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Karen Brennan
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Soul Fever, Part 2—Compassionate Response Meditation

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

  The lantern walk is this week!  I hope that many of you will make it.  While Kate is away with her family for the next couple of weeks, we have some lovely teachers filling in for her—welcome dear Christine, Beth and Mimi!  This week we are also having some teachers from the grade school, high school and administration visit us during snack.

I’m not sure if we will have much time to talk about Simplicity Parenting this week, but if not, we will get back to it next week.  Still, I wanted to write a little more about soul fever.

Kim talks about when a child’s well being is threatened, stepping out of the regular routine, slowing down and simplifying, whether it is a physical fever or a soul fever.  He says that often a quiet weekend is enough to bring back some equilibrium.  But as with physical illness, in addition to slowing down, we want to ask what might have caused it.  We won’t always know, but are more likely to now when they are little than when they get older.   He talks about the need to bring them close when they seem to deserve our affection the least.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from this chapter, which comes after he talks about how we hold our children close when they are ill.  “It is another thing to maintain a loving presence with a child who is exploring their inner shadow as they push every one of your buttons as though you were the elevator panel in a skyscraper.  This is where he mentions a wonderful exercise which I would like to share with you. If any of you have ever studied Tibetan Buddhism, it is similar to the Tonglen meditation.  Kim calls it the Compassionate Response meditation.  Kim has a CD that you can buy that guides you through the meditation.  Basically you picture your child (or anyone) in their soul fever state and pull that image close to your heart--or as close as is comfortable.  Then you picture your child in a golden moment and release that image out into the world.  It is a littlle more complicated than that, but that is the basic idea.  It only takes a few minutes to do.  He also suggests calling friends or family members and asking them to tell you wonderful things about your child or looking at photos of them.

Then he talks about letting the fever run its course.  In a physical illness, we can sometimes treat the symptoms and make the child feel better, but illness still has to run its course.  It’s the same with soul fever.  Even with slowing down, simplifying and holding the child close, the  soul fever must run its course.  I think we often feel like if we do everything right, parenting should be easy.  And sometimes it is, but other times it is challenging even when we are doing our very best.  We can’t always fix everything for our children, nor should we.  “Nobody gets to skip the soul fevers and growing pains of life.  In order to learn who they are, and what feels right to them, a child must grapple with these emotional upsets…Your support doesn’t “fix” anything, it just provides a loving container for them to process the things that are bothering them.  With warmth you can help keep their emotions, their sense of options, and their behavior pliable.  The roots of hopelessness and helplessness need hardened soil; you maintain fertile emotional ground around your child with the compassion of your noticing and caring.”  So rather than trying to fix everything for our child, we can create a safe space for them to learn and to grow and to rest and recover when they need to.

Next week we will talk about the compassionate response meditation, but I would also like to talk about simplifying for the holidays, since they are just around the corner.