I recently saw a YouTube video of someone giving a talk about the science behind spiritual practices which raise people’s awareness and, therefore, wellbeing. In the second part of her talk, the speaker described technological developments, such as new apps, which are being developed to help people become more aware and spiritually connected. It seems that technology for spiritual wellness is a burgeoning area of development and the speaker was very animated & enthusiastic about the progress being made. Being a soulful parent in the modern world, perhaps I should’ve been too (“great, there will be technology to support my children’s spiritual wellbeing”). But I wasn’t really…
SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY
For me, science and spirituality are two ways of knowing the same thing. We do not have to choose whether to be rational or intuitive, for example – we can be both. Some scientists think of their research as getting to know the workings of God/The Universe and, like me, see no conflict between their scientific work and their spirituality. Albert Einstein is perhaps the most famous example of this (here’s a link to some of his quotes about the relationship between science and spirituality).
When it comes to our spiritual wellness, though, science seems to “prove” a lot of what we already know. Recent research has shown that meditative practices improve focus & emotional regulation; that feeling we belong to our social circle reduces the incidence of depression; and that having a sense of agency in our work makes it fulfilling rather than depleting. For me, these things all seem like common sense, we didn’t need expensive research projects to know them. But those who lean purely on rational, material ways of knowing feel validated if they can site research that proves their choices in life are effective.
TECHNOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY
As for technologies that use this scientifically-proven knowledge to help people expand their awareness and nurture other aspects of their spiritual wellbeing, I’m a little dubious that they’re really necessary. The billions of dollars that are set to be poured into them could probably be better spent.
I accept that we live in an increasingly online world and I appreciate the ways that technology makes life easier. There are some great resources available online, too, to support the spiritual wellness of ourselves and our children. My son, Jake, and I both use the Headspace guided meditation app. I learn a lot through listening to my favourite spiritual teachers on podcasts while I’m exercising and have done some helpful online courses (such as this great one for soulful parents). But I think it’s a problem if we think we need an app to become more aware or spiritually connected.
If we are feeling that we need help to become more aware, I don’t think it’s because our lives have been missing the technology to do so. Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks around the world seem to have managed just fine without smartphones for centuries. For me, the talk I watched on YouTube was a call to reconsider the way we’re living our lives. We don’t have to live like nuns and monks but I think there’s a lot we might want to think about.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SOULFUL PARENTS & OUR KIDS?
I think what science is showing us is that, when it comes to spiritual wellness for our families, we need to get back to ourselves, both as individuals and as a collective – kind of as we were doing before society made science & technology king & queen. We only need to look a few generations back to be reminded of how to be aware and connected – build supportive, in-the-flesh communities; do the things that bring us joy and put us in flow; get into nature; move our bodies; take time for stillness… These things just feel good and don’t actually need science to prove their value to us. With a little intention, we can create lifestyles for our families that incorporate these elements, no technology needed.
At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, it seems to me that we need less technology when it comes to our awareness rather than more, given the state we’re in – over-extended and glued to our devices. Most of the time, I feel depleted by devices like my smartphone, continuously calling for my attention. I don’t want another app beeping at me to remind me to take a “mindful minute”, for example. We think technology makes us more “connected” but I’m not sure what it is that are we actually connecting to when we spend all that time online. It usually feels more like disconnecting to me.
I’m not saying science and technology have no role in our spirituality but unlikely a significant role, as was being suggested in the YouTube video. Technology can be helpful, offering some short-term support on occasion but, if my boys grow up believing there is a technological solution to all things, I will have failed them.
Science and technology have a place and make valuable contributions in many spheres of life. But our spirituality is inherent in us. We really can recognise for ourselves what brings us a sense of wellbeing without an app. Perhaps we have lost some faith in ourselves as we have gradually handed over more and more of our lives to technology. We need to stay in charge of our technology, not let it take charge of us.
So my point is, let’s not hand every facet of our lives over to technology, no matter how much scientific research is behind it. Our spiritual wellbeing is nurtured by experiencing life with all of our senses, not by enlisting an app to do the work for us. Our children need to know that it is going inwards that really connects them, not going online.
Much love to you and your little souls.
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When I first decided that I wanted to get intentional about nurturing my boys’ spirituality, one of my greatest concerns was that I wasn’t up to the job because I wasn’t “spiritual enough” myself. What would I teach them? How would I go about it? I had a lot of questions and not many answers. Perhaps you’ve felt this way yourself about spiritual parenting, either now or in the past?
WHY I THOUGHT I WASN’T SPIRITUAL ENOUGH
When people hear the word spirituality, I think one of two stereotypes typically spring to mind – either religion or a more “new age” spirituality, characterised by such things as energy healing, crystals and meditation. But neither of these approaches were a part of my own spirituality when I first started thinking about spiritual parenting.
As a young girl, I had been quite fascinated by religion, wanting to find comfort in it as my grandmothers seemed to find in their Christianity. But I didn’t have positive experiences with religion and, as an adult, I concluded that it separated me from my spirituality more than it connected me to it.
I also had no special intuitive abilities and was quite sceptical about whether crystals, as beautiful as they were, could have any kind of power. I hadn’t tried meditation even once before my boys were born.
