Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Loving and letting be..

My Dad has been conducting a spirituality course with myself and a bunch of my friends over the last 4 weeks and last night was the last one and it turned into a really interesting conversation about "what is love?" and "does love sometimes need to be tough?" and other such interesting questions.  It resonated a lot with me because only last week I started giving my 9 yo dd more space to explore the way she interacts with her 12 yo brother and I found it a really hard thing to do.  Like a lot of parents I always want to children to be happy and to get on with each other but I began to question myself:

Does my desire for that to be the case stop either of my children from being themselves in that relationship?

And I realised that yes, my desire does stop my children exploring that relationship for themselves and this one example which happened last week was a point in case.  My dd wanted to watch a certain with her Dad and ds didn't want to and was trying to offer alternatives. Dd put her foot down and didn't want to compromise and so ds got upset and came into see me, with dd traipsing behind.  I cuddled ds, heard the story of what had happened from him and then from dd.  My son is an easy-going child so I could easily have got him to do something different with me and sent dd off to watch her film with my husband, but I stopped and wondered:

how long will my son remain easy-going if I let his sister get her own way a lot?
how would that work the other way round?
why am I trying to solve a problem which isn't mine?  it is my ds and dd's issue?
what disservice am I doing to both ds and dd in solving their problems when actually neither of them have explicitly asked me to?

My dd did then sort of ask me to solve this problem but looking at me with her gorgeous puppy-dog brown eyes  she has and this is where my desire to make everything ok for her normally kicks in.  However this time I didn't.

I vocalised that her brother seemed upset and waited.  And waited a bit more (whilst so desperately wanting to fix the problem by giving loads of different scenarios which could work) and watched her struggle with what she could do.  She's used to me fixing the problem for her and that is my "fault" but left to her own devices she eventually agreed to a compromise film.  If she had stuck with her original plan to watch her film, thereby excluding her brother, that would have been an equally valid choice but with differing outcomes.  She will never know and neither will I.  I do know though that my ds appreciated that his sister had come to this decision herself and when asked later he said that it felt more genuine and sincere to him.

Love isn't fixing problems whilst removing someone else's chance to fix their own
Love isn't always relying on one sibling's goodwill whilst allowing another sibling to get their way
Love doesn't mean always liking a child's behaviour
Love is letting a child grow up and learn about their relationships for themselves and letting them struggle with the consequences of their actions/words

Having just written that list it has occurred to me that this resonates with an article I read in the Independent a few weeks ago.  Read Peter Gray's article "Give childhood back  to children" here.  His premise is that children need more time to play to be happy, productive and moral citizens and that our education system is not allowing this through too little play and too much homework.  However he talks about play allowing children to "think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions."  He states that in hunter-gatherer societies children are allowed to explore away from adults all day long thereby practising the skills they need to become effective adults themselves.  This is what resonates with me.  Children sorting out their own issues away from adults.

Again another article seems to echo a similar theme here.  As part of an experiment a school in Auckland ripped up the playground rulebook and allowed children to skateboard, climb trees and play with "dangerous" equipment such as old tyres and pipes during playtime.  The incidences of bullying, injuries and and vandalism dropped whilst overall behaviour and concentration of the children increased.  It also resulted in the school needing less adult supervision during playtime.  The Principal said "We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over."  Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences so "the great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it's more dangerous in the long-run".

I am wondering whether the development of the frontal lobe also occurs when children are not overly supervised by adults?  Children need to make their own mistakes whether by falling over, knocking someone else over, upsetting a friend or sibling, seeing the consequences of their own actions or words, etc..

Peter Gray states that "play is a means by which [children] acquire social skills and practice fairness and morality."  When children play there is always the ability to stop playing and this power to quit is what makes play "the most democratic of all activities" because this leads to negotiation and compromise if the game is to continue.  This in turn develops empathy (the ability to see the world from someone else's viewpoint) which is essential for the development of friendships, relationships and co-operative work partnerships.

Obviously if and when children need extra help in any of this situations there are wonderful techniques such as those in books like "How to talk so kids will listen", "Parent Effectiveness Training" or in any Non Violent Communication book, which will help us help our children learn valuable conflict resolution techniques. Once learned though we are then free as parents to leave our children alone to sort out their problems themselves, which means not always rushing in to fix any issues they are having, even if we really, really want to!!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Proof of Heaven by Dr Eben Alexander

What is written on the back of the book
Internationally acclaimed neurosurgeon Dr Eben Alexander always considered himself a man of science. His unwavering belief in evidence-based medicine fuelled a career in the top medical institutions of the world. But all this was set to change.

One morning in 2008 he fell into a coma after suffering a rare form of bacterial meningitis. Scans of his brain revealed massive damage. Death was deemed the most likely outcome. As his family prepared themselves for the worst, something miraculous happened. Dr Alexander's brain went from near total inactivity to awakening. He made a full recovery but he was never the same. He woke certain of the infinite reach of the soul, he was certain of a life beyond death.

In this astonishing book, Dr Alexander shares his experience, pieced together from the notes he made as soon as he was able to write again. Unlike other accounts of near-death experiences, he is able to explain in depth why his brain was incapable of fabricating the journey he experienced. His story is one of profound beauty and inspiration.

