Mindfulness and Parenting

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Hi everyone, this is Gaston from TeamUp. for a new update and some new insights all the way from plum village Thailand. And today it’s about mindfulness and kids. As you can see here this is Namo my six month old boy. And a few things I really learned about mindfulness and parenting, as I’m staying here for a few weeks in retreat, the first thing is it’s not any more about my individual practice. I used to be loving sitting for long hours alone doing formal sitting meditation, what I realized is it’s all about family practice, now it’s collective practice. And so I need to loosen up my own attachment to my own practice and how this was before. I really focus on the ‘We’ so moving from the ‘I’ and the mindfulness practice to the ‘We’ in the mindfulness practice. And so my levels of stress now affect the family and if Namo is happy that affects the family and so it’s collective practice. And that helped me a lot and letting go some of my earlier attachments. The second one we need to get really creative in our mindfulness practice, again formal sitting meditation for a father of two young boys like this it’s just hard to squeeze in a little bit, maybe but and not at at the frequency I did before. And so one of the things that I’ve realized here in Plum village, is a great place to do that, is to become creative. So I now start my day with stroller meditation and so for about 45 minutes to one hour I actually just put Namo in the stroller in the morning into walking meditation and it’s incredibly calming and peaceful if he’s happy as well. And there’s other ways like actually taking the boys for a walk or simply enjoying a cup of tea with the boys. And so you find different ways to apply your mindfulness practice. And thirdly no expectations, this one is probably the hardest for me as a father. Whenever I have a little bit of time left I have all kinds of ideas on how I can use that most productively and maybe okay maybe Tao is awake but maybe I can do this at the same time. And the moment that I create these expectations to be productive in some way or form I often get frustrated afterwards because, as all the parents will know, kids draw their own plan and they do their own thing. And so I’ve learned to let go of expectations when I’m with them, dedicate that time and let go. And then once have time for myself I can really focus on things that I want to do. So three tips from now. Namo, any other wisdom? Namo is an expert in beginner’s mind which will talk more about it next time Bye-bye!

The power of stopping

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Hi everyone this is Gaston from TeamUp. I know I haven’t sent a written blog for a while and so I was actually thinking to do some short videos instead. And this is a special vlog so to say because it comes from the South of France from Plum village. I’m currently in this mindfulness practice Center, it’s one of the biggest mindfulness practice centres in the world and I’m practicing mindfulness here for the next ten weeks. I’m going to be on retreat, living in this monastery with my two sons and my wife and I want to give you some key insights of some of the teachings I’m getting here and I want to start today with talking about stopping. This is something that is needed for any growth process, personal development, transformation, healing whatever you want to call it; you first need to stop and here we learn how to stop one of the things they do here is they invite a bell, the bell of mindfulness and every time this bell rings. It takes many different forms it can be the bell in the dining hall or it can be a bigbell outside like a Church bell. Everyone stops and everyone takes three mindful breaths so everyone stops: stops conversation, stops cooking, stop serving fluid, stop on their way to the toilet. Everyone stops and it’s very powerful, five six hundred people stopped at the same time it’s very powerful and everyone goes back to themselves so it’s a very powerful mechanism to also disrupt habit, habit energies as they call it here. There’s two extra benefits from stopping the first one is you often realize all the conditions that you already have to be happy so when I’ve stopped here I’m in my last week was without a doubt the most happy week of the year, I’ve been quite successful in lots of other domains, this year but the peace of mind and the calmness you get when you learn how to stop and get in touch with the beauty that is already there, it’s very powerful so the benefit of stopping is also touching what you have already. The second partly benefit is all your unfinished business comes up once you stop and once you stopped longer, the unfinished business comes up, that sadness that I didn’t want to be with, that turned into frustration and anger came up, a disappointment that I never wanted to feel that became resentment came up, the fears and insecurities I have that I don’t think I should that turn into, you know, getting lost in work or stress. All these things come out when you stop and this place here is a very nice place where the space is held to actually notice that and be with that not instantly shifted or change it that will take time but stopping really helps unfinished business to come up and to look and notice what’s really going on so that’s my thoughts for today I will keep you updated and speak to you soon . May you all be well! bye bye.

Why do we give up on our practice?

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Two weeks ago, I committed to my wife to not use my phone anymore in the evening at home. It is such a big cause of distraction, anxiety and all kinds of stuff I don’t want to practice in the evening with my family. So I committed to put it in a closed drawer once I would be home with the ringer on if people really need to call me….. Looking back today, I realize I haven’t even managed to do that one night…..And I am a coach! I realized once again that even if we are motivated, excited and see the tangible benefits at the end of the process, our personalities are hard wired and resistant to change. But I also learned that we can overcome obstacles to our practice.

A confession….