I knew better than to reduce spirituality to two stereotypes but, as a mother, I kind of wished I had found a tradition to follow because it would’ve provided me a curriculum of sorts to help me when it came to teaching my boys. Also, I would likely have been involved in a community of like-minded people who could help me in the task. Without these things, I didn’t know where to start.
I also felt that my life up until parenthood wasn’t a great example of faith and love. Who was I to teach someone else about spirit-centred living? My spirituality had been little more than a background niggle for most of my life and I’d spent the majority of my 30-something years floundering in fear. My past was full of messy bits which certainly did not provide the kind of model I wanted to give my boys.
FINDING MY WAY
I’ve kept a journal since I was an earnest, anxious 14 year-old. Writing has always been my way of making sense of things. So to figure out how to nurture my boys’ spirituality, I started writing this blog. Taking the time to write regularly on the subject of spiritual parenting helped me to become deliberate about my own spirituality as well as my boys’. As I wrote, I realised that the essence of my spirituality and the power of my parenting wasn’t in the shape of my particular beliefs & practices, or in a perfect past, but in my willingness to be on the journey alongside my boys.
Having set the intention to give my boys spiritual guidance, my heart began to expand towards all things of a spiritual nature. The Universe replied by gifting me some beautiful experiences which have helped me to see that anything and everything has spiritual significance if we’re willing to see it. I was deeply moved when a friend shared the aliveness of her Christian faith with me and I saw that religion can be a path to sincere connection. Another supportive friend gave me crystals to help me in my spiritual parenting work – they’re here on my desk as I write. I have received deep encouragement through my first experiences of intuitive readings, given by my hairdresser who has the ability to see things I don’t. I’m feeling the pull of meditation more and more these days, too. There are opportunities everywhere to experience my own spirituality and to help my boys tune into theirs’ – Life is our curriculum.
And, as for my past, the messy bits have become pointers towards the truth. Looking back on them without judgement, I can see that they were the lessons I needed to learn. Those difficult experiences have provided contrast, showing me what I don’t want so I can focus on what I do want to create in my life instead – essentially, more Love. Rather than avoiding the messy bits in my history, I can use all that I have learned to help me in life and in parenting.
So it seems my spirituality is in my open heart – my sense of connection to that magnificence that is both within & beyond me, my willingness to let Life teach me, my growing capacity to truly love another, and my ability to have faith where logic does not reach. These are the things I think we all have the capacity to pass on to our children and whether we do so in the context of a religion, a “new age” practice or something else, is not important.
“Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness.” ― Eckhart Tolle
I share my journey here to encourage you that you are up to the job.
The truth is that we are all spiritual beings so it goes without saying that we’re all “spiritual enough” to provide our children with spiritual guidance. Just the decision to connect with that Divine part of ourselves and of our children is enough. Once I committed to my boys’ spirituality and used the tool that came naturally to me (writing), I saw the opportunities all around me to “nurture their souls”. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have a tradition to follow or a history of solid connection myself.
We don’t need to tell our children what to believe or what to do. We just need to show them that they can choose to connect and encourage them to find their own ways of doing so. My blog post Why We Can’t Pass Our Spirituality Onto Our Children may be a useful read from here.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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Sometimes it seems that there’s an opinion out there that a person can’t be truly spiritual if they don’t meditate. Now, I know it’s not true – there are many paths for increased awareness and the expansion of Love – but, there is an undeniable mountain of scientific and anecdotal evidence that those who do meditate experience numerous benefits. From what I’ve heard, Deepak Chopra sits in meditation for at least a couple of hours early every morning and look how prolific and profound his work is. There’s definitely something in it and meditation could prove to be a practice that really suits my boys. So I recently decided to start introducing them to it.
The thing is, I don’t meditate regularly myself. I’m not even sure what meditation is exactly or why we do it. My working definition is “watching the mind & body to become aware of my true self as the observer”. But then, some meditations use a lot of imagination or deep contemplation around an idea, which is more than just “watching”. And some people do it purely for physical relaxation. Perhaps the purpose of a meditation session is simply the intention we bring to it.
Anyway, my big question was, how was I going to lead Jake and Thomas in meditation when I really had no idea what I was doing myself? I thought back to one of my early posts on introducing my boys to God/TheUniverse/Spirit and I remembered that I didn’t need to have all the answers. What I did need to do was let go of my ego’s desire to feel more knowledgeable about meditation than my boys and to join them as a learner. If they see me as a fellow explorer on the spiritual path, it shows them that no one of us is an expert – we can become experts for ourselves.
HOW WE GOT STARTED WITH MEDITATION
After accepting that I really didn’t know what I was doing, I figured I’d do the modern thing and use an app to get myself started. I’d heard of Headspace from a number of different people so downloaded it before going away on my trip to Barcelona & Dubai. Meditating poolside on the roof of a beautiful hotel was easy. I managed to do it every day while on holiday and my mind focussed pretty easily. It has proven harder since returning to the busyness of normal life as a Mum and the accompanying busyness of mind. But I’m approaching this with a light heart, I don’t beat myself up about missing sessions or spending the whole time thinking about what’s next on my to-do list.
