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Episode summary:

Trudy Goodman Kornfield and Susan share an open, honest conversation about  the realities and challenges of raising children. A soothing discussion that will offer comfort to parents who are sometimes hard on themselves for losing their cool.


Trudy Goodman Kornfield, Ph.D., is a vipassana teacher in the Theravada lineage and the Founding Teacher of InsightLA. Trudy has trained in both meditation and psychotherapy and has studied developmental psychology with Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Carol Gilligan. For 25 years, Trudy practiced mindfulness-based psychotherapy with children, teenagers, couples and individuals and was the  fourth teacher ever of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), teaching with its creator, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Trudy conducts retreats and workshops worldwide and has contributed to many books on mindfulness. www.trudygoodman.com

Things you'll learn from this episode:

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De-personalizing the frustrations of parenting
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Fostering greater self-compassion and acceptance

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The value of loving grandparents

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Episode Transcript



Speaker 2:
Hi there and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I love this podcast series because in it, I get to talk to some of my favorite people or people I want to learn from and discuss parenting with and all of its many, many facets, and each episode brings me something new and hopefully you as well. So very glad that you're here. My name is Susan Stiffelman in case she didn't know. And I'm a parenting coach writer, author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. I'm also a mom and marriage and family therapist or a teacher. So I've been working with families for so many decades, and it's still just my happy place to talk with parents about how to have more joy, how to sort of break free of the patterns that many of us inherited by our well-meaning, but perhaps a little dysfunctional families of origin.

Speaker 2:
We're all just kind of putting one foot in front of the other here together. So today's episode is going to underline all of that because I'm getting to speak with one of my close friends and wonderful, wonderful teachers, Trudy Goodman Kornfield from InsightLA, a long time Buddhist and meditation teacher, as well as the psychotherapist. So you'll hear about Trudy's bio in a minute. Before I share that conversation with you, please, please make sure that you head over to Susanstiffelman.com and sign up for the newsletter where you'll get all of our updates. There's so many great resources there, including a big library of masterclasses on everything from chores or raising anxious kids, sensitive kids, raising money smart kids, meal times, on and on. It goes with wonderful co-teachers, including Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Mona Delahooke, Dr. Tina Bryson, Dr. Laura Markham, Maggie Dent, on and on. So lots of wonderful resources for you at Susanstiffelman.com. Be sure to sign up there and have a look around. So I'm going to play this episode for you, and then I'll come back around for the wrap up. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Trudy Goodman. 

Speaker 2:
So I'm so happy that we get to talk. Let me just give people a little bit of an intro into who you are. Trudy Goodman, Phd is the founding teacher of InsightLA and co-founder of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy. Trudy has trained in mindfulness and Zen since 1973, holds a graduate degree in developmental psychology from Harvard. And this is one of the senior Buddhist teachers in the United States. She's taught at universities and retreat centers worldwide for over 40 years was the fourth ever teacher of mindfulness based stress reduction with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the university of Massachusetts and for 25 years, Trudy practiced mindfulness-based psychotherapy with children, teenagers, couples, and individuals. Your website, I know is Trudygoodman.com and insightla.com. Welcome, welcome. We've been trying to do this for such a long time and thrilled that we get to talk for a little bit. You've trained in both meditation and psychology and psychotherapy. I understand you even had training with PIJ, which is, you know, for a, a big those of us in the field of developmental psychology is like, wow, that's super amazing. Can you talk a little bit about the inter into weaving of mindfulness based practices and psychotherapy, especially as it relates to children, your families?

Speaker 3:
Yeah, I mean, you know, at the beginning, when I began my practice, I was a single mom, and so I would just catch teachings or retreats or whatever I could do would depend on when I had childcare, when I had time off work, it was all very homemade and from scratch and invented that way. And so I was in the throws of parenting while I was learning about mindfulness. We didn't call it there. Wasn't mindfulness. Again, there were the Buddhist retreats. And so, you know, I was learning Buddhist psychology, essentially through meditation practices, primarily where it's first person introspection learning, you know, whereas most of our academic learning is third person. It really learning how to be aware of and learn from your inner experience of life. And that was very radical at that time. And then it was really mindfulness was one, I would call it the Keystone in this sort of brilliant arch of Buddhist teachings.

