Oren Jay Sofer teaches Buddhist meditation, mindfulness and Nonviolent Communication internationally. A member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, he holds a degree in Comparative Religion from Columbia University, is a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication and a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner for the healing of trauma. Oren is the author of several books, including "Say What You Mean" and "Your Heart Was Made For This."

433: Can We Control Our Kids?

Oren Jay Sofer

What happens when a meditation teacher gets frustrated with his toddler?

Hunter talks to Oren J. Sofer, meditation teacher and author of the new book, “Your Heart Was Made For This,” about his life with a toddler as well as how we can cultivate qualities like courage, patience, even play through meditation practice. 

Link to the book: www.orenjaysofer.com/your-heart 

Can We Control Our Kids? - Oren Jay Sofer [433]

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*This is an auto-generated transcript*

[00:00:00] Oren Jay Sofer: There's an underlying view that, the way to meet our needs is through domination and control, whether it's of the earth or of other people, people different than us. And it starts in childhood.

[00:00:22] Hunter: You're listening to The Mindful Parenting Podcast, episode number 433. We're talking about can we control our kids with Orin J. Sofer.

Welcome to the Mindful Parenting Podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Parenting, we know that you cannot give what you do not have, and when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years. I'm the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, and I'm the author of the international bestseller, Raising Good Humans, and now Raising Good Humans Every Day, 50 simple ways to rest, pause, stay present, and connect with your kids. Hey, welcome back to the Mindful Parenting Podcast.

We are at the end of 2023, oh my goodness, I'm so glad you are here. Listen, if you get some pot value from this podcast, please just help the podcast by telling one friend about it. You can make a big difference and I hugely, hugely appreciate it. In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with Oren J.

Sofer. He is a friend. He teaches Buddhist meditation, mindfulness, and nonviolent communication internationally. He's a member of the Spirit Rock Teacher's Council, and he holds a degree in comparative religion from Columbia University and is a certified trainer of nonviolent communication and a somatic experiencing practitioner for healing of trauma.

Orin is the author of several books, including Say What You Mean and Your Heart Was Made for This. So I was so excited to invite Orin back because we've had, he's been on the podcast before, he's a meditation teacher, he's helped me through a silent retreat, and I wanted to know what happens. When a meditation teacher gets frustrated with a toddler.

So we're going to talk about that. Warren has had his child and he's a toddler. Now we're going to talk about parenting. We'll also talk about his new book, Your Heart Was Made For This, and how we can cultivate qualities like courage, patience, and even play through meditation practice. Just a quick reminder.

Remember that you can listen to this episode ad free. By going to MindfulMamaMentor. com and clicking on the Podcast Plus link, a great way to support the podcast and listen to the episodes right here where you're listening to it in your podcast player, but without ads. It's great. So check it out and join me at the table now as I talk to Oren Sofer.

Oren, thank you so much for coming back onto the Mindful Parenting Podcast.

[00:03:24] Oren Jay Sofer: Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.

[00:03:27] Hunter: I'm so excited to have you here, um, and if the listener doesn't know, I talked to Orin way back in 2019, nonviolent communication. Then I went on a silent retreat with Orin and Sharon Salzberg, and he helped me as I cried on day two and was like, I didn't want to say this.

And then we had, uh, we had, uh, And we've also talked in 2020, so there's some history here with, or in here, the Mindful Parenting podcast, but there has been a big change since the last time we talked.

[00:04:05] Oren Jay Sofer: Yes, there have been a lot of changes. The big one I think you're referring to is, uh, that I am now a new dad of, um, of a delightful, uh, one year old who is, uh, an early toddler.

[00:04:17] Hunter: Yeah, that's so exciting. I know they all, it all feels like it's, they all say it's like two, but it's really more like 18 months that it all kind of, or even younger than it all kind of starts is, is he talking?

[00:04:29] Oren Jay Sofer: He's not talking. He's, he's walking, uh, running, um, pointing, whining.

[00:04:36] Hunter: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

There's like a lot of communication even though it's may not exactly be verbal, right? 

[00:04:41] Oren Jay Sofer: Like, yeah, he's starting to sign. Yeah, he's starting to sign, which is fun. So he can say more and all done, um, which are helpful for meal time.

