Here's Some Parenting Advice For You: Stay Creative And Playful!


Parenting and wholeheartedness.

If I told you that the skip in your step will put the bounce back into your creative brain, would you believe me? Many researchers and neuroscientists will tell you I am right.

Have any parents out there had a challenging time in the last couple of weeks? Was it a full moon? Was it the drop in our fluctuating interest rates? Is it end of the school year chaos? Today could be your day to lighten up and connect more playfully.

So what actually feeds your creative, collaborative and connecting brain?

These were some of the questions pursued by neuroscientists, research psychologists, musicians, masters of the theatre sport of improv and the keen minds of approximately 500 mental health professionals, at the Annual Interpersonal Neurobiology Conference held at U.C.L.A. March 6 - 8, 2015.

Through this three-day conference, a compelling debate evolved as the speakers defined the mechanisms of right and left hemisphere. What creates a context for creativity? What we can glean for ourselves and each other considering the current interpersonal human brain research for our children's developing minds and our own?

Dr. Dan Siegel (who I consider a rock star of brain science), and celebrity musician Alanis Morissette were participants on a delightful opening panel at the A.I.N. Conference.

Siegel steered our journey in search of answers to where to find body, mind and spiritual health. He talked about neural integration, attunement and whole body brain health learning from the bottom up.

Alanis Morissette brought the research 'home' as she shared her own narrative about her own quest for an more integrated life, after she had experienced her own creativity block and burn out. She shared the pain of the spiritual crisis in her life that included a realization she had lost touch with who she really was any more. In the marketing of her  "popular brand" as an iconic musician, the lyrics of her song 'Bitter Pill' spoke to not recognizing the person that she saw in the mirror.

Have you had those moments where you don't recognize the person you have become?

Her personal quest was to rediscover the novel, original parts of her personality that she recalled in herself as a child. She described the identity crisis of her 40s as she awoke to a truer and whole self. Her spiritual answers came to her while she journeyed anonymously in India. There, and on a trek in the mountains, she welcomed home all the lost parts of her personality. This inspired her song "Thank You".

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

We all may need to re-group at various times in our lives with some much to be savored 'time out' or 'time in'. When you consider your own career as a parent or in your other professional pursuit, when have you been most playfully and creatively engaged in your work?

Is there joy some (or most) of the time? Or do you find yourself on autopilot, doing everything like you always have for years, and like many others that have gone before you?

How creatively engaged do you feel you are with your life right now, on a 0 – 10 scale?

Like the song, "Isn't it Ironic", we can work so hard to make a difference for others—our families, our children, our friends, and our colleagues sometimes, and in the process have we lost touch with our own true self.

It really got me thinking of my own most creative practices.

  • Why do I love blogging?
  • Why do I love playing tennis?
  • Why do I love music?
  • Why do I love to have novelty and play in my life?

There were so many brilliant minds at work at the AIN Conference this past weekend, but for this blog I’d like to share my delight and fascination with what Dan Siegel termed "MEWE".  What did Dr. Siegel mean by this strange term?

We need to work together on this planet to cultivate our relationships, learn how to regulate energy and information flow between and within us!

Have you noticed that your most brainiac ideas usually develop after having engaged in some type of group activity or shared moment? Creativity shared can breed greater outputs of personal innovation and growth. Acting together we are more than the sum of our parts.

This sounds natural, doesn’t it? So what gets in the way of MEWE at times?

We do! There are small windows of opportunity that WE all are presented with. We all have times when life seems chaotic and we are met with our own frailty. Things happen. Misunderstandings inevitably show up.

And … wow … does that confusion ever put a crimp on one’s creativity, health, and life generally! Have you noticed this? Yes, I think this is a commonplace human experience as parents. One that we all can say we have shared at some time(s) in our lives.

Who among us has not experienced fear? Have you noticed that when we are fearful, love and creativity get sucked down the preverbal anxiety drain!

When that happens, stop the terror. Stop all together. Go to yoga. Go to India. Talk to a trusted friend. Connect with another parent. Get a massage. Go for a run. What’s in your own terror remedy tool kit?

Zoe Galvez & Betsy Crouch, of Improv HQ got us all up and practicing the art of "Surviving Mistakes with Grace", "Yes And", and "Be in the Moment"! 

