Finding Faith Though Motherhood

photoYou may be asking yourself: “How does this relate to mothering?” My answer: In every way. It relates in every way imaginable for my faith is the foundation for my role as a mother.

Before my son was born I have had a long journey with my own faith in God. I was raised in a household that did not speak much of the spiritual world, though I was never hindered and always had a sense that I was protected and cared for by something greater than what I found in front of me. At some point I must have heard of prayer as I remember doing this as a child. When I went to college I never lost faith in God, but stopped turning to my faith and my prayers to guide my life. I accomplished MUCH in my early twenties owed to what I thought was my own strength with just a dash of something greater than myself. I was conceited though and mostly just thought of how awesome I was because of everything that I could do.

Then came the dark times. We all have dark times, but this is the dark time of my spirituality. I met the man that would become my husband and we never spoke of faith. The more we got involved, the more I realized that he had apathy and resistance to faith. He was very logical; I say was becasue that has changed and has since strengthened our marriage. But during these times whenever I would rely on my faith that always sat there waiting, he would have a HUGE problem with this. He did not understand how I could just assume that ‘things would work out.’ My answer was that I didn’t know, but they do always, always work out for some reason I could not explain. So I burried my faith deep within and suddenly God was worlds away, always watching me of course, but I wasn’t watching Him.

Then I went to Waldorf Teacher Training. That was a mind blowing, no, mind obliterating experience. We were challenged to deeply ponder our spiritual views through movement, art, literature, meditative work, poetry, philosophy, singing, speech and group work. During the foundation year I walked through the eye of the needle and came out what I can only describe as a more complete version of myself. I shed a LOT of the ridiculous and stupid parts of myself. I also came out knowing a bit more of what I wanted in life, which was a working and daily relationship with God. I missed Him and wanted Him back, but I still sat silently wanting….wanting something I did not have a clue how to get. I still had an inner battle with my husband who I did not feel comfortable sharing this with. Then in my second year of teacher training…BOOM…like a bomb (I literally had a dream of a nuclear explosion) I knew deep in my heart that I had a child waiting to come to us. I don’t know how to explain this, but I KNEW! Then over the next 10 months I prayed and journeled to God and to my son that was waiting. In those months I became much more open with my husband that I was spiritual and he needed to find a way to at least support me in this. He didn’t have to understand or even become spiritual but he HAD to realize that I had a connection and my faith-based decisions must be respected. Slowely he must have heard me, really heard me, because against all of the practical things in life he decided that it was time to let this person into our lives…the next month I was pregnant.

When my Son was born, it became obvious that I needed God in order to raise my child, I needed information that was fr more intelligent and divine than I had in my meager sleep-deprived brain. I knew I needed to deepen my relationship but somehow really struggled with feeling close to God, or as close as I felt I could be. As a Waldorf teacher, we work a lot with the qualities of Christ in ourselves. In the teacher training it was not necessary to become a Christian, but looking at how Jesus lived his life in forgiveness, compassion, understanding, empathy etc and trying to be like this as a teacher is essential. We must understand the children and think of them and what they need and see how we can be better for them. So intellectually I was trying to have these qualities. Then on the other side I had my wanting to speak to God. Wanting…because I don’t think I heard him then. I think I strived and was constantly wanting more. This is hard to describe but I feel that it was a slowely igniting fire that I didn’t notice until it was blazing and engulfing my life. Like in the back of my mind and heart there was this tapping that I was confused about. I was still trying to be like Christ, but I never connected that to my spirituality. Weird, I know!

Within the course of a year my whole life turned upside down. I realized that our current life in Seattle devoid of community and full of empty busyness was the opposite of what we needed to survive as a family, let alone thrive. My husband followed his insticts and we came to portland to be near my best friend’s family. I decided to work less and focus more energy on my own family and self care. We found a church that we absolutely love and I began focusing my energy on the community of people I was building around me. Now that I had time in my life I started asking how I could help the people around me. Now I finally had time to slow down and actually work on my relationship with God. I worked more with my spiritual practices and study. I found new questions to ask that led me to places that gave me more questions and more answers. I became more vulnerable and more able to really listen to what I needed to hear. Closer and closer I stepped into the part of my soul that was silently blazing.

Then, one day I saw it. Fires exploding all around me. I turned that corner in my soul and there it was all along. In that moment I knew it had always been there, faithfully waiting for me. The answer to the biggest question I had been asking God. My prayers: “Help me be closer to you. Please help me see the way closer to you. I see you standing there across the deepest chasm and I want to fly across into your arms but I don’t know how.”

