Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Parenthood Way: The End of the Rope

Dear Friends,

I'll be writing a series of posts here I am calling "Parenthood Way," for the next few months. These posts will be based exclusively in and on family life and parenting. My theme is that I, for one, am not perfect as a mom, wife, household manager, dog owner, chief cook or bottle washer ... I imagine very few of us are. As we realize that we are all "in this boat together," we can begin to take our focus off our personal mistakes and look at the boat as a whole, with a gentle but intent curiosity.

I have had clients whose childhoods and parenting experiences have been much, much more challenging than mine--and continue to be. I recently told one such client: "Look. Everything is already broken. People hurt each other every day, and you know all the stories. You have lived them. We must find peace now--in the midst of this brokenness. In ourselves. If we can do so, we become a part of the hope, of the solution, for all children."

I wrote this recent article on "The End of Our Rope" for my kids' elementary school newsletter. I dedicate it, and this new series to all parents and child care givers and caretakers, everywhere. Peace exists here and now. Let's find it. It's contagious!

Parenthood Way: “The End of the Rope”

With two, still young daughters, (one growing up fast), a job, a dog, a busy husband, a house to maintain, finances to organize (worry about, forget about, worry about), I, like most parents and caregivers, am busy!

I find parenting to be a series of moments in which 1) we feel we have come to the absolute end of our rope, and then 2) miraculously, more rope appears! Suddenly, there is a moment to breathe, to enjoy our children and our lives. How does it happen that sometimes we are terribly stressed, and at other times, we remember (and experience) the reasons we became parents? We experience the present moment. We experience humor, love and gratitude.

The truth is that we are most often not actually experiencing our children, our spouses, our current realities—we are experiencing our thoughts about them. And while negative thoughts can be triggered by many “external” situations, parental stress comes from hanging onto negative thoughts (worries, concerns) that cycle around without solution. Then, in a quiet moment (and this can be in the midst of chaos, too), the mind clears and we are back in the present—noticing the turning leaves, the holiday lights, the beautiful sunset … And, interestingly, solutions to “problems” with our kids percolate up to help guide us through this endless mystery and challenge called “parenthood.”

I call these changes in thinking (busy thinking, then clear mindedness), states of mind. The other day, a “Walking School Bus” day for us—which means getting all of us out the door 20 minutes early—my husband was tired and slept in, I was singly trying to make breakfast, lunches; blaming my husband, blaming myself, the kids, the dog, whoever; and I finally got the kids out the door, but without me! … I had to finish dressing and run to catch up with the “school bus.”

Then, as we were crossing a neighborhood street, my youngest daughter dropped our dog’s leash and Coco went free in the street. I stopped to gently lecture my daughter and took the leash. I was heading on down the road with most of the school bus group way ahead, when my daughter began to cry. She was standing still, crying, upset that I took the leash, and she didn’t want to go to school. She wanted to go home. She wanted her daddy. Here it was again: the end of my rope.

The end of the rope can be a very good place, a fertile place. It means we have run out of ideas and (hopefully) are about to give up on our current way of thinking. In that moment, I just stopped. I had no idea what to do. I sent the rest of the school bus on its way. I tried to apologize, but that did not work. I tried to explain that we really needed to go, but that did not work. And so I just stopped, and looked up at the sky and the clouds, waiting in the unknown. I realized my frustrated thinking was not going to get me anywhere. Perhaps it had caused this mess. And, after a few moments of waiting, my daughter hugged me. I dried her tears and we got ready, slowly, to move on.

Taking a moment, an hour, a day, to just stop, or as one parent I worked with once said, understanding the "Power of the Pause" can be powerful.
“End of the rope” feelings include hopelessness, frustration, anger and fear. To be able to recognize these feelings and understand that another state of mind is possible is one of the most profound lessons of parenthood I have learned. It is actually one of the most profound lessons of life I have learned. When we learn to embrace the unknown, “the end of our mental rope,” we have created space for insight, wisdom and good feelings to re-emerge.

