Modeling Emotions to Our Kids

emotions1I’m a mama who shares a lot with my kids. I’ve gone overboard at times. I’ve shared too much, not quite grasping that my emotions or mental “meaning-making” machine was just too much for my little ones. But overall, I’ve realized that my kiddos have a lot of emotional intelligence that I want to honor.

Being intentional about sharing our emotions with our kids requires balance, mindfulness, and a lot of awareness of our own internal landscape.

Many of us shield our more intense emotions when we think our kids can’t handle them—or we fear that expressing our emotions might do damage, or frighten them. And while we do need to be cautious about our expression with our kiddos, we can sometimes do more damage in our attempts to protect them.

Parents often shield their children from so much and, subsequently, children don’t build the understanding or skills to manage their own intense emotions. Because emotions—big ones—are natural. They’re going to happen. And it’s our response to them, and our ability to be with them, regulate them, and learn to trust the wisdom of them, that allows us to build a healthy sense of self and ultimately forge healthy relationships with others. For our kids to be able to cultivate these abilities, they need to feel the raw, poignant teaching, modeled to them by their parents, of feeling and regulating the spectrum of all that life brings.

There is research related to human beings, even at early ages, having strong emotions2instincts when it comes to innately knowing when others are being dishonest. Sometimes we don’t cognitively perceive dishonesty but we feel it—our bodies sense when others are hiding something and it does damage in our relationships. When children feel us having an emotion that we attempt to hide, they experience us as incongruent, not aligned, not trustworthy. And then they’re left holding that.

When children are offered the chance, however, to consistently witness the practice of feeling, expressing, and regulating emotions, in a healthy way, by a primary influence—namely, their parents—they learn to integrate learning at a deep, core level. Our little ones need to build understanding not simply through practicing what we tell them, but through witnessing explicit behaviors from adult caregivers. They require embodied learning that occurs through the interdependent “neural wiring” that occurs between parent-child dyads—they need to experience their parents navigating life’s intensity, with developed skill, to feel safe and secure in developing their own ability to navigate the same.

Now, does this mean we should share everything with our kids—all the details of our messy emotional lives? Of course not. There is plenty in our adult world to which our children need not have access. They don’t need to know “the story.” They simply need to understand how we’re managing the story.

Here are 10 tips for being an “Emotional Model” for your children:

  1. Be Honest.  Trust that your kids can feel you feeling, and stay present both with yourself and with them. When they feel your congruence, they will naturally settle in your presence.
  1. Learn about your own emotions. Learn where they come from, how they tend to “show up,” and what you BELIEVE they mean. When you understand the habits of your emotional responses, you will be more equipped to regulate them, and your children will learn through your modeling.
  1. Practice tracking the “underneath” side of emotions—you’re frustrated… what’s underneath that? What’s the “deeper thing at stake?” What’s the more vulnerable version of whatever you’re feeling? Slow your emotional response down and validate the truth of whatever is at the core. That’s where the intelligence of emotion resides and when you share what’s underneath, your children will learn to share their own vulnerable truth.
  1. Share the Felt Sense. When you say, “I’m so angry right now,” also share what that feels like. For example, you might say, “I feel like my chest is really tight and I’m not breathing very well.” When we notice the sensation that corresponds with our emotion, we are actually slowing down our reactive habits just like that! And when kids see you tracking the sensation that informs your feelings, they’ll learn to do the same, and there’s tremendous wisdom in our SENSATION. We often mistake “thoughts” for feelings, but sensation always leads us to our deeper truth.
  1. Check in with your kids when you share “big” emotions with them. How is it for them to experience your intensity? Stay curious and engaged and invite them to do the same. Make it safe for them to honestly share their emotions. And let them share in their own time, and in their own way.
  1. Share not just what you feel, but how you’re regulating what you feel. When our kids see us feeling, and practicing regulating those feelings—because it’s always a practice—they learn that our emotional habits are a constant work in progress. Just like keeping our bodies fit and healthy, it takes consistent, mindful work to keep our emotional responses aligned with who we want to be in the world and in our relationships.
  1. Know why you want to share with your kids—is it for your benefit or theirs? Being honest isn’t always to benefit someone else. Sometimes sharing emotions is about our egos, or it’s related to our inability to manage feelings internally. It’s a difficult edge to know if we’re sharing for us or them. And with our children, it’s incredibly important to check ourselves!
  1. Let kids share their emotions on their own terms. As a therapist mom, I know this one all too well. Having an agenda for how and what our children share is simply going to distance them. We can ask, we can do our best to provide the safety and attunement that our kids need to open up to us, but we need to trust their timing and willingness to do so.
  1. Share the powerful positive feelings too. Let the love fly! If you have big anger and potent sadness that you share, be sure you’re filling their emotional buckets with loads of immense love, unconstrained giggles, open adoration, care, gratefulness, and joy.
  1. When you over-share—do the repair. Whether you’ve shared too much of “the story” with your kids, or you let your emotions get out of control, consistently come back and do the necessary repair with your kids. Take ownership. Let them know where you got off track and how you’re going to practice doing it differently next time. Be gentle with yourself too… our kids need to see us offering ourselves compassion so that they can learn compassion for their own missteps.

