The Power and Mystic of Crystals

I could hear the sounds of stones or glass clinking together as our daughter approached me with a request, “Mom can I bring a crystal to school today? It will stay in my pocket. I promise I will bring it home.” She held out a polished amethyst in her hand.

The healing and protective influence of crystals has long been recognised in the realm of alternative therapy. While there is no scientific evidence, for thousands of years, ancient civilisations have embraced the power of crystals in healing and for enhancing physical, emotional and spiritual balance. While there is that wonderful mystical quality about them, crystals are also part of our everyday lives. They are the quartz that powers our watches, liquid crystal devices (LCD) or diamonds that adorn jewelry or used as abrasives.

My relationship with crystals has been about reconnecting with intuition and the child in me. I once believed in magic and fairies. I marvelled at how rocks and the Earth were formed. Colours fascinated me. I was curious child. I remember when I held the first crystal in my hands as an adult. I was overwhelmed with emotional sensation and my mind filled with admiration of this magnificent creation of Mother Nature. I then spent many months researching, reading and talking to friends who shared the same interest. Years later however, I find myself returning less my research notes. Instead I tune into my inner child and my heart. I listen out for thoughts or feelings that arise, as I gaze upon it, touching its surface, feeling its energy or simply lose myself in admiration of its magnificence. For significance and meaning does not always have to arise from rational mind.

Crystals fascinate boys and girls, both young and old. In their presence eyes light up, brows furrow with inquisitiveness, fingers reach out and conversations begin. People linger and connect. Crystals ignite insight, intuition and communication. For that, they are powerful.

Sisters and Warriors

Parallel journeys of self discovery and emotional growth. 

Our conversation began with a reluctant recount of a less than perfect day at school. “She is actually very good at comforting me Momma, when I feel down or sad.” she revealed of her sister. I smiled. “Ah, that’s fantastic. Tell me how does she comfort you?” I asked gently, toning down my curiosity. “She holds my hand. Sometimes she just hugs me and does not say anything. But still it makes me feel better.” And after a pause she added, “We talk. She helps me solve my issues.”

I bent my knees. Lowered my body so our eyes would connect. I reached out and took both her hands in mine. Her eyes looked watery. The sides of her mouth turned up slightly into a shy smile. I let these words out gradually, “I am so proud of you. I loved hearing you say that. Thank you for being open and sharing that with me. It is wonderful to be able to lean on each other for support.”

The ding of an electronic bell took us away from this extraordinary moment when time paused for us. The lift had arrived. She nodded quickly and looked away abruptly. She straightened her posture and lifted her chin. The features on her face toughened. My warrior child strode through the separating metal doors, confidently and assured.

She is much less guarded now. She feels deeper into her own emotions and explores connections with her heart. Her need to be rational, self-reliant and fiercely independent are foundation pillars of her resilience and personal success. In her own mind, feeling with her heart was previously interpreted as weakness. I have observed her soften with the enlightenment that sensitivity will not dilute her force. At this very moment, as I re-read this last paragraph, I wonder if the “she” I am referring to is my daughter, or me.

Rebuilding Trust in Imperfection

My realisation that insisting on perfection may have impaired learning and hindered academic confidence.

“Mom, can you come and sit with me?” I chased away an initial groan of reluctance and the temptation to dismiss her request with a throwaway remark that she really did not need me and she was more than capable of doing her work on her own. Instead, I placed my book down, mustered my most positive, lighthearted voice and chirped “Sure! I’m coming.”

I pulled up a chair right next to her, in front of our shared desktop computer. She had just logged onto a site for online maths. I took a deep breath and checked myself. For the next few minutes, I would have to sit on my words, modulate my breathing, maintain neutral body language and put all mental judgement aside. I was ready for this personal challenge!

Every few minutes, she looked to me for affirmation or asked my opinion of her answer. Each time I smiled gently. In my heart, an inner voice kept chanting a mantra of encouragement “You can do it. Believe in yourself. Trust in yourself.” Outwardly, I would say, “How do you feel? If you feel it is correct, then it is.” Deliberately replacing the word “think” with “feel” because there was no reason for her to doubt her own capability. After a long while, she stopped asking. I kept up my chanting the mantra, silently, “You can do it. Believe in yourself. Trust in yourself.”