[00:04:52] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm so excited to talk to you about this because now, now you know the sleep deprivation that we have all gone through and the, and the, the crazy making experience and you're getting into the like truly crazy making time.

Um, how has, how has being a parent affected your mindfulness teaching and practice?

[00:05:16] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah, I think it's only enriched it. It's definitely changed the form a lot. Um, you know, I just have less time. So, uh, my wife works, uh, a nine to five and I work from home. So I do a lot of the extra child care. I, you know, work a few hours a day when we have our nanny and then, uh, both the privilege and the challenge of looking after, looking after our son the rest of the time.

Um, so less time to do formal meditation, which means that, uh, I'm leaning on the decades of practice that I have and really doing most of my practice in the moment, um, and making the most of short moments. I think that's one of the things that's been really helpful is just being able to get a lot of nourishment from even taking a few breaths or doing a few stretches or sitting for five minutes.

The first six months when, uh, I took more time off and it was that sort of altered state of sleeplessness and up all, you know, hours of the night, I did a lot of walking meditation, kind of holding, holding our newborn and rocking and bouncing him and walking him. Um, it's gotten a lot easier now that he's mostly sleeping through the night, uh, which I'm very, I'm very grateful for.

[00:06:42] Hunter: Yeah.

[00:06:43] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah. Yeah. Um, and you know, he's a teacher, right? So he's so present that, um, I get to see where I'm not present. I get to see my conditioning play out where I lose patience, where, uh, I move into busyness or doing something, you know, he's just exploring and playing and I'm like, trying to clean something and it's like, what am I doing?

You know, it's just be present and observe and connect. So that that's been awesome. A real, a real gift and really eye opening. Um, and you know, I think the last thing I would say is, um, just how much has opened my heart and, uh, how much more deeply I feel how vulnerable life is and how much more compassion I have, um, for other humans, just feeling what it's like to be in relationship with this other being that I, I love so much and can't control or protect in an ultimate way.

[00:07:49] Hunter: That's a, that's a sentiment that a lot of parents don't want to look at or lean into this idea that, A, I can't control this being, because we all think if they're 18 months old, we should at least be able to control an 18 month old, right? And then, Be, Protect. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you've been thinking and feeling around that?

[00:08:16] Oren Jay Sofer: Sure. Um, well, my wife works in pediatric palliative care. Oh, gosh. So, yeah, she's kind of a saint. Wow. Um, so, you know, through her and her work, I'm just aware of how, you know, nothing, nothing is given. Tomorrow isn't promised. Um, so, you know, of course we protect him as much as we can from falling off the couch or choking on something or drowning in the bathtub, you know, we, we look out for the things that we can and then there's everything we can't look out for, you know, in terms of his health or just random things.

Um, and so I'm, I'm just aware both through her work and then also through my own, my own meditation practice of how unknown the future is. Um, and so just trying to appreciate the time that we have together and recognize that the future that I long for with him, seeing him grow, seeing him turn into a young boy and a teenager and a young adult and live a life, uh, um, Is a fantasy.

It's not given. You know, I don't know that I will be granted that. Um, the other thing that I feel very deeply, particularly, uh, with the recent war in Israel and Palestine is, um, is the compassion for other parents losing children, you know, and having a child and feeling the privilege of living someplace that is relatively safe.

We're not in a war zone. There aren't bombs falling. From the sky, um, there's no shortage of food or water or medicine here, and just thinking of all the parents, not just in Israel and Gaza, but, um, you know, around the world who are living in the midst of violence or poverty or climate disaster. And my heart breaks in a different way, having a child and knowing the pain or sensing the Uh, imagining the pain of not being able to, uh, care for your child in the way you want, or even worse, losing, losing a child.

[00:10:41] Hunter: This is like the extreme version of it's already broken, like the glass is already broken, the cup is already broken, which is like a, uh, I don't know what tradition, but a Buddhist sort of saying that, that, that we, that to kind of open our eyes to the fact that at some point everything's going to break, everything's gonna go, everything's gonna, this is sort of like a, sort of a dark start to this, but in some ways there's a dark.

Illuminates the light, right? It's like, it's like the memento mori is what reminds us to live.

