Is This Emotion Mine?

Does talking with your spouse or kids leave you feeling drained or overwhelmed? Do you want to retreat, eat chocolate cake, or go for a long solo bike ride after spending time with them? Do you notice that you don’t even want to go home sometimes?

While this may happen to all of us sometimes, if it happens often you may be taking their upset or challenges  too personally. While it’s nearly impossible to be completely unruffled by someone you live so closely with, you can take steps to make it easier to both listen deeply and keep your own sanity.

Step 1: Mindfulness

Notice what you are feeling. Ask if this is your emotion. Are you taking on someone else’s work, emotion, or baggage?

Step 2: Discernment

Closely linked with mindfulness is noticing you have choices. What do you want to do right now? Many of us often try to help by absorbing and trying to fix or heal someone’s else’s upset. Rarely does this actually help and tends to disempower all involved. Very often the kindest thing you can do is sit with someone while they feel their feelings with no need to change, fix, figure out, or take them personally. If you think there’s even a possibility that that’s true, try the following exercises and see if they work better than absorbing or fixing someone else’s upset.

Step 3: Practices to Keep Your Ground

Exercise 1 – Energetic Shield: Stand up and feel your feet on the ground. Run your hands in front of you. Imagine you are putting an energetic shield in place. This shield protects you from absorbing or getting exhausted by the person you are listening to. It can let in anything that you need to feel and hear. It can keep out and deflect back to your partner anything that is theirs and that they need for their healing.

The energetic shield is very useful when your spouse, co-workers, or children are expressing their upset. Take a deep breath and move your hands in front of your face, heart, belly, and as far down your legs as you can reach. After some practice, you can do a smaller motion that doesn’t seem as obvious. You can also use it when you’re in an environment that seems negative and out of your control (i.e. doctor’s office with TV playing or your in-laws house when they start to bicker).

With someone you know, you can actively put your shield up with them. Let them know you’re putting your shield up. Pause the conversation and do the motions. This may actually help them feel safer to talk to you because they know they won’t be dealing with the fallout of your overwhelm after you listen to them.

Exercise 2 – Compassionate Presence: Imagine you are pure compassion and empathy. You have no need to change, fix or figure out the person who’s talking to you. You trust they are the experts on their own life. You trust them to figure out their own path and that the kindest and most loving thing you can do it listen to them with complete trust and love.

You may also notice that parts of you get stimulated by their pain. This is what makes it hard to offer compassion to your intimates. Your lives are so intertwined that their pain triggers your own. Hold the pain within you with compassion as well. What if it was OK to just notice it without need to fix, figure out or change? What if you could also ask for compassionate listening time with your partner, a friend, or ?

Exercise 3 – Listen for Feelings and Needs: Compassion, reflective listening, and guessing at feelings and needs are powerful tools for finding our share humanity and creating more understanding. The form is simple: Reflect back what you heard and guess at what the person is feeling and needing. Doing it well takes a lot of practice. Luckily, living in close proximity to other human beings isn’t easy and gives us lots of practice.

Let’s take a common situation. I said I’d bring home milk and I forgot. When I get home my partner is upset that I forgot the milk.

Partner: I can’t believe you forgot the milk. You said you’d bring it home. I can never count on you. Now what am I going to do for dinner? You know I needed it to make the sauce.

Me: I hear you’re really upset and frustrated. You’ve put effort and energy into dinner and you want that energy to mean something. You really want to know your needs are going to be met and right now you’re not sure they will be.

Partner: That’s right. My day’s been so hard. Everything I did with the kids took much longer than I expected. I’m late with dinner. And we didn’t even enjoy being together. Why am I staying at home with them anyway? You’ve got it lucky that you get to work with people who actually want to hear what you have to say.

Me: I hear you really want to be listened to and valued. Some days it’s hard for you to be home with the kids and today was one of them. Are you looking for relief, understanding, and support?

Partner: Yes! (and then you forgot the milk….)

This dialogue would likely go on for some time, especially if this way of listening is new to your partnership. Over time, you’ll each come to trust it more.