I’d love to hear your responses, your thoughts, your FEELINGS! Hopefully, you’ll feel free to share!

For the Love of Your Life!





“Carry Out,” Timbaland Afro-Caribe Warm-up

Tonight was a sad night, my last to teach in the studio formerly known as Melonlight Dance Studio.  I get it–Dance studios are hard to keep alive, especially when they have to compete with big chain-gyms that offer fitness and fitness dance classes…  the privately owned dance studio sometimes just can’t keep up!

melonlightstudioBut we’ve had a good run in this beautiful space!  It was the first class I felt was truly “Mine” – not something I took over from anyone else and not a space I’m simply using under another company.  After Melonlight left, we had the space–US.  Afro-Caribe….  and we were making it ours.

I’m not sure exactly where we’ll end up but this dance form is something that is alive and growing!  And people are asking for it to be brought into other cities…  so please, spread the word, come to a class, stay connected and join in the booty-shaking, undulating, hip-grinding, sexy, fun dance form, Afro-Caribe whenever you can!  I’ll be sure to keep you all informed as far as where I’m teaching.  As for now, you can join me at Belliston Dance Academy at the Littleton location on Wednesday mornings at 9:30 and Saturday mornings at 9:00 (all except the 2nd Saturday of each month).

As for now, this is a warm-up we’ve been practicing, that my student and friend Jennifer was kind enough to record tonight on my iPhone for those of you who want to give it a try at home!

I’d love to know what some of you think and if you’re able to follow it all and practice at home.

Beyond that, keep shaking it and stay connected to the growing world of Afro-Caribe!  I’ll be sure to keep sharing here so stay tuned!

For the Love of Your Life!


Dr. Gabor Maté on Addiction

DrGaborMateI recently had the great fortune of experiencing a lecture of a brilliant minded physician, Dr. Gabor Maté, regarding addiction and it’s far-reaching effects, particularly in current North American culture.  In this following TEDx talk, Dr. Maté expands that message to “the addiction to power” and how it is passed down from generation to generation.

Dr. Maté speaks so eloquently, and shares such embodied knowledge, of addiction’s causes and manifestations, and the lack of integrated understanding we have—particularly in the US—for how to actually HEAL our collective collapse in treating it.

At the foundation of Dr. Maté’s passionate style is compassion.  In his words, we need to stop looking at what is wrong with addiction and, instead, look at what’s right.  What do people get from their addictive outlets that they’re not getting from life and relationship?  What pain and suffering do they embody, from which they escape, through their addictive substances and behaviors.  It is not the substances or behaviors that are the problem, right?

Alcohol and drugs are not inherently addictive—not everyone becomes addicted.  Just as food is not inherently addictive—yet to some people who are vulnerable to the soothing and escape it provides, it is. So what do addicts get from these things that help them to exist in the world and in their own bodies?

What is addiction?  According to Dr. Maté

“Any behavior that gives you temporary relief, temporary pleasure, but in the long term causes harm, has some negative consequences and you can’t give it up despite those negative consequences.” 

What is it that people can’t tolerate in regard to simply living in their bodies?  Why do so many people experience a sense of dread, fear, or isolation that lends so powerfully to addiction?

