Just questions, no answers

Like most people on this planet, we’ve been undergoing huge shifts and transitions over the past year.

Our son, now in 8th grade, who has been in either Waldorf School or Homeschooled his whole life, began attending public Jr. High, in a huge city. The days are crammed, classes are  40 min. long, material is rushed, there are 8 periods, and 33 kids in his class, and for the first time in his life he’s being rushed, pressured, stretched, and overall being asked to “deal”, stay up late, get up early, and produce work. His teachers are overall, and all things considering, quite good, and some even create interesting assignments, but the result of all of the above is a kid who prefers to “check out” and watch The Walking Dead (??) or video games when there is not something he is being made to do. “ I just want to escape the nightmare mom, for a little longer.” “Mom, the whole thing is so pointless, I’m not even learning anything, I forget it as soon as I don’t even need to know it any longer.” Socially he is fine, unlike my own experiences at that age, the kids are all quite pleasant to each-other. However, he missed 5 days since September due to illness and he got behind, and since there is a somewhat factory-like system to it all, he can’t catch his breath nor catch up. From 5 isolated days.  There are 4 minutes in between periods, so there is precious little time to talk with a teacher after class. I suspect those of us who are used to asserting ourselves and know how to be proactive would find this difficult to navigate. Yes, he is learning how to deal with these things, but in the meantime the freight train speeds ahead. There is no time for mistakes, and less time than none to correct them. And I don’t remember kids being strung out because they did not have the math gene.  Maybe they were, and I was not aware? Woe is the child who is not brilliant in math these days.

Yet, on the other hand the pushing has shown him he can write, something he was loathe to do before, he is learning how to organize himself, and that it matters.  He is also learning to see areas where he has abilities that he’d taken for granted.  All this is wonderful, and things we’d hoped he’d discover in school. Things we could not provide the right inspiration and motivation to discover at home.  Ha! He’s also learning to appreciate his life before school.

I find myself torn, constantly, between warring questions about what is the best thing to do. One the one hand, we all need to learn how to “deal”. We all need to learn how to navigate the reality that life is not always pleasant, and that people will demand we do things that we neither like, nor agree with, nor even believe in, and that in some cases we must. Yet, I spend much time trying to craft my own life into one where the pace is human. Don’t we all read memes like this every day on facebook? I find that health and wholeness is more available when surrounded by beauty and up until this point, this was the parameter for our family. (Aside form my husband who works his butt off everyday and an hour long commute into the city.)

With all this weighing heavily in my mind, I watched a kid speak the other day of the irony of schools never teaching us what we as adults struggle to do our entire adult lives, which is live a fulfilling, satisfying, life full of joy and richness and meaning. And I wonder, is this challenge we are putting our son through, really the right thing to do? Is it going to make things better for him, or worse?  What happens to children when they are rushed beyond their natural inner rhythms? Is this where those deep health issues begin?  Must it be a choice between character growth and physical health?

Initially, we realized that homeschooling was not working because there was nobody or nothing to motivate our then 13 year old to test himself, to try new things. He is reflective, and creative by nature, but also one who naturally takes the easiest road possible. Less is more, is his motto for living.  He was wanting to spend more and more time on his iPad.  I have been told this is a natural state for young teens, but still it was very difficult to watch, and hold back the rushing river was even harder.  I am not a scheduler, by nature, and as an artist and herb crafter my work is one that requires some degree of quiet mental space and reflection time. At first this worked well and beautifully. He’d be home at times, and out at times taking some classes or playing in the park in the afternoons each day. In between we’d spend a few concentrated hours at home learning meaningful things. But, there came a point when he needed to be out and about more, to be challenged more and by other people, than I could provide.  As I mentioned earlier, he is not a natural out-and about-er, so it would take much effort on my part to make things happen. With a 7 year old, or a 10 year old, this is all fine an dandy, but with a teen who is starting to declare their independence? Battles and strife. The end result after a year of  much discussion was a unanimous decision that school was the next best step. He was excited for it. Private tuition was out of the question so the local public school it would be.

Sadly, school, especially here, and especially public school is not what it was 30 years ago. Class periods are bizarrely short, and teachers are pushed to race through material to be ready for the statewide testing, and now with the new Core Curriculum, the testing stakes are even higher and the material even more convoluted. Even Art class is contrived to meet “Educational Standards.” (I have the deepest admiration for his art teacher who seems to really strive to find a creative solution to the the DoE shackles.)  The kids are part of a machine that is running for someone else’s benefit, no their own.

So here we are perched waiting to see what each day brings and hoping for answers.  The questions circle my mind and tangle up from time to time.  I completely disagree with the whole system, yet, I wonder if my own vision of life and aesthetic and philosophy is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place. Was life too good, too beautiful, to relaxed for his development and growth of character? I wonder. Like I said, I have no answers and way too many questions.

The gentle healing art of storytelling, part I

 

   “There are times when people need stories more than they need nourishment, because the stories feed something deeper than the needs of the body.” 