[00:11:18] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I feel this deep appreciation of the time that we have. And, um, yeah, it's, it's from the Thai forest tradition from Ajahn Chah, the, the quote that, you know, his favorite, favorite glass, his favorite vase is already broken so he can really enjoy it because he's not worried about losing it.

And I want to be really, really clear and transparent that, you know, Just because I am aware of these things does not mean that I, you know, don't feel terrified of the pain and that, um, you know, I wouldn't just be crushed and having, having lost my father suddenly earlier this year, you know, I was well aware of his mortality.

He was in his eighties and not in good health. And I had done plenty of reflection on him. The potential for his passing and still it knocked me down, you know, so loss is never easy. Uh, grief is all could can be all consuming. And yet what I've seen through my own practice and having lost my father is that.

Our practice can give us the courage and the confidence to allow our hearts to break, to move through the difficult places, um, and, and feel connected to the, to the love and the sense of, um, belonging and closeness that is the other side.

[00:12:47] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

[00:12:55] Oren Jay Sofer: And I'll just, I'll just sort of add one thing or just kind of riff on this. You know, I, I, I think that You know, you've mentioned quite appropriately, I think it was kind of a dark note to start on. But I, I think that it's appropriate. I think it's appropriate for the moment that we're living in historically, where so much is changing so quickly and there is so much, um, alongside the, the goodness and the progress, um, and the innovation and the creativity that is happening around the world.

There's also the other side, there's also the loss and the devastation and the hardship. Um, and I think that to live. A full life, to live a meaningful life, and to be able to be honest with ourselves and to contribute fully means being open to all of it. Developing that capacity to acknowledge the places that are uncomfortable, the places we're afraid of, the places that we hurt, and to include them.

And that doesn't mean thinking in despair or going into depression or feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed. We have to stay balanced. But it also means not pretending, not turning away, which shuts us off not only from the world around us, but from part of our own hearts.

[00:14:10] Hunter: Um, this might be a message that I need right now.

It's hard to take all that, all that in, but I, so I'm gonna, I'm gonna ponder that. I'm gonna sit with that one, but I want to turn to the other thing you said, which is this idea of lack of control. Now, this is, this is something that we think we should have for our kids. You know, we're told by society that we should be able to control our kids.

Like, you know, at least get your kid under control, uh, that kind of thing. And what you're saying is you're facing right away, already, not even two years old, this lack of control. Um, where, where are you seeing this lack of control? How is this showing up for you?

[00:14:58] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah. Thanks. Brushing teeth, changing diapers, um, get it going for a nap.

You know, he, he's a very, um, energetic and strong willed. Uh, person. And he knows what, what he wants and what he doesn't want. So, you know, when he's running around and playing and it's like, Hey, you've got a poop in there. It's let's go change your diaper. You know, it's, it's, uh, we negotiate some and, you know, I use my nonviolent communication skills.

And then at a certain point, it's like, okay, I am picking you up now and taking you to the diaper changing table because I want your bottom to be clean. I don't want you to get a rash. Uh, you know, and so he protests, he cries, you know, so it's like right there, it's like, I can't control this being, I can't make him want to do this.

Um, I can communicate my needs, I can, um, empathize with what's going on for him. It's like, yeah, you're having a ton of fun playing, you, you know, like, let's keep, you want to keep playing, you know, so I, I try to bring that level of respect into our relationship. In all things, I try to be very conscious of when I use force over him, because it's a violation, even, or it can be experienced that way, you know, but that's part of our role as parents is to, um, is to protect them, is to set limits.

Right. And it's, you know, he doesn't understand. He's not old enough yet to understand if we don't brush your teeth, they're going to hurt eventually. And that's not going to be fun, you know? So it's part of my job to set that limit. And yet I want to do that with as much, um, awareness, respect, um, for his autonomy and particularly his body autonomy as possible.

Yeah. I, I think the piece you mentioned Uh, in the lead into the question around our cultural expectations, particularly here in the West, about controlling children is really important. And I think that it's, um, it's a setup. And it's a way that what I interpret as some of the more harmful aspects of our worldview, the dominant worldview, and culture in modern civilization get internalized.

And what I'm referring to is, is a underlying worldview of domination and control that we've seen play out through history, through colonialism, through enslavement, through land theft, through the relationship with the earth. There's an underlying view that the way to meet our needs is through domination and control, whether it's of the earth or of other people, people different than us.