Slowly I am shedding the layers of what I have been told about myself by my parents, by society and by my own negative thoughts. I see now the joy in a life lived in compassion and contemplation, a life lived in the service of others. A life where I am a vessel for good that will walk the path lit by God.  I want to become a partner with God to raise my children they way they need to be raised. I have always known this about myself but now I am truly making this decision and declaration that my spirituality, my drive and my lifes work are all connected. I am choosing to be reborn as who I am meant to be. I am of course I work in progress and will fail as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and human being over and over, but now I have a hand to hold to find my way back.

I’ve always had faith, but it was about ME. Now it’s about others. Now it is about my husband and above all, its about the children I will be blessed with in this life. Once I found that person in my life, my son, who can only thrive when I put him above everything, I discovered that true selflessness can bring a joy that I never imagined. I always thought I needed God in order to truly see my child, but now I see that it’s more than that; I also needed my son to help me truly see God.

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Finding Peace in One Simple Movement

ImageThis has been a hard week for me. I have felt very raw due to the recent world events and some of my own personal struggles (when it rains it pours, right?). I’m sure many of you feel the same, well,  it is now time for peace.

Here is a simple Eurythmy movement that I practice over and over when I need to feel at peace. ‘Hallelujah’ in movement. I do this 2 – 3 times and then follow with a 5 minute meditation where I gently breath ‘peace’ with every outbreath. Eventually, the peace comes back and washes over you. I hope this helps if you need a good reset of your emotions.

Preserving the Spiritual World for Our Children. (Part One)

429152_4683414595668_1713125482_nWhen our little ones come into the world they see the spiritual world as clear, or perhaps more clear, than they see this world. We live in a culture that all too often denies the possibility of a living, tangible spiritual world; it is my belief that we are all suffering from this. It’s a trend to tell children the ‘truth’ about the world and shut down their dreaminess; we think we are being helpful when we explain nature and spirituality to them…as if we would know a thing. We have lost this sense in our life, we are too educated and do not ponder anymore about what is possible beyond what we know. Often people who believe in God and the Afterlife are seen as delusional; those who let faith guide their lives are seen as naive.

I cannot possibly understand what living in a spiritual-rich world be, as I have long lost this. I can imagine though, about the wonders that my son sees. At night when we pray, he is so responsive and listens to my words to God; I imagine that he can feel the increasing warmth around us and see beautiful changes in the air as we work with the spiritual world. When we dig in the garden he points at the dirt and excitedly exclaims, “WOW!” over and over and I wonder if he sees the spiritual beings working with us as we tend to the earth. On walks he will stop and wave at the little buds of leaves blossoming on the branches or droplets of water on new grass and I wonder what delights he finds in them that would merit a wave. Sometimes he will stop what he is doing and just lay down and gaze at the ceiling, softly singing and babbling; I imagine that he is talking to Angels or God and think of how wonderful that must be. Of course these are all speculations based on my own limited adult imaginations; I bet he sees something far, far more magical.

I have lost this sense long, long ago; possibly in my adolescent years. I remember being dreamy and being severely scolded for this by my teachers. I have now spent the better part of ten years trying to grasp onto what’s left and bring back a semblance of what I had as a young child. Now I am also finding myself in the task of preserving this for my son. He now lives fully in this world but everyday takes one step further from it. When he leaves his early childhood behind, this will change and he will naturally WANT to enter the real world more fully, but I can do my best to keep the outside world from taking this from him before he is ready. The longer I can preserve his spiritual foundation, the better it will serve him in his adult life.

I am not suggesting that it is the job of teachers and parents to educate their children on religion and to offer prayer in schools because these are HUGE debates right now. I am also not suggesting that you ‘make believe’  that you see fairies, the easter bunny or santa; THAT is a lie because you don’t see them and it will be false to them. I am thinking of how we need to let children dream into this world while they still can; dream into nature, dream into the spiritual and dream into the imagination; places we can no longer see with our limited adult eyes. In school there would be little children that would play with ‘fairies’ or imaginary friends and older children would tell them that they are lying or that those things aren’t ‘real,’ no doubt heard from parents or teachers. My simple response would be that it was real for them even though we can’t see it and we must respect this. Some people have lost the sight for the magical and the spiritual and in a world full of pain and heartache, don’t you think we ought to protect these gifts that our children bring to us? We often think that we need to teach our children what is real and not real, true and false, right and wrong; but perhaps if we listen and watch, we will see that they know far more than us.

This is part one or a two-part post. In the next post I will go more into how to preserve this spiritual world.

Three Simple Ways to Keep Calm in The Storm: A Helpful Tool For Handling Crying, Whining, Tantrums and Fights.

ImageFind your feet, find your breath, find you light. Repeat it with me: “find my feet, find my breath, find my light.”