An important thing to remember is that I (and you when you’re in this situation) have choices again and again in this dialogue. Put yourself in ‘my’ place as you read the following ways I could choose to hear my partner’s words…

  • How I hear: I can hear my partner’s words as personal criticism.
  • How I react: Then I tend to attack or defend myself.
  • How I hear:  I can hear my partner’s words an indication of a problem beyond my partner’s ability to solve.
  • How I react: Then I tend to problem solve and offer solutions.
  • How I hear:  I can hear my partner’s words as an indication that they are about to quit and go get a job and put the kids in school.
  • How I react:  Then I tend to react with my own preferences and fears/agendas for how the home and childrearing happen.

 

  • How I hear:  I can hear my partner’s words as proof that I’m not going to get the compassionate listening that I need. Maybe I had a hard day too? Maybe I get worried that my partner needs all the attention and I never get to show my own vulnerability.
  • How I react:  In this case, I’ll tend to react with irritation, withholding my compassion and just wishing my partner wasn’t so needy.

Any of these reactions are unlikely to lead to the closeness and connection I really desire with my partner.

Listening from compassion works so much better. When I beam trust and love at my partner. When I sit with him as though he is beautiful, capable, and I love him. When I listen as though I’m hearing a story that has a great ending, then my energy totally shifts. I’m able to evoke that energy in myself (caring, loving, beautiful) and in my partner. The whole dynamic changes based on how I listen and how I offer my presence.

And remember – It’s really not about the milk.

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Books that Changed My Life

We all have them. Favorite books. Those nuggets of wisdom and insight that showed up at just the right moment to change our lives. Here are my top picks.

What are yours? Email me at kassandra at parentcoaching dot org. Let me know the author, title and what you loved about it. I’ll post the results in a follow up blog post.

I’ll do a drawing of all respondents for a chance to win a free coaching session with me.

Top 5 Books that Changed My Life

A guide to creating exactly the life I (and you if you choose to do it) want. A very practical guide to working with karma. Turns out creating the life I want and gardening have a lot in common. Prepare the soil, plant seeds, tend them, and harvest the results. Turns out I’m doing that every moment of my life. Only choices I have are in what seeds I plant and how I tend them. The harvest follows automatically.

 

 

 

Another practical guide. Similar to the Diamond Cutter in that it’s about creating the reality I want to live and realizing that I am the author of my reality every minute of every day. Working with compassion to apply Inquiry and the turnaround, Byron Katie shows each of us how we can rewrite the stories of our lives and create the lives we each want. Along the way she helps us decrease anxiety and increase joy through such techniques as noticing who’s business something is. Mine? Then I can work on it. Yours? Then I can make a request but it’s not my job to do. God’s? Then we can both relax and let God handle it.

Hmm – I sense a theme. This is another practical guide for creating a life worth living rather than one that is slowly killing you. Telling the truth – says Brad and I believe him – is one of the keys to freedom, success, and happiness. The more radically honest I get, the more my life energy flows and the happier I am. But don’t take my word for it. Start practicing today. Just be careful of ‘drive by honesty’. Once you open up and share your truth with someone, stand in the fire of compassionately witnessing their response. Then keep going. Keep sharing.

 

 

This fictional novel is inspiring and breathtaking for two major reasons. 1) It’s the first time I’d seen anyone write about relationships and sexuality that were both loving and respectful and free of ‘ownership’ or a sense of owing someone else. It still has the most erotic lovemaking scene in it that I’ve ever read. And 2) when the peaceful utopian culture is invaded with violence it finds a way to see the humanity in the invaders and to conquer them through transforming them from ‘enemy’ to ‘friend’. The phrase “There is a place for you at our table if you choose to join us.” is one that I think we need to apply liberally right now. 

 

 

 David Deida anchors the same vision of loving creation as our true nature that are shared in the other four books I mentioned here. And then he takes it to another level by offering practical ways to use sex as a vehicle to learn how to live open as the love we are. While he admits that it’s challenging to stay open in the face of hurt, rejection, or closure he challenges each reader to take ultimate responsibility for their own opening or closing. This is the book sitting beside my bed right now.