And it starts in childhood. It starts with our relationship with our children. And what do we teach them implicitly through that relationship? Do we teach them that this is, um, the only way to relate? Or are we able to bring enough awareness to our own conditioning to at least attempt a different kind of relationship.

And I want to be really clear. I'm not talking about not setting limits. I'm not talking about permissive parenting. Um, I'm talking about being in relationship and honoring the complexity of that and the challenges of that and being able to be transparent, being able to say, you know, sweetheart, I don't have any more patients.

I need us to leave the park right now because I'm hungry and I want to make dinner. And so I'm picking you up and it's like, you know, they're screaming and protesting. He doesn't actually do this yet, but you know, I know it's coming. It's like, and, and to be able to model that level of authenticity and transparency that says I don't see any other options right now.

This is why I'm doing this. And I'm so sorry that it's causing you pain and we're leaving the park.

[00:18:58] Hunter: That's what we're doing. Right. And that's the boundary. Yeah. No, I. I appreciate this because I've been eager to talk to you about your parenting because I know how compassionate you are and how dedicated to nonviolent communication you are.

And so I know all those things. And then you get in moments in parenting where you do have to, you have to say, I'm sorry, I have to make you go into that car seat and buckle the seat. I mean, just saying like there may, I'm not sure it's maybe that moment, but like there are moments where we have to use, we feel like we may be in a situation where the only option we see is to use our power and we may not want to, it may not feel good.

Our kids may protest it, right? And but at the moment we're not seeing any other options and I'm, I'm, I was very interested to see that. So. Go ahead. 

[00:19:54] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, and what I work on in myself is trying to change my own consciousness from the way we've been conditioned to I have to do this.

Mm-Hmm. to I'm choosing to do this. Yeah. Yes, yes, yes. Recognizing I actually do have a choice. Like, you're not running out into the street. Right? Mm-Hmm. , that's, that's like, there's no question. It's like, okay, I'm choosing to put you into the car seat. Because of all these reasons, right? It's like, whatever it is, the traffic, being late to daycare, whatever the reason is, but to recognize that, like, I am actually making a choice.

I could, I could let it go. I could decide to sit in traffic for an extra half an hour or be late to daycare or whatever it is. So that sense of empowerment that recognizes when we are actually choosing and when we're not choosing. When, when either we're not choosing because it's a matter of physical safety, like touching the stove or running out into the street, or whether we're not choosing because we don't have the resources.

We're out of patience. We're out of energy and we were not experienced choice. We're not experiencing choice anymore. And I certainly have those moments and it's incredibly humbling, you know, to see when, uh, you know, I run out of patience and I get angry. And, you know, and thankfully I, I have a partner to be able to say, I can't do this anymore.

I need you to take over. Exactly. You know? Yeah. Yeah.

[00:21:24] Hunter: Well, it's nice. I'm, I'm sorry that you're having moments where you're getting frustrated and angry, but I'm also glad that you're having moments where you're getting frustrated and  angry. 

[00:21:34] Hunter: Um, yeah. Cause it's. It's crazy making. Um, and I love that. I love that idea of like, let's, let's look at when we do have a choice, when we don't have a choice and not acknowledge our choice.

And I also like this idea of what, you know, dear listener, what Oren was modeling there is this idea of like saying, I'm depleted. I'm exhausted. I don't see any other choice here. I need to eat. Like you as a parent have needs. And to share them with your kids, to let them know, even at one years old, like, from the beginning, it's okay for your kid to know that you have needs.

This is, this is what being in a relationship is, and even if they're not cognitively ready to understand every word that you're saying, this is, this is how we show them respect. This is how we model that. This is how we teach all these things from the very beginning.

[00:22:30] Oren Jay Sofer: Right. And how we teach them how to live in an interdependent world and have healthy relationships with others.

It's a disservice. It's a disservice to not share our needs because we are creating a false reality for them. Right. The rest of their life, they're going to be in relationship with other people who have needs. And how do we navigate that? How many of us learned to recognize our own needs and be aware of the needs of others?

And communicate openly about that. You know, it's so rare. So what a gift to start to do that. Yeah.