I had done the occasional super-simple meditation with Jake (aged 6) previously, talking him through them myself so he had some familiarity with being still and focussed. One evening, I showed him the Headspace app and let him choose one of the kids’ meditations for us to try together. He chose the sleep one, since he was off to bed, and we did it together, Jake lying on his bed and me on the floor of his room. My plan was to creep out of the room once the meditation had finished and leave Jake to doze off but the novelty was too exciting for him and he wanted to do another one after it finished. I left his room that night pleasantly surprised by Jake’s receptivity and eagerness. I’m sure being allowed to use my phone (usually off-limits) had something to do with it. Now, when I’m tucking him into bed at night, he’ll sometimes ask to do a Headspace meditation together.
So far, Jake hasn’t asked me much about what meditation is, he’s just keen to do it. Presumably, as we meditate more, questions will arise but, also, more “answers” will reveal themselves to us. Right now, we’re playing and exploring. I’m meditating both on my own and with Jake. As time goes by, I think we’ll each better understand what kind of meditation we like (if at all) and what it means to us personally.
I haven’t yet started meditation with 3-year-old Thomas. I might try him out with the Headspace app but I suspect some of the language will be a little hard for him follow. He might be happy just to join in with Jake and I anyway, to be a part of our exploration. I can probably make up my own super-short meditations for him too, based on the ones I’ve heard.
MEDITATION AND “REAL LIFE”
Helping them to finding their own repertoire and routine of spiritual practices is only one of the ways we can nurture our children’s spirituality. Our spirituality is not just about specific practices that we do in a quiet space, removed from the rest of life. It’s also in the way that we go about all that we do. The usual activities of our day can offer us “meditative moments” if we look for them (just as it can spontaneously inspire prayer or gratitude, for example). Here are some meditative moments my boys and I have shared together recently –
eating the first mouthful of our meal with our eyes closed, noticing the smell, taste, texture and other feelings the food gives us. (Dessert is a yummy one to start with 😊)
watching a drip of rain or shower-water roll down the glass, all the way to the bottom.
colouring in (I like to join in with my boys using my own adult’s colouring book – it’s more inspiring for me than Bob the Builder).
sensory play eg. playdough, water play, painting, sand.
taking 3-5 belly breaths together to savour the moment.
stroking the family pet (have you noticed how easily we give them our full attention?)
IN SUMMARY – MEDITATION AS A SUGGESTION
I want to introduce my boys to many spiritual practices. I want them to have the chance to explore different ones, looking for what resonates, what feels good and useful to them. Meditation may or may not suit them and what works for them may be very different to what works for me. I wrote more about our children finding their own ways of connecting in my blog post Why We Can’t Pass Our Spirituality Onto Our Children.
I sometimes feel inspired to suggest to Jake and Thomas that we say a prayer or share something we’re each grateful for or, now, meditate together. But, if they’re not keen, they’re never made to join in. I simply give them the opportunity to experience the practices for themselves. I’ll let you know how we are going with our exploration of meditation in a few months.
Much love to you and your little souls,
PS – Have you introduced your children to meditation? How did you get started? Comment below.
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I am in no way affiliated with the Headspace app. In this blog post, I have simply shared my personal experience.
Delivered to my inbox weekly over 6 weeks, the course was manageable for our busy family. Each week, there was a short video for parents to explain the week’s topic, a workbook full of practical ways to share the ideas with our children and, sometimes, a meditation. Although the course has an easy-to-follow structure, it is designed as a “toolbox” of ideas and activities to dip into as needed. I have only just finished the course but have already watched some of the videos more than once and used course activities to help me respond to things that have come up in our family. This speaks to the relevance of the material and I know I will be dipping in regularly!
Christina’s invitation is to “play” with the activities of the course.
“Spirituality, believe it or not, is meant to be enjoyed and lived, and not seriously forced upon us”. – Christina Fletcher
The playfulness of many of the activities make them engaging for parents and children alike! They include crafts, reflective activities, meditations, stories and poems. Christina understands that children need fun, varied ways to engage and that their attention spans can be short. Designed for 3-13 year-olds, there are activities suitable for all children in this age range and they be can used over again as needed. One of the weekly topics was An Introduction to Meditation, an area I was particularly interested to get tips on as I’m a “beginning meditator” myself. I was able to teach my 6-year-old a simple breathing meditation, which he has asked to do again more than once. I got some great ideas for “meditative activities” to do with my 3-year-old to introduce him to the idea of taking some quiet time to be with himself.
Christina has set up a Facebook group for parents using Spiritual Kids to share ideas & experiences and ask questions as they use the course materials. She is actively involved in this group, ready to help in any way she can.
The Spiritual Kids course, is helping me to make spirituality more dynamic and alive in our home. I am becoming more tuned into myself & my children and am better able to help my boys to tune into themselves. Christina has created this course with a full heart, sharing her wisdom in a way that allows families to bring their own perspective to the content and activities. It is both accessible for families who are new on their spiritual path and insightful in a way that will enrich the spiritual connection within families further along on their journey.
I got even more than I expected from Spiritual Kids – and my expectations were high because I love Christina’s work! It is an incredible resource and I am excited to see how it continues to deepen the spiritual connection within my family. For anyone looking for a way to shift from just talking about spirituality with their children to bringing it to life, the Spiritual Kids E-Course, available here at spirituallyawareparenting.com, will get you started and sustain your journey together.