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You Already Know What You Want To Do

You already know what you want to do. Somewhere in your being that knowledge exists. Many people will tell you to  ”Just stop thinking small and go for it!” If that sort of positive affirmation and self-talk is enough for you, great. You can stop reading now and go here to make a large donation to thank me for my wisdom. But if pulling yourself up by your bootstraps just doesn’t seem to be working like  it ‘should’, read on.

You already know who you are. Deep in your being you know the truth of who you are, what you want, and what you want to do. Can you feel it?

Maybe. Maybe not because between your conscious waking activities and this deep knowing are many layers of conditioning. These are the habits, coping strategies, and ways of ‘getting through the day’.

Sometimes the voice of your deep longing comes out at 3am when you think you should be sleeping and you’re not. Sometimes it comes out during moments of lovemaking or gardening or playing with our children. Profound senses of rightness with flashes of how you want to spend your time. When you are in moments of joy, your taskmaster mind is less engaged and these inner promptings may feel safer to come forward.

Sometimes who you are does not seem like a safe thing to be. Pretty much never, actually. That’s true for me too and for everyone I’ve ever worked with. Waiting for the perfect moment for outside circumstances to tell us we are safe? Well…we’ll be waiting a long, long time.

We have to find ways to create more safety for ourselves and how to step into the discomfort and fear. If we wait for it to be safe and easy to be ourselves, we will never do it and we will keep blaming other people for why we can’t. Do any of these stories sound familiar?

  • The kids are too young.
  • My husband needs to be more supportive
  • I need a partner
  • Our finances are too tight.
  • I have to do something right now to make money so I have to get a job for someone else so I can’t do the thing I want to do.

The list can go on and on. I’m going to teach you ways to work with these voices. Although these may seem like the voices you need to get rid of they are actually holding some of the power and insight you need to be successful. First let’s look at ways those voices are serving you.

There are many ways the things we want to get rid of are serving us in an unconscious way. How is it serving you to be small? How is it serving you to stress about money? What are you afraid would happen if you got big? What are you afraid you would do if you had plenty of money?

It doesn’t matter to me how they got there. That might be interesting and even important, but it’s not part of the work we’ll do together. I don’t want you to get rid of them or somehow push them aside. I want you to befriend them. I want you to get to know them. Jump in there with the doubt, fear, shame, self-protection that manifests exactly what it is afraid of.

“Anything worth doing is worth failing for” ~ Brene Brown – Shame and Vulnerability researcher and TED speaker

I want to help you learn another way besides numbing out or plowing forward. I want to help your heart open on a path to its own awakening. I want to walk with you on this journey, this hero’s journey, into your profound self. Along the way we’ll meet many aspects of you, many parts. Each part is a cohesive part of you and your story. Each part is playing an important role. I don’t want you to get rid of any part. Not even the inner critic that wants you to be perfect before you start.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” ~Joel Salatin – farmer extraordinaire and healer of the land at Polyface farms

It’s okay to start and fail and start again. It’s okay to start and realize you want to do something different. Start listening to and living your heart’s purpose. The world needs you to live as the full expression of yourself.

And so do you.

May the following words by Mary Oliver inspire you as they inspired me to find and walk my own path. It’s a journey I take over and over again…

The Journey 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

 

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What is Parts Work?

Do you ever feel like you are two minds about something? Do you ever wish you could make a change but can’t seem to do it? Do you think other people are to blame for why your life is less than fulfilling?

Me too. As much as I’d love to be clear and aware all the time, I’m not. Parts work is the single most powerful tool I’ve found to help me get back to an experience of decisiveness, effectiveness, and power. It’s a wonderful way to make positive, lasting change.

Parts work can work for you too. It can allow you to access your own inner cast of characters and to create more harmony in your mind, body, spirit, and emotions. It can help you create clarity out of chaos. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. But don’t take my word for it, contact me and get started with your free consultation today.

Parts work is one of my favorite tools to use with my clients – whether they are coming to me for help with parenting, relationships, self-care, or business. I work in the style of Inner Empathy.