         Charles DeLint, The Onion Girl


The power of a story.  Huge.  We can nearly touch the magnificence that is the universe when the gift of a word meets with the creativity of the imagination.  There is a reason this art has existed for millennia and was integral to each and every culture.

Music and Poetry are also a healing art and another form of storytelling but perhaps less accessible to the average person than is the telling of a tale.  We can all tell a story. When we create a picture with our imaginations, and then share that picture through our words, we are creating a special place, a land that exists outside of ourselves and the recipient into which we both enter in a sacred act of healing.

It was during my Waldorf years that I discovered this healing art.  In the parent/toddler classes we parents were encouraged to tell stories to our young children.  No books, just a story out of our imaginations.  At first this seemed a daunting task.  “How could I tell a story worthy of anyone’s attention!? How could I compete with those beautifully illustrated storybooks?”   I seriously doubted my abilities, but my desire to fulfill my role as a good “Waldorf parent” was enough incentive, albeit not a very healthy one, to giveit a try.   I started out retelling the stories I’d heard the teachers tell the children.   Even this was difficult at first as I hurdled my fears of not getting it right.  Eventually I began to look at the world through different eyes. Through storyteller eyes, gently searching the daily activities for that delightful animal, place, person or event that would magically become the gateway to a story for that evening.  Gradually I discovered that even my own spontaneous simple stories would hold my son more enchanted than the well crafted, well-practiced ones.  (Dare I admit, what a boost to my esteem that was? – to look into my sons face and see him transported!?)

The secret is this, our imaginations are richer than anything anyone can put onto paper, or in paint, or on a screen.  Our imaginations are part of the otherworld, and our human skills of visual expression cannot match it.  But in the telling of a story, the imagination works in it’s fullest abilities and what we convey through speech, opens a doorway to the child (or other recipient’s) imagination and voila! a world beyond worlds exists.  You hold hands and walk through the door and you are both in it.

I have rarely told a story to a adult, so my perspective on this is from that of a parent and teacher, but storytelling is a way we can heal each other as well.  When I was in my training to be a Waldorf teacher assistant, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a workshop with Nancy Mellon (http://www.amazon.com/Storytelling-Children-Nancy-Mellon/dp/1903458080) a gifted present-day storyteller and healer.  We were paired up with another student and for the entire day we created stories for each other.  I have never experienced anything like it.

So, how do we use stories for healing? There are many ways, but just the existence of your story, that safe and cozy place you create, is a place of healing.   It is the time out of time where magic happens.  With the creation of this space you walk through the gate hand in hand and your listener has you and you hold them. 100%.   This healing goes both ways!  During the day we are busy, busy, and despite our attempts to be in the present, the needs of planning and negotiating life on Earth often detach us from that state of “being present.”  When you begin to look at the world through storyteller eyes you are poised and ready to drink in those poignant moments when they are handed to you.  Then, after all that busyness, you return with your beloveds to that very moment through your story.  Voila, togetherness has happened, heartbeats resume a steady rhythm, breath deepens, anxiety fades away.

Many times, especially with the young children, as they are growing and experiencing new things they will feel uncomfortable inside and this discomfort manifests itself as a tummy ache or a sort throat, or even a fever during extreme growth.  At times this discomfort is akin to standing on a precipice, with that terrifying awareness of the big big world out there.  Sometimes, during the leap of growth, that discomfort is like a free-fall–You are aware of a sudden disorientation within.  Everything is unfamiliar.  “Where will I end up?” “What is happening?”   Stories can be created to give some familiar territory, some bearings within their growth.  I recall many an evening when my young son had a bellyache at bedtime.  A simple retelling of  the challenging event of the day, brightened and softened with the light of resolution was able to bring relief.

Very young children learn by absorption.  They drink up the world though their very skin and eyes.  They drink up you and all of your gestures, and movements.  They drink up your speech patterns and the musicality of your voice.  This is the imitation we hear about and observe in our youngest children!  They cannot help it, just as they cannot help breathing. This is why, at midlife, we can look back and notice all the many gestures, and speech habits we have that are identical to our own Mothers!  We were absorbing her very being during our younger years, drinking in all of her beauty, for in the eyes of a young child all is beautiful about Mother.  When we create a world for our children to step into, they absorb it.

In Waldorf philosophy, it is believed that under the age of 7, children do not learn through thought and the process of reason and thinking.  I wrestled with understanding this for a long time.  So here is how I have observed this to be true.  Children do think.  However, the connection between their thinking, and the part of them that knows (the soul part) is not connected yet.  Their knowing is their knowing, and their thinking is their thinking, but the thinking cannot speak to the knowing.  We experience this as adults.  We can hear a thing, know it to be true in our heads, yet until we have brought what our eyes have read or our ears heard down into our solar area of intuition, we do not yet feel this truth as part of our very beings. With children, stories bypass this thinking/reasoning step, and go right to their soul space of growth and knowing.  When we tell a child a thing we end up just giving them something that will be batting around in their thinking/reasoning head and get stuck up there.  When we give them a story, we give them a place to take the learning deep into their very souls.

I will continue this subject in later articles where we’ll look at some storytelling ideas, a few themes, and a few gems of inspiration from other storytellers.

