STORIES THAT MATTER

Here are some resources that I have found useful with my own children or through teaching to support children and ourselves growing and learning. Some are connected to the podcasts and blogs and others aren't. Explore! 

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Pesty little sister

Meditation and mindfulness are useful to help us sit with ourselves, whatever we are feeling. We can see the frontal cortex of the brain as a muscle that has the ability to quieten the more emotional and visceral parts of the brain. However, we need to exercise this muscle through paying attention to what we want rather than letting it run away with our thoughts, as trails of thought tend to build up the difficult emotions to a point we can't sit with them. I just heard Gil Frondsal tell a short story that describes this well: 

" Once upon a time up on one of the heavens of Buddhism, which was ruled by the great God Brahama, a troll took his chance when Brahma was away from  his palace to hobble into the palace and jump onto his throne. The court guards were disgusted -an ugly little troll wasn't meant to be on the throne! "Get down! You can't be up there!" The troll wouldn't listen so they all start getting angry with him. “You are bad", "you are terrible" they shouted, they used all the kinds of ways to get angry with him. But as they got angry, the troll grew bigger, more beautful  and more radiant. The court guards didn’t know what to do so they went to find Brahama to tell him what was happening. Brahama went back to the palace and stood in front of the big strong powerful troll on his throne. He said to him: "Dear troll, I am so glad you are here and hope you are comfortable up there. I am here to be your friend." and bowed to him, as he was respectful and kind to him, the troll shrank and shrank and got smaller and smaller until he disappeared. Brahma got up on his throne and explained to everyone, ‘that was an anger eating troll! The more angry you are the bigger it gets, you just needed to stop feeding it."

Daniel Siegal has amazing books that describe how the brain works and how we can explain it to our children. "The Whole Brain Child" is a brilliant start. If you want to get really deep into it, his book "Aware" explains the science of meditation in amazing detail. 

Here is a 6 minute meditation by Tara Brach to help reduce anxiety and induce sleep. A great starting point. Let us know how you find it!

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Old Man Capuchino 

I recently heard Sadhguru talk about devotion, he explains that sitting in Devotion helps us function at our best. 

He says "Whaterver comes your way, you will know how to transform it into something beautfiul" and so "when your being is soaked in devotion, even a piece of stone will become divine"​. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could develop this kind of devotion for nature around us? 

Just as I was listening to this and trying to understand the concept, my husband and children went out for a walk in the park. My 11 year old daughter came back full of light because she had been lying on the ground looking up at the trees and words had fallen straight down from the sky into her paper. What she wrote was an amazing example of this concept I was grappling with: 

"My notebook lies on my desk; I lie on the cool soft grass, the hot sun beaming down on me. I stare up at the clear blue sky, painted with the tall branches of magnificent trees, connecting themselves on their plain canvas. The luscious green leaves sit still in the calm breeze. My eyes search between the haze of blues, greens and browns until it spots a single acorn dangling off a low branch, reaching down to the ground in despair. Its polished shell shines in the sunlight and I can see every dent on its hood, every crack and point it owns. My eyes dart back to my painting and I focus them on the branch above me. It is an array of colours, black, brown, green; beauty. On every inch of it there is a new branch covered with leaves, each longing for more sunlight and water. I find a small hole in it and instantly wonder how many insects have travelled in and out of that hole. From the corner of my eye, I see a lonely leaf dancing and spinning through the sky. It sits at the very end of a long, sturdy branch and it seems like all the wind in the entire world is calmly strolling towards it and forming a tornado around it. From where I lie, it seems as if it were the biggest and most important leaf in the entire park, grasping all the sunlight before it is able to reach the other end of the tree. Leaves swirl down around me, landing on the cushioning soil. All around me I hear laughter, chatter, excitement, bewilderment all at once. The air is filled with a happiness no one can drown. My mind stops, the sun has moved and I realise I am lying in the shade. I pick up my notebook and pen and move to the nearest place with sunlight. I look up and find a whole new painting, waiting for me to describe it....." ​

Devotion came completely naturally to her! Kids truly come prepared for life, we just need to help them keep those amazing tools and skills they naturally have. I encourage you to go out and sit in devotion for 12 minutes in nature. 

If this is a bit too abstract for smaller children, a good starting point to connect to nature and to self is Thich Nhat Han's very cute book "A Handfull of quiet" and of course go looking for The Old Man Capuchino so that they are aware, alert, respecting and enjoying what is around them. Do let me know how you get on.

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Mr Splat 

Telling Mr Splat to "Just bounce back!" can lead to some confusion which I want to clarify. When we shout at Mr Splat urging him to just bounce back we aren’t asking him to maintain a ‘stiff upper lip’ and bounce back with the emotions undigested. 

 

Remaining “resolute and unemotional in the face of adversity” as Wikipedia defines a stiff upper lip is probably the opposite of resilience. If he ignored his feelings and went with his own thoughts and judgements then he would resolve that the troll was horrible and he wouldn’t have learnt anything about himself! He may even start being nasty to the troll next time he sees him. 

 

Instead to develop his resilience he can stop to look at his thoughts, get help from other people when needed and realise he is judging the situation and the poor old troll through his very narrow and subjective viewpoint.

 

In reality the troll was shy, he wasn’t thinking about Mr Splat at all. And even if it was actually true that the troll didn’t like Mr Splat, Byron Katie would argue that it isn’t the fact that the troll dislikes Mr Splat what is ultimately making Mr Splat unhappy, it is the fact that Mr Splat is thinking about that that makes him unhappy. So really he just needs to shift that thought! I know this is a mouthful but read it again if you need. Isn’t it amazing? 

 

I have only recently been introduced to her work and need to play around with it a bit more but I think it can be another truly helpful tool. She has free resources for adults in her website and she has two great children’s books: “The four questions” is a bit simpler, I personally found “Tiger, tiger, is it true?” more complete. 

 

Since my brain works in quite a child like way, I always find that books for kids are a great way to get introduced to new ideas even if you are an adult! So I recommend these for adults too. 

 

Basically Byron Katie encourages us to connect with something that affects us emotionally, we then bring that down to one sentence and we follow her process of enquiry:

1.Is it true? (Yes or no? If no, move to 3.) 

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.) 

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? 

4. Who or what would you be without the thought? 

Then Turn the thought around and contemplate what comes up. 

 

Let me try to use “the Work” process for Mr Splat, but I am definitely no expert at this, I am just trying it out, her website has lots of advice and if you know her work and I have missed something out here do write to me! 

 

Mr Splat’s Sentence/judgement is: “The troll hates me” 

1. Is it true? 

      Mr Splat in anger says: “Yes!” 

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? 

      Mr Splat a bit more humbly says: “No.” 

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? 

      Mr Splat looking miserable says: “I feel rubbish and collapse into a puddle, I start believing the troll is right to dislike me as I        am not very good looking or exciting, I think maybe nobody likes me, i just want to disappear down the drain.” 

4. Who or what would you be without the thought? Mr Splat thinks about that and smiles: “I would keep jogging really happily         down the road, I love jogging whatever the weather and I see lots of people I really like in the streets.” 

 

Turn the thought around. Mr Splat thinks for a bit and says: “The troll doesn’t hate me”, his face lights up. “I hate the troll” he shakes his head violently. “I hate me” and his eyes open wide! Isn’t it amazing? it could be that he is hating himself at that moment, not the troll hating him. Wow! “The troll likes me”  

 

Isn’t it is a simple and great tool?? I love it. I think Byron Katie would be proud of Mr Splat! 

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