Dr. Maté states that people are afraid of death, other people, and their own minds….  And addictive substances and behaviors are one way that people can escape the overwhelm of their own minds.

In the following Tedx talk, Dr. Maté is speaking of fairly extreme drug use, indicating fairly extreme lack of attachment—consistent with abusive or neglectful early environments.  And this is true, as well, in more subtle abusive environments—where children are simply not receiving the love and attention they need to thrive.  The “emptiness” always goes back to what we didn’t get—what we didn’t feel—when we were small.  Our brains, along with our ability to manage our internal states, are literally “shaped” by our early environments.

Please watch and share the following, whether you or someone you know suffers from any variety of addiction.  This is something we all need to understand and for which we can all cultivate compassion.

Those who are truly powerful are those who want to teach people, not control people.  We cannot continue to look to “those in power” to change the world for us.  We need to find our internal power—our internal Light—if we want to transform the world.

For the Love of Your Life!



A Life Transparent

Mark-Z-imageIt would be an aspiration of Mark Zuckerburg, right?  To move toward transparency and openness, to have our lives displayed through social media sites and the like, available to all manner of voyeur.  And we are following his lead!

Transparent in the digital realm, however, is different than transparent in an intimate, fleshy, sensory, emotionally raw kind of way—like with the people in our direct life experience.

As much as I struggle with the façade of digital openness that tends to masquerade itself as connection, digital transparency is a start.  It’s a start that is whetting our taste buds, you might say.  It’s expanding our cognitive awareness of our need for greater, deeper, more authentic connection as well as our need both to be seen and to open our lives to those around us—isolation is killing us, on a multitude of levels.

One way I’ve come to utilize the digital platforms of Facebook, Blogging, and other forms of social media is to share my personal life—to an extent beyond what is comfortable for many; in an effort to share, educate, model, learn, to become more humble, to face my shame, to own my strengths, and to deepen my experience of being a “good enough” human.

…And what does “good enough” mean?  It stems from the practice of “good enough parenting” which asserts that it’s actually important to NOT be perfect—to not even attempt it! –To own our mistakes, missteps, and mis-attunements.  We need to make mistakes, as parents, and allow our kids to have the opportunity of witnessing us doing the necessary repair work.  Because how else are they going to learn how to do their own repair?

How else will they learn that mistakes are NORMAL and okay?  How else will they learn to be gentle and compassionate with themselves, if not for us?

In the same way, being a good enough human is my goal.  I’m far from doing anything with perfection—(though damn, I can organize like a mad woman when I’m stressed!)—But through my imperfections, coupled with my desire to share deep connection with others, I’ve strengthened my ability to step into some powerful repair in my relationships.  And it is through that repair that we truly change ourselves and develop intimacy with one another.

My sense is that we are all seeking something more—something beyond what we know—something that will fill us at a soul level.  And we (as a collective body) have not found it.  And I believe that “it” has to do with deepening intimacy with others—increasing our relational repertoire so to speak.  And like building a muscle, this will take awareness of “form and function,” first and foremost.  Then it will take focused, consistent attention and practice.

The Foundation

I grew up in an era that espoused neighborhood play time, gatheringssack-races on back porches, visiting with neighbors over the rose bushes and over afternoon tea, having constant friends in and out of the house, stopping by and simply sharing our space—children being raised by villages.  I grew up when we had little fear of our kids being “taken” or hurt by strangers, where our friends’ parents could discipline us as much as our own parents.  I grew up when people actually ran when the phone rang—they didn’t just check the caller ID and decide whether or not to answer.

I don’t want to romanticize our past—That can be a sticky place to hold to, the idea that it was “ah, so much better back in the day.”  There are things that I miss and things that I feel grateful for having learned, and surpassed.  It is sometimes our own unwillingness to progress that keeps us attached to “the good ole’ days.”

Greek-FamilyI do have it in my blood, however, to feel the strength of community, that certain network of connection, albeit physically—not digitally!  I know what it’s like to feel at home in the comfort of my village.  I also know what it’s like for the neighbors to hear my family bickering and sometimes share dirty laundry… to get unsolicited advice from all the relatives and feel the frustration of being confined to familial perceptions and the difficulty of stretching my wings.  And I know that I could always call my folks in a heartbeat if I needed a quick favor and that, no matter how messy my life ever gets or whatever mistakes I make, they’ll continue to hold me tight.