Imagine 500 people paired up in a numbers game. One person says "One", the second person says "Two", the first person says "Three", the second person says "One", and so on and so on. This sequencing brain game was taken to the next level with clapping and snapping and a whole lot of laughter as we got it right, and in equal measure got it wrong.

We were all struck by the joy of shared failure. Isn’t "shared failure" a great model for life? When things happen, they never happen in a silo. The good news is that the mistakes we often get tripped on, generally lead us into better practices and health.

What if we own our learning as parents and professionals? What if we owned our ‘personal failures’ more?  And what if we practiced compassion more?  If we could act like this I think we could start to understand ourselves as a connected whole. Isn’t it high time to realize our life is short. I believe that if we are going to make a difference, we just better get on with the living, creating, and collaborating part fast.

We should start to see ourselves as part of a whole system on this planet—as part of our eco system and social system—this is the state of "MEWE".

As the weekend progressed, my friend and I called it a state of "MEWEChi"—pronounced meeweechi. (It has now become our code word for "keep that flow going".)

As you learn how to become a good personal manager of self and to embrace your own struggle as growth, what happens is that your brain pathways will fire to build healthier new narratives about connection, love and your own creativity.

Cultivate your own bottom-up learning skills through practicing mindfulness and meditation.

If you have a difficult conversation coming up, take time to go for a run or brisk walk before hand. Up your naturally occurring positivity hormones: endorphin, dopamine and serotonin. You can manage your most optimal positivity flow and connect more intimately and creatively with others when you do. That is the goal right?

Resonate or Dominate. It’s your choice!

Try being more open to more caring dialogue with your self and others. We are all learning. Just do your best. Be a model for others to do the same.

Manage your top-down learning. Recognize that much of the information you hold as ‘truth’, may be based on schemas and scripts of your past. It is the old stories that can interfere with being whole-heartedly and compassionately present in this very moment. In bottom-up learning (5 senses body learning), you might be curious and question what else might be true. Practice BE-ing in every present moment.

  • How do your feet feel… right now?
  • What is the temperature of your hands…right now?
  • How deeply are you breathing… right now?
  • What does that tell you?

Meditation is no longer a fringe practice. We now know that from a health perspective that meditation is an incredibly powerful preventative practice (just like taking Vitamin D), and will make you live longer.

Exercise. Play. Take time to rest. These are cornerstone practices for living an integrated life. Cultivate your friendships with those who remind you to laugh and lighten up.

Admittedly I am a bit of a learning junkie. I love learning and integrating new innovative ideas into my life and my practice. At the AIN neurobiology conference however, there was some debate between three brain scientists about what we know and still don’t know about the brain.

I think one of my favorite moments was being witness to the brilliant minds of Dr. Allan Schore and Dr. Jaak Panskspp as they debated on stage … debate may not describe it … lets say 'passionately, very heatedly bantered' to be more accurate.

There is human research that suggests the right brain develops first. And from a scientific perspective what happens after that is known and not known … proven and not proven. Perhaps we will have more conclusive empirical results next year!

Either way, by the end of the  Shore-Panskspp debate, it seemed to me that the most important take away was to become a good manager of emotional states. Our implicit and explicit memories emerge in shared moments. It is in the caring of shared information flow that we integrate healthy body, mind and spirit. From that shared positive and safe experience, creativity and loving kindness flow.

Why not practice connecting more and developing ease to the max in life? Barbara Fredrickson, (author of Love 2.0) talked about mining positivity moments to shift your mood. I loved that! When you are struggling with anxiety or emotional confusion, try to recall a time when you last felt happy or at ease. You can actually shift yourself out of a stuck negative mood by simply activating your brain in the recall of positive experiences.

I found myself thinking about all the little details of life I worry about at times, and I realized with great freedom that they just aren’t that important.

With a practice to let go of worry, really beautiful details in nature and people start to show up again! Delightful.

This sounds a little soap boxy I know, but we need to pay attention to the ways we can work better together and feel more connected in an everyday way. What’s the pay off? Our immune system gets a reboot, our telomeres lengthen and we can handle everyday stress better.

Through healthy habits of self-care, our hearts actually pump more oxygenated blood. There are positive physiological changes to the chambers of our heart. This is all good news.

So when you are rushing to get your children to school tomorrow morning and you spill coffee down that beautiful suit of yours…you know, that one you chose specially for that big meeting, shout MEWEchi, take a breath and carry on!


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