Getting to Know our Inner Child
I have the privilege to to talk to and be with children of lots of different ages because of the work I do. I teach mindfulness and yoga in schools and in privates. It’s fulfilling and often time challenging work and it’s another place where practice and inquiry show up for me. Often, I gain insight into my own inner child or teen.
The way children act during these sessions offer clues into the way my own childhood has impacted me. Sometimes I get triggered by their choices and notice my own childhood pain and hurt and how it effects the way I show up in the world. I am also often grateful for the reminder that as a child (like these children) I was taken care of and supported by the universe, my ancestors and elders, my family, friends, and strangers alike.
There is so much for me to see that I often overlook it. To slow down, bring awareness, and make sense of what I notice arising in me when working with youth, I use my mindfulness and compassion practice and look the ways I might be too rigid or flexible or I look at the qualities of the adolescent mind.
Rigidity vs Flexibility
Dr. Dan Siegel’s and Tina Payne’s book The Whole Brain Child is primarily for parents but is really helpful when trying to also understand our inner child.
They explain to be “in the river of wellbeing” our children must make sense of their emotions or the world will feel chaotic. They must also be flexible enough to deal with setbacks and disappointment when things don’t work out the way they imagined. This urged me to reflect on the ways I support my own well being and how often I understand my emotions or can manage disappointment.
Their work prompted me to see into the ways I sometimes don’t understand what I’m feeling and make less than skillful choices due to it. Sometimes I noticed that I’m too flexible, too giving, or indulgent and don’t offer structure or create boundaries in my own life. I also began to see the ways I’m too rigid and unyielding in my way of being, my feelings, or thoughts and how that pushes others away and creates suffering for me. These ways of being lead to hurtful situations for me, my loved ones, colleagues, and my community.
Siegel and Payne say the solution is to support young children with integration of their minds through awareness and by helping them make sense of what they’re experiencing especially when things go wrong. To do so, they suggest we help children bring awareness to situations, make sense of what they’re experiencing with compassion, and help them feel connected to each moment secure in the knowledge that we have their back.
These suggestions offer us a way to understand how we were raised but most importantly the way we show up in the world everyday and every moment. I have a practice and commitment to understanding myself and yet I often have a hard time being mindful and skillful in the ways I deal with challenges or setbacks. I often have a hard time pausing and feeling connected to those that love me.
Because of that I have began asking myself these questions regularly.
Is my practice supporting me in bringing awareness to challenging situations with a sense of curiosity and equanimity?
Is my practice helping me create space for being with what doesn’t make sense with kindness and love?
Who can I turn to feel connection and support?
I encourage you to reflect on these questions also and to check out this MEDITATION on Finding Ease from Oren J Sofer to cultivate spaciousness and ease.
On my next blog, I’ll address the ways my adolescent mind sometimes supports me or creates more challenges for me and offer more questions for contemplation.