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I feel my eyes become moist. A few weeks ago I had lunch with my friend John. John is from Shan state, Myanmar. I hired him as a videographer for a recent project and he delivered outstanding work. We went for lunch and he started sharing his life story. “My parents gave me to a church very early on. I was raised in a church for the first 16 years in Myanmar. I don’t have parents. I don’t have siblings. At some stage I asked myself: What if I would die? Who would bury me? “ I swallow and feel a sadness flow through my body. Then he continues. “At the age of 16, I left the church because I was too much of a rebel. I lived with my father for a year. After so many years, It was strange to see a man that looked so much like myself. The whole village knew instantly I had to be his son when I arrived.” “After one year I felt I had to leave. I went to a UNHCR refugee camp where I received education and eventually was offered a scholarship to study arts in Bangkok. After those studies, I came to the North or Thailand“ Today John lives in Chiang Mai. He is remarkably fluent in English and just delivered a video project that truly impressed me and my team. Then I ask him: “How do you deal with the bad air pollution and smog in Chiang Mai these days?” He just smiles..… “I am used to much worse pollution in the camps on the border.” It’s like the pollution doesn’t even enter his mind space as something to complain about in even the slightest way. I get a reality check again. This guy sitting in front of me is more radiant, smiling and grateful than myself.  Even though I have many more opportunities in my life. I experienced this often in the years I worked in DR-Congo, Papua New Guinea, India and other places. What makes the difference is where we direct our attention towards. I teach this stuff to my clients all the time but forget it all the time myself. I take a deep breath. I touch again the ridiculous amount of conditions for happiness and contentment I have right now today. Which includes this lunch with this special friend. Probably more and more conditions were added over the last years, not to forget a lovely boy that cracks open my heart on a regular basis. Yet, if I genuinely check in with myself, I was happier a few years ago than today. Probably much happier if I am honest. When I sit with that realization, I notice some sadness. But it’s quite expanded. I can see as always, it’s a matter of what I choose to dedicate my limited mind space towards. What seeds in the garden of my mind have I been watering? As one Zen Master once shared: The whole Zen teaching can be summarized in two words: Attention and Intention. If those are directed and practiced in a mindful way, we let go of suffering and develop equanimity and peace of mind. So John (and to be honest my wife Laurence) helped me wake up again. Now the practice… It’s back to basics for myself. Somehow my basic mindfulness practice was replaced by ‘more important things’, such as creating financial security as I am building a family (2nd boy coming…) expanding our organization (to help others be more mindful!) and delivering even more value to my coaching clients. Those objectives certainly win very often the more and more fierce competition for my limited time and mind space. And at times I feel caught up in the rat race again. “And even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat” I remind myself. So more and more often that inner voice tells me that this meditation, that yoga practice, that mindful walk at sunset, that mindful conversation with a friend can wait. Let me first create even more value for someone else or try to answer a few more emails and get that superficial, fleeting productivity dopamine fix. Well, it’s a slippery slope I realize today with a clear outcome: I have never been as skilled, productive (in the narrow sense), experienced and knowledgeable as before, but I have lost many of those frequent episodes of gratitude, joy and delight of dwelling happily in the present moment. I am determined to pull them back in. I am getting ready for this peaceful battle. Attention and intention are my buddies in this adventure. Laurence, Tao and friends like John will be my allies. I am often seen as a dedicated mindfulness practitioner, but honestly I have not been walking the talk that much over the last year. In some parts, the practice is integrated, but on other areas I regressed. Part of me hopes that this confession refuels my motivation. I feel it already. I can’t bail out now anymore…. As I write this, I am wondering whether I should post this to my blog. Hmmm, interesting, a little bit of shame arises. Haven’t seen you for a while haha. I smile…. It’s OK seed of shame. You can be there. It means I am probably touching a bit of a shadow in me. I need to post this quick before I get second thoughts! Thank you John. Thank you Laurence. Enough writing. Let’s go back to practice. Want to join me in some mindful breaths and feel gratitude? In…..out In…..out In…..out There we go, press send…. Mindful regards, Gaston P.S. If you’re in the region and need a videographer, get in touch with John. You won’t regret it.

The one battle we always lose

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Oh no! I enter the arrivals hall back in my home town Chiang Mai. I just came back from an exhausting business trip to Hong Kong and eager to still hug my 1,5 year old boy Tao before he goes to sleep. Then I see a queue with literally hundreds of tourists standing in line for immigration. I feel annoyance coming up. I think to myself: Perhaps this is a good opportunity to do something about this judgment. I do a quick estimation of forecasted waiting time: At least one hour is my guess. And I desperately need to use the bathroom. I choose to first address that primal need. I come back and about 30 other people just slipped before me in the meantime. Forecasted waiting time just increased to 90 min. Fortunately, I remember to take a mindful breath. The good old friend that most of the time brings me a pause when I need it most. Then I realize: I have a choice. Am I going to spend this hour resisting reality and being annoyed that I won’t see my son before he goes to sleep? Or will I fully surrender to reality and see what happens? Tara Brach calls the latter: Practice radical acceptance of what is right now and act from that place. Because if there is a one battle we always loose, it’s our resistance to reality. To what is. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t change things moving forward, but whenever we are attached to how the world should be instead of accepting what is right now, we suffer. And as Ajarn Cha once said: “If we let go a little bit of our ideas on how the world should be, we are a little happier. If we let go a lot, we are a lot happier. If we let go completely of our attachment on how the world should look like, we gain real freedom.” And from that freedom, we can truly make an impact because we can use all our energy to create, not resist. So I decide to go for radical acceptance. Already I feel more expanded and a sense of relief. Then, I flip through my FaceBook page and come across this TV ad. The person posting it writes: “Bring out the tissues if you watch this”. I smile with a slight unmindful judgment. Yeah right, it’s 3 minutes….Well, let’s see……3 min later a couple of tears run down my face. I look up and look around. I ask myself: Why should I wait to practice love and kindness until I am home with my wife and son. Let’s start right now. I look around and see these human beings. They all have joys and sorrows. They all have pleasure and pain in their life. They all have gains and losses. They all experienced sadness, grief, insecurity, doubt and fear at some stage in their life. That is 100% certain. One by one, I truly wish them to be happy. To be healthy. And to be at peace. I realize we are all human and are on the same journey.   Mother Theresa once said: The problem in this world is that we draw our circle of family too small. I love that statement. Since that day at the airport, I consciously try to draw that family line to include more and more people. Work in progress as always. Take a moment to think about who you could include in that circle and join me in the practice. Mindful regards, Gaston