Extra Stuff
Here is a big piece that debunks Dr Alexander's claims which is worth a read to get the other side of the story.  Whatever you think about the book though I found it easy to read because it was interesting and I feel it says enough to make one consider a different viewpoint.  Also I felt it linked very well to the Jill Bolte Taylor TED talk (here) that I mentioned in a previous blog post about spirituality (here) where brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor talked about what it was like having a stroke. 

I have put some of the quotes from Dr Alexander's book beside quotes from Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk below to give you a flavour of both.  After reading them if you are interested in buying Dr Alexander's book click here.


Dr Alexander Dr Taylor

p30 - "When you got to a place where there's no sense of time as we experience it in the ordinary world, accurately describing the way it feels is next to impossible.  When it was happening, when I was there, I felt like I (whatever "I" was) had always been there and would always continue to be there."

p70 - "In the worlds above, I slowly discovered, to know and be able to think of something is all one needs in order to move toward it...The more familiar I became with the world above, the easier it was to return to it."

"I’m realizing that my hands looked like primitive claws grasping onto the bar [of my cardio glider]. I thought “that’s very peculiar” and I looked down at my body and I thought, “whoa, I’m a weird-looking thing.” And it was as though my consciousness had shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where I’m the person on the machine having the experience, to some esoteric space where I’m witnessing myself having this experience."
p31 - "I wasn't even animal,  I was something before and below all that.  I was simply a lone point of awareness in a timeless red-brown sea."
"But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there."

p34 - "Modern neuroscience dictates that the brain gives rise to consciousness - to the ind, to the soul, to the spirit, to whatever you chose to call that invisible, intangible part of us that truly makes us who we are - and I had little doubt that it was correct."
"[The]left hemisphere is a ... place [which] thinks linearly and methodically...[and] thinks in language. It’s that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world - it’s that little voice that says to me, “I am. I am.” And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me “I am,” I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you. And this was the portion of my brain that I lost on the morning of my stroke."

p40 - "The girl's outfit was simple, but its colours - powder blue, indigo and orange-peach - had the same overwhelming super-vivid aliveness that everything else in the surroundings had.  She looked at me with a look that, if you saw it for a few moments, would make your whole life up to that point worth living, no matter what had happened in it so far...It was something higher, holding all those other kinds of love within itself while at the same time being more genuine and pure than all of them.  Without using any words, she spoke to me.  The message went through me like a wind, and I instantly understood that it was true....  [translated into earthly language], I'd say they ran something like this:
"You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever."
"You have nothing to fear."
"There is nothing you can do wrong."
The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief.  It was like being handed the rules to a game I'd been playing all my life without even fully understanding it."
"I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be."
p72 - "The primary hurdle that most NDE subjects must jump is not how to re-acclimate to the limitations of the earthly world but how to convey to what the love they experienced out there actually feels like...We can only see what our brain's filter allows through.  The brain - in particular its left-side linguistic.logical part, that which generates out sense of rationality and the feeling of being a sharply defined ego or self - is a barrier to our higher knowledge and experience....we need to recover more of that larger knowledge while living her one earth, while our brains are fully functioning.  Science doesn't contradict what I learnt up there..but far, far tool many people believe it does."
"I immediately drifted right back out into the consciousness, and I affectionately referred to this space as La La Land. But it was beautiful there. Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter that connects you to the external world. So here I am in this space and any stress related to my, to my job, it was gone. And I felt lighter in my body. And imagine all of the relationships in the external world and the many stressors related to any of those, they were gone. I felt a sense of peacefulness. And imagine what it would feel like to lose 37
years of emotional baggage! I felt euphoria. Euphoria was beautiful"

p82 - "To say that there is still a chasm between our current scientific understanding of the universe and the truth  as I saw it is a considerable underestimate...  The physical side of the universe is a speck of dust compared to the invisible and spiritual part.  I believe that [spiritual] is a word that we cannot afford to leave out [of a scientific conversation]."

"And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. I can’t define where I begin and where I end. Because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and molecules of the wall. And all I could detect was this energy. Energy."
p95 - "Even though I had forgotten my life down [on earth], I had remembered who I really and truly was out there.  I was a citizen of a universe staggering in its vastness and complexity, and ruled entirely by love."
"I’m still alive and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana.” I picture a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives."

p102 - "descricbing what it felt like is challenging in the extreme, thanks to the bottleneck of linear langauge tht we force everything through here on earth, and the general flattening of experience that happens where we're in the body."

p117 - "My mind - my real self - was squeezing its way back into the all too tight and limiting suit of physical existence, with its spatio-temporal bounds, its linear thought, and its limitations to verbal communication"

"Because I could not identify the position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expensive, like a genie just liberated from her bottle. And my spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. Harmonic. I remember thinking there’s no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body."
p36 - "I adored that simplicity - the absolute honesty and cleanness of science.  I respected that it left no room for fantasy or for sloppy thinking,... This approach left little room for the soul and the spirit, for the continuing existence of a personality after the brain that supported it stopped functioning,"

p131 - "The sense of being ... above linear time - of being above everything...feeling the intensity of unconditonal love."

