Episode summary:

Susan shares excerpts from her Parenting in the Digital Age summit conversation with Trudy Goodman and Jack Kornfield as they talk about the many ways our children can inspire us to grow in presence, compassion, and love. Susan then shares a story about an exhausted mom who came for counseling when she was at the end of her rope.

Trudy Goodman Kornfield, Ph.D., is a vipassana teacher in the Theravada lineage and the Founding Teacher of InsightLA. Trudy conducts retreats and workshops worldwide and has contributed to many books on mindfulness. www.trudygoodman.com

Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India and Burma. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974 and is one of the key teachers in the Western Insight tradition. He is a founding teacher of the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology, and is a father, husband and activist. www.jackkornfield.com

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

  •  Children as live-in Gurus!
  •  How children benefit from loving awareness
  •  A short mindfulness practice with Trudy and Jack

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Read the entire episode!
Transcript here:

Speaker 1: (00:14)

Hello and welcome to the parenting without power struggles podcast. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m Susan Stiffelman. I’m your host and I’m the author of parenting without power struggles and parenting with presence. I have worked with, Gosh, thousands of families, parents and children over 40 years as a teacher and a family therapist and a parent coach. And what you’re going to hear in every episode of this podcast is designed to help you have a more loving, a stronger connection with your kids and fewer power circles. So let’s just jump right in.


When I was 17 I was living in Kansas, which is where I grew up, Kansas City, I began through kind of an odd set of circumstances. I began a meditation practice. I had stumbled on a book called autobiography of a Yogi, which trust me in the 70s was not super popular in the Midwest, but I found the book and no one had really been talking about meditation or Yoga.

Speaker 1: (01:17)

I know that’s hard to believe for those of you who live and breathe it now, but in that time, in that place, it really wasn’t happening. But my practice really became an important part of my life and has remained kind of a cornerstone of my life through all these decades. Fast forward to now when meditation and Yoga and mindfulness or you know, practice by CEOS and politicians and athletes and, and it’s really a different time and some of that, some of the reason that these practices, the mindfulness practice meditation have become so much in the forefront of our, our culture is due to the efforts of two of my guests today, Trudy Goodman and Jack Kornfield who, who played a key role in bringing these practices to the West.


You may have heard of them, if not, you’re in for a treat. their books and their meditation centers, Spirit Rock in northern California and insight LA in southern California. And of course speaking all around the world. their efforts have really reached and touched hundreds of thousands of lives, including mine. So I’m very happy to share with you. Part of a conversation that we had for one of my online summits where Trudy and Jack and I talked about parenting. And after the clip I’ll talk a little bit more about this overlap of mindfulness practice and personal development and growth through raising our children and what we can take away from, from their words of wisdom,

Speaker 2: (02:51)

The same principles that make you a fine artist or you know, a successful athlete or a great business person or a good armor or a good meditator, um, which involve patients and dedication and care and steadiness and learning how to bring the fullness of your presence and commitment to what you care about. That those same arts and those same principles apply to parenting. Um, and that you couldn’t actually go to India and hire a better gurus in your live, in teacher teacher of patience and compassion and so forth. I mean, you get it, I won’t say for free cause you pay for it all, all the things that will mature you to become a wise. And as you said, steady and fearless human being, are there in the relationship parent, child and really all, I think we’re all, all of our work is focusing on how to help people have access to that which is really their birthright, their own loving and peaceful hearts.

Speaker 2: (04:07)

They get so covered over by the habits of mind that are critical and really amazingly harsh when we actually listened to ourselves. And so to learn how to be still and, and here just to develop more than a hand-shaking acquaintance with our inner lives is, is really what we’re offering people, a way to begin to listen to how do they talk to themselves and how they treat themselves and how did they feed themselves and how do we, because all of these ways that we are with ourselves, the relationship that we developed with ourselves becoming mindful of that and uh, with the intention of bringing more tenderness and a more loving kind of awareness to who and how we are, it’s then absolutely, it’s just axiomotic. It’s just true that that will seep into an informed how we treat others, our partners and our children.