All those minutes I sat next to her, my heart ached. In my spirit, I felt deep remorse. I will find the right time to apologise. I want to explain, at the time, I truly believed I was doing the right thing. I want to say sorry for scrubbing away her squiggly-formed numbers and insisting that she re-write them perfectly. I want to say sorry for screaming in frustration whenever she forgot her multiplication tables. I want to say sorry for the afternoon, three years ago, when I grabbed her near completed maths worksheets, scrunched them up, like you would a piece of unworthy recycled paper and yelled, “If you are not going to do it properly, exactly how I have taught you, then just forget it!” I can still see her face as if she was right in front of me – paused in absolute horror, too afraid to cry, grieving for her effort, now all destroyed and thrown into the bin.

Our mild mannered child would never anger or rebel when faced with such tyranny. I did not realise, she had her own approach to processing arithmetic and I would insist on one model answer and working method. Not permitting any exploration of alternative reasoning, even if it arrived at the correct answer. I did not believe in her. I did not trust in her. Had I unconsciously encouraged perfectionism, which only served to heighten her anxiety and insecurity?

Sitting right next to her this evening, I observed. She employed her own method. I tuned into her anxiety and self-doubt. It was intense. During those seconds before she chose to click the “Check Answer” button she would hesitate with trepidation. Immense relief would wash over her on seeing the green tick and on hearing the bell to signal that it was correct. And slowly afterwards, only very gradually, would she allow herself to celebrate with a sense of achievement. Her priceless smile was fleeting; disappearing as soon as she began reading the next question.

Success in maths is as much about mental ability as it is about mathematical confidence. It is now time for her to shed that learnt perfectionism which appears to hinder personal and academic growth. She is resilient when I do not interfere. In my silence, she tries. In her practice, she is rediscovering her own strengths. My mantra is a reminder to myself to believe and trust in my own child. My aspiration is for her to strive for knowledge and understanding, rather than wait to be led and presented with a perfect solution.

Home as a Sanctuary

Understanding a need for quiet space as our children and their worlds grow louder, busier and more crowded.

Heavy footsteps stomp through the house. I hear the thud of a school bag being flung onto the floor. The door of the shoe cabinet slams and trudging continues as she heads towards the back of the house, where she will throw her socks sometimes absent mindedly into the recycling bin rather than the laundry basket. I hear running water as she splashes away cleaning her hands and then shouts out habitually, “Hi Mom, I’m home!”

At this point, my first instincts are to fly down the stairs, sweep her up in a big hug, slap a sloppy kiss on her sticky cheeks and enthusiastically ask to hear about every single minute of her day at school. I have learnt to hold back. Having long accepted, albeit grudgingly, that she prefers to be left alone to read while she has her post school meal to gaze at trees in the garden in the hopes of spotting another species of bird or clap at scurrying squirrels.

I can usually tell if she’s had a rough day at school based on the next few seconds. If she is whining, finding fault with what has been prepared for her lunch, it hasn’t been a great day. If she starts a chirpy conversation or shouts for me to come down for a chat, it’s been a good one. This year, I have definitely received fewer invitations.

The school year began earlier this year and her class has been reshuffled to include some old friends and new faces. I had the opportunity to ask my elder child what she experienced during the transition from the second to the third academic year of primary school. I added that I had been trying to figure out why her sister seemed more agitated in the afternoons this year.

“Mom, don’t you know?” she queried accusingly. She went on to remind me that it was the year that student numbers per class increased from just over thirty students to forty. “Of course, she’s cranky. I felt my personal space invaded. There are just so many people in the class of the same (physical) size as last year. We are all squeezed in! But the tables and chairs are higher. I guess they expect us to grow.” She went on to lament about the higher noise levels and the crowding when they gathered together for group work or when the teacher summoned them to view an exhibit. “The lines are also longer when we have to hand in our work and people always shoving or cutting queue.”

I made a mental note to give our growing children space. Deliberate quiet moments of sanctuary. No fretting at every turn, or questioning upon hearing that she may have chosen to spend recess alone or decline playdate invitations. Instead, I am now conscious that space at home, helps her regulate her need for calm away from chaos.

Disempowerment

Making a deliberate decision to stay silent.

“Mom, you don’t have to tell me. I know!” I click the red button on the phone and let out a huge huff. This was how I ended a conversation with my mother, for even in my forties, I will always be her little girl. I sat in the car, overcome by annoyance, paralysed by aggravation. Like a petulant child, I was wounded by her advice. Her well-intended counsel made me feel incompetent, inexperienced and undependable. It definitely was not her objective to instigate this unconstructive reaction. I breathed in deeply and slowly let the air seep from my lungs, as I let the child within me, reconcile.

This must be how our children feel when I insist, remind or worse still, badger. Except “being little” they are not permitted to express such exasperation or answer back. As parents, we cannot possibly tolerate such insolence!