Speaker 3:
And it was John Kabat-Zinn who, who really saw that he could take that within mindfulness. There was so much contained of the rest of the teaching that he could take that and presented in a way that would appeal to everybody who didn't have any idea of wanting to be a Buddhist. I mean, I didn't want to Buddhist, I just needed these teachings. And I had had some very powerful experiences in the course of becoming a mother that I didn't know how to understand. They weren't spiritual openings that came to me completely unbidden I was not a meditator. I had never taken any interest in anything like Buddhism. And so I was searching for some way to understand the things that I had lived and, and I found what I was looking for in the context of the Buddhist meditation and learning those practices.

Speaker 3:
And then working with John right at the beginning of his establishing his program at the medical school in UMass in Worcester. I'm, I was very lucky because I wanted always to be able to share what I was learning with my colleagues and in psychotherapy and the schools where I worked. And, but, you know, there was, there was nothing in those days, meditation was considered a fruitcake activity. Basically it was not something that you would advertise in your professional life at all. Now it's become a credential, but it was not, it was the opposite then. And, and so I feel like all of the learning that I did was sort of on the job, so to speak, I wish for my daughter's sake that I had had this learning before she was born and that I had didn't, you know, and I think many parents would say the same thing, like, oh my gosh, you know, parenting by definition, you learn on the job having that means you make all the mistakes that learners make. And that's why they invented grandparents.

Speaker 3:
So that there's somebody, hopefully, I mean, I only had one and didn't see her very often, but hopefully, you know, there's a grandparent in your child's life that can provide the perspective, but parents aren't even meant to have, you know, they don't have, they're not even meant to have, but I think of grandparenting in a way as a kind of, some of the qualities that grandparents have, which is a trust and a healthy force force of development, the lack of everyday anxiety about what their kids are doing and how it reflects on them, which is something parents have to deal with every day. And I mean, so many other things that a kind of spaciousness or equanimity, a generosity of view, you know, all these things that come with age and experience, you can have them, you can have some of these qualities, you can strengthen some of these qualities through the practice of mindfulness.

Speaker 3:
And one of my early teachers was Japanese and monk, and I was probably 25 on 30 or 31 at this time when he said this, but it struck me so deeply. He said meditation in meditation gives you premature wisdom. I love that. Cause I thought everyone's going to get wise when they're old, but it's going to sad to only have wisdom when, you know, you wished you could have had it, the benefit of that during your younger years too. And so I do encourage parents as much as possible to dip your toes in many of you certainly already have many of your listeners, I'm sure have Susan, but but yeah, it gives, it's a support. It's a kind of ballast grounding for this intensely important and compelling and challenging work.

Speaker 2:
I was thinking, I, it was either John’s in, in a conversation I had with him or your husband, Jack Kornfield in semi interview, referred to children, living with children as living with little Zen masters, or, you know, this idea that in the, like you said, the challenges, yes. There's the beauty, the love, the awe inspiring miracle of all my gosh is that that's just, I have no words, but there's also the day to day. And I have had so many parents in my community who are meditators, who are mindfulness practitioners or yoga practitioners. And they had this idea before the child came up, oh, you know, we're going to have, you know, my little girl will be named harmony and you know, we'll just, and you know, sometimes it works out the way we imagined, but more often than not, we are confronted by our temper, our impatience, our resentment, our hurt feelings, our anxiety.

Speaker 2:
Let's talk a little bit about some of the realities that maybe people are a little reluctant to admit to having, but I'd like to get it out in the open because then it can be looked at and worked with and healed. So I'm sure, I mean, you run an incredible immunity inside LA where I've been so fortunate to visit from time to time and always feel soothed and comforted when I leave. And I love at the end where you invite people to speak honestly, about a challenge that they're facing. Can you kind of play with that idea? Like some of the truth of, of this?