1. Find your feet – Imagine roots growing deep down into the earth from your toes, heals, arch, everywhere.

2. Find your breath -Now, find your breath and keep it soft and deep.

3: Find your light – Find the soft spot in your heart and imagine a ball of warm light growing to fill every space in the room with its warmth. Your chest opens, your shoulders relax and you feel as if wings are growing from this light.

These are 3 of many exercises I learned in Waldorf Teacher Training. I found that once I forgot most of them, these were the 3 that I always come back to. When everyone is screaming at me and I feel trapped in the emotional turmoil, taking 30 seconds to do this frees me and I am once again a successful mother.

Optional 4: Ask God for help If not God, then Mother Earth, Angels, or the Collected Human Consciousness. If you believe in spiritual helpers, use them; they are always here to help you, you need only ask.

Six Meditations to Help Keep Your Calm

I find that I rely heavily on God to help me care for children. I feel that parenting and teaching by myself without higher help is impossible and I seek a greater and wiser knowledge for a lot of my needs. It is quite daunting to face the challenge of raising a child from infancy to adulthood, and beyond. It just all gets so, so, so overwhelming when you think about all the little intricacies that go into parenting. When I remember to ask for help from God, I find the strength I need to take on the great challenge of being a mother. In addition to asking for Gods help every day, and every night before bed, there are a multitude of meditations that help me throughout the day. As for your own spiritual work this is a deeply personal issue, but as for these meditations, they can simply be seen as relaxation exercises. Though I find that in doing these meditations I am working with a greater wisdom than myself.

Pillar of light – I find that this exercise is perfect for it in the moment. When things get so challenging that you feel completely defeated this can help bring you back to your greater self. Amid-st all of the chaos find yourself standing in a standing position. Now imagine that behind you there is a pillar or column of warm light rooted in the center of the earth and streaming straight up to the sky. Now slowly, as you feel the heat of the pillar on your back, step backwards into the pillar. Feel your feet grounded into the earth as roots streaming down, and feel the light holding you up, pulling your chest up and pulling your chin high. You can do this one  over and over and over again until you feel the relaxing affects. This is so good for those really, really hard moments.

Sculpting Exercise –  This is a exercise that I do before bedtime. You close your eyes, and imagine this face of your child when he or she is at a time that they’re struggling immensely and you feel frustrated. Now imagine that face, that frustrated angry face, and slowly begin to re-sculpt that face into the face of your happy content feeling child.What you’re doing is not trying to turn your child into that happy child because of your own will, but you’re helping your mind see your child as this essentially happy being. So when they are having their very hard times you can help to see them in a positive light. To end this exercise, after you have found their happy, calm face; you then let it fade into black and then simply ask the question “how can I help”? The answer may or may not come, but by simply asking this you’re not only reminding yourself that you are helping your child, but you’re reminding that greater power that you are here to help these little people become adults the best that you can.

Review of the Day in this exercise you imagine yourself looking at your day from above, as if you were a ghost floating just 10 feet above you. Then you watch your day backwards just observing and taking in the events that have taken place, without judgment or commentary. Allow yourself to see your day as it has happened. I find that this exercise is hard for me to do, it feels lengthy in my mind, so I often skip it. So one thing that helps me is that instead of doing a review of the entire day, I will review challenging moments in the day from the same observing objective place.

Steiner s Six Subsidiary Exercises – These six exercises (see here at this link) I pick and choose and do them as I see fit. Sometimes I do them a month at a time every day, and sometimes I  do them once every day alternating exercises. I find that I gravitate towards the positivity exercise and the gratitude exercise the most.

Prayer – It sounds simple enough, and really it is. Every night before bed I pray. I hold my hands together and I ask God to help me raise my child. Every time I having a struggle I ask God to help me find strength to do the best I can. By doing this as much as I need, it reminds me that I am not alone in my parenting and that there is someone greater and wiser that will help me through every single day.

Finding Your Feet – I know that this does not seem like a spiritual exercise, and perhaps it isn’t. It is still a very useful tool when things get quite chaotic and crazy and feel out of control. You plant your feet firmly on the ground and imagine roots growing from them pulling you to the center of the earth. It helps ground me and find my way through tricky situations.

More Resources

If you follow this link here, you will find a book called Spiritual InsightsThis book is a tool that I use almost daily.

This book has a misleading title: Working with Anxious Nervous and Depressed Children. It should be: Working with Every Child. The introduction has quite a bit to say on our spiritual work with children, I recommend it if you are a spiritual person or have an open mind as it talks freely of Angels and God as well as some thick Anthroposophy. I read the intro when I need a refresher.