Some of that closeness—even the parts that remind me of the dysfunctional aspects of my “big fat Greek family”—I miss!  The pendulum has swung, my friends.  And it has swung so far into the land of isolation that people in our very own country are literally dying from loneliness.   I believe we are collectively suffering from Intimacy Deprivation.loneliness1

Our Digitized Life

This Intimacy Deprivation becomes apparent to me when “texting” or IM’ing with someone I don’t know well, in any number of personal or professional contexts.  I’ve noticed that the “intimacy” that I can project via digital communication cannot naturally transcend to the flesh—that when eyes meet and hands shake and bodies intermingle, we become shrouded in trepidation and constrained by the natural “pacing” that one-to-one dialogue requires.  Our neural networks are being rewired, and not in a good way!  Our connect-ability is being engaged via screen shots, rather than body language and tone of voice.

Collectively, our relational intelligence is suffering.

textingpicWe can become hardwired to share ourselves digitally and forget that relationship—any kind of relationship—is very much a physical experience.  Via text, we have the leniency of spaciousness, taking all the time we desire for witty and intelligent replies and monitoring automatic responses prior to hitting “send.”

In the flesh, we must depend on our ability to authentically attune and engage—to stay present to our inner wisdom.  Yet we are wiring our brains to connect with one another in a world that not only doesn’t require presence and authenticity but negates the importance of our primary mode of communication—our BODIES—our ability to touch, be touched, our voices, our expressiveness, the subtle nuances of interaction that occur in the vivid space of togetherness.

Now, like most of you, I too get caught in this digital playground and find myself far too often holding onto my phone as a source of “addictive soothing” you might say.  And I’m concerned… I’m concerned that we are forgetting how to soothe ourselves, how to transcend our aloneness while in close physical proximity.  I fear that we quickly leave close interaction and come back to the comfort of our handheld digital pacifiers…

The Risk to Our Children

Most of us share some concern about the amount of texting and “digital time” kids-textingin which our children engage.  We see the “under the table” conversations and, at times, mental oblivion to real life.  And sadly, we usually blame our kids, blame society, rather than taking responsibility for the boundaries we set and the modeling we provide.  And it is through these paths that our kids learn to be in the world—how we model our own relationships, and the structure that we provide for guiding their relationships in the world—because that’s part of our job.

Our inner world is expressed through our bodies.  As infants, we learn to communicate not through words, but through eyes, mouths, touch—through yielding and pushing and reaching and through the impact that our physical expression has on others within the subtlest of exchanges.  Yet, if our early life is presented, in part, within this digital frenzy, that’s exactly what we’ll crave—that’s how we’ll learn to connect, to soothe, to share ourselves, and even to think.

Our kiddos world is clearly so different than our own early environment.  And we do need to support them in developing an evolving—yet mindful—relationship with current modes of communication and technology.  And ultimately, we also need to BE with them.  We need to set down our phones, look them in the eyes, touch them, play with them, get into life with them!  Because right now, we’re growing a generation of techies that are learning how to do relationship primarily with their thumbs.  Many of them have no idea how to truly BE with another person.  And considering our current relational trends, we just might be on a scary downward spiral.

(All this as I type on my mac!)

My “Why?”

Our lives are flying by with lightening speed.  And that search for something more is ever present but can become a mere dull ache as the deafening roar of everything else takes over.  But I’m paying attention—and I know that some of you are as well.  So what are we going to do, together, to quiet the nonsense and bring our attention to what matters?

My hope in reaching out to a willing and engaged collection of people—my growing digital community—is to initiate some dialogue around becoming more real with one another and hopefully, inspiring each of us to become more real and more engaged with our fleshy, raw, sensory, real life relationships.  And if I can connect with you—even digitally—in a way that both helps to expand our perspectives, as well as nourishes us, I feel that we have also nourished the collective human experience.

So here I am, reaching through a digital medium, to invite you into your body, into your relationships, and into your own life’s wisdom.  And I’d love to hear from you!