Speaker 3:
Yeah, for sure. First of all, that remark about the children being Zen masters. I wouldn't want to unpack that little bit because it's misleading, you know, the children, what that, what they were saying, what John was saying, or Jack, they said that you have to understand Zen practice is designed, make you uncomfortable. Zen practice is designed to make you suffer. You have to sit for long periods of time without moving your legs hurt. You have to follow a schedule that isn't your own. You have to, I mean, there's just lots of things involved that create discomfort. Some sometimes in retreat, there's not enough sleep. And so you have to deal with your own and it's all designed to bring your own irritability and your own impatience and your own self-loathing and your own despair and all these things that everybody doesn't want to admit or see, get highlighted.

Speaker 3:
And you think, oh my God, this is making me worse. There's some mistake. No, there's no mistake. It's really because when we can see these things about ourselves in an environment that actually provides a lot of structure and care they can be worked with and understood compassionately and maybe not healed completely, we're all human anyway, but helped a lot. The thing is the children are not wise. Teachers consciously poking us and pushing our buttons. They're just reality in the form of a child being that child. And, and yet there's no way that a toddler can be who they are authentically, who they are and not push your buttons because they're going to have meltdowns right at the very moment when you're in a hurry to get to work. And you've got to get someplace, they're going to have one, you know, the, the meal they loved the night before, and you made it again a couple nights later, they suddenly treated as though it's like poopoo on their plate.

Speaker 3:
I mean, it goes on and on. You know, it's really hard. And I'll tell you, I remember, I don't think I've ever told this story out loud, but when my daughter was four years old and I was a single mom at that time, I remember just feeling despair. I mean, even her little voice was so grading by the end of the day, this is my beloved daughter. Right. And I felt guilty and ashamed for my feelings and nobody was ever talking about anything except the glory of motherhood and the beauty of children and I'm suffering and feeling not only like a failure, I just, I felt like I'm very abnormal actually. And I remember talking to a friend and confiding in her and saying, I don't know what to do. I'm really struggling with myself. And this was before I had learned to meditate, which happened when she was five.

Speaker 3:
But, and my friend to me, oh, just love her. It was so unhelpful. I was thinking, I felt, and you know, who helped me the most in those days, who was telling the truth was a poet named Alta a L T a, a feminist poet. I don't even know if she's still alive or anything. She was telling the truth about the hard stuff, about being a mom. And I was just eating it up because people to talking about this, and maybe they still don't so much, maybe there's pressure, maybe, you know, we didn't have social media, maybe, you know, with social media, there's pressure to look perfect or seem like your family's always having fun. Do you remember a video that circulated at the beginning of the pandemic? I, this was another thing I loved it because it just cut right through all of that pretense.

Speaker 3:
Even unconscious pretense, you know, we don't even know we're pretending we're just trying to do the right thing. And it showed a woman you know, obviously home in lockdown and she was speaking, you know, there was, you could tell she, she was speaking to the camera and she was saying things like, oh, this enforced time alone is so wonderful for our family. And then she would hold up a note card so that whoever was there, couldn't hear her and said, I'm going crazy. And she would say, we're doing all kinds of activities that we would never have done before when we were all busy and going our separate ways. And then she would hold up the sign that said, let me out of here now, you know, it, it just went on and on. Or she was saying all these things you were reading that people were saying about lockdown and their families, and so sweet and time together.

Speaker 3:
And she was talking about, you know, if I have to pick up another spill, I'm going to kill myself or do you know it just, yeah. So I think there's always that the, both sides of the situation, we love our families. We love, I loved my four year old, but I didn't know how, when, when I felt depleted and unskillful and bewildered, yeah. I didn't know what to do. And oddly enough, just being able to sit with myself the way that I learned to do when I met my first meditation teacher, who was actually John's first Buddhist teacher as well, it was through John [inaudible] and Larry Rosenberg that I met him. And we started all meditating with this teacher from Korea. And there was something about being given permission to just sit there and be who I was. And just, I remember feeling like, oh, I get to express myself, myself was expressing to itself. No. And there was no pressure to be a certain way to have anything happen. Was sure we were supposed to get enlightened, but that was, that was that on the road. I, I, I came to understand after few years more, what that was about, but just at the beginning, it was for survival, really. So I don't know if that answers your question.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. I mean, it just suits me. And that's my goal. Like I was saying to you before we started to record that part of my work, even though I try and bring in just the best possible people to work with associate, with going to teach with, I want to provide practical, really tested guidance and strategies for parents. But I also, especially in my membership, I want to be holding a place for parents of comfort and solace, because we are so hard on ourselves. And if you imagine, you know, the average parent does get upset and annoyed and frustrated. I mean, we're just human. We don't change species just because we become parents and the image of the parent falling into bed at night. Maybe there's been a 45 minute argument over getting in bed and staying in bed and no more water, or maybe, you know, the whole evening was an argument about screen time.

