Grace Slick, the lead singer of the Jefferson Airplane in the 1960’s knew how to be one. She made up the advice and pretended to borrow it from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Leah Green, founder of The Compassionate Listening Project knows how to be one as well. So does Dan Siegel, V.S. Ramachandran, Diane Ackerman and Antonio Damasio. And they each developed their good sense from studying neuroscience. What do all these people share in common? They all realize the need to “feed your head.”
Nourishing Neural Networks
When I was struggling to come up with a subtitle for A Little Book of Parenting Skills (for a free eCopy to offer as a gift to family and friends, click HERE), it took a long time and several dozen iterations. And then I realized that because of the critical, vulnerable nature of the brain in its early unfolding stages, parenting is the most important job on the planet. Not to put a pressure too great upon us parents, but much that follows conception and birth will have exponential impact not only across a child’s whole lifespan, but for generations and generations to come. No matter what place politicians and titans of industry accord it in the universal scheme of things, for these reasons and others, parenting truly IS the most important job on the planet. As the Meaningful Differences study confirms, we fulfill that role as parents when we feed our children’s heads – in as many different ways as we can, from trying our damndest to sustain our “irrational commitment” to them, to doing our best to answer The Big Brain Question “Yes” for them (and each other). And sooner or later we might even recognize that one purpose of children’s existence is to move our own hearts and brains into increasing integration and coherence. It’s no accident that the members of our family have the greatest power to easily open us up or close us down psychospiritually. And while providing our children with a wide variety of learning experiences is certainly a part of “head-feeding,” it is first our own hearts and then theirs that must foremostly be fed.
The Prime Parenting Directive
Unfortunately, awareness of the need for self-care frequently eludes parents and the rest of us mere mortals when we need that awareness most. Under stress, our brain seems to lose its capacity to generate and sustain the self-care directive. Thus, when Buddha declared that we could search the whole world over and never find anyone more deserving of love than ourselves, he was pointing out and providing a reminder of this neurological truism. But Buddha, like Christ after him, also realized we could grow our compassionate hearts sufficiently so that we could actually learn and practice reserving front-row seats for ourselves over and over again in our lives. For parents, there is nothing more important than making and holding that primary reservation. We matter, and it’s okay to act on the truth of that reality (Note: “acting on” is different than “indulging in”). Afterall, we have the most important job in the world to do. Don’t we want and deserve to be at our best as we take it on day after day?
What Constitutes Supreme Self-Care?
It would be great if there was one universal, ever-applicable answer to that question. Unfortunately, there’s not. We are all dynamic energy-beings in motion. But if I could offer only one thing, it would be this: begin monitoring how the Inner Interpreter frequently distorts reality and generates all kinds of poopy, self-condemning thoughts about us and everything around us, both as parents and as people. In other words, become a watcher at the gate, ever more mindful of self-condemnation creeping in.
You might also add to that ongoing discipline some suggestions from James Altucher with respect to something he calls the Personal Daily Practice. James considers it a necessary way to not only “feed your head,” but to take care of body, psyche and spirit as well. Every day.
Finally, before I forget: who exactly is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson? He’s better known by his pseudonym: Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And his Dormouse never really actually said, “Feed your head.” But might Wonderland have been even more wondrous if he had? Then we’d have a Dormouse as the Poster Boy for self-care savants!