Now I know that spirituality is a deeply personal issue and everyone has a different idea of what this means to them. But this is something I just felt like I wanted to share with you all. This is something that I find to be the foundation to my parenting. Without my spiritual practice I would completely and fail as a parent. When I forget to do my spiritual practice, I slip and fall. When I remember to reach out for help, I find my strength and courage to do one of the most important jobs in the world.

Please share your thoughts on meditation and spirituality and how it does or does not fit into your parenting.

Holding Baby with your Heart: No Babywearing Required!

To begin, I would not describe myself as a babywearer, but I do wear my 9 month old from time to time. For instance, it is much more convenient than a stroller when going in and out of shops. It is also a necessity when I garden in the front of my house, as he would crawl away and get into the less baby friendly plants I have there. When he was a newborn I held and wore him quite a bit for my own comfort, but I always made sure that he had time on his back on his own to move his body. I recently read an article suggesting that babies NEED to be worn in a carrier for the first 9 months of their lives; I do not agree with. I do not agree that we are neglecting our babies basic needs if we give them time on their own, in fact, I believe that we ARE meeting their needs when we allow independence to freely move their new bodies and experience the new world on their own.

“Young babies need both to be held and to be able to move freely in their cribs. Often parents believe holding is good, being left alone in a crib is not. I believe babies need both. There are sound physiological reasons why a newborn should not be held all of the time. To begin with, he must adapt to his new capabilities outside of the womb, by kicking, stretching, curling and uncurling his body. IN a crib (or playpen) he can do this at will-and with ease.” ~Magda Gerber

The thing that got to me a bit in this article was how it criticizes the idea that infants CAN be happy alone in a crib or on a blanket. Some babies, such as mine, were OVER stimulated being held by us all the time. When we finally listened to him instead of listening to parenting methods and books, we found that he thrived from having time to himself. That being said, she does point out a lot of positive things about what babies need. She speaks of the simplicity and quiet that newborns need and the importance of touch in infancy and childhood. I think that it is good to have this information for balance; between giving them physical and emotional attention as well then letting them have some space to themselves. Wear your baby from time to time if that is what you like, but perhaps think of the benefit even tiny newborns might receive from even 5 minute intervals of time alone (in a safe place) on their backs to move on their own accord. Lisa Sunbury articulates nicely: “Ideally, young babies are placed on their back not just for sleep, but for play time as well, because this is the position that most supports their bodies, and in which they are most relaxed, and free to move.”

I believe that Elizabeth, the author of this article, does make a good point, babies DO need a more womb-like protection for the first year (or more) of their lives. But this does not necessarily have to mean a physical womb-like protection. There is a kind of ‘holding’ we can do as mothers and caretakers that takes place in our hearts and minds; we can create an atmosphere for the child that is filled with the warmth and protection they need. When my son is out on his own in the space around me, I am always ‘holding’ him with me; in the way I move and the songs I sing and even in my quiet meditative thoughts (when I can keep them calm and tame that is). In Anthroposphy, the image of the Madonna and child is a meditation for how we relate to young children. I interpret this as creating a peaceful and spiritual ambiance for the child as well as a protective, loving presence in our actions and our thoughts. Even in how we work with our environment and objects within by carefully handling everything with slow, patient movements to imbue the entire space with peace and calm.

Magda spoke of how when we sit and observe our children in their triumphs and challenges, sharing in their discovery of their unfolding world, this is how we give them the quality time they need. On one of Janet Lansbury’s blog posts, she writes about how “wants nothing” quality time “can encompass a wide range of experiences, but all we are asked to do is pay attention and have no agenda of our own. It can mean being quietly available as a baby explores patterns of light on a blanket beneath him, or standing nearby while he has a screaming meltdown because he cannot have another cookie. It may be trickier to see the benefit for parents and caregivers in this latter scenario, but it is clarity. When we pay full attention to our child for intervals each day, no matter what the tone of our exchange or the outcome is, we are giving him the quality time he needs. We are doing our job.”

It is in these quiet movements of reflective observation that we can connect with these new beings. We can create a “womb-like” and spiritual environment for our little ones and create connection through observation. It is with these two things in mind that I spent my time with young children as a teacher and now with my son as a mother.

If you do choose to wear you baby around a lot, spine safety for the infant must be taken into account, as well as proper posture for the wearer. There are certain carriers and positions that could be harmful for your child, such as forward facing positions and unsupportive/uncomfortable slings and wraps. I think baby-wearing is a matter of ones own choice, it works for some and that is fine but when physically holding your baby around the clock doesn’t work for you anymore, that is just fine as well and you will both benefit from some space.