Speaker 2:
And, and so, so many of us fall into bed, just tense and stressed and regretful. We're more peaceful feeling like this is not what I pictured, you know, and I, I just love that we can hold a place that you and I can have this conversation even however brief to, to just normalize that and then to invite parents, to be okay with that. Co-Existing with all the other good stuff that goes on inside. I like the idea of you sitting and just being with that. Do you want to say a little bit more about that?

Speaker 3:
Yeah. I mean, I don't even know the mechanism by which this happens. You know, I think many of your learning expert guests maybe could speak more to that. I don't know the mechanism of how this happens. I just know that the willingness to sit there and to be who we are in a supportive context, this is not done all alone. And that's important because if I had been told to just sit by myself at the end of the day, when I was feeling rotten and just be with myself, that would not probably have been quite so helpful. I was sitting in a context where it was understood that we were in a crucible where everybody was sweating bullets of one kind or another, whether they had kids or not everybody had their life challenges. And that's why we were there. Everybody was drawn there because of some kind of personal search for understanding and, and soothing and relief from their own suffering.

Speaker 3:
And I think for parents, you know, obviously you're not going to run to a meditation center at night when your child is asleep. But now that this is one of the blessings among many of the pitfalls and curses of technology, making it hard to govern our world and everything else we know about it, there was this blessing of being able to connect and be part of a community without leaving your home now. Yeah. And to find a place to take a class, to sit with people too. I mean, I know people recommend apps, but apps are okay, but it's a little less personal than being part of the community. And, but anything, anything that keeps you company and allows you to be present with your misery long enough to see that it will change. This is one of the fundamental truths of life and, you know Buddhist psychology, too, that everything is changing all the time.

Speaker 3:
You know, we get fixed in our view. We don't see it. Although if you're a parent of a young children of young child, you can see it because they're changing so fast. And I am so grateful to you for recommending that apple TV series, because I have recommended it to so many people. And if your listeners haven't watched it, it's very, very beautiful understanding of how impermanence works in child development. But for us as parents. And of course I'm a grandparent now, but for us as parents, to be able to understand that whatever state of mind and heart we happen to be in, it's not personal. It's just a result of some causes and conditions that have happened upset child, a reactive parent, what could be more, you know ordinary, this is, this is how I like this. And it's a combination of these impersonal circumstances or universal might even be better.

Speaker 3:
They're just universal situations. And when we sit down like that to be present with something and we're agitated, or in a state of like you were saying, Susan understanding that at whatever state or mind of mind or heart that we are in, it will change. And one of the things about sitting still and being quiet for awhile is that you start to see the changing when we're busy doing activities, the dishes, the wiping, the counters that putting away the toys, the cleaning up of the folding of the laundry, all the things that we do and need to do, and we can do them very mindfully. And it's really important, but just sitting still for five or 10 or 15 minutes, you start to see that movement of change in a way that it's harder to do and you're moving around. So I do want to make a pitch for doing that.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. I'm glad you did that. And I'm glad you talked about community because also I've, I've practiced meditation in one form or another since the early seventies. And again, it was sort of like a hidden part of who I was, and now it's something like, oh, you know, you go to the grocery store, what kind of meditation do you do? You know, it's just so universally present at least in this country. But I liked the idea of community. I'm a huge, huge fan of us holding hands as we do this thing. It's why I have a community. I have a parenting membership. And I know you have insight LA, which I believe you do some of your classes online, don't you?

