“The one most important of all the things we can give to our children is unconditional love. Not a love that depends on anything at all except that they are our children.” -- Rosaleen Dickson
We've reached the final step of our series Ten Steps to Unconditional Love.
Step Ten? Repeat daily to rewire your brain for love. Watch your life transform.
Healing our ability to love unconditionally requires daily practice. Most of us don't wake up overflowing with love every morning. So each day we start over. Managing our moods. Finding ways to reconnect with the deep springs inside that replenish us. Choosing love, over and over and over again. Even when we're tempted not to. Especially when we're tempted not to.
Research shows that certain habits do rewire our brains. Habits like meditation, exercise, feeling gratitude, and serving a higher good actually change our bodies and brains so that over time we can regulate ourselves better emotionally. (Our immune systems work better, too!)
And every time we stop ourselves from sliding into a "parent tantrum," we're building our ability to self-soothe so we can stay more calm, more often. The only catch? These habits have to be "practiced" daily.
That's a big commitment. But so worth it, because our brains actually rewire. Then, in those moments when our blood starts to boil, we can more easily keep our emotions from hijacking us. Daily practice is what builds heart muscle.
Being able to choose love even in those stressful moments requires that we practice the rest of the time. And choosing love for our child requires that we have some emotional generosity to draw on. That emotional generosity develops from loving ourselves, so self-acceptance and self-nurture are always the first step in growing a bigger heart.
So why wait? You can start choosing love right now. Nothing has to be different for you to love yourself exactly as you are.
I know you're not perfect. (You're human, right?) When your child is at his worst is when he most needs your compassionate understanding. And when you're most ashamed of yourself is when you most need your own compassion.
So don't wait for perfect. Just do your best and take it one step at a time. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Plan now that you'll make them -- that's
part of being human -- and that you'll love yourself through them.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. But it is entirely possible to gradually become the parent you want to be, most of the time. After all, you have live-in teachers and 24/7 lessons! Use your mistakes to your advantage. They aren’t mistakes if you learn from them, they’re life lessons in your parenting PhD. That’s why spiritual masters call it a Practice.
At first, it seems impossible. But it's like playing the piano. In the beginning, scales are a challenge. But if you practice every single day, in a year you can play a sonata.
Just keep practicing, bringing awareness to each interaction, finding that moment of freedom between the stimulus (your child's behavior) and your own reaction. Noticing is what gives you a choice next time. The miracle of one foot in front of the other, in the right direction, is that one day you look around, and all the scenery is different.
Loving unconditionally means it's not all about us. It's not even all about our child. It's all about love.
Like this series? Here are all the links:
1. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. It's better for your child. Really.
2. Unconditional love is like a muscle. It needs a daily workout.
3. Want to wake up jazzed about the day ahead? Commit to radical self-care.
4. Heal Your Childhood. Are you drinking rat poison?
5. Heal Your Heart, Heal Your Life. How to let go of the past so you can love now.
6. Walk In Your Child's Shoes: 5 Secrets for those tough days.
7. Can You Love Unconditionally When You're Furious? Commit to parenting from love, not anger.
8. Don't Get Hijacked -- Take the High Road! Choose love.
9. What If You've Made Mistakes As a Parent? Lighten Up and Show Up. It is never too late to heal things with your child.
10. Re-wire Your Brain for Love. (This post.)