As our brood matures, however, I have come to choose my battles. With each passing day, I choose to battle less and relate more. I am mindful of my intonation and for reminders to originate from sincerest of intentions rather than any insistence driven by ego and pride. That they should do as they are told without question or debate often means some demands fall on deaf ears and only intensifies parental frustration. I have long put aside any impulses that arise from judgment by others. Parenting is hard enough as it is.

We desire for our children to be confident and capable of independent thought. Therefore I have realised, insistence, without thoughtfulness, can be disempowering and may work to sabotage our aspiration. Constant suggestion without encouragement towards self-reliance can hamper individuality and that “sense of self” that we so hope they grow up to possess.

When I am tempted to utter that one last reminder or offer an alternative suggestion, I stop and ask “What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t say it?”

When Words of Assurance are Not Enough

The magic of meditation and the power of affirmation

“But Mom, what if I fail?” My heart sank. I dread hearing this question because the same thought occasionally crosses my mind each time any of our children have an important test, race or any sort of performance evaluation. Admittedly, I do not always know how to dispel my own concern and worry. Tonight, I sensed the usual diatribe of dismissive words or throwaway phrases of assurance “Oh don’t be silly, of course you won’t!” would not do the trick. Neither would the motivational speaker routine and lecture on self-belief cut it.

I stood instead holding her in a complete embrace. We held each other in silence. I could feel the temperature of our bodies equalise and our breaths starting to sychronise. A minute passed with no words exchanged. We met each other as beings of emotion with no judgement. When I felt her breaking from this embrace, I engaged her with my eyes. I opened my mouth to let the words out slowly and in the most calm and measured voice I could muster. While I shared her feelings anxiety and empathised, I gently pushed away these unconstructive emotions, welcoming instead strength, calmness and assuredness.

“Would you like to do some visualisation?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders, tightlipped, with doleful eyes looking downward. She didn’t say no. And so, I took that as a yes. I held her fingers lightly and led her to my side of the bed. She lay down and let her legs and arms fall to her side. I dimmed the lights and deliberately breathed in and out deeply and audibly as I sat down on the floor next to her. And I began speaking these words, slowly:

“Close your eyes and find a comfortable position. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. With each inhalation and exhalation you find yourself feeling more and more relaxed. As you wiggle around to find a comfortable position, be aware of your breath and feel your body sinking deeper and deeper into the bed. When you are ready, try to be as still as you can be, let that busy feeling in your mind, slowly fade away.

You see a beautiful golden light over your forehead. Picture this light filling your mind and thoughts. Feel this golden light traveling down your head as the light touches your eyes…. ears …. nose …. cheeks ….. Let your mouth relax and open a little as you feel all the other muscles in your face loosen and relax. This golden light moves down your throat and your neck, your shoulders and arms, right to the tips of your fingers. Picture your lungs filling up each time you breathe with this beautiful golden light from Source, as it travels down your tummy, hips, legs and right to the ends of your toes. You are now feeling relaxed and calm.
You are the light. You are pure energy and love. Stay with this feeling of pure love.

Now imagine a room….”

I continued for a little longer, guiding her through imagery. Relieving her anxiety with positive affirmation.

Her eyes sparkled in that special way I have noticed each time after a meditation sitting. She lay still for a few more moments. After rubbing her eyes with her knuckles, she sat herself up. “Thank you Mom. I feel better.” to which I replied, “You’ve done a great job with your preparation, you will do your best tomorrow and enjoy the experience. It is just that, an experience.” We exchanged a quick hug and goodnight peck and she skipped up the stairs towards her bedroom.

This was the night before her first violin examination, one hour after I had put her to bed but she lay awake, unable to fall asleep.

Growing Grown-Ups

Today I received a startling video capturing the footage of a motorcycle accident where the rider was a friend of the family. It was graphic. Recorded by an in-vehicle camera, the terrible event clearly played out the offending vehicle colliding with the bike at an intersection, sending both bike and rider through the air. Thankfully, it was not gruesome, with the rider coming away with abrasions and a hell of a story, supplemented with a sensational video to satisfy any voyeuristic needs. He is in good spirits, recovering at home. Very considerately, he had included a still photo of himself smiling his thousand-watt grin sitting in a wheelchair.

I showed the video to our children, as this friend has played a meaningful part in their lives, as their young swim coach and ‘big brother’ who taught them the ukulele. It was important for them to realise the distressing impact that accidents have on the rider, riders’ families and friends. How dangerous it can be on the roads! These fleeting and uncontrollable moments can change our lives forever.

While we sat around the table after school, we discussed how he must feel. Words were thrown around the table – sadness, pain, in shock, anger at the driver who hit him, boredom at home during this period of convalescence, relief that he was not more seriously injured.