Speaker 3:
We do all our classes are online right now. Wow. Okay. It's online and there's all different kinds of classes. They're all online. And there's also people of color, a BIPOC group. And I mentioned this because the challenges for black and brown parents are different from the challenges. I mean, they have all the same challenges and then more having to do with different conversations that black and brown parents have to have with their children about what it is like to grow up in a society where there's just racism, pervading, much of life. So there's all kinds of classes on awareness of this and other things. And, you know, we used to have more things specifically for parents and kids when I was when I was sort of in charge of that part. I don't know really what there is right now. There's usually something, but yeah, I think the community, the company, having company, somebody in your life that you can tell the truth to exactly,
You're not going to judge you. They're going to love you anyway. And not,

Speaker 2:
I did a podcast recently with Kristin Neff, Kristin and I have her book next to my bed, fierce self-compassion and I read it almost every day. I a little bit more, so all of this, I know we have to go, but all of this is to say to parents, all of you listening, look for support, tell your truth in safe environments with find a safe community. I mean, I, we just had a member call today and it's so touching to me when parents speak their truth and, you know, the sort of expose the dark underbelly. And then you see, as you say, you stay with it and you see it morphing and transforming into something benign and gentle and, and all this feeling of even self compassion arises when we step away from the Nat Nat, and yet, and yet in our head, that sort of, how did you do that? Why couldn't you have stayed cool. What's a matter with you? Why your neighbor never does that. So all of you listening, that's kind of an invitation to start looking at the narrative and consider aligning yourself with some resource. Even if it's just a close neighbor friend who will listen with kindness and be, become someone safe to offload some of the ongoing challenges of living with our beautiful and challenging sometimes little ones, anything you want to say by way of wrapping up to.

Speaker 3:
Yeah. Thank you for naming. Self-Compassion, that's really important that I think that's what I was talking about without naming it. So thank you for naming that. And for mentioning a kind neighbor and I want to say to their older people like me who are either grandparents away from their grandchildren or they aren't grandparents yet, or maybe never will be, but who would take an interest in you and be happy to be part of your life and support you? So don't get, there is another resource.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. In fact, the last two weekends, my husband and I have watched our friends little girls. They have a six year old and a not quite three month old. And we are, we've announced ourselves as surrogate grandparents, and it's just pure joy. So

Speaker 3:
We'll wait for you and what a blessing for the parents. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Beautiful. All right.

Speaker 2:
Will you share your, what sites one more time?

Speaker 3:
Trudygoodman.com. And you can find my, my blogs on that one. It's, it's an old website, but it still works and insight la.org, where you will find all the classes and under, under resources in the menu, the navigation bar on top, you'll find lots of guided meditations, short funds, five minutes, 10 minutes. And just even to do five minutes of loving kindness for yourself as you fall asleep, you know, this is a great resource for you. So thank you, Susan. Thank you everybody so Much. Bye. Thank you.

I hope you enjoyed that. I loved my conversation with Trudy. I always love listening to her to say something so calming and soothing about her and not to mention lots of well earned, profound wisdom delivered with so much kindness as always. If you've enjoyed this episode of this podcast series, I would love it. If you would leave a rating, whatever platform you're listening to this series on should have a place where you can click a star or two or three or four or five. I'm not sure what the scale is, but hopefully you're enjoying it and you can leave a positive rating and even better. If you would leave a review, it really helps other parents see that this might be a good place to spend 20 or 30 minutes. So we appreciate that so much. When you take a moment to do that, and of course, stay in susanstiffelman.com.

Speaker 2:
Our next class is going to be such a great class. It's with Maggie Dent. One of my favorite parenting authors and guides, and she is called the queen of common sense in Australia has a very big presence there. And she, and I've done a few things together. There's so much heart and so much joy and such a great synergy that happens when we're teaching together. And we're going to talk about play, how to enlist your kids, or encourage your kids to turn things off, all the things with batteries and plugs and go back to that good old fashioned way of reviving and restoring and learning and growing play. There's just nothing like it in so many of our kids are short changed these days. So that class will be coming up very soon. If you sign up at susanstiffelman.com, you'll get the scoop on that.

Speaker 2:
Okay, everyone. Thanks so much for being here. We're going to wrap up here and I'll just invite you to take a moment to acknowledge yourself for devoting or spending a few minutes to grow and learn this apparent. That touches me more than you can imagine. I'm so inspired by parents who take a little time to widen their perspective. Look at the places where there might be room for growth and healing and join us on this adventure of raising these beautiful children. Remember no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy, stay safe, stay well. And I'll see you next time.


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