[00:23:04] Hunter: Yeah, and you were, you know, thinking about that idea. You were talking about the idea of this underlying world view of domination and control. And that is like, that's why when I think about, you know, we, we kind of started this conversation with your listener before, before we recorded thinking about the challenges of the world and this idea of like, um, what is in the, for me, what is in the macro level Family relationships is in the macro level, you know, we see now like transitions and difficulties and problems between the worldview of like the strongest one always wins and gets their way versus like everybody has needs and we have to make sure everybody's needs are met, right?

And how do we resolve our conflicts between those things? So, so, you know, Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. So what is that in your family? Like, if you're listening, you're saying, okay, well, what is it in my family? Like, what is the structure? And I'm wondering, Orin, as you think about kind of moving forward, I imagine you're planning on using a lot of like your nonviolent communication with your son as you kind of, as he grows older.

[00:24:13] Oren Jay Sofer: Absolutely. I mean, it's, it doesn't. I mean, it is a choice, but it's, it's some degree become how I try to live in all my relationships. So it's even, you know, it wouldn't be any different, but it feels even more important. I think one of the things that, um, has been so has made such a big impression on me at this particular age is the reminder that Every interaction and every experience he's learning, like it's not, he's not just learning when he's playing or when we're showing him something.

It's like, you know, when my wife and I are arguing, he's watching, he's listening, he's learning something from that, right? So what is he learning? So it's, you know, you ask how it's affected by mindfulness practice. It's like, It has called me to, um, an even higher or deeper level of, um, consistency and integrity around living my values because of this Incredibly impressionable being who's around all the time.

So right, watching exactly. So how am I, how am I living? How am I relating? And yeah, I mean, I, I, you know, already, um, in some sense, enjoying the process of exploring the nonviolent communication process with him and seeing where is it sincere and where am I trying to get my way, you know, seeing like, you know, so when I'm, uh, saying to him, you know, one of the areas that there's a few areas where, you know, he doesn't want to go along with what I want to do, you know, whether it's changing a diaper, brushing the teeth, um, or getting, getting in the stroller to go.

And so, to see what it's like to communicate what I want and why, and to see how he responds, and to follow that, he's not at an age yet where he can communicate back his needs, but he can demonstrate. So, you know, if I say, Hey, let's go, let's, let's go to the park. Um, you ready to go on the stroller? And he runs away.

Laughing, it's like, Oh, you want to play more? You're not ready to go on the stroller, right? So, you know, what's it like to, to chase him and play for a little while and then bring it up again and say, how about now, you know, and what I've noticed is that not all of the time, but frequently if I allow that space for him to explore and exert his autonomy and continue doing whatever he's doing at a certain point, he very willingly.

holds up his arms to like, okay, you know, pick me up now, take me in the stroller. It's like, I finished doing what I wanted to do. Right. So in those areas where there isn't a hard line, there isn't a deadline, there isn't anything pressing. It's like, I have that luxury of just continuing to explore the dance of this little being is in his world and wants to continue doing what he's doing.

And I'm inviting him into my world. And seeing where those two meet. And so I just look forward to continuing that process as he becomes more and more aware and able to communicate.

[00:27:48] Hunter: Yeah, I think that's like where a lot of our biggest challenges come from in, and that's why like in, you know, in Raising Good Humans Every Day and in Mindful Parenting, I talk about our schedules and, and our lives in general because that time pressure, you know, when I think back of, Uh, you know, uh, a early human, for the vast majority of human existence, there were no watches.

There was no, there was no time as we know it in that way. Yeah. So if you ever were ever hurrying in any way, shape or form, like your, your body felt like there was a threat happening, right? Like if you had to hurry, like your, your nervous system is saying there's a threat. You know, and you're, you're, you're in that stress response and we're in so many situations with our kids where we're, we're, our time is so tight.

Those schedules are so, so tight. There isn't that breathing room for you to sit, for someone to say, let's just, you know, because I think that's true. Like if we can give kids a little bit of space to not have to respond instantly to like give them some time to, to. to take whatever their request is in, to finish up whatever they're doing, you know, just as we don't jump up instantly to every request our partner might make, you know, if I feel like that time pressure is one of the biggest sort of downfalls of the parent child relationship where it really puts us into so much difficulty.