Ami Chen Mills-Naim is a member of the Westlake Elementary School Site Council, Education Director at the Center for Sustainable Change, a personal and family coach, and author of The Spark Inside: A Special Book for Youth, and the forthcoming, State of Mind in the Classroom. Send your comments or questions to her at 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Very Tricky!

Oh, you are so
Very tricky!

I thought I had shut
That front door
But here you have
Come in from the back!

And now the air
Reeks of your
Sublime perfume

I hope it is the kind
This time
That never goes away!

There is divine danger here
As I am becoming intoxicated ...
And I no longer seem to care
About what happens
Outside this house

Maybe one day I will
Go out again
But for now I am
I am

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Things I Know for Sure

My coming radio show (this Friday at 10 a.m. PST), "Things I Know for Sure," is a reflection on the Truth as it has manifested in my life over 40-some years, and speaking as someone who, as a child, was immersed in the world of the Three Principles of Mr. Sydney Banks. I also speak from my experience as as an avid reader, writer and journalist, a researcher, a scholar and lover of many spiritual traditions.

In this show, as a general theme in my life at this time, I will reflect on what these many various traditions have in common. What is the common truth we might all be able to trust in? How do the Three Principles relate to that truth?

And, as a follow up to the recent webinar I did with Sheela Masand (in Spain), I am posting here some of my favorite quotes from various spiritual authors I have read that seem to me to have a common thread.

I start with Mr. Sydney Banks himself from his DVD set, "The Hawaii Lectures," and the DVD entitled "Going Home."

"The Buddha told you: 'You are the world.' You create the world you live in. Yet, you have to find this for yourself. Listen carefully. Not just to what I'm saying, [but] to some wise person that YOU think knows the secret. You can go to the library, you can find the Truth. You can go to the church of your choice and find it. You can go to a Kahuna and find it. You can go anywhere in the world, and once you know what Truth is, you'll hear it spoken all over the world. You'll hear it on a day-to-day basis.

"But you’ve got to listen, not with your ears. You don’t look with your eyes. It’s beyond the senses. It lies deep in here [points to chest/heart]. And once that secret comes out and is divulged to YOU, it’s a secret that cannot be told. It cannot be told by words. It has to be found within your own soul, because your own soul holds that secret.

"And what stops you from getting in here [points to chest] is your own thinking ... You could also call it Ego. [But] ego is a delusion. It’s non-existent."

From Gangaji, and her book (my favorite), You Are That:

"Living truth, whether it comes from the historical Buddha, or from the beggar on the street, is true nourishment ... I once heard it said that religion is the tracks where something alive once passed. In the tracks, there may be a great emanation of power and truth. If the tracks can serve to inspire you to turn to truth, then they are to be honored. Follow the tracks to their source."

From Ramana, from the book The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharishi:

"Know that you are really the infinite, pure Being, the Self Absolute. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self ... Know then that true Knowledge does not create a new Being for you; it only removes your ignorance. Bliss is not added to your nature; it is merely revealed as your true and natural state, eternal, imperishable. The only way to be rid of your grief is to know and be the Self. How can this be unattainable?"

From Toni Packer, The Work of this Moment:

"Why did the Buddha say in parting, "Be a lamp unto yourself--take only the Truth for your refuge"? Why do we seek refuge in things created by thought and memory? ... Human beings communicate, commune with each other freely and lovingly only when the mind is not anchored in any system whatsoever--when there is a coming together empty-handedly.

"With any division into groups there inevitably arises the feeling: 'The group is me' ... In facing our own deep-seated need for security and belonging, can we see the immense attachment and dependency on groups and organizations? Can we see the need to feel that our organization, our religion, is superior to all others? And can we see what that does to us?

From me:

The formless Truth is so vast and infinite as to encompass all forms of Truth, and go beyond all of them. It goes beyond any form of individual or personality, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Abraham, Ramana, Sydney Banks, as much as they are to be honored and loved. It is both within and beyond any posture or form of the body--health or disease. In the end, the Truth is you. It has never not been You.

