Monday, May 28, 2012

Practicing the Art of Invisibility

In this article written by Susan L. Smalley, Ph.D., she explains that we have become a nation full of attention seekers.

Look at Me: Living in a society of attention seekers (click title to read)

She writes,

"When I look around at the number of bloggers, tweets, wikipages, Facebook friends, and outlets for expression, it seems we've hit a crescendo of ‘look at me' activity, a striving for attention enveloping the globe."

She asks,

"Why is seeking recognition so prominent in the West today?"

and more importantly,

"...what becomes less desirable, as fame and fortune move to the top?"

Her answer?

"Things like civic involvement and spiritual engagement have lost ground. So it seems our society is shifting, with ‘attention-getting' moving way to the top - at whatever the cost."

I found her article to be thought-provoking and embarrassing as I too write a blog and fit her description of those who covet attention.

I spent many hours searching my soul trying to reflect on mine and other's motivations. Could I find some relevance and examples of what she was describing?

Perhaps not surprisingly, I thought about my role as a mother of a child with special needs. I thought about how I am hopeful that this role has taught me the importance of bringing awareness not to myself, but to my children who suffer from incurable disease. I also thought about who and what type of mothers seem to gain the most attention from the media?

It wasn't long before images of this....

And most recently, this, came to mind.

It is interesting to me how both images focus our attention explicitly on these mothers.

I wonder if perhaps Dr. Smalley has a point?

In Dr Smalley's piece, she describes her encounter with a South American shaman who was "practicing the art of invisibility."

Invisibility creates an inner energy that allows you to focus solely on the powers of observation and learning. Less energy is focused on yourself, more energy is focused on learning about others.

Dr Smalley explains....

"(The South American shaman) said that he could accomplish so much more from an invisible position than one of fame. I've wondered about that quote for a long time but think that part of the reason is that there is greater freedom to act when action is not tinged with attention-seeking. There is likely more energy available to effect change if one is not expending it on promoting oneself.

Turning a lens on our inward experiences with an eye toward detection of such striving may help shift it into our own lives and possibly our collective consciousness.

I think we all need to value anonymity a bit more. Perhaps if we do, we may find ourselves a little bit more content, happy and kind."

Susan Smalley is a behavior geneticist and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and founder of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the Semel Institute at UCLA. Their mission is to foster mindful awareness across the lifespan through education and research to promote well-being and a more compassionate society.

Mindful awareness is a practice that comes to us from a variety of contemplative traditions throughout history. It invites us to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with one's inner experience.
Her words and research resonate with me.

As parents of children with special needs, we are not Tiger Mothers. We are not Attachment Mothers. We are not Helicopter Mothers.

We are Invisible Mothers.

The requirements involved in becoming a parent of a child with special needs include focusing all of our energies on things other than ourselves. We must stop, breath, and observe. In fact, we concern ourselves with such things as learning to thread feeding tubes, assembling walkers and interpreting the results of EEG's. We have had our children fitted for back braces and hip harnesses. We spend much of our time in hospitals and ICU's. We have fought with schools, insurance companies and physicians in an effort to convince these individuals to see our children not as unfortunate diagnoses but as human beings worthy of all of our attention.

And yet these heroic acts go unrecognized. They are just part of the daily routine required to save a child's life. They come as natural to us as breathing.

Invisibility is our strength.

A critical need for parenting a child with special needs is the ability to observe, to become instinctively mindfully aware. We wear our cloaks of invisibility so that we may observe subtle changes in our children. We can detect even the faintest sound of an oncoming attack, a soaring fever, an escalating behavior, a silent seizure.

Yes, I have joined a legion of men and women selflessly devoted to observing and caring for others. These parents will tell you they have little time to care or worry about themselves. They will tell you they are tired. They will tell you they have reluctantly put their dreams for themselves aside.

They will tell you they feel invisible.

But it is these same special men and women who will tell you that raising their children although heartbreaking and difficult, is the most meaningful and rewarding experience of their lives.

With invisibility, there is observation
With observation there is selflessness
With selflessness there is understanding
With understanding there is meaning

Yes, being invisible has its advantages.

Tell me, are you Mom enough?

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Lisa Peters is an invisible mother to two children diagnosed with special needs. She attention seeks blogs at Come visit our family blog to learn more about Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS), ADHD, Aspergers, ESES and other interesting acronyms.....