Um, Yeah. And, and you're at this place where he's so young. And anyway, I, my wish for you is that you can have just a, like a more spaciousness going forward. And for everyone, for the listener, I wish you have more spaciousness with your time moving forward.

[00:29:40] Oren Jay Sofer: I think the other thing that we're, we're building on like another, another dimension to that exploration of interdependence and navigating each other's needs is Encouraging the natural experience of generosity and wanting to contribute, and this is something that he's already doing, which is so beautiful to see, you know, um, if I start sweeping the floor, it's like he wants to sweep, he wants to help and sweep, right?

If I Um, start, uh, wiping something. It's like he wants to pick something up and wipe it too. He wants, he wants to participate in life and drawing on that natural enthusiasm and interest and desire to contribute. And so, you know, they're He's like, he's starting to help put away the groceries. He's one years old, you know, it's like I brought home a bunch of canned, canned goods.

And, you know, so I called him over and said, Hey, do you want to help me put these away? And I showed him like, here, you hand this to me and I put it in the cupboard and he loved it. He loved, you know, handing me the cans one at a time while I put them away. So I, I think that. Encouraging that experience of contributing and the joy of participating, I think, can influence this dynamic because he starts to be aware that the child starts to be aware of not just, oh, you want me to do this for you, but there's a way that I can contribute and that feels good. Feels good.

[00:31:11] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. That's great, Warren. That's like, you're right in that, like, Me Too phase, like, which will last for, like, a little longer. And that's exactly, exactly what you want to do is, like, encourage the Me Too phase and not, uh, not, like, give him something to distract him while you make dinner all the time.

Maybe sometimes you do that, but, like, not all the time so they learn that he's, he learns that he's, like, a special VIP that doesn't have to do anything while you do all the work. Exactly. That's a good move. Uh, that's, uh, that, that's like if I could go back in time, I would do that a little bit more than I did, just a little bit more.

Um, so that's awesome. I love it. Um, and, and how are, and with you and your wife and this whole big change, how's everything? Okay. Thumbs up, thumbs down, somewhere in the middle.

[00:32:05] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah, we're doing good. Thank you. Yeah. I mean, you know, it's, it's, uh, It's probably the most stressful thing we've gone through in our relationship and it certainly, you know, pushed us to, um, stay connected and lean into our values and our love for each other, particularly the first, the first six months, which were, you know, it was dark, it was winter, we're not sleeping.

It was, it was difficult. It was difficult. Um, but you know, both of us have a longstanding meditation practice. We both have training in nonviolent communication. So, we have a really robust set of tools, um, and so I'm really proud of how we're working together and how we're exploring how to learn from what comes up and grow closer through it.

[00:33:04] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

Yeah. Yeah. That. That lack of sleep can be a real, you never know how it's going to hit you until you're in that situation. Like it really made me in a really nutso person. My husband, he would be the one who woke up in the night faster than I would. He'd wake up to any little sound and I'd just sleep like a log.

Um, and um, But I have to share, uh, my daughter's 13, and just, like, the other night, she had a nightmare and she came and crawled into bed beside me, 13, and I get to snuggle with her all night. I was, like, in the middle of her and my husband, so it got very warm for a little while, but I'm, I'm fine. I'm good.

Because it was such a treat after a sort of X number of years of not waking up in the middle of the night and crawling into bed. 

[00:33:58] Oren Jay Sofer: I was like, oh, after a while it becomes a gift. Yeah, that's sweet.

[00:34:02] Hunter: Yeah, yeah. Well, I love your new book. You have a new book called Your Heart Was Made for This. Contemplative Practices for Meeting a World in Crisis, Courage, Integrity, and Love.

Tell me about what made you want to write this book.

[00:34:18] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah, I wrote the book, um, in part, uh, as a response to the very difficult time we all went through in 2020 when the pandemic hit and then George Floyd was murdered. Uh, and then there was this series of really devastating wildfires out here in California.

Um, so, you know, so many people were understandably freaked out. Yeah. And one of the ways that I felt like I could contribute was through writing. And so I started writing about how our meditation practice could support us to cultivate the inner resources and the strength to stay balanced with so much change and so much fear and so much difficulty in our world.

And sadly, it's only gotten more relevant since then. Um, so the book explores, um, 26 s. positive traits or qualities that are relevant for living our best life and contributing to our world. And I chose the number 26 because the idea is that this isn't a book that you just sit down and read. It's meant to be a companion.