Speaker 2: (05:11)

The point isn’t to perfect your family or even protect yourself. It’s to perfect your love with anything. and as Trudy was saying, the great gift of mindfulness and loving kindness meditation and these kind of practices which are now becoming adopted in school systems and clinics and so forth through the work of John Kabat Zinn and others because there’s been so much scientific research that shows neuroplasticity in our ability to actually direct and, and um, and inhabit healthy states of mind that if you start your day, even as a parent, I have three minutes to sit and feel your breath and your body and maybe you’re anxious and maybe there’s a lot on your, and you’re worried about money and you have to get things together and you can just sit and breathe for three minutes. And with each breath bring a quality that another translation of mindfulness as loving awareness, bring a loving awareness to your breath, into your body and then a loving awareness to whatever the states are which might be that you’re worried or critical or or you know, anxious or upset about something and holding all that with loving awareness.

Speaker 2: (06:26)

It’s as if who you are, as Trudy said, your birthright as well. Being who you are as much bigger than those difficulties or the emotions or the fears that come and you can settle yourself. You feel yourself on the earth, you read a little bit more deeply. You remember the loving awareness itself and when you bring it to your, to your own experience, not judging it or saying, I shouldn’t be anxious or I shouldn’t be upset, which is holding it all with that. Then when you encounter your child three minutes later, 10 minutes later, you also can encounter them in the same field of loving presence and they go, oh yeah, they are learning from you that it’s possible to navigate life with all its joys and sorrows and ups and downs from the place of some inner peacefulness and inner steadiness as the captain of the ship. As you said, Susan.


would one of you like to take us through maybe a 30 second little practice before we sign off?


Trudy. Jack! I want to hear Jack!

Speaker 2: (07:33)

Okay. All right. All right, so yeah, even for 30 seconds or a minute to sense where you are, where you’re seated, where you’re listening to your body and as you feel your body feel, how it breeds itself quite naturally, it’s your breath that integrates with the trees and with the wind that carries this air all the way across the Pacific Ocean and across the continent of North America and Europe. And you feel your breath breathing in your body and with each breath, let there be a sense of calming and loving awareness that doesn’t stop anything. There might be in the background thoughts or feelings of worry or upset or whatever, but the breath is so much bigger and you feel your body breathe and your place on the earth. And with each breath you invite a sense of steadiness and call them to come. And with this loving awareness that’s just here and letting things settle so that you can see with more clarity in your heart can soften to all that’s given to you in this life, this breath, this moment as you let yourself breathe consciously with mindfulness and as you hold the breath and your experience with loving awareness, you’ll feel yourself settle and steady and you’ll be able to get up from wherever you’re sitting or whatever you’re doing and respond to the world rather than react to it and respond from a place of graciousness and inner stillness and wellbeing and that will touch you and your children and your family and your community and all that you effect from there.

Speaker 2: (09:36)

Very important. Yeah, it’s very important to have the quality of Metta, which is a Sanskrit word for love, loving kindness, be part of any inner training. And as you practice this grows, the heart softens and your capacity for compassion and love grows with you.



Speaker 1: (10:05)

Oh, wasn’t that nice. And I love what Jack said about how you really couldn’t travel to India to find a better guru then you’re living in teacher, meaning your child if you want to develop compassion and patience and wisdom. And I know that’s been true for me, that absolutely nothing motivated me to grow into a better version of myself than raising my son. And there were no shortage of opportunities to practice all those things. Staying present, anchoring myself to something inside so I could better navigate those ups and downs of, of raising a child. It’s so easy to get irritated when our kids are pushing our buttons or they’re just ignoring us. But when we can step back and we see those moments as part of our practice, which is what Jack was suggesting, my gosh, we can’t help but grow. I know that’s been true for me and it’s still true for me.

Speaker 1: (11:02)

And I think that feeds into what Trudy was talking about when she said how important it is that we look at how we talk to ourselves and how we treat ourselves and even how we feed ourselves. I love that she connected those dots, that when we treat ourselves with more tenderness and more loving kindness, it affects how we are with our children. So I have a little story about that that I’m going to share with you. I once had a parent come in to see me for a session and she practically crawled into my office. She was really on the brink of falling apart. Her kids were pushing back on every request and they picked fights day and night. And if that wasn’t enough, she had a major problem with her business that was keeping her up all hours. And of course, because she and her husband were really overwhelmed, their communication was tense and Eddie and that made everything worse.