Until then, may the gift of the Bards grace your heart and may your words have wings.

Carey


Dreaming and Walking into The Dream

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What is this blog all about?

It’s taken me such a very long time to connect the dots.  (Respectfully borrowing from Steve Jobs.)  There have been so many subjects, into which I have thrown myself over the past 20 years but none of them alone have been my sole love.  I am absolutely in love with herbs, their healing gifts, and medicine making…and my garden…and roses.  For years, I lived and breathed early childhood development, daily rhythm, nature tables, storytelling, wool, beeswax, and wooden toys.  At one point I was considering going back to school to get a Masters in Psychology or Social work, specifically Jungian Psychology so deeply do the mysteries of the inner development of people captivate me.  I am a little obsessive about CSA’s, community gardens,  homesteading, and living sustainably.  But nothing was enough on it’s own to keep my heart solely within that one realm.  It must be turning 45.  Because along with the sag-o-matic, and the gray hair (but hooray I’ve finally got curls!) and the necessity to actually pay attention to the no longer subtle nudging from my physical and psychic being,  I’ve finally seen that what I really, really care about, what really, truly matters to me is creating a world where women support one another, where each person feels at home in their hearts, at home within their wild creativity, and home within their homes.   My dream is for us all to live within communities where there is a vibrant heartbeat of creativity, of care and support, where there lives a  mutual respect and admiration for each others’ passions, and a place of healing for one another.  We get to this place one woman – one home at a time.  We build upon ideas from each other and inspire one another.

We all come from a home. What is home?  They always say “Home is where the heart is” but what does that mean in this busy busy world we live in? Here, in this blog is where I hope to explore this and if all goes well, make some more discoveries.  I think I had a sense of my need for feeling home when I was very very young. We moved many times during my childhood, and I remember always feeling good in a place once I had made something there with the space, whether it was re-arranging the furniture, re-decorating (kid style), putting little jars of wildflowers around, or even building some sort of imaginary house there.  When I was old enough to leave home for college, the first thing I did when I arrived at my new temporary abode was set it up, and fix it up, and that time and each move thereafter it had to be done before I could sleep.  Luckily, in those days I had no more possessions than what would fit in my suitcases.   I performed this camp set-up many times until, 10 years later, I landed in NY and within only a handful of years found myself setting up home for others, admittedly a little frantically, with a baby on the way.  This is when things got interesting, because I needed to create our home place with the needs of others in mind as well as mine, and many times adjusting my expectations and vision quite drastically.  No more little glass dainties on the low shelves, “tidy” existed only just moments before bed, noise, quiet, dark, light, daily rhythm, all of it needed too be tweaked.

In our modern day, we are both blessed and challenged in the art of creating our homes. Our Ancestors lived in a time when life had fewer distractions, fewer choices and less conveniences. Then, it was a given, a necessity that someone cared for the home, or there would be no food to eat, no clothing or no shelter. But now the world is so richly full of ways to express creativity and the truth is, much of this takes us away from our homes. The challenge is this, to create and hold a home and not be imprisoned by its walls. We do this by holding home in our hearts, trusting ourselves, remembering our own healing abilities, keeping only what is valued and useful and setting aside the rest. This is not about making ourselves crazy, trying to achieve perfection, nor is it about adopting a way of doing things simply because so and so says it is best. Our homes are as varied and unique as each individual and family member who resides there. Home breathes with the rhythm of our own breath, moves to the beat of our own hearts. Home *is* our heart, it is our strength, it is where we come to rest, to nourish ourselves, to heal, to play, to regain our balance. Home is where our roots reach deep into the Earth. It is the place where we are able to re-connect with ourselves, and weave the beautiful and rich fabric that envelops our families in love and health and beauty.

So what is home, and what weaves each home together into the unique healing place that it is?  This is what we re-discover each and every day.  We add and change the fibers with which we weave as time moves us along, and our creation is ever more beautiful and extraordinary that we could have imagined when we began.

My ultimate wish is that when you go home, you find healing, when you come to my home, you find healing, and that ultimately, our villages, our towns too become places of healing as well.

Until next time, light a candle, light a fire and enjoy its ancient warmth~

Carey

Welcome to the Healing Home blog

 

I awoke this morning, and entered my delicately lit kitchen.

As I tripped over the cats, I was lifted inside by the faint smell of my indoor blooming hyacinth.  Their bright and intoxicating fragrance mingled with the aroma of the coffee beans and I was immediately lit from within.  Brigid’s flame for certain! “It’s time to give my Healing Home workshops a blog!”

After several attempts at other blogs addressing my scattered Gemini-mind interests (herbs, home, homeschooling, parenting, children, books, health and activism), I have finally settled upon one in which I can appropriately include all the subjects that come up.  What a relief!  My head has been spinning, and then a state of overwhelm set in and I just stopped writing altogether.  Facebook didn’t help one bit because it has been oh, so easy to just write a quick snippet of one’s thought and include a link.

So, Welcome! and Thank you! for stopping by.

Love,

Carey

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