How Big a Container

Yesterday I wrote about having a "container" for your child's psychic energy.  Or whomever's. Your dad's, your employees', your own.  The leader in the room is the one with the biggest container.  Actually, let's back up a bit.  As Russ Hudson brilliantly said Oct. 2014, "The leader is just the first person to become present."  Another quote that has changed my life in a big way.  How do you develop leadership skills?  Develop your practice of presence.

Which should provide a clue as to how exactly a person would go about "creating a container" for others.  Create it for yourself first with your practice of presence and it will be there for others.

Basically, what I mean is developping a self-observation practice.  By turning the flashlight of your mind back in on itself and observing your breathing (is it shallow or deep, quick or slow), your thoughts (how they float -- or zoom-- by like clouds), the muscle tension in your body (can you feel tension in your neck?  Your jaw?  your buttocks?), you deepen your quality of presence, thereby creating a container for others.

Kids can be a prompt for reminding us to breathe.

Kids can be a prompt for reminding us to breathe.

How long do you do this for?  One second?  One second is good- it's a long time by meditative standards, but I prefer to use the metronome of my breathing because my attention is on my body anyway, might as well keep it there instead of going back and forth between my body and my watch.  A deep, mindful breath can feel like a very long time.  It's difficult to stay with the awareness of your body for an entire breath, but it's a good goal to aim for when you're in the throes of your job and you want to create a little island of mindfulness in the hecticness of the pace of business.  If you can't stay with yourself for an entire breath, that's fine, a half a breath, or even a quarter breath has been known to change the course of events.  Two breaths is audacious.  The people around you will wonder what you're doing.  Three, you're off your rocker according to non-practitioners.  Three mindful breaths creates not only an island, but a retreat centre on the island and a rent-a-car establishment so you can drive to the retreat centre.

But let me go back to high-energy kids, because that's what prompted me to write about this in the first place.  When high -energy kids become annoying or draining, the best thing to do when you feel reactive is to take a mindful breath and "land" in your body.  When you spend some time sensing into your body, noticing how the annoyance feels (do you feel annoyance in your throat?  Your stomach?  Your face?  Your feet?  I notice it in my nose quite a bit) you've landed in that moment, and you've essentially created a little container for your child's energy.  The next time you practice this, you might notice a little bit more tension, like maybe you didn't notice before, but you've got tension in your hands.  That second time, your container grew a bit. 

The third time you practice this, you might notice tension in your jaw as well as your hands, and maybe if you stay with the mindfulness a bit longer, you notice the arches of your feet are tensed up.  "Wow", you say, and you let go of the tension and relax.  Your container has grown a little bit. 

And then you forget for a couple months and when you remember again, you're back to only being able to do mindful half breaths, and the tendency is to beat yourself up and say, "Gah!  Why didn't I sustain my practice??!"  But then you notice the tension in your body as self-condemnation arises, and you take a deep, mindful breath and notice how tight your neck is, or how you're clenching a body part.  Eventually you're back on the horse, back to being audacious again.  And after getting on and off the horse more times that you would like, you decide to have a sitting practice, and set an alarm that rings gently after 20 minutes.  You love it that much.  Over the years, the love grows.  You get on and off the horse, don't worry, it happens to everyone, but the smart mindfulness practitioner uses prompts to turn the flashlight of their mind back in on itself, like it used to be turning on the bathroom taps for me.  But you could just as easily use the tension that comes with self-condemnation as your first prompt to start the journey back onto the horse.