Listening to your parts with empathy and compassion is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. You see, each emotion you have and each strategy or thought you have can be related to like a part or a person. You can invite that part in to talk with you, to share what’s true for it and to be heard without needing to fix, change, figure out, or even understand that part. The part doesn’t need to make sense of defend it’s position. When we do the parts work, we are setting the intention to welcome that part and just listen.

And the most amazing healing often happens. When we listen without agenda for change, spontaneous self-correction can arise. The parts spontaneously realize there can be other ways of getting their needs met. They listen to one another and find that they don’t need to waste energy defending or attacking each other.

Each session with me is backed by my money back guarantee. So there’s nothing to lose, ever. Well, you might lose some of your doubt, confusion, and ineffectiveness. But I bet you’re willing to risk it!

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Remaking Holiday Traditions = More Meaning

Do you wish the holiday season was more meaningful? Fulfilling rather than just filling you up with sweets, extra pounds, and extra things to do?

Me too.

So I’m beginning to shift my holiday celebrations to highlight the values that are important to me and letting go of traditions that don’t support my values. Here are some ways that’s unfolding. I encourage you to try some of these ideas and to make up your own. Change is often hard. If you want help, let me know (the form on the left is a good way to reach out). And if you want emergency support on Christmas Day, I have a few spots left where I’m willing to be on-call to support you making the best parenting choices for you and your family on what is, often, a challenging day.

  • Celebrate Solstice the shortest daylight hours of the year and the return of the lengthening days. Keep an all night vigil from dark til dawn (about 4:30pm – 7:30am). Make vision boards with big pieces of paper and cutouts from magazines and calendars.
  • Build something really cool. Decide to pool your family’s resources to do something that will benefit all of you much longer into the year(s).
  • Simplify Gift Giving. Draw names from a hat so that each person in the family has one other person to buy or make a present for. That way everyone doesn’t get something small for everyone but can focus their attention on making or buying something more meaningful for one person.
  • Giving Gifts Gifts are what’s expected by many of our family and friends. Yet it can be great to pause and ask “What am I hoping this gift will do?” What need will it meet within you and for the person you’re giving it to? Are there other ways to get those need met? Is there a lower cost strategy both for your wallet and the environment? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For instance, if you hope to show someone they are important to you, consider spending time with them in a meaningful way and telling them how you feel about them.
  • How much does it really cost? Once you’ve decided to buy a gift, educate yourself about where and how the items you or your children want are made. Where is the factory? Where are the raw materials sourced? What are the conditions like for the workers? What happens to it after you’re done? How long will it last?

Some other fun ideas are to:

  • Eat local foods.
  • Exchange words of gratitude.
  • Wrestle with Affection
  • Play games of connection and cooperation
  • Offer food to someone in need.

Happy Holidays!

Kassandra Brown, parent coach

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Kids Trigger Feelings of Hurt and Anger

Why can kids trigger their parents to intensely? What is it about our darling offspring that brings out the ogre in us? Much as we’d love to shake our heads and say “I never do that” I’ve listened to too many parents to believe it. We all act like someone we don’t want to be from time-to-time with our kids. More than any relationship, our kids trigger us. Is it just karma or the curse of our mothers who said to us “I hope you have a child just like you”? Neither one.

Our kids are specially designed to trigger our own unresolved childhood wounds and fears. The lost dreams, the forgotten hurts, and the beliefs swallowed whole without introspection or digestion are all brought to the forefront of our awareness by our children. Some of those things hurt. They are all hard to feel. That’s why they are unresolved. They were too big to feel and too big to deal with or handle when we were children. So we pushed them down and under and resolved not to look at them. We are still afraid that they will overwhelm us so when our kids trigger them, we will fight with our kids (most often using the techniques our parents used that we hated so much as kids) in order not to be overwhelmed by our triggers.

Parent coaching can help. One of the tools I use called Inner Empathy allows you to hold compassion for yourself and to talk to the different parts of you as though you are having a conversation with someone else. The someone else is a part of you but instead of trying to figure out, say for instance, your anger by thinking about it and analyzing it you listen to the angry part of you. You ask this part how it is feeling, whether it’s protecting you from something, and what it needs? You ask as your compassionate presence that cares.