It's meant to really be something that, uh, one uses on a day to day or week to week basis. And so, If you devote two weeks to each chapter, you have a whole year of learning and transformation and integration of our best qualities into our lives. And

[00:35:54] Hunter: I, I really appreciate that and I've started very slowly reading it and I'm glad I'm slowly reading it.

Um, you know, the listener, you're familiar with me talking about meditation from a stance of it helps to lower our reactivity. It helps us to be more grounded. It helps us to be present with our kids when we want to be present. And Orin's talking about meditation. You're talking about meditation in this.

In the capacity of developing these traits, including things like, of course, mindfulness and concentration, but also courage, kindness, resolve, generosity, contentment, forgiveness, play, how does our mental strength go when we're How does our mindfulness practice, how does our meditation practice help us to, you know, to develop these, these traits that are, you know, beyond, beyond just not being reactive as reactive as we would be?

[00:36:51] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah. I love that question, Hunter. And one of the things that inspired me to write the book was to try to help people see beyond. Contemplative practice just as cultivating mindfulness and, as you said, reducing stress, being less reactive, which are noble, worthy goals, and may all of us experience more of them.

Um, but to not limit ourselves to that, so, um, one of the analogies I like to use going back to parenting is that when a human being is born, we have the capacity to learn any of the world's many hundreds of languages. Right? Our neurology is primed to notice and imitate all of the different sounds that the human language can make, and all the different grammars.

And in a similar way, our hearts come into this world primed To develop and express and experience all of these really beautiful qualities like the ones that you just named, curiosity, courage, generosity, integrity, empathy, wonder, devotion, play. And so, you know, are, are we cultivating those in ourselves every day?

So those qualities can be developed. Through formal meditation practice, and some of them it's a little bit easier to see how they get developed than others, like patience, for example, you know, every time we let go of some worry or thought and come back to our breathing or whatever meditation technique we're using, we're cultivating some patience, right?

We're sort of releasing that tension of trying to control things and relaxing into the process that's unfolding. And patience is growing, along with other qualities. Even a quality like playfulness can be cultivated in meditation and actually one of the things that I try to explain in that chapter is how important playfulness is to meditation so that it doesn't just become, you know, this other thing to do on the list and that we can bring in some of our creativity and fun and the sort of Interplay of life into the very meditation practice is really important to keep it alive.

So within any kind of meditation practice, depending on what we emphasize, we can strengthen these different qualities and traits. But there are also other ways to strengthen them in our life, which is what I talk about in each, you know, each chapter includes some tips, not only on how to meditate in this, in these ways, but also how to reflect on these qualities and how important they are and how to bring them into our life through, through action.

So for example, um, say a quality like resolve. This is one of one of my favorite ones to talk about because particularly in the wellness space in the meditation world, we emphasize relaxation a lot because so many of us are so strung out, overworked, you know, high performance, overachiever that Bye! The initial medicine we need is just relax, you know, like, just take it easy.

You don't have, you don't have to, you know, get a hundred percent on this one. It's okay to just sort of ease into things and that's essential. And if that's all we do. We actually miss some of the benefits of meditation, that sense of relaxation and ease and non doing also needs to be balanced with a certain kind of firmness and clarity and determination in the mind.

So we can cultivate that quality, not just in a meditation practice, but throughout our day by making a strong commitment to something and following through on it and learning how to develop this capacity that I have. To follow through. This is a capacity that all of us have. And the question is just, are we aware of it?

Have we identified it? And do we know how to build on it? So that's, that's the process with all of these qualities is recognizing that all of these are here already in us to some degree. Do we know how to notice them? And do we know how to strengthen them? So the book is really a guide to do that.

[00:41:31] Hunter: Dear listener, you can res, you can strengthen and notice things like resolve, patience, and even play.

I think those are, those are lovely and that you, of course you start with attention because that is sort of the foundation for all of that, kind of have that. Have that foundation, what have you, uh, what have you practiced and resolved to do or not do, Oren, as you practice this yourself? ?

[00:41:59] Oren Jay Sofer: Yeah, yeah. Uh, specifically around resolves.