Much love to you and your little souls,
29/8/17 – Since writing this review in May, I have purchased other products created by Christina for my personal use. As a keen user and supporter of her work, Christina has recently invited me to participate in an affiliate program. I share her offerings with you gladly, knowing from personal experience the incredible value they give to parents and their children.
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Our spirituality is ultimately about our relationship with Life. Any relationship requires communication. I want my boys to know they can tell the Universe whatever is on their mind so I am gently introducing them to prayer. The Universe is always on our side, even when we don’t pray, but prayer helps us to be bigger participants in the unfolding of our lives.
WHAT IS PRAYER & WHO ARE WE PRAYING TO?
For me, prayer is an invitation, an opening up to the Divine. The Divine will work in our lives as much as we allow it to.
A prayer can be offered through our words (written & spoken), actions or thoughts. They all count. Essentially, we pray with our spirit so it doesn’t matter which form a prayer takes. This blog post is more about prayer expressed in words as that is the variety most visable to our children so easiest to share with them.
In our house, we usually address our prayers to God, using the word in a non-traditional sense. Really, any word would do – the Universe, the Divine, Spirit, Source… My understanding of God changes constantly, getting less and less precise over time, but I don’t think that really matters. He/She/It/They know I’m talking to them when I pray, even if I can’t fully imagine all that they are. (You may be interested in my post Introducing my Children to God.)
TYPES OF PRAYER
I want Jake and Thomas to realise that they can talk to God in any situation, for any reason so I’m trying to offer them different types of prayer. Keeping it simple, these are the three we usually use –
Gratitude – Prayers of gratitude are an easy place to start. Sometimes, when I’m with my boys and I think of something I’m grateful for, I’ll just say thank you for it aloud eg. “Thank you for the beautiful sunshine today”. We also take turns saying grace before a meal, using the words my boys learned at their kindergarten. (To be honest, they fight over whose turn it is to say grace and it doesn’t always feel very sincere.) My post on Gratitude talks about the benefits of gratitude and other ways of expressing it.
Intention – In these prayers, we share our intentions – such as for dreams to be realised and problems solved. They may be for ourselves or for others. Of Course, God already knows what our intentions are but, through these prayers, we open ourselves up to receiving the help we need.
Chat – For me, prayer is an on-going conversation. Sometimes, I just find myself with something to say and I know God is listening so I start talking. When I’m in the car alone, I talk to God as if he were sitting in the passenger seat. I talk about anything, knowing that I am heard and that He is the best listener of all.
THE NATURE OF PRAYER
I don’t think the words we use in prayer are important but it is interesting to look at the meaning of Amen. It is a way of saying “Your will be done”. For me, that means trusting that God hears and cares about my desires & concerns. It also means that He sees the big picture that I can’t and will do what is best for everyone, for the highest good. Prayer is said in faith and we can let go once we’ve said what we have to say. When I was younger, I used to pray over the same things repeatedly. God heard the first time – it must have been so annoying! Once said, it’s said! We can trust that things will turn out for the greatest good.
When things we have prayed about don’t appear to go our way, it is not an answered prayer. When I was a teacher, I had to put the good of the whole class over the needs of an individual at times. God has the same task but with billions of people to look out for – what a job! There have been times when things haven’t gone the way I had planned but there have been unexpected gifts in the seemingly unwanted outcome. There have been times when, later, I have been able to see that it is a good thing I didn’t get what I prayed for! Sometimes, I can’t see why things didn’t go as I had asked and I have faith that it was still a good thing. And sometimes I just wake up the next day feeling differently, able to see the situation I’d prayed for with greater Love – my answer was simply a new way of seeing things.
WAYS TO PRAY WITH OUR CHILDREN
Here are some gentle ways I’ve been introducing prayer to my children.
Invite them to listen inon my prayers – This was my first step. For example, an ambulance would go whizzing by when we were in the car and I would say a short prayer aloud. When my husband was going into hospital for a small surgery, my boys listened while I said a prayer for my husband and the medical staff. Jake and Thomas always say an enthusiastic “Amen!” at the end.
Provide a script – Particularly for young children, it is hard to come up with the words for what they have to say. Some of our prayers use the same words each time to make them easier for my boys to say, such as our grace and our morning prayer. Both prayers are short with child-friendly language.
Offer for them to add bits – Usually I say our morning prayer aloud and my boys listen. Often, before beginning, I ask if there’s anything they’d like included, perhaps something they’re worried about or looking forward to. So far, I add these things in myself for them but, in time, I think they’ll want to say them themselves.
God Box – (It could be called anything. Use the language that works for your family). Currently, I initiate most of our prayers. When my boys are starting to suggest their own, this is an idea I’d like to try. They can write or draw their prayer on a piece of paper and post it into their box. The act of posting it is their “Amen”, their letting go and trusting. Every now-and-then, they may like to review the notes in their box to see what has happened since.
Remind them that they can talk to God anytime, about anything – If our children are aware that we do this, it will be normal for them. I say a lot of spontaneous prayers and will often say them aloud with my boys if I’m happy for them to hear what I have to say.
IN SUMMARY – WHY PRAY?