The children insisted on paying him a visit this evening. We turned to deliberate over the gifts we would bring. Our resident baker suggested whipping up a cake, for a sweet treat will surely be appropriate to celebrate his narrow escape. The emotional one, who envisaged he would feel dreadfully sad, volunteered to draw him a card to brighten his mood. And our shopper, capitalizing on a chance to spend, suggested we buy him a gift, a game or a book, so he would not go stir crazy being home bound.

There was an awful realization of the downtime, being a cost during his recovery. He would not able to coach or teach. In his line of work, he was only paid for the lessons he taught. They seemed acutely aware that the physical injuries he sustained meant he could not earn fees and the motorcycle, his primary mode of transport, was now in desperate need of repair. Their shoulders slumped as they felt overwhelmed and helpless with body language displaying “Man, just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse!” Looking to lift the mood, I asked “Is there anything we can do to help with that?”  Postures straightened. Eyes lit up. Light bulbs appeared over their heads. Conversation resumed. A voice piped up suggesting we could consider a monetary gift to assist in medical bills and bike repairs. I was careful to maintain a neutral facial expression. Interpreting my non-response as not getting with the program, a voice condescendingly added, “You know Mom, it’s like the concept of paying it forward and helping a friend in need (duh)!”

I was impressed. With a little nudge of poignant questions from me, they seemed to catch on very quickly. I was not even going to ask about today’s homework or fuss about instrument practice. Today’s important lessons were already underway without them.

We closed off our discussions agreeing on the delegation of duties – baking, card artistry and book shopping.

A lovely card was composed complete with a beautifully worded prayer, carefully placed stickers and an arrow pointing to the back page filled with ten riddles and jokes, carefully transposed from a joke book. The cardmaker’s magnanimous sign off included every member of our family. A delicious dark chocolate and walnut cake was baked, iced with caramel buttercream dotted with chocolate rocks to resemble a garden and accented with freshly picked flowers and basil leaves from our backyard. The decorating theme was inspired by the fact that he loved being outdoors and is now, sadly stuck at home. The book “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio was precisely gift-wrapped with a note explaining that it was specifically chosen, as it is a personal favourite and on our family’s bestseller list.

Tonight while our friend was touched beyond words, I feel immodestly proud of our children. In the words of Vicki Hoefle, we are well on track to “growing a grown-up”.

Enlightened by the old, Inspired by the young

The value of motherhood perceived through different hearts

This week we celebrated Chinese New Year. We welcomed the Year of the Fire Monkey honouring a variety of traditions, opening with our family reunion dinner on the eve of lunar new year, followed by visiting close relatives and friends to personally convey our good wishes for the year ahead. During these gatherings, I met and conversed with several elderly relatives. They related stories from years past, eagerly pulling out smartphones to add colour and visuals, during times when their words or memory failed them. Others bemoaned deteriorating health, warning me with a wagging finger to keep up with regular exercise. Together, we laughed heartily and nodded enthusiastically, as they reminisced and finished off each other’s sentences, eagerly interrupting and outdoing each other to present the most accurate version of their shared memories.  I came away from these few days with fascinating insights and sobering truths expounded from genuine hearts, forged by years of experience.

Through intimate conversations with matriarchs from our multi-generational families and the whisper of parting words in the midst of farewell hugs, there seemed to be a recurring theme. Perhaps as a mother of three growing children, these wise women felt the need to forewarn me and share the gift of their hindsight. This was their counsel – to retain personal time and resources, both financial and emotional, for me. I was reminded that younger generations are unlikely to care for their mothers and appreciate the magnitude of unconditional love. Today’s children lack the empathy to understand sacrifice and are largely self-centered. They interpreted my polite smile as skepticism and repeated their advice without grave negativity or dramatic emotion, but light heartedly, as plain fact.

These words however, landed on my ears and spirit with a thud. I end my days often emotionally drained from parenting and each morning I’m inspired to work just as hard because I believe at some point these little seeds will flourish. During those moments of intimation, I did not feel very encouraged to continue gardening.  A week on and I catch myself returning to the observations of these elders and wondering what I should do – how should I protect my nurturing spirit from this sad eventuality? Can this bleak outlook relating to my future relationship with our grown up children be all I can look forward to?

