We’ve already given you several examples of how other parents have introduced their children to mindsight and the power of focused attention. Here is something you can read with your own child to teach the concept.
Integrating Ourselves: Looking at Our Own Wheel of Awareness
There are many ways parents can benefit from an understanding of mindsight and their own wheel of awareness. Let’s take a moment so you can see, and experience, what we’re talking about.
From your hub, SIFT through your own mind. What rim points have your attention right now? Maybe some of these?
I’m so tired. I wish I had just one more hour of sleep.
I’m also irritated that my son’s Yankees cap is there on the floor. Now when he gets home I’ll have to ride him about that, and about his homework.
Dinner with the Coopers will be fun tonight, but I kind of wish we weren’t going.
I wish I did more for myself. At least I’m giving myself the pleasure of reading a book these days.
Did I mention I’m tired?
All of these sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts are the rim points on your wheel of awareness, and together they determine your state of mind.
Now let’s see what happens when you intentionally direct your attention to other rim points. Slow down for a few seconds, get quiet within yourself, and ask yourself these questions:
What’s something funny or adorable my child said or did lately?
Even though it’s monstrously difficult at times, do I genuinely love and appreciate getting to be a parent? How would I feel if I didn’t get to be a parent?
What’s my child’s favorite T-shirt right now? Can I remember her first pair of shoes?
Can I picture how my child might look at eighteen, bags packed and leaving for college?
Feeling different? Has your state of mind changed?
Mindsight did that. From your hub you noticed the rim points on your own wheel of awareness, and you became aware of what you were experiencing. Then you shifted your focus, directing your attention to other rim points, and as a result, your entire state of mind changed. This is the power of your mind, and this is how it can literally and fundamentally transform the way you feel about and interact with your kids. Without mindsight, you can get stuck on your rim, feeling primarily frustrated or angry or resentful. The joy of parenting is gone in that moment. But by returning to your hub and shifting your focus, you can begin to experience joy and gratitude about getting to parent your children—just by paying attention and deciding to direct your attention to new rim points.
Mindsight can also be immensely practical. For example, think for a moment right now about the last time you got angry with one of your children. Really angry, where you could’ve lost control. Remember what he did, and how furious you felt. At times like these, the anger you feel burns bright and fiery on the rim of your wheel. In fact, it burns so intensely that it far outshines other rim points that represent the feelings and knowledge you have about your kids: your understanding that your four-year-old is acting like a normal four-year-old; your memory of laughing hysterically together, just a few minutes earlier, as you played cards; the promise you made that you were going to stop grabbing your children’s arms when you’re angry; your desire to model appropriate expressions of anger.
This is how we become swept up by the rim when we’re not integrated via the hub. The downstairs brain takes over any integrative functioning of the upstairs area, and other rim points are eclipsed by the glare of this single point of your all-consuming anger. Remember “flipping your lid”?
What do you need to do in a moment like this? Yep, you guessed it: integrate. Use your mindsight. By focusing on your breath, you can at least begin to get back to the hub of your mind. This is the required step that allows us to pull back from being consumed by a single angry point on the rim—or a few of them. Once in the hub, it becomes possible to take in the wider perspective that there are other rim points to keep in mind. You can get some water, take a break and stretch, or give yourself a moment to collect yourself. Then, once you’ve brought your attention back to your hub, you’ll be free to choose how you want to respond to your child and if necessary repair any breach in your relationship.
This doesn’t mean ignoring bad behavior. Not at all. In fact, one of the rim points you’ll integrate with the others is your belief in setting clear and consistent boundaries. There are many perspectives you can embrace, from desires for your child to act in a different way to feelings of concern over how you’ve acted in response. When you link all these different rim points together—when you’ve used the hub to integrate your mind at that moment—you’ll feel a readiness to continue attuned, sensitive parenting. Then, with your whole brain working together, you can connect with your child because you are connected within yourself. You’ll have a much better chance of responding the way you want to, with mindsight and the wholeness of who you are, instead of an immediate reaction spurred on by a fiery point on the rim of your wheel. To do your own wheel practice, go to drdansiegel.com.