Appropriately labeled a fiercely multi-tasking whirling dervish, I recently registered for a two-month Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course at the University of Washington’s Center for Child and Family Well-Being. The class meets three hours a week (!) but it’s a fitting change to my routine since ParentMap’s editorial focus for 2017 is mindfulness.
Our families, our cities, our country, our world need more kindness, empathy and compassion — a lesson made all too obvious by the recent election madness. That’s why we’re starting our series on mindfulness with an article about being kind, both to yourself and as your child’s first and most important teacher.
For me, that chase after mindfulness has already been a long one. I half-heartedly enrolled in the UW course, lassoing in my gal pal Emma so we could jointly growl through rush hour traffic from Issaquah to the U District. I figured at least there’d be one big upside to my new weekly commitment: a regular visit over cheap, delicious dinners.
Turns out the class is unexpectedly extraordinary. Every Thursday, I land from a stressful week into a world of calm. We, a group of 20 or so strangers of diverse ages and backgrounds, settle in with beautiful guided mediations, poignant poetry and self-compassion exercises (yep — we hold our own hands).
Which brings me to that glass of water you saw on the cover. Why is my wise-minded 15-year-old daughter Maya, one of the most naturally mindful and kind people I know, patiently holding that glass?
One night in class, the teacher held up a glass of her own. “Describe this,” she told us. There were the expected responses: It’s half full. It’s half empty. It weighs such and such amount. The professor explained her thinking: If you take a quick sip and put the glass down, it’ll feel near weightless. If you hold it straight out for a minute, your wrist will ache. Hold it for 20 minutes, your elbow will burn. Hold it for an hour, your shoulder and back will surely go numb.
“When you numb the dark, you numb the light,” she concluded, that statement piercing me like a lightning bolt. “What we resist, persists,” she continued. “What we feel, we can heal.”
And those are words we all need to hear.
So join us on our year-long conversation with experts, educators and parents as we explore how families and schools use mindfulness to cultivate kindness, compassion and empathy.
Speaking of, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the extraordinary kindness, compassion, and empathy of our former executive editor Natalie Singer-Velush. In her five years with ParentMap, Natalie graced our pages with her own brilliant work (including the stunning “Stolen Youth”). She also served as the editor for many dozens of award-winning articles. Natalie will be greatly missed as she moves on to a new venture but she has forever shaped ParentMap’s voice with her natural wit, keen intellect and good humor. Natalie, our team wishes you the greatest happiness and success.