Today our youngest child had a school visit to an elderly community care centre. It is an annual outing for students to bring cheer and well wishes to those from the pioneer generation, who may have spent the festive season alone. The children were instructed to bring a gift of two mandarin oranges, which traditionally symbolizes “gold” and is intended to bring good luck and wealth to the recipient. They had also rehearsed a song to perform.  I recall when she arrived home after this excursion, she shared her feeling of awful sadness while at the centre, having noticed some of the elderly were unwell while others appeared to be very lonely. Despite their singing, she felt the mood was gloomy.  Tonight as I listened to my child pray before bedtime, I feel hopeful. In her prayers she reflected upon her day and asked for God to help us all make “care centres more fun” and to fill them with love. She continued, “ I pray that mama can live with me, and dada too, together, so they will not be sad.”

I feel hopeful (not because she has invited us to live with her, for that will be too presumptuous to count on) as I am reminded that our child is a loving soul, sensitive to those around her and she is capable of empathy. I feel hopeful, as I know she is not alone in her generation.

Magical Journeys

From Mayhem to Mindfulness. 

 

At 8 o’clock in the evening, I can be heard herding our children up the stairs to their bedroom with an enthusiasm to match a team of bouncy cheerleaders on the sidelines of a premiership game – “C’mon girls! Let’s GO! GO! GO!”

We race up the stairs together – “Last one to the room has to turn off the lights!” Squealing and screaming as we sprint, I rush them through our bedtime routine. They have hardly climbed into bed when I hurriedly peck their cheeks, fluff their pillows and pull blankets over their wriggling bodies. I rudely interrupt them midsentence, as they begin to share a story with me about an incident earlier in the day, assuring them that I will definitely make time to hear their exciting recollection tomorrow. I close the door a little too loudly, as I holler through it “No more talking. Lights are out. See you tomorrow. SWEET DREAMS! Oh…. and say your prayers!”

Once in the safety of my own bedroom, breathless from the bedtime-routine-triathlon of “run, tuck-in and kiss”, I may grab my phone and send a message, “OK. Kids are in bed. I’m on my way!” or I may collapse in a heap, exhausted from the day’s activities. In the meantime, right upstairs, I am sure, there are three little hearts still pounding from being scurried into bed and voices being deliberately stifled afraid to be heard. While they eventually fall asleep, it really isn’t the most ideal preface to a peaceful night’s rest.

Inspired to create better pre-bedtime habits at the start of this year, I initiated guided meditation-mindfulness-relaxation classes for three young pajama-clad participants. I have been impressed with their attentive enthusiasm. Armed with a variety of simple visualisation, breathing and meditation techniques, each evening I quickly reflect on the day’s activities, events or behaviour and make a decision if we will just do a few minutes of conscious breathing or embark on a “magical journey” with a longer scripted visualisation exercise.

There are many styles of meditation and a plethora of literature expounding its virtues. For me, meditation is the calming of the mind, body and spirit, so as to encourage self-awareness and connections with our inner being. I find guided meditation or visualisation journeys to be the most effective for our young beginners. It allows them to be freely and individually creative while holding their own quiet mind, focusing attention within themselves, while their thoughts are encouraged with some imagery and storyline. I often choose to add one affirmation or a positive statement to develop their sense of self or emphasize positive ideas or feelings such as: I am special. I am brave. I am real. I sleep in peace.

We now end our days hearing a calmer version of ourselves, with voices that are deliberately paced and positive. It feels right. It feels effortless. It feels more like unconditional love.

Making the Lifesaver Redundant

Staying strong amidst waves of discontent

I cannot count the number of times I have made threats or laid down ultimatums that I am downright convinced I will follow through on. Yet as our children appear to be drowning in the ocean of misconduct, heading straight towards tragedy of consequence, the lifesaver in me is awakened. Albeit under tumultuous internal conflict, I grudgingly toss in the life ring. Just as soon as I do, I am filled with grave disappointment, profound regret and undue annoyance with myself. It’s too late. The opening to communicate a consistent message is now adrift; the opportunity for a lesson to be learnt has been lost. Mischievous smiles can almost be seen while they forcibly prevent the sides of their mouths from turning upwards. Breaths of relief are suppressed, exhaled instead as a whisper. Sometimes an arrogant, knowing smirk overtakes their evidently guiltless faces, taunting me with “Yeah, I knew you wouldn’t see it through!”

I spend the next few minutes, hours or days in self-flagellation depending on the magnitude of the lost opportunity. Only allowing self-forgiveness to creep in with a definitive promise that I will be unyielding and resolute from this moment on.

When the lifesaver emerges too often, my apparent influence fades further into background noise and my credibility diminishes.

This year I have decided to turn this entire unproductive cycle on its head and reschedule this lifesaver’s roster. With a revised strategy to not “sweat the small stuff” and only taking on selective and necessary battles, I may offer that role a permanent redundancy.