Caring compassionate presence is one of the only things that allows effective change to take place. Withdrawing love, threatening and taking away privileges, and bribing don’t allow room for real change. They don’t. They are never effective to teach the lesson we’re trying to teach. What they do teach is that love is conditional and that force is a good thing to use when you really want to get results. We’ve all had enough of that.

So how do you get out of being an ogre to your own children? You probably don’t escape it totally. But you can become more aware. And you can cultivate compassionate presence for yourself and your children. From there, real healing and change happen.

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5 Steps to Becoming a Healthier You and a Better Parent

~ Welcome Leslie Mason, parentcoaching.org’s first guest blogger. I like Leslie’s down-to-earth approach to making small changes that can make a big difference. I hope you’ll enjoy this post about some simple steps to create more health and balance in your life and family as much as I did. I particularly like step 5. As a parent coach I see over and over again the value of having (and being!) a safe and trusted confidant for parents. It makes such a difference.

Love, Kassandra~

Between the soccer practice and karate class, the piano lessons and dance rehearsal, the meals to make and the laundry to do, parents barely have a spare second to breathe, let alone work on self-development. But think about the areas of your life that you want to improve. It can be daunting to tackle all of these at once. However, there are a few steps you can take to improve your own health and become a better parent all at once.

1. Make Time for Exercise

As a busy parent, exercising is probably one of the last things on your mind. But you need to make it a priority if you want to have a healthier body. Luckily, exercise doesn’t have to be painful and tedious. Playing with your children is a great way to get and stay active. Find out what activities they love doing and would be willing to include you in (the willingness is an important part). This is easier with young children since they are particularly active.

Even if you don’t exercise with your children, hop on the treadmill for just a mile a day. Physical exertion is a great way to relieve stress or reenergize. Showing your children that you care about your health will help them to know that you want to be around for a long time and be involved in their lives. It will also set the example for your children to lead healthy, active lives as well.

2. Eat Healthy

This seems like a no-brainer. If you want to have a healthier body, you need to be more careful about what you put into it. If you fill your body with trash, you are bound to feel like trash most of the time. But if you eat healthy, natural foods, your body will definitely notice and thank you for the difference. You will have more energy, feel less stressed, and have better long-term health.

To feel better about the way you are raising your children, give them the best nutrition you can find. Love your children by feeding them wholesome food rather than by giving them sugar and sweets. Don’t overwhelm yourself by changing all of your eating habits at once. You can take your time and gradually incorporate whole grains and vegetables while you decrease your sugar and highly-processed foods consumption.

3. Pamper Your Body

Your body goes through a lot of extra stress when you become a parent. Not only do moms have to go through the entire pregnancy process, dads also have to adjust to crazy sleep schedules and trying to keep up with everything that their children are doing. With all of this pressure, your body could definitely use a good pampering every now and then.

Treat yourself to some basic and inexpensive luxuries. Get a facial, have your nails done, or take turns massaging your spouse. If your body is having a particularly difficult time, consider visiting a chiropractor to relieve some of the tension in your back and neck. Most health insurance policies will cover an occasional trip for a back realignment. If you want to be able to give your full time and attention to your children, you need your body to be in the best condition possible.

4. Get Enough Rest

It’s amazing what a full eight hours of sleep can do for you. Most of us, whether we have children or not, can barely manage to get this much rest each night. While it won’t necessarily kill you to be a little sleep deprived, it does have a negative effect on your body. Even getting one solid night of sleep can boost your mood, lower your stress level, and increase your energy.

Dealing with children can be a trial. Ornery parents and moody teenagers are usually not a good mix. If you really want to have a better relationship with your kids, work on being in a better mood and having more patience just by getting enough rest at night. If you aren’t sleeping well at night, try to find time during the day to nap and recharge.