"We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are — I am — the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you."

p150 - "On the subatomic level, however, this universe of seperate objects turns out to be a complete illusion...every object in the physical universse is inteimately conneced weith everyth other ibject. Infact, there are really no "objects" in the world at all , only virations of energy, and relationships"

"And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. I can’t define where I begin and where I end. Because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and molecules of the wall. And all I could detect was this energy. Energy."
p154 - "To truly study the universe on a deep lvel, we must acknowledge the fundamental role of consciousness in painting realist...Fathers of the field of quantum mechanics realised it is impossible to seperate the experiemnter from the experiment, and it explain reality without consciouness"
"riding in an ambulance I curl up into a little fetal ball. And just like a balloon with the last bit of air just, just right out of the balloon I felt my energy lift and I felt my spirit surrender. And in that moment I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body and give me a second chance at life or this was perhaps my moment of transition."

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Where is my life going in 2014?

I was one of the Transition Town Summer Competition winners back in September (read my entry here) and over the last few months what I wrote for that competition has got me thinking about what direction I am going in with my life.  I have found as my children have become older (as they seem to do scarily quickly) that my needs as their mother and home-education facilitator have changed dramatically.  I still drive them to home-ed gatherings, meetings and organise them seeing their friends and occasionally we even spend a day at home just the three of us, but they are very self-reliant and so I have more free time.

When the decision was taken by my husband and I to start the home-educating journey I was aware that as the primary carer (with my husband working full-time) I wanted to keep my brain active so that when the time came I could find some fulfilling activities to fill my time once my children didn't need me any more.  This started in the form of formal education via the Open University (OU) where I embarked on some Mathematics qualifications when my ds was 6 months.  Since then I have passed the following courses to work towards a Diploma in Higher Education getting a 1st class Certification in Mathematics along the way:

Course code and title Year Grade
MT121 - Using Mathematics 2002 1st
MS221 - Exploring Mathematics 2002 1st
MT262 - Putting computer systems to work 2003 1st
M225 - Object-oriented programming with Java 2006 2.1
ME624 Teaching mathematical thinking at Key Stage 3 2009 2.1
DB123 You and your money: personal finance in context 2010 Pass (ungraded)
U101 Design thinking: creativity for the 21st century 2012 Pass (ungraded)
T307 Innovation: Designing for a sustainable future 2013 2.1
MT264 Designing applications with Visual Basic 2014 expected 1st

I thought doing this sort of qualification would be helpful and it has in some ways.  For example I passed a PTTLS course at my local college (York College) in 2012 so that I am now happy to market myself as a Maths Tutor as I have my Certificate in Maths as well as a teaching qualification.  However over time I have become increasingly annoyed and frustrated with the way that educational establishments and especially the OU treats its students.  I was aiming for a degree with the OU, however after some issues with discrepancies between the marks that you get for continual assessment versus the marks you get for examinable work, I am of the opinion that I would be better served finishing with a 1st class Diploma and continuing my education via the various free websites out there like:
Khan academy
Future Learn
EdX - (got this recommended by a friend who also says that Alison is not good at all!!)
Alison to name just a few.  Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are becoming more and more common as is hacking your own education.  Dale Stephens did a TED talk here about this very subject and obviously it is dear to my heart as a home-ed mother but also as a person who used to love academia and now is rather disillusioned with it.  I will be investigating this type of learning over the coming year and may do some posts about my findings.

So here I am at the start of 2014 having not really managed to get too much of what I set out to do at the beginning of the year (see here) but looking back at that blog post has made me realise that one of the resolutions I didn't really articulate but which I made to myself was that I would try and get more involved in my local community as part of my overall well-being.  I have managed to do that and I am now an active member of:
TIM in York - acknowledging the incredible things already done in York and making sure more incredible things are achieved - come and join in the community hub here if you want to know more.
York in Transition (YiT) - come and join us at the Sustainable York event at the Residents First weekend - read more here
York Environment Forum (YEF) where I do administration work for the group
York Timebank - where I help with admin with the database, website and communications
as well as regularly attending the Carr Connectors coffee morning at my local church which I am hoping to get more involved in with the children.

So you can see why some of my other NYRs went a bit awry although I reckon I did do over 10 crafty things although some of those were from scratch.  For example I made 5 pairs of gloves!!!  I also read over half the books I was supposed to but then got side-tracked by the course I was doing with the OU.

I am going to list the books I want to read this year and add a reminder to my phone every month to get my back on track with the list.  I am also going to do this with the craft activities too although this should be a lot easier as the house gets more zoned, de-cluttered and generally sorted (I am hoping to do a separate post on the zoning of the house as it is going really well).

I am still working towards a healthy BMI via martial arts classes with the family and regular Ceroc and climbing activities all three of which I really enjoy so attending doesn't even seem a chore.

Anyway basically my life is going well and I feel very positive about 2014 and looking back at the year I have achieved way more than I thought I was going to.  2014 looks set to be just as exciting!!!!

Happy New Year everyone