Everyone has been pointing you in this direction. Inside. You then discover what is inside you, what is outside you, what is everywhere. You discover Home, and you discover that Home has no location. It cannot be contained and encapsulated in a specific formulation of Truth. As helpful as all those formulations, all those past insights, all those beautiful teachers have been, they do not "contain" the Truth.

The Truth is a moving, flowing river--fullness, allness, Alive. And it is Nothing. Quiet, silence, Ground Zero, stillness. It lies in the unknown, past everything you have ever thought. And all of this is You.

Join me this Friday!

With Love,

Your Mystical Mama

Friday, May 24, 2013

Most People

"That which is in You, when released, will Save you. And that which is in you, if not released, will destroy you." 

"And I say to you: What you seek and inquire after, look, it is within you."

--Jesus of Nazareth.
Most people
I meet
Live according to rules
They did not create
And which have NOT
Been stamped
With the Sacred & Tender
Of their own Soul

Most people
Ascribe to values and
Aspire to dreams
Down through
These bloody, tortured Eons.
Unquestioned, Unexamined
Leadening, weighty, death-giving.

Most people
Are not quite sure
Where they are going
But know only
They must
Get there soon!

Most people
Cling tightly
To gems that once
Were of Great Value
But now have turned to dust
Within their grip

And so,
With most people,
Conversations can be
Rather dull

Once you have had a taste
of This Freedom
My Friend,
Once that door has cracked open
So that the light gets in
So that the light gets in
You will not be going back!

You have Embarked
On the Pathless Path
And become
Unique in All the World.

Loved, Lover, Loving
with One Allegiance only ...

And, so, you are Welcome to stop
For tea
In my home

On Tuesday, May 28, Your Mystical Mama will be presenting a free hour-long webinar, hosted by Sheela Masand, & entitled "Beyond Borders of Culture and Subculture: The Truth is Everywhere." Here is a brief description:

"Looking past our teachers, cultures and sub-cultures sometimes takes courage. Understanding our Selves as the source of truth involves faith and fortitude. When we do this, however, we become Free ... Free to live, work and speak authentically as the unique and powerful channel of wisdom that we truly are. Finally, we begin to understand Truth as the very air we breathe, as everywhere. And the borders and boundaries we once lived within begin to dissolve, until we see there is nothing left to overcome."

Information & registration here:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Essence of Well-Being

My beautiful friend and colleague, Dr. Dicken Bettinger and I have been in dialogue about our forthcoming retreat together at end of April, Simple Principles for Spiritual Living ... as well as about our individual work, and experiences over the last several months.

Having just landed back on the West Coast from snowy Michigan, Dicken shared, in a recent phone call, that he had led a retreat there entitled "The Essence of Well-Being," and that this topic held a great resonance for him of late. And so, we decided to do another radio show together, on "On the Front Porch," and this will air on March the 22nd, with the title (you guessed it): "The Essence of Well-Being."

So I've been reflecting on this subject, or rather, this subject has been reflecting on me, and here is what I have discovered, so far:

When one steps back, away from a concept, thought, belief, one falls
Into this

Inner State

That is really pure Consciousness.

And saying "Consciousness" is the same as saying "Love."

There is nothing within this Consciousness: No thought, idea, belief, identity, goal, or memory, and yet here it is. Complete. A complete and full Nothingness ... both Nothing and the Source of all that is, of all thought.

Remarkably, mysteriously, this Consciousness is always Here. In the depths of darkness and despair, even. For it is Love itself that generates all that is. Love, loving Itself. Being-ness, encompassing all states, all activity, all "positivity" and all negativity, too.

Well-Being does not have an essence, actually. Well-Being is essence!

And so that is why it has been called,
The Father Within
The True Self
Closer than hands and feet
Nearer than breathing

Come closer to yourself,
come even closer in ...
past all of your thoughts, feelings, doubts and triumphs, habits and traumas

When you fall past all the layers of "you"

Here is what Is.

Call it Well-Being
Mental health

You can give it a name
You can call it "3 Principles" or even

In the end
there is
no name
and no

There is only this

Only Isness!
It's a funny business!

This illusionary journey toward discovering
That which you have always Been.

