening — to other people and to information that comes to us when we study, when we think deeply about what our paradigms are, and by trying to adjust them to what is current, what is real. We use our principles as a guide for doing that.

A MISSION IN LIFE

One of the most useful projects I have undertaken is to write a personal mission statement for my life. I wrote a personal mission statement several years ago, and every year on the first of January, I review my statement and make changes to bring it into alignment with what I understand to be my chief principles. I also review the past year, and evaluate what I did and how I expressed my stated mission in my everyday life. If there is an area that is being neglected, I try to understand why and figure out how I might address that aspect in the coming year.

My personal mission statement comprises my guiding principles. It is statement, in my own words, about how I wish to be in every area of my life. Throughout the year, as I plan all my activities and goals, I review this statement and ask myself, “Does this project, plan, or goal resonate with my mission in life?”

You probably already have an overall sense of purpose about being good person, serving humanity, maybe even realizing God, and so on. Breaking that general purpose down into specific behaviors can be very helpful — you will find yourself doing more thinking, less reacting. We are often pressured, cajoled, manipulated, and maneuvered into doing countless things that do not necessarily move us any closer to our goals, and that may, in fact, pull us away from our fundamental principles. Stating these principles can be the first step toward gaining the inner strength and courage to be what we really, truly want to be, deep down in our souls.

YOUR “FLIGHT PLAN”
I read Michael Crichton’s techno-thriller Airframe, and it made me think about my favorite analogy about mission statements: the flight plan. Most of the time a commercial aircraft is off course, but using feedback systems it corrects its course and reaches its destination, usually on time. In much the same way, a personal mission statement serves as a flight plan. It tells you where you want to go. It can provide a system through which you can receive feedback to keep you on purpose in spite of the many events and decisions that may cause you to veer off your original plotted route.

In thinking about this analogy, I wondered what would happen if two pilots with different flight plans tried to fly the same plane? The plane would probably get off the ground easily, but as the pilots settled in for the trip, power struggles would erupt as each tried to steer the plane according to his or her own flight plan. Unless some kind of synergy could develop, there would be a crash.

In addition to writing personal mission statement, many people find creating a mission statement with their partner is an exciting and fulfilling thing to do — especially if you have children. Questions you never thought of before will come to you as you clarify what is deeply important to you both. In most partnerships, a shared mission can be arrived at joyfully.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PRINCIPLE THREE: EMPOWERMENT

MODELING EMPOWERMENT WITH AUTHORITY

When my daughter was in high school, she had a friend who came from a very difficult home. She had been abused early in life, and her mother took hard drugs. This girl, I’ll call her Josey, spent a lot of time at our house, and I tried to mother her as best I could. Her envy of my child’s good parents and apparently wealthy lifestyle eventually became obsessive, and when my daughter expanded her circle of friends, Josey became enraged and turned on her. At the same time, Josey began taking drugs and got into dark music that my daughter didn’t like much. Joey became obsessed with the serial killer Charles Manson. Her room became almost a shrine to him. Because of her jealousy, her entire junior year of high school became focused on torturing and ostracizing my daughter, who would come home from school in tears from being tripped, slammed, and insulted by Josey.

Josey had a loud mouth and aggressive demeanor, and no one at this small-town, rural high school could stand up to her. My daughter — already a little different because she was from somewhere else, she was small and quiet, and a vegetarian — had no chance against this girl’s onslaughts. I watched her self-esteem plummet as the year went on. We talked a lot, and I tried to  help her keep her head up, to ignore Josey, and to concentrate on her own life. But in such a fishbowl environment, it was a hard test for her.

Just before spring break, Josey trapped my daughter in the girls’ bathroom at school and beat her up. She came home with a black eye and scratches all over her body, and with a note she had found in her locker containing a disgusting poem, basically threatening her life. Naturally, the lioness in me wanted to go and beat some sense into that girl and her no-good mother to boot. I called the school officials, who had to pull Josey off my daughter, and their reply was that it was “just one of those girl fights, it happens all the time.” I told them no, it had been part of a months-long systematic harassment of my daughter and if something wasn’t done I would get the law involved.

I photocopied the nasty poem and wrote several carefully worded letters, which were not excessively angry, but clear and to the point about the fact that I would go as far as necessary, under the law, to protect my daughter. I enclosed photocopied portions of the school board policy on violence and the poem, and sent these letters to the girl’s mother, the school officials, and the county prosecutor. I made it clear to the girl’s mother that if her daughter should even touch my daughter again, I would take her to court for stalking, harassment, assault, and whatever else I could think of.

In the meantime, I contacted the county prosecutor and informed him of the situation. I got a clear understanding of what our rights were. All along I told my daughter everything. She didn’t really want me to get involved at first (at that age, it is embarrassing for parents to step in) but I told her, “I’m really sorry, I’d like to go by your wishes, but since I’m an adult I can see the bigger picture. We’ve tried ignoring it, going to school officials, and going to her family. Now the situation is dangerous, and it’s my job as your mother to sep in and set limits if no one else will. We aren’t bullies, but we Don’t let bullies get their way with us either. I need to teach you how to deal with these situations now.”