When I pray with Jake and Thomas, I invite them to participate but never insist. Interestingly, so far they have always chosen to join in. The words we use aren’t important, the only rule being it must be respectful – God has no interest in the toilet talk that litters their usual conversation when they think I’m out of ear shot.
I recently re-watched Rob Bell’s humorous and powerful talk on Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions. He said that most of his prayers go like this – “Here, you take it”. Knowing we don’t have to figure it all out or do it all on our own is so comforting and freeing. Our prayers are an acknowledgement of this. This is the main reason I want to share the practice of prayer with my boys.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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The other day, it occurred to me that, if I want Jake and Thomas to know how tune into their higher selves, to hear God’s wisdom within them, I’d have to be the one to teach them how. Presumably it’s easier to do this while they’re young and still somewhat tuned-in, before they are taught to let rationality and logic be their chief decision-makers. I thought that teaching our children how to use their intuition would be a good topic for a Nurturing Little Souls post but that I would have to write it later because I’m only just beginning to learn how to listen myself. So I made a few notes on the topic and slipped the page into my notebook “for later”.
The next morning, while I was preparing lunchboxes, Jake came to me and asked “How does God talk to you?”. “I don’t know! I haven’t written that post yet!” my mind paniced. But I wanted to seize the synchronistic moment so tried to just allow my responses to come to me, to let my intuition do the work. I told Jack that, when God talks to me, I get a feeling that I really want or should do something. Jake considered this for a moment, skipping around the kitchen, then asked whether God is in the air, gesturing at the space in front of him. He seemed to be wondering how could he hear God if he can’t see Him, if it doesn’t look like He’s there to talk with? We talked about God being everywhere, including in the air around us. It was a rather scattered conversation but Jake wrapped it up with his beautiful wisdom by saying, “God speaks to your heart”. I replied, “Yes, you listen with your heart, instead of your ears”. So it turned out that I didn’t need to know the answers about how God talks to us – Jake knew already. Our conversation was simply to help him process what he knew, to bring it to light.
SO, WHAT IS INTUITION?
I experience intuition as a sense of knowing that can’t be explained. When intuiting, we are knowing not through logic, but through God. We are using our higher intelligence, not our brains. When we sense something through our intuition, we don’t give a reason for it, we “just know”, it “feels right”, we “just have to”. Intuition is the voice of God within us, although we sense it rather than hear it.
HOW CAN WE HELP OUR CHILDREN ACCESS THEIR INTUITION?
If we are to explore spiritual ideas, such as intuition, with our children, they need to have words to access the ideas we are discussing. I think it is helpful to try and use the language our children use, at least initially. With Jack, I could ask “what is God telling your heart?” when helping him to listen to God’s guidance because these are the words he has given me. Over time, I can build his vocabulary by tacking on a rephrasing eg. “What is God telling your heart? What does your intuition tell you?”
People access their intuitive abilities in different ways. I can’t address all of the possibilities here, only what I am familiar with at this early point in my intuitive journey. As time goes by, I hope to recognise which ways come easiest to me and which ways come easiest to Jake and Thomas so that we can use our intuition for guidance. In the following paragraphs, I will share some ideas for first steps in helping our children to connect with their intuition during their everyday experiences.
Value their Intuition To have the confidence to use their intuition, children need to feel that it is valued and that they’re encouraged to use it. Myself, I have almost always made decisions based on thorough rational examination. I grew up in a world that seemed to demand that any move I make be explainable to others with good reasons. I know better now and am beginning to make decisions more intuitively because I know it’s a wise way to make them. I want Jake and Thomas to know that intuition is a valid tool for guiding their lives.
Perhaps the most important thing we can do to value our children’s intuition is to allow them to use it. If we jump into their day with constant messages to be careful, responsible, realistic…we are interfering with their ability to tune into their guidance system with all of our noise. We are encouraging them to use rationality over intuition. As you call out “be careful of the…”, think how necessary it really is. If you’re about to say “muddy puddle”, stop yourself. If you’re about to say “4-lane motorway”, go ahead. When we let our children make lots of their own decisions in their own way, they get the opportunity to test out different decision-making processes, including following their intuition. They will get to know which processes have lead to outcomes that work well for them.
We won’t usually be able to see for ourselves how our children have reached a decision but we may sometimes be able to reflect with them on how they made it in order to bring them to greater awareness of their processes (depending on their age). We may ask, “Did you think about it with your brain or did you feel it with your heart?” As they get older, we may find that they are able to give us more detail about their decision-making process, including any conflict they experienced between, say, intuition and rationality. By doing this, we help them to recognise which approach they used and to consider how well it worked as a decision-making strategy.
I am not anti-rationality. I think it’s a God-given function of our brain, useful for dealing with many of the practicalities of life. For many decisions we make in a day, we have no particular intuitive reading and a rational decision is a good one. But, for me, when I do get a message from God, I’m listening to Him, not my brain. If our children have made a brain-based decision despite having a sense within that it wasn’t right, I think it’s important to be gentle with them. They have not made a mistake. They have not upset God (He’s never upset with us). They are not bad decision-makers. It is simply a learning experience.