With Love,
Your Mystical Mama

This that I Am, you also Are.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Spiritually Oriented Parenting Books

In follow up to my last radio show and podcast, Natural Parenting, I am listing some of the books that have been most helpful and inspirational to me as a parent, and as an evolving, spiritual being.

In some cases, I have found the writing itself to be simply beautiful and poetic, and so the poet and lover of literature in me is also recommending here. Here we go:

Parenting from the Heart, by Jack Pransky

This is the go-to book for parenting from a 3 Principles understanding, and has been recently updated to reflect a simpler and more profound understanding of the Principles.


" ... warm, beautiful loving thoughts for our children are always there; they've just been covered up by extraneous thoughts."

"We do not have to do anything to make our children become good kids. They already are."

Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent, by David Spangler

You can perhaps see from the title why Your Mystical Mama might like this book.

"If I thought I understood the mystical path before, it was nothing to what I have learned in the past fifteen years in being a parent to four wonderful individuals: John-Michael, Aidan, Kaitlin and Maryn.

It may seem strange to equate mysticism with parenting. The one seems so transcendent and pure while the other seems so mundane and--with four kids at least--messy! But mysticism for me ... is not found only in some higher, numinous realm. It is found all around us, waiting to be recognized and nurtured ... in the people and places that make up our world ... A mystic seeks the presence of God not to escape the world, but to be more present in the world in a loving and empowering way. And nothing draws you into the world in a loving and empowering way than learning to be a good parent."

Spiritual Parenting: A Guide to Understanding and 
Nurturing the Heart of Your Child, by Hugh & Gayle Prather

One of my personal favorites.

"Our spiritual unity with our child is the reality that allows us to love our child and our child to love us. This connection exists between all living things, but within the parent-child relationship, most adults tend to be more open to the ancient mystical insight that to give is to receive."

The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
a new interpretation by William Martin

From Chapter 6, "Relax Your Grip":

"The Tao is continually giving birth
to your children
and to you.
You are not their source.
The Tao is the Great Mother
and the Source of all that is.
Her resources are inexhaustible.

If you empty yourself
of your own expectations,
you will see that your children
will never be
outside Her love."

Whole Child/Whole Parent, by Polly Berrien Berends

This book was such a surprise to me! When a friend gave it to me, I could not believe that one woman had written such a profound and far-ranging masterpiece on parenting and spiritual consciousness. I fell in love with it.

" ... now we are going about love differently. We recognize, affirm, and proceed as if our child really is perfect consciousness; and we treat everything else as transitory. We still deal with the immaturities--ministering, caring, correcting, comforting, teaching, serving as needed--be we do not affix them to our child. Instead, we consciously separate him--his true, conscious, whole self--from everything else that seems to be. In this way, an environment of letting be occurs in which the child most effortlessly becomes what he truly Is." [Note, bold face is mine.]

And let's not forget what my own daughter, Ali, age 9, recommends for all parents and caregivers in the simplest, and perhaps most profound terms:

1) "Just relax."

And if you feel you cannot "relax," and too many "things" (thoughts) are stressing you out:

2)  "Do things more slowly."


Join me for "Natural Parenting Part II" at 10 am PST at Contact Talk Radio on the internet, March 8, 2013 ... On the "On the Front Porch with Ami Chen" radio show.

With Love &
Happy Parenting!

Your Mystical Mama

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Little Gurus Everywhere!

We have an almost invisible, immediate cadre of spiritual teachers available to most of us--for some of us, within our very own homes.

I am speaking of children.

Having just hosted seven young children here at my home for a birthday sleepover, I observed the following highly enlightening traits of these smallish gurus.

1) They do not think much about time (if at all) and so tend to trust their natural inclinations. (Time to eat! Time to play! Time to throw all the couch pillows on the floor and use them as stepping stones.)

2) While they can occasionally be petty and squabble, they are more often than not kind and extremely generous. They are ultimately Loving. Love is a natural (as opposed to "reached for" or earned) condition, in which they live. They like to hug and be hugged.

3) They are not afraid of feeling or expressing strong emotions.

And, at the same time ...