Speaker 1: (11:55)

So when she came into my office, she kind of collapsed onto the couch and she started before she had even sat down. I’m at the end of my rope and she started to list all the things her kids had done that were upsetting her and uh, you know, you know the feeling, the list can be very long and you can walk into a counselor’s office or a therapist’s office or the, you know, get on a call with a coach and, and the first thing you want to do is just start ranting and listing all the things that are going wrong in your life. I tried to slow things down and I think I succeeded because I asked her some very simple questions. The first question I asked, and if you’re in a situation like her, you might want to answer these to yourself as I relay the story.

Speaker 1: (12:38)

The first thing I asked her was how she was sleeping and her answer was something like, I’m so worried about work and so upset about the kids that I’m hardly sleeping at all. Okay. Then I asked her how she was eating and she said something like, Oh, I don’t know. I just eat whatever’s left on my kids’ plates. I don’t have time to sit down for a real meal. Okay. Then I offered her as I do with my clients, would do like the glass of water and she laughed and then she said, I can’t even remember the last time I had a glass of water. So that really got my attention and to seeing her in the state she was in. So this is what what we did. I told her that she had booked an hour with me, which meant that nobody at home expected her for over an hour because of the drive time.

Speaker 1: (13:28)

And I gave her a little bit of a snack. I got her big glass of water and then I asked her to use our time to go to her car to put her feet up on the dash or curl up in the back seat and rest. And I told her, I’m not going to charge you for this time, but you know, that’s what I’d like you to do. And she laughed. She thought I was kidding and I wasn’t kidding. I said that until she was a little bit rested and nourished, there was really no point in talking about what to do about her children to behavior. So I gave her this prescription for the week ahead. I said, okay, the minute you have that feeling that you’ve got to go to the bathroom, just drop what you’re doing and go. And she was laughing like, cause you know how it is, especially if you’re a parent, you just wait until the last possible moment.

Speaker 1: (14:16)

A lot of the time you just hold out as long as you can. But my prescription was, the minute you know you have to go to the bathroom, go, the minute you feel thirsty, go get yourself a glass of water. Because again, I don’t know about you, but I know I can feel thirsty for a while, but if I’m in the middle of something, I can postpone it. So the prescription was, the minute you feel thirsty, go get a glass of water and the minute you feel even a little bit hungry, find something healthy to eat. Even just a few bites and when you notice you’re too tired to even think, just step outside, breathe in the greenery and the air of nature or put your feet up and she, she got it. She understood that I wasn’t getting because I said I would meet with her next week if she put those things into practice.

Speaker 1: (15:03)

So here, here’s why I said that and I don’t always do that, but in extreme cases I think that we have to recognize that when you’re running on fumes like this mom was, there’s really no point in working on your parenting strategies because you’ve got to, as they say on the airplane, put your oxygen mask on before you can help anyone else. This mom came back the next week. She actually had done some of those things some of the time, which was all I expected or hoped. She was more rested. And the thing is she had something interesting to report. Maybe you can guess what it was. She told me that her children’s behavior had improved. So this is what Trudy was talking about when she said that kindness toward ourselves impacts how we can show up for those around us. This is what Jack was talking about when he talked about our parenting practice being the way that we can grow ourselves.

Speaker 1: (16:01)

And I’ve seen this happen with parents when they start treating themselves with more care and more respect, sometimes, not always, but sometimes a child’s difficult behavior settles down. So these live in teachers that we have our children, as Jack was saying, they do help us grow in wisdom and compassion. And that includes directing it toward ourselves. So here’s a tip for this week. Pick one thing that you can do in the week ahead that is caring and loving towards yourself. It might be that the minute you’re thirsty or hungry, you get yourself a glass of water or, or a healthy snack. But think about how you would care for a newborn and offer some of that tender loving care towards yourself. Okay, well that’s it for today. I hope you’ll think about ways to offer yourself that kindness, that care, that gentleness, that tenderness that you deserve. And need.

Speaker 1: (17:02)

Um, it’s really a step in the direction of demonstrating not only for ourselves, but for our children, that we’re all precious and that we are all valued and valuable and that we’re all worthy of love and care. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. I’d love for you to subscribe, leave a review, and please help us spread the word. And if you have a question that you would like me to answer, you can visit SusanStiffelman.com/podcast if you want to listen to the full interviews from guests like Jack and Trudy, or find out more about my monthly parenting without power circles membership program, please visit SusanStiffelman.com.


And I look forward to joining you on our next episode. Meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. Take good care of yourself. Thanks for showing up and I’ll see you next time.

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