For the Love of Your Life!


Green Addiction

I just can’t get enough kale these days… it’s my new obsession (I fall into those sometimes.  WonderWomanThankfully, they’re all pretty healthy.)  I’m loving all greens really, though Kale is my favorite.  When I eat it, I have a bit of a super hero response, like I’m pretty sure if I spin around really fast, I might magically find myself in a satin cape, able to deflect bullets and all that…  (That childhood fantasy is still there!)

Greens can be the food that people respond to with, “I should eat them more, but…” and, “I know they’re good for me, but…” yet most folks simply just don’t get enough.

In a TedxTalk on “Minding your Mitochondria,” Dr. Terry Wahls talks about how necessary relatively massive amounts of greens are for the myelin protecting our nerves, for our brain cells, for our mitochondria, and of course for the rest of our bodies.

Greens are rich in vitamins B, A, C, and K, as well as minerals.  And Kale–my favorite! –has the most nutrition per calorie of any plant.

And knowing that… some of us still struggle, right?

kale3What is it about greens that has us shying away, even in adulthood?  too much limp, brown-tinted spinach as kids?  Whatever the cause, it’s time to develop a love relationship with everything GREEN!

Here are a few ideas:

Massaged Greens

Thanks to my friend Erica, who shared with me the somewhat therapeutic practice of “massaging” greens, I’ve come to use this technique almost every time I eat them!  It’s a great way to maintain all of the nutrition and still create a soft texture to chopped greens which can often have a tougher texture than other lettuce greens.

The idea is to chop the greens, put them into a large enough bowl that you can really get your hands into, add in whatever dressing, oil, or other complimentary items to, and dig in! …with you hands.  Squeeze, rub, work your way into softening the texture of the greens.  It really can be a wonderful sensory experience, along with creating a great nutrient-rich dish.

Here’s one of my favorites:greens5

1 bunch of fresh, organic Kale, chopped
About 3 Green onions, chopped
One large handful of raw pine nuts
One large handful of Goji Berries
salt and pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup Tessemae’s All Natural Lemonette Dressing (Found at Whole Foods).
A bit more Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and fresh lemon (just squeeze over the top to taste)

Massage the above together for a good 5-10 minutes

Then add:KaleSalad1
1/2 Avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 “cutie-sized” orange, sectioned and cut into bite-sized pieces
(optional:  1 serving chicken, cut into bite sized pieces)

(Note:  Chicken can be added prior to massaging, if you prefer your chicken to have an almost “shredded” texture, or added after, to enjoy more whole chunks)


Another way to enjoy greens is to put them into fresh smoothies. I’ve seen a lot of recipes lately for green smoothies, detox drinks, and the like. Here’s one I’ve tried that is so fresh, a little tart, and starts my day out beautifully!





Green Smoothie

1 bunch of fresh organic kale
1/2 of a fresh lemon, peeled
1/2 of a lime, peeled
1/2 of a “cutie sized” orange, peeled
1 Whole Organic Banana
1/2-1 Cup organic plain (no sugar added) Cranberry Juice

Blend together…  if you have a powerful blender (like a Blendtec) you’ll get a smooth consistency fairly easily.  If not, you might need to add a bit more water, and pulse on and off for a bit).

I’ve also added a handful of fresh, organic strawberries to this mix for a bit more “sweetness.”

Citrus fruits are full of phytonutrients that support not only our immune response, protecting us from a host of potential diseases, they are good for our skin and our other organs, and help keep all of our systems working smoothly.

GrSmoothie3The thing is….  we need to nourish our bodies–we need to Eat to Live, not Live to Eat.  And when we choose to nourish through the consistent use of healthy, whole foods, our bodies begin to crave those.  The “reward centers” in the brain become activated, and that feels good!

So plant some greens, eat some greens, LOVE some greens… and then ask your body how it feels!






For the Love of Your Life!



An Evolved Woman

The following was excerpted from a social media post that crossed my digital path a few days ago, and I highly appreciate it.  It’s not insanely profound or life-changing. Just simple truths from one man on the path about what it means to be “An Evolved Man.”