4) They are quick to move past a strong emotion and simply forget all about it.

5) When they are sick, they are not particularly interested in why they got sick, who is to blame for their sickness, nor what type of sickness it is and/or how it might have been avoided. They are simply sick, and hope to get well.

6)  They seek to find the joy and fun and humor in every moment and circumstance. They are deeply interested in the Present.

7) They care more about candy and sweets than money.

8) They (generally) do not care how their hair looks, nor whether it has been combed or washed in the past few days.

9) They like to wear bright colors with shiny stuff. It is OK if socks do not match, and also OK if pants, shirts, etc. do not match.

10) If we are parents or caregivers, children can push us to the outer limits of our own thoughts and beliefs about life, and how life and children should be. If we are attentive, we can learn to become wide open, vulnerable, courageous and tough. We can learn to love more deeply than we ever have before, and let go in ways we never thought possible.

Join me this coming Friday, February 22, on the On the Front Porch internet radio show for more about the gifts of children, and how we, as parents, can learn from them--and bring out the best in our kids. At 10 a.m. Pacific Time (U.S.) on the Contact Talk Radio network. Live callers welcome.

With Love,

Your Mystical Mama!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On School Violence and What We Can Do

The side gate to my childrens' elementary school yard is now locked.

This feels unfortunate to me, because this remote entry to the school's sports field is lovely. It shares terrain with a university campus, and the walk to the school gate includes a country road that rises up from an elegant, old entry at the main street, marked by carved white posts from some other era. Majestic trees and wild meadow rise beyond. It's a rural, poetic corner of our city and we are lucky to have it here, by our school. I'll miss this walk, past the old gate, up the road and into school.

This locking happened because some apparently confused individual (adult/male/vagrant) was coming onto campus and stealing childrens' backpacks. One can just barely imagine why. What was this man after, sandwiches? ... Gummy bears? Goldfish crackers? Bits of twigs and leaves, barrettes, journals, baseballs, gloves, notes to BFF's? ... Fifty cents, or two dollars?

Perhaps these spacious, colorful containers seemed to promise so much, with their bright decorations and primary colors, thrown about haphazardly outside of classrooms, bulging out from walls on hooks, carelessly left unzipped by trusting, oblivious children.

The school shooting/massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, of course, sealed the deal on the gate in December. And although nearly all other boundaries of school property--north, east, much of the south--remain wide open to the wind, families, vagrants, domesticated and wild animals, birds and all else, a gate that can be locked, now is.

"The sad truth," he said, "is that someone who really wants to hurt people probably will."

At our most recent PTA meeting, the school principal stated that ideas for further school security were being mulled over--including: possibly enclosing the entire school in fencing. As a concerned mother, I found myself interested.

But our principal also noted that in Newtown, the only entry point to the school was a set of locked double doors (the shooter blasted through these) and the rest of the campus was also secured, locked.

"The sad truth," he said, "is that someone who really wants to hurt people probably will."

We have many Israeli friends, and some are in shock that the entire school is not patrolled by armed guards. Of course, we are not in Israel, and while all ideas for and about our childrens' safety must be considered, it also sadly true that in a heavily armed and defended world, there really is no such thing as true and permanent security--for anyone.

Is there any other way that we can be vigilant? What can be done by ordinary, concerned people, parents and educators in this moment and every moment?

Actually, there is an "invisible" factor that plays into our own protection and that of others.

After the hard, insane, horrific reality that was Newtown, and is nearly all violence in our society, what I will say here may sound like clouds or cotton candy.

But I venture that this invisible factor, this common denominator for all human beings, and their safety and well-being, trumps all others.

It is our own thoughts, our own states of mind. Setting aside, for the moment, the major role that Thought plays in building a case within the mind of a perpetrator of violence (misguided, painful, distorted thoughts); we can, as ordinary people, pay immediate attention to our own states of mind.

When we are consumed by personal thoughts, worried thoughts from the past, or anxious projections into the future, when we are not present, it is nearly impossible to be attuned to our surroundings.