Ask Questions When a child has an issue or decision to work through that they wish to involve us in, the questions we use to help them are important. They need to direct the child inward, to their sense of what feels right and the questions also need to be open to allow any answer. “What does your heart tell you?” or “what do you feel?”, for example. Here, we are not asking them to “think” about the situation, a conversation about pros and cons etc, for example, would only put their thoughts at the forefront and likely drown out their intuitive knowing. If a head-led discussion is required, it would probably be better had at a separate time.
Presence & Stillness I’m starting to sound like a broken record on the topic of presence and stillness. But I really do think we all need quiet time to hear our intuition. As the primary organisers of our children’s day, I think it is essential to organise some unstructured time they can spend by themselves if they choose to. In a day, there will be a lot of decisions they are making and issues they are sorting through that we are not aware of. Providing them with regular down time allows them the calm they may need to do this.
It is currently the school holidays and, as much as possible, I have tried to make sure we have half of each day at home for Jake and Thomas to do as they please. We even had a whole day at home on Wednesday. I’d planned for us to go to the library to get a stash of books but they were so happy and absorbed in their creativity that it seemed better to allow them to continue with their play. When we play, we are fully present and operate purely from our natural inclination. I believe that, in this mode, we can receive God’s messages more easily.
I haven’t coached my boys through much decision-making given their young ages (2 & 5 years) and that I’m only just beginning to think about how to help them to live intuitively as I learn to do so myself. But, when they are working through something with me and they are feeling confused or emotional, play might be the answer. It could help their thoughts and emotions to settle so they can sense what feels right. As they get older, Jake and Thomas are likely to develop a few favourite activities for taking a break and, when they’re needing clarity, I could encourage them to do those things.
I also hope to discover and share with my boys a few simple techniques for clearing their heads and becoming present. Perhaps just going to a quiet place to slow down and watch their breath for a few minutes. Or, even, just to take a some focussed breaths wherever they are to return to the moment if they’re not able to withdraw at the time. I’m not a meditator myself (yet, it may happen) but I have started to try and spend some time “sitting with God” each day. I stop for ten minutes of quiet solitude and sit, knowing God is with me. Sometimes we have a cup of tea together, sometimes I close my eyes to focus inward. When needing clarity or reassurance, I might ask a question. Sometimes, I sense an answer almost right away. Sometimes, it comes to me a little later. Sometimes, I feel reassured that there is nothing to do right now but to wait and trust. I commit to not making my decision or taking action until I have heard God’s answer. I wait in faith that it will come. I could introduce Jake and Thomas, when the right moment presents itself (as it seems to do), to sitting with God and suggest they do so at times when they are in need of clarity.
Our Bodies send us Signals
I’ve heard it said that many of our body’s responses to situations are the movement of Spirit within us. Most people are familiar with that “gut feeling” we sometimes get that something is wrong or that we should do something in particular (then later regret ignoring!)
I have had a few experiences recently which have had me wondering about how God uses our body to communicate with us. When I got the inspiration to write this blog, I felt an energy flowing through my body, filling me up. When I attended Jack’s first school assembly recently, I felt the prick of tears in my eyes followed by a remembering of how much it meant to me to be a teacher. And whenever I hear the first few notes of the song “Ellis Island” by The Corrs, I get a shiver down my back and goosebumpy arms and I did so even before I listened to the lyrics for the first time (about people’s experience of immigrating to the USA in the hope of a better life).
In all of these experiences, I couldn’t name an emotion, I just felt a resonating within me. An emotion is a response to a thought but I wasn’t aware of having thoughts in these moments. Yet, many emotions have physical responses too, such as the restlessness of anxiety and the heaviness of sadness. So, is there a difference between intuitive physical responses and emotional physical responses? Do our emotions play any role in intuition? I’d really like to figure these things out. If I could help Jake and Thomas to recognise that their bodies can indicate that something is of significance, it could be very helpful to them. “Do you feel anything in your body that might be showing you something?”
Sharing our own experiences is a helpful way to introduce spiritual ideas and open up conversation about them with our children. Our sharing gives the language, gives examples and shows it’s important. We can describe how we have recognised intuition, intuitive decisions we have made, steps we have taken to invite and connect with God’s guidance. We might also want to share stories of times we haven’t followed intuition.
This is, I know, rather a speculative blog post. Most of the ideas I’ve suggested for encouraging our children to use their intuition I haven’t started using yet. But intuition told me to write the post – probably to get me started! And perhaps to get you started too.
How can we distinguish emotions from higher intelligence – do they work together or are they separate
Understanding that God is within us, rather than separate from us, supports the idea of going within for intuitive guidance but how can I help my boys to make sense of the idea?
How else does God communicate with us, apart from through intuition, eg. synchronicity?
Much love to you and your little souls,
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Before having Jake, I lived a tightly-scheduled life. It was a fine balance trying to “keep all the balls in the air”. At that point, I had a sense that life wasn’t meant to be lived with so much structure and so much to do but I didn’t dare drop a ball. Then Jake came along. As a baby, he didn’t nap for more than 40 minutes at a time and, when he wasn’t sleeping, he constantly wanted to be held – by someone who was standing up and not in a front pack or sling. A day spent standing up with a baby over my shoulder was exhausting. But worse than that was the incredible frustration of not being able to get anything done. Sometimes he’d fall asleep on me while feeding. I didn’t dare move him incase he woke but I’d feel stuck, angry even, that he wasn’t in his cot so I could use his nap time to do something. (On retrospect, maybe God was trying to give me some rest!) Many of the balls I had been juggling promptly fell to the ground and I felt that I was failing.