As I read through, I began wondering how “An Evolved Woman” might compare–and I became inspired to come up with my own version.  Since this is the path on which I humbly stumble, it is helpful to acknowledge that this is a vision toward which I strive.

This is mine, anyway.  What’s yours?

10 signs he’s an evolved man

By Graham R White

1. He listens to and respects women: A gentleman never refers to ANY woman with defamatory language, because he has class.

2. He has the courage to ask for help and his ego is under control. He’s secure enough to do personal work with the support of those who can help him heal childhood trauma.

3. He is guided by a purpose and personal belief system. His decisions are based on a sense that something greater than his individuality exists.

4. He mentors youth because he recognizes the responsibility to share the wisdom of experience. As a father, a coach, a teacher or leader in the community he gives back.

5. His worth is determined by what he does, not what he owns. He looks after his financial responsibilities, but the lives he touches matter more than the buildings or businesses he builds.

6. He challenges himself and constantly seeks opportunities to develop his mind. His goal is not to win, but to grow.

7. Sex isn’t something he gets, but the result of the trust and connection his energy creates. He is not led by a ‘need’, and he doesn’t wait to be led. He’s absolute class in public and maintains discretion about his ravishing activities in private.

8. He lives without reservation and nothing to hide. His authentic life is enough that the praise about him happens when others are talking, not self-aggrandizement.

9. He looks for ways to make his world bigger, by developing friendships, travel and expanding his circles of influence to include people with different backgrounds and beliefs.

10. All things flow outward from his purpose. He is guided by a clear sense of who he is and while his vision of what he’s here to do may be audacious, it never comes across with arrogance.

That, is an Evolved man.

Graham R White

…and nowwomanshadow

10 Qualities of An Evolved Woman

By Angie Tsiatsos Phillips

1.  She has cultivated the ability to soothe her emotions—While she trusts herself enough to allow her own chaos, her pain, her anger, intensity, unabashed love to fill a room, she also knows how to return to her center.  She knows how to track sensations and thoughts with an observing mind, and honor the innate wisdom of her body.

2.  She has a respect for the unique perspective, and emotional body, of men.  She does not generalize and mock the differences in men and women—as society reinforces—but thrives and becomes further awakened by the polarities of masculine-feminine natures.

3.  She can yield completely into her emotional drives, without fear, yet trusts her developed moral compass to guide choices that affirm her integrity.

4.  She shares her natural strength in nourishing those around her—her children, her partner, her friends and family—because she is connected to God/Goddess energy and however it lives through her, and it emanates from the core of her being.  From a position of strength, she provides open arms and heart for others to yield into Love. 

5. Her worth is determined by the depth and potency of her relationships.  She is self-actualized, yet her self-actualization may be in a professional role, a mothering role, or any number of roles that engage her passion.  And in whatever role she exists, she deepens her experience, along with those around her, by her authentic and embodied presence.

6. She stands firm in her unique physical beauty, in whatever form that arises, but she does not value that more highly than her mind or her heart.  She attends to her body, mind, and heart through practiced self-care.  She is an advocate for other women to own their individual essence and power, and rather than shy away from them, she joins with them, knowing that when powerful women join forces, the world changes.

7. Her sexuality is alive in her eyes, in her hips, and in her movement.  She is comfortable owning her deepest desires and asking for all that she craves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually with an intimate partner.  She highly values the power of her sensuality and uses great care in sharing that energy.  She knows how to come alive to her man’s attuned touch and sink into the most primal language of her body.

8. She owns her space in the world—wherever, and with whomever, she is.  She lives fully awake and with integrity, consistently checking in and taking ownership of slips and trips along the way, but with gentleness toward herself and toward others.  She is able to pause… breathe, and sink into her deepest truth, even when life brings intense challenge.

9. She is curious, and she allows her curiosity and innate trust to guide her into attracting the next level of learning, the right people and experiences, from which she will ultimately expand her awareness as well as be able to express immense generativity to the world around her.

10. She speaks, moves, and lives from an internal source of love—her heart, mind, and body in fluid alignment and with transparency that opens her to the honest reflection from those around her.  She validates her own experience while strengthening her ability to open to the unique experiences and perspectives of others.

That is an evolved woman…  in my humble opinion

For the Love of Your Life,