It was just one of those mornings when nothing could fix it. Whiny and tearful over every little thing, the little Acorn Scout had been moping and pouting since he woke up. It became clear that no matter how much I tried to help, whatever process was taking place in his two and a half year old world was going to take it’s own time to work out. I pulled him into my lap.
“You sound so sad today, buddy. What’s going on? What’s making you so sad?”
“My buh-wain, Mama!” Pressing his face into my shirt. “My buh-wain is making me be sad.” (Buh-wain = brain, in toddler-speak)
“Your brain?” I asked, charmed and bemused.
“Yeah.” He sniffed into my chest.
“What do you think you need to help your brain not be sad?” I asked.
“Anudder one! I need anudder (another) one BUH-WAIN!” His voice started up and his anguish was palpable.
Oh, my son. How many times in my life have I felt betrayed, encaged, even tyrannized by my own mind? Few of us have escaped the tormented idea at some point: There is simply something wrong with my brain. This one is defective. I am broken and I need fixing.
Om nama shivaya. I honor the teacher within.
“Well, there are ways that we can help our brain to feel better. First, we can take some deep breaths, right?”
We did some deep breaths. Spontaneously, he added a big “OOoooooooomMMM” at the end which us made us both smile and we chanted OOooooooommmmm together a few times.
“Now let’s try and think of all the things you love the most.” I said. “Let’s fill up your brain with all the things that make you feel happy! If we fill up your brain with all the happy things there won’t be any more room left for the sad. What are some things you love?”
“Do you love… Papa?”
“Do you love….Dixie and Kitty?”
“YEAH! I love Dixie and Kitty!”
“Do you love….going to the beach?”
Pirates. Bananas. His friends at school. Going on adventures. Going camping. His cousin. Doing art projects. Helping Mama cook. Trumpets. Popsicles. His train set. Birthday parties. Grandma and grandpa. Picking tomatoes. Tigers.
The list kept going. And it worked. His mood lightened. Whew. I thought, I think I really might have aced that one.
And for a moment I glimpsed how far I had come in my own journey of mind. I have a history of depression and anxiety dating back to my teens. There were moments in my twenties I felt so tormented by my own thoughts and that if life meant fighting that kind of oppression then I did not wish to continue. The path to peace with myself and my mind began with being still. Turning to face the shadows instead of running from them.
I began meditating in 2009. It did not solve all of my problems but it opened something. Even with an irregular practice, the universe saw it’s opportunity. That opening is what allowed healing to take place and transformation process to begin. It brought teachers into my life: people and books and experiences and ….miracles. I wasn’t afraid anymore. It didn’t happen overnight it happened through incremental shifts, big leaps and foolish ones, breaking through, backpedaling, testing the limits of grace (there are none), friendship and dignity (there are some), and stepping in some dog shit along the way. And some days are still a struggle. But goddamn it, if I can’t stand here today and say,
“Wow. I am so glad I didn’t give up back there.”
It occurred to me then and I have wondered since, “Is befriending our mind the whole purpose of our lives?”
Suddenly in that moment with my son, I was aware that the most valuable gift to come from those years of darkness and suffering is the ability for me now to teach my son at so early an age the power he can have over his own mind and with reverence and profound gratitude my heart beats out, Thank you.
A long winding road stretches ahead and there will be many more moments. I will not ace them all. But we have made a good beginning.
“I thiiiink…. if I can have a wittle tw-eat (little treat) and my bwain will feel SO HAPPY!!”
And then, of course, there are always chocolate chips.
Check this great article: How to Teach a Child Emotional Intelligence.
“…I showed her that it is okay to experience emotions. Sadness and frustration are normal emotions to feel. By not offering her any tactics to stuff them down or any distraction, she was able to fully experience the emotion and feel what it is like to move completely through it. This is strengthening her ability to navigate strong feelings on her own…” (Read more)