But, over time, I shifted gears. It seemed to partly happen on its own, just by being in Jake’s presence. He was never in a rush or concerned by the dishes stacked on the kitchen bench. I realised I had to pick which balls to juggle and which to let go of. Of course, I never dropped the love-and-care-for-my-baby ball but I learned to sometimes let someone else carry it for a while. I did let go of the regular-contact-with-friends ball and the clean-and-tidy house ball and the keep-fit ball. All of which I have picked up again as the boys have gotten older and it has seemed more manageable but with far fewer expectations.
Dropping all of these self-imposed obligations created the opportunity to sometimes JUST BE. I am no longer attached to the madness of constantly doing. It is an enormous relief and has added such depth to my life. I enjoy doing puzzles with Thomas and building Lego with Jake without being distracted by things I feel I “should” be doing. I’d be lying if I said I am always present with them but I am much less torn between BEING with my boys and tasks that need to be done. I compartmentalise better, trying to give my full attention to whatever is at hand. I measure my day by the quality of my time, not what I produced.
So, three years after Jake’s birth, I was able to enjoy Thomas’ babyhood a lot more. It wasn’t easy-breezy, I especially found it hard to meet both of their very different needs at the same time. But, if Thomas fell asleep on me and Jake was ok, instead of worrying about the housework, I enjoyed JUST BEING with Thomas or listening to an inspirational audio book. Instead of surrounding Thomas in the anxious energy I had Jake (I’m so sorry Jake), I bathed him in my contentment & peace & joy in him. It felt like time well-used.
WHY WE NEED TO JUST BE
Presence and stillness have so many benefits. We’ve heard research sited showing that the health of people who regularly spend time in prayer or meditation is better than that of people who don’t. We know the refreshed and alive feeling we have after taking time to do the thing that absorbs us so much that we loose track of time. And have you noticed that your best ideas come to you when you’re not trying? Mine usually come to me in the shower or when I’m out on a walk – when I’m quiet enough within to hear the guidance I’m being given.
“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.” – Eckhart Tolle
JUST BEING is, from my experience, a spiritual practice. Without the busy noise of our minds, we can feel the energy of Life. We can sense more easily what it has to say to us. I want Jake and Thomas to be able to go about their day with presence and to be able to stop at times in order to fill their tanks, reflect & hear the voice of their own spirits. If they are to be able to live their own truth, our children need to be able to connect with it first and, as their parents, we are the ones to teach them how to do it.
There’s a lot we can do. There are two things I do at the moment that I think help my children to JUST BE at their young ages (2 and 5 years):
1) Show them, model for them, how to take time to be present and still.
2) Give them unstructured, quiet time to be present and still.
1) Show Them
I think being a model is one of the most powerful tools we have as parents. If our children watch us constantly busy, not taking time to focus on this moment or to enjoy ourselves, rest and connect with God, they are going to believe that that is how life is lived. Don’t we want more for them – both in adulthood and in their childhood years? When they enjoy my undivided attention as we play together or see me take 5 minutes to play the piano or are asked not to disturb me because I’m having “quiet time” in my room, I’m showing them that these practices of JUST BEING have an important place in my day. They may also notice that, when I don’t do these things, my patience is shorter and I become more preoccupied with my to-dos. As Jake is getting older, I find myself naturally telling him a bit more about how these habits connect me with myself and God. (I’ve only been discussing who God is relatively recently so it’s baby steps at the moment)
2) Give them unstructured, quiet time
I have always been very careful to preserve Jake and Thomas’ unstructured, at-home time. Now in his first term at school, Jake has no after-school activities because my husband and I feel he needs time to rest and not be “on”. When he’s in his room playing with his Lego, I consider it his spiritual quiet time. He is present, following his own rhythm, resting his body and mind. Once he has adjusted to his new life as a school-by, we’ll have more playdates and consider 1 or 2 extra-curricular activities. If there’s an activity he’s keen to do or we think could be a match for him, we’ll sign him up to have a go. But, most afternoons he needs to be at home. From what I have seen, over-scheduling only exhausts children, gives the message that they must do, do, do & achieve, achieve, achieve in life and robs them of their time to connect with themselves & God.
CHILDREN WILL SHOW US HOW TO JUST BE
However, this task of teaching a way of life that embraces presence and stillness may not be as big as we think. Because the best example I have of JUST BEING is my children themselves. This is their natural state and perhaps our job is more to preserve it than teach it anew. When I’m rushing to get Thomas to his Mainly Music session and he’s insisting on getting out of the car by himself (so slow!) then discovers the puddle in the gutter, begging to be splashed in, he’s enjoying what’s happening now, not thinking about the time on the clock.