5. Find a Confidant

Your life is going to be full of rough patches and hard times. To ease your mind, find a parent coach or good friend that you trust and confide in them. Voicing your fears and worries is a great way to cope with stress, relieve tension, and gain perspective. Kids recharge through play while parents recharge through speaking truthfully and being heard. Some of the benefits of getting support include less worry and guilt for you and less anxiety and guilt for your child. Plus you’ll be a more effective parent. If you vent to your kids instead, you’ll not only set a poor example of stress management, but may also cause them unnecessary anxiety in their own lives.

If you can find ways to improve your body, mind, and soul, you will surely find that your relationship with your children improves as well. To take care of another person you must first make sure that you are taking care of yourself.

Leslie Mason is a homemaker and garden expert. Leslie enjoys writing, gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and making time to treat herself with special visits to a chiropractor in Scarborough.

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5 Exercises for Homeschooling (and Parenting) with Empathy

1. Exercise To Get Honest:

Have you ever behaved in ways you regret? Admitting when your homeschooling behavior is different than what you want is a great first step. Journaling, sharing with a friend, and talking to a coach or therapist are all good ways to get honest.

2. Exercise to Welcome the Discomfort:

Listen to the audio to connect to your compassionate listening presence. From your compassion, notice some challenging emotion. Imagine this emotion is a person you can say hello to, sit with, and feel a sense of curiosity and welcoming towards.

3. Exercise to Make Connections:

After welcoming in the emotion in Step 2, imagine having a dialogue with the part of you that feels this way. Listen to what s/he is feeling and needing. Are there any similarities between this part of you and your child?

4. Exercise to Get Help:

Imagine the help you would like with your parenting and homeschooling challenges. Let your imagination go. Don’t worry about the practicality. What would the ideal support look like to you?
I’d be delighted to talk with you and help you decide if the support I offer is right for you. Use the contact form to the left to initiate your free consultation today.

5. Exercise to Enjoy the Changes:

Notice any changes in the way you feel, the way you react, and the way your children behave after practicing Steps 1 – 4. Recognize your efforts and your accomplishments. Not everyone is willing to look deeply into the challenges of parenting and homeschooling.
Take time to celebrate.

by Kassandra Brown
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Can Arguments Be a Thing of the Past?

When you share how you are feeling and what you are needing, wanting, or desiring you create an environment where genuine connection can take place. Feelings and needs are universal human experiences. It is much easier to connect with you when you tell me what you need and how you are feeling.

When we talk about judgments and strategies then arguing, fighting, and disagreeing are very likely. When we share feelings and needs, we deescalate any conflict or disagreement. We are acknowledging our own needs and how we feel. Reflecting back to one another helps dramatically. Curious and want to learn more? Fill out the form to the left to get started with a free parent coaching consultation.

To help get you started, here’s an abridged needs inventory. A fuller version from the Center for Nonviolent Communication is available here http://www.cnvc.org/Training/needs-inventory.

Needs

Connection, love, safety, exercise, food, shelter, peace, meaningful contribution, autonomy, peace, honesty, empathy, compassion, effectiveness, to know and be known, and play.

Feelings When Needs Are Not Met:

Sad, angry, frustrated, hopeless, afraid, disconnected, confused, insecure, envious, annoyed, anxious, exhausted, tense, embarrassed, ashamed, irritable, fatigued, worried, furious, helpless, wistful, discouraged, restless, fidgety, and impatient.

Feelings When Needs Are Met:

Happy,  hopeful, engaged, excited, joyful, confident, grateful, peaceful, refreshed, inspired, confident, affectionate, curious, excited, enthusiastic, serene, centered, content, enlivened, sympathetic, safe, appreciative, thankful, and satisfied.

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

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Where’s My Compassion?

This guided meditation helps you feel the support of your own compassionate self. Try it for a great way to release the stress of the day and drift off into sweet dreams.

Guided Meditation for Connecting to Your Compassionate Presence

It’s also useful to listen to this meditation before going into any stressful situation – commuting to work, giving a contentious proposal, disciplining your children, or talking over a point of disagreement with your partner. You and everyone you know will benefit from you connecting more with the light of compassion within you.

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

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