I enlisted her agreement and support. I knew that the most powerful way to act in a situation like this is with calm perseverance, knowing your rights, and following through on your warnings. Emotionally, I’d have liked to do any number of vengeful things. But we couldn’t let ourselves be ruled by emotion or we would have become just like the bullies.

The girl’s mother was mortified; she called me and begged me not to go to the authorities. I empathized, saying it must be very embarrassing for her and I couldn’t imagine as a mother she would ever approve of such behavior. I didn’t mention what I knew of her own drug use. I let her know that if the behavior did not stop, I would have no choice bu to have her daughter arrested.

Then Josey called, crying, and apologized. I calmly explained how disappointed I was in her after I had taken her into my heart and home. I recommended that she get counseling and find out if any “medication” she may be taking could be affecting her personality so badly. Then I said I was sorry, but I could not allow her in our home again. Finally, in my lowest, most powerful voice — with “sinking power” rooted in the earth — I said, “Josey, if you even so much as look at my daughter again, I will have you arrested faster than you  can take a breath. I have spoken to the county prosecutor, and he is ready. Do you understand me?”

She sniffled, “Yes…” I said, “Please try to straighten yourself out. You are a good girl with a lot of potential and a lot of life to live. But you have to do it yourself, nobody will do it for you.” My daughter never had any trouble from her again. She was able to see how adults can work through difficult situations without resorting to violence or childishness. It was a great lesson in empowerment for us all.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE THREE: EMPOWER — Part Five

Principle Three in Pregnancy

Working with Principle Three begins as soon as you get pregnant. You will need constant access to you own power to make the hundreds of choices you must make.  My mother was utterly disempowered by social norms when she had her babies, and who knows how that affected my relationship with my mother, my own empowerment, and my mother’s ability to “parent” healthily. An empowered woman is strong, centered, and confident in her choices. She seeks out support and help when she needs it, and her birth experience is informed by her empowerment.

In an ideal world, people wouldn’t have children until they have solidly connected with own power. It’s difficult enough even then! Imagine a teenager, who is barely coming into awareness of this aspect of her being, suddenly having to be a role model for a child, having to know the right use of power as a parent. It’s nearly impossible. How can we expect kids to lead healthy, meaningful lives? It is a lifelong challenge, an endless spiritual path.

PREGNANT BELLY_m

I encourage you to use your pregnancy, whether it is your first or fifth, as an exciting opportunity to exercise the right use of power. Notice all the decisions you need to make, connect them with your parenting mission statement, and make them on the basis of what your inner sense tells you is right. Don’t allow the so-called experts to run your life. Consider their advice, but consider yourself with ultimate authority. Doctors and researchers are not gods. Their warnings are often recanted years after they give them. Be willing to surrender the results of your decisions to the universal forces; God, the Tao, whatever you choose to call that which guides you. Trust that force, and trust yourself. Let your inner sense tell you what is right and back it up with power from your very core. If you don’t know what to do, get all the information you can on all sides of the issue, let it sit for a while, ask for guidance, and then go with what feels right.

Principle Three with Babies

When my first child was born, the prevailing norm was that circumcision was a must, a given. But it didn’t feel right to me. So I did a lot of research about the reasons for it and its history, and found different points of view. I learned about exactly what is done and was able to watch a video. Finally my husband and I made our own decision: we would not, as vegetarians and spiritual beings, inflict pain on animals, so why would we do that to our newborn baby? We decided that when he was old enough to make that decision for himself, he was free to have it done, without disapproval from us.

When we made the decision, it was an act of empowerment for us and for our infant: your body is not mine, it is yours. You get to decide if it is changed in any way, when you are old enough to do so. He is now in his thirties and it has never been an issue for him. When he had his own baby boy, he chose not to have him circumcised, for the same reasons.

So often, we project our own “what-ifs” on our babies and, to spare them the possible embarrassment of being different, we make a decision like this for them. Something like circumcision teaches the newborn child he is not the owner of his body and that , at any moment, his power over his own body can be painfully taken away by strangers without his permission, his understanding, or any preparation. New research proves that circumcision, especially in developed countries, has no medical value or health benefits for babies, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has said it is an unnecessary procedure from a medical standpoint.

I’m using this as an example only — I realize many people have their own good reasons for choosing this ritual. I use this example to encourage you to engage, in whatever way you can, your child’s own power — his permission, his selfhood — in the process. Empowering your children begins at birth.

baby massage

In teaching infant massage, early on I incorporated the practice of “asking permission” from the baby. Many parents can’t understand this until they try it. The parent engages with her baby eye-to-eye; she places her hands on her baby’s body, then  rubs her hands together in front of baby, shows him her open palms, and asks, “May I massage you now?” Parents learn their babies’ nonverbal cues which tell them whether or not their infant is ready to be massaged. As they practice this over and over, parent and baby are synchronized and it becomes easier, even in ways other than massage, to really listen and understand what their infant is saying.