So some of my resolves these, you know, particularly since my son has been born, so like one of the first resolves that I made, um, was to be more patient. And so this is kind of a beautiful way that we see, you know, as you go through the book, the different qualities support each other. So, you know, I noticed how I would lose patience and become frustrated or angry when he wouldn't settle or fall asleep after a certain period of time.

And, and, you know, it was not helpful, not helpful for me, not helpful for him, not helpful for my wife. And so I recognized that, you know, like I can actually be more patient. I can't. And so I made a resolve to be more patient, to be more patient, to just take a breath when I feel that frustration and anger starting to rise.

I feel like I'm reaching my limit, my edge. To take a breath and remember my value for being patient. And it was very helpful. It really shifted things for me. It wasn't that I never got angry again, but it gave me more space. I was able to draw on that result. So that was one that came in early on. Um, just the other day I made a resolution to, um, So one of, one of my challenges, uh, today, I was talking a little earlier about how my wife and I, you know, share childcare cause she's, uh, she's works, uh, longer hours than I do and doesn't work from home.

So, um, because I only, uh, work when I have childcare here, either for a nanny or kind of a friend or someone coming over, I often feel compressed for time in my work. And when child care is available, it's like, okay, get to work. And I see how quickly I disregard certain self care practices in the service of trying to get work done.

So just the other day, I was like, okay, I can do like one sun salutation. a day, and I can do this one, uh, physical therapy exercise to strengthen my back. Like, if I do nothing else, like, let's just do that. Yes, this is very practical, very, very, um, doable, right? Not like I'm going to work out for half an hour every other day.

It's like, that's not going to happen. But I can build up to it, right? I can recognize, okay, this is something I can do. This is something I can commit.

[00:44:30] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. That minimum viable resolution for what exactly. Well, this speaking of time and things flying by, this is long by talking to you. I, I love talking to you and I get a sense of your calm and your patience as you're talking about it.

I'm really enjoying your new book, Your Heart Was Made For This. I encourage you to get it, dear listener, keep it by your bedside, dip into it, take time with it, and um, and I think it will support your practice, support your parenting. All of those things. Auryn, thank you so much for taking the time with us.

Is there anything you want to leave the listener with? And also, where can people find more about you and reach out if they want to?

[00:45:21] Oren Jay Sofer: Thank you, Hunter. Yeah. Well, first, thank you for having me back on the show. It's always a pleasure to connect and talk. Um, folks can find out more about the book and my work on my website, orangeasopher.

com. And yeah, I think maybe one thing to leave the list your dear listeners with. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to support, was for myself to articulate my own understanding of how our meditation practice can support us not just in our personal lives but also as citizens and as social beings.

And so one of the dimensions of the book is really linking these different qualities. to our potential to contribute to our world in meaningful ways. And that's, that's one of the things that I feel so passionate about today, as there's so much happening. It's like the world is calling out to each of us to be involved in a way that honors who we are, not to need to follow what someone else thinks we should do, but to listen for what's true for us and to find our own way to contribute.

That's meaningful. And my, my deep hope and faith is that if we're each investigating that in an honest and a sincere way, we can build a better world for our children.

[00:46:53] Hunter: That's so beautiful. I think we'll leave it at that. Thank you so much, Oren, for coming back on Mindful Mama podcast. So great to have you.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. I love having this here because I feel like at the end of the year, we need this kind of grounding perspective, right? Like, I feel like that's what Oren gives me. I hope it, you got that too. Hey, if you enjoy the podcast, please share it with one friend today. It really makes a big difference for you to do that.

It really, really does, so please do share it with a friend, and I am wishing you all the best. I'm wishing you a great week. I'm wishing you peace and ease, and groundedness, and all that. So, thank you so much for listening. Namaste.

I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better. And just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So, definitely do it. I'd say definitely

[00:48:18] Oren Jay Sofer: do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent. To your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't things working? I would say definitely do it. It's so, so worth it.

It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working or you can learn some new tools and In some perspective, to shift everything in your parenting.

[00:49:05] Hunter: Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem So overwhelming with too much to learn. Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting membership. You will be joining hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an Opportunity to really discover your unique, lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting, connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to mindfulparentingcourse. com to add your name to the waitlist, so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment.

I look forward to seeing you on the inside. Mindful Parenting. MindfulParentingCourse. com

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