A friend of mine once shared a story with me. He lived on some property that didn’t belong to him. The property had outdoor cameras for security purposes. One day, one of the cameras malfunctioned, and my friend took it into his apartment to see if he could fix it. He tinkered with it and then sat it down on the counter. Unbeknownst to him, he had mistakenly turned the camera on (for recording) when he sat the camera down.
The next day while sitting in his chair, he noticed the light of the camera blinking and so he picked it up to tinker with it once again. To his shock, he saw that the camera had recorded him in his living room. It had recorded him and his actions for 24 hours. He sat and watched the recording with shocking revelation.
He had no idea until that moment, just how much he talked to himself. He had no idea until that moment, how much of the time “anger” was painted on his face. He had no idea until that moment, how he wasn’t able to sit still for very long.
When he shared that story, I can remember how I felt. A part of me knew that that experience could be a life-changing one, to actually see ourselves as we are, and not through the lens of our false persona.
Social media sites are where everyone seems to go these days to glorify themselves. How popular would a social media site called “True Face” be? A site where one could post pictures of their “true face” that is worn in most moments. Most likely, it would not be very popular, right? Few would join that site because few are the people that wish to see the truth of themselves as they are, let alone let the world see. But perhaps such a site might be very helpful in this world of magnificent pretense.
Where did we learn that we should be “happy and smiles” all the time? Where did we learn to present ourselves in such a way to give others the impression that we lead a so-called perfect life? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves.
Our children see us in raw form, as we are, all the time. We are the ones that are unaware of our own actions and facial expressions moment to moment, and because of that unawareness, our children grow up with those same undetected negative states painted on their faces without ever knowing why.
I remember an experience years ago when I was raising my own children. My partner and I were arguing, and I thought that my 11-year old daughter was upstairs reading in her bedroom. The argument between my partner and I became heated and I was yelling at him with a full open mouth. In the midst of that yelling, my eye caught a movement on the couch to the left of me. I turned my head and my eyes fell upon my daughter who was looking right at me.
I didn’t need a camera to record that moment. Something in me knew that a snapshot of that expression of anger, my true face in that moment, was recorded in my daughter’s mind. She learned to react negatively to unwanted moments, and she learned that from me. I learned it from my parents (and society). My parents learned it from theirs, and so on and so on it goes, never having been questioned.
One of the best gifts we could give our children is to teach them to observe negative states when they come to visit. All we’ve ever been taught to do is to either act from those states or to resist them, which only keeps a painful cycle of the past in place. In observation, there is a suffering of the negative state, not a resistance to it. What a difference my life might have been not only for me as a child, but for my own children when I was raising them, to know that there always existed a choice when those negative states appeared.
A few years ago, I created a certain game with a couple of young girls, wherein I made a cardboard cloud shape, painted it black and called it a “dark cloud”. Using the dark cloud, I demonstrated how anger, sadness, negatives states, were meant to move through us, like clouds passing in the sky, and that we weren’t meant to hold on to them. I would demonstrate visually the cloud passing through (coming in from one side of them, moving through them and exiting the other side of them).
I shared with these girls that if they agreed to “hold on” to the anger, to the sadness, etc., that those states would not only stay with them, but negative actions would be taken from them as well. However, if they were to allow the states to be there, to FEEL them fully (suffer them), the states would just pass through naturally.
This takes diligent effort and life-long work. But you as parents can help by having discussions with your children about their experiences with these states. Any “crack” in the old, borrowed patterns of this world, is a disruption in that pattern, and that crack, if diligently worked at, will “crack open” a new possibility for you and your child. The possibility to know that we don’t have to suffer needlessly by being a captive of any negative state. An awareness of those states as they are passing through us, is all that is needed to allow them to pass through as they were intended to.
As always, your child learns from you, so let it be something new and true.
Exercise for the week: See how many “dark clouds” you can consciously suffer within yourself this week. If you work with this diligently, you will see that you have suffered needlessly in the past by holding on to these states. Share what you learn with your child.
Image Courtesy of Markus Spiske: https://unsplash.com/photos/hn5YtNkWUXw