One morning recently, when he was supposed to be getting dressed for school, Jake asked me to watch him “dive” off the sofa into the “sea” to go “scuba diving”. I took the time to watch his enactment, made an affirming remark and went back to filling the lunchboxes in the kitchen. A few minutes later, I realised it had gone very quiet out there in the lounge. Suspicious, I went in to see what was going on. Jake was still lying on the floor where I had left him. Knowing he’s been feeling tired since starting school, I said “are you feeling OK, Jake?” His reply was, “Yes, I’m just sinking”. It took me a moment to realise that his role play hadn’t finished and he was imagining that he was sinking deeper & deeper into the ocean. I had been intending to tell him to keep moving, we needed to get to school, but, instead, I left him to it. For a few minutes, he had disconnected from the busyness of the morning to be present with his creativity & dreams. My heart sang (and we still got to school on time).
Are there any spiritual practices for stillness that I could teach my boys now, suitable for their age?
How can I encourage presence in the moment as they get older and their minds are more likely to distract them?
How can I put more stillness and presence in my own day as an example to my children and for myself?
Much love to you and your little souls,
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We tend to think of childhood as preparation for adulthood and almost forget that childhood has its own value. Our lives start from the moment we are conceived, not on our 18th birthday. Why not aim for happy, confident, spiritually-connected children who can continue that way into adulthood? I believe we are born aligned with Life but we are quickly socialised to align ourselves instead with such fleeting things as achievement, ownership and social popularity. Then, consciously or not, we spend the rest of our lives trying to return to the connected state we arrived in! As our spirituality is often ignored by the adults in our young lives, we may not know how to reconnect. If we think of parenting as helping our children to stay in the spiritually-aligned state in which they arrive, we will see that there is no need to control and micro-manage them as we often do.
So, it is not our job to make our children into who they are. God has already done that and who are we to interfere with Her divine plan?! Our children are not here to:
live the life we wanted.
be who we wish we could be.
mini versions of ourselves (1 is plenty!).
be socially acceptable.
be our trophies.
SO WHAT IS OUR JOB AS PARENTS?
To nurture their souls.
“We want what we consider to be “best” for our children, but in seeking to bring this about, we can easily forget that the most important issue is their right to be their own person and lead their own life in accord with their unique spirit”. – Dr Shefali Tsabary, “The Conscious Parent”.
And how do we nurture them, spiritually? I have had to start a blog to figure this out! Everything I write will ultimately be part of the answer to this question. Having barely begun, I can only speak (write) generally for now and hope that more clarity comes over time. Spiritual nurturing seems to require that we begin with our awareness of our children’s truth and their awareness of themselves:
1. Be present with our children so that we can see who they truly are – eg. what absorbs them? what are their strengths? what’s important to them? how do they respond to different situations & people?… Our children can show us who they are and what they need. We can then make parenting decisions based on what we know is true for them.
2. Help our children to be self-aware through conversation – eg. their thoughts & feelings, what you notice about them, reflections on their behaviour… These discussions would sound very different with a 3-year-old than a 16-year-old. Sometimes, they’ll be a 30-second exchange, sometimes they’ll exceed an hour.
THE NEXT STEP: PARENTING FROM LOVE VS FEAR
Having made a commitment to really know our children and help them to know themselves, we must then parent them according to what we have discovered. This is unconditional love.
As parents, I think we can fall into the trap of focusing on what we perceive as our children’s shortcomings, a deficit-based approach. We concentrate too much on filling in the gaps but don’t always succeed because this wasn’t how they were meant to be. Filling in the gaps of a sieve changes what it is and doesn’t allow it to perform it’s function anymore. Often we do this gap-filling in a well-intended effort to protect our children from failure (academic, social, physical…). Sometimes it’s because we believe our children reflect upon ourselves and we wish to stand proudly in front of others, not embarrassed. But this is fear-based parenting.
Wouldn’t we rather parent from love? With a child-led approach, we put our resources into growing our children’s God-given uniqueness. We give love to all aspects of them – love that grows their strengths and supports them through struggles without judgment. When parenting from love, rather than fear, the results are so much more satisfying – our relationship with our children deepens, they thrive.
IN SUMMARY: PERFECT AS THEY ARE
I see the thoughtfulness & kindness my son shows towards his best friend & his brother and I know that his sense for other people’s needs is one of his gifts. He is wonderful as he is, already making a difference in this world, even though he is only 5, writes half the letters of the alphabet backwards and leaves his Lego scattered over his bedroom floor. Think of how watching a newborn baby stirs our souls, reminding us of our own innocence & potential – people have an impact from birth, doing nothing but being themselves! From the womb, even, we affect those around us – just knowing her baby is cuddled up inside changes a woman and creates anticipation in those around her. Souls arrive, as babies, already contributing. When we, as their parents, have faith in our children, we encourage and allow them to be the perfect souls that they already are.
From the moment I knew I was pregnant with each of my sons, I was so excited to see who God had blessed me with. I love getting to know the complexities of their personalities. I love seeing how naturally connected with Spirit they are. God has put my boys in my care but they do not belong to me. I am honoured to be entrusted with the task of nurturing their little souls.
I can see that writing this blog is going to raise more questions than answers! Some of my remaining questions:
How do I make sure I am nurturing a little soul, not a little ego? What do I do with the ego?!
What does all this mean for discipline?
How do I nurture a little soul and help them develop practical skills to equip them for living in the physical world, especially when their inclination or aptitude for a skill seems a mismatch for who they are?
Much love to you and your little souls,
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