Alert, without unwarranted fear, conscious of where our bodies are in time and space (as well as other bodies), attentive to the energies of those around us--these all comprise an attuned, responsive state of mind that can alert us to real threats in our environment, or to the "off feelings" of an individual.

I worked with men and women, boys and girls, who had committed horrible crimes, some they had been charged with, and some that had not yet been discovered. One boy was accused of killing his own father.

I worked for several years for a county system teaching principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. I went regularly, willingly, happily, into environments some may consider dangerous. These included the county jail, juvenile hall (minimum and maximum security units), correctional ranches for adolescents, and schools for adjudicated youth.

I worked with men and women, boys and girls, who had committed horrible and violent crimes, some they had been charged with, and some that had not yet been discovered. One boy was accused of killing his own father. One boy put an innocent bus driver in the hospital. One boy set fire to animals.

In the midst of these populations, two things helped me stay safe: One was a deep respect for the core resilience and health of each individual, no matter the charge, a basic respect that was felt from me and therefore returned to me. Two, simply staying in a state of presence, clearing thought, not projecting fear (not creating fearful thoughts), and also not being afraid to acknowledge when an inmate (or even correctional officer!) was acting in an inappropriate way, or putting out a strange energy.

Inmates felt safe and confided in me, even when the secrets they shared were twisted or offensive, or when they shared deeper fears that might be embarrassing.

Attention to my own thoughts and state of mind did two things. Inmates felt safe and confided in me, even when the secrets they shared were twisted or offensive, or when they were sharing deeper fears that might be embarassing. I was able to observe situations that "needed to handled" and handle them, without fearing consequences to myself. I reported a correctional officer or "counselor" at juvenile hall who was acting inappropriately in my class. I reported an adult male who was dating an underage teenager at a school where I worked. Once (outside of work) I saw a man acting strangely, lingering outside my childrens' gymnastics class, and I reported this to staff at the parks and recreation department.

I am not holding myself up as some kind of saint or hero. I have many colleagues who have taken similar responsibility, and acted more bravely than me. Many of you, dear readers, have probably stepped up to the plate many times. And I make mistakes. I still can get caught up in thinking and cloud my own mind. I am not perfect, but I gain clarity day by day, month by month and year by year.

My point here is that each one of us has the potential to discriminate between thoughts (or states of mind) that are helpful to ourselves and others, that can be protective and guide us, and thoughts that simply clutter the mind and render us ineffective and "absent." Even thoughts that might cause us to harm others.

With mental clarity, we emanate a neutrality and compassion that those around us feel and respond to. Perhaps a bullied child can confide in us. Perhaps even a bullying child can. 

With mental clarity (a quiet mind) it is more obvious when something needs to be addressed, and we can move past fears and doubts about speaking up. With mental clarity, we emanate a neutrality and compassion that those around us feel and respond to. Perhaps a bullied child can confide in us. Perhaps even a bullying child can. Certainly more so when we are not caught up in our own mental storms, judgments, moods and urgency to move into the next moment.

Finally, we must open our collective mind to greater hope and possiblity for people who suffer from mental illness--hope that goes beyond destigmatization. With the relatively recent introduction of the power of Thought into Western "mental health," the field of possibilities has opened. In my work, I personally know, have followed, and communicated with so many people who suffered tremendously with even severe diagnoses, and have found peace of mind, gentleness and freedom for themselves.

... the value of mental clarity and peace of mind, and the possibility for a deeper and deeper sense of presence has, in the 20th century, become a vibrant, profound and far reaching dialogue.

My own non-profit specializes in teaching the role of thought and state of mind to families, schools and communities. We teach the fundamental innocence, mental health and neutrality that exists within all of us, and that we can reach out to and help "grow" in others.

Globally, however, the role of Thought, the value of mental clarity and peace of mind, and the possibility for an ever deepening sense of presence has, in the 20th century, become a vibrant, profound and far reaching dialogue that I have heard coming from all corners. I believe this dialogue, and what it reveals, will go a long way further toward protecting ourselves and our children; toward loving ourselves and each other; and therefore toward ending school violence, and every kind of violence, than locking the gates.