When we are born, we are a blank canvas and absorb all the colours and energies around us, painting an image that we carry within for the rest of our journey through physical life. Some energies nurture us, feel good, uplift our spirits, others make us feel unwell, tip our balance, harm us, depress our spirits. We have an innate sensor and discernment of what feels life-supportive and what’s life-destructive. As we grow, we observe the culture (human created structures and systems) around us and we are educated (lat. educere = to lead out of) out of our natural state of being and sensing. We are encouraged to adopt the values and beliefs of our family, community, society and rewarded for it. Whenever we question existing principles and parameters, we encounter resistance and often repulsion. In order to be a “good girl” or a “good boy”, a lot of us play according to the rules. We aim to fit in, to avoid conflict, to play along, to succeed, to be rewarded… A few rebel and resist and ask questions – which comes at a cost and they have to weather the consequences. Rocking the mainstream boat isn’t very popular.
I still remember the pain and sadness when I first noticed that animals and other life forms weren’t valued and respected the same way as humans in my environment. I fought for the life of our rabbits, my friends, and realized that my father had kept them purely as a food resource, and not because he enjoyed their company and friendship as I did.
At kindergarten I was devastated about the bullying that happened – often supported by the ways the teachers led the learning environment: the “bad guys” were put in time-out and learned that they had to explore things secretly in order to avoid consequences. The “good guys” tried to stay out of conflict, didn’t get involved, looked the other way, etc. The “victims” responded in our innate human response ways: flight, fight or freeze – none of these were getting them anywhere: fight response often led to adult intervention, flight normally wasn’t possible (they had to go to kindi the next day again), and freeze was a potentially dangerous and harmful option exposing them to ongoing harassment . I hated kindi because of that, as I couldn’t bear to see anybody suffering and was afraid to be at the receiving end, too. What I saw around me, both in the adult world and, as a consequence, reflected in the children’s world, made me sad and was deeply painful.
At Christmas I collected the leaflets from various charities that landed in our mailbox and declared that I didn’t want any presents, but instead asked my family and friends to please give all they could to help the children and ill people that were on the cover photos. How could I receive anything, if there were people so much worse off than me!
I suffered when I saw how people treated each other, I also suffered when I saw how people treated animals, plants, life overall. I didn’t understand the harshness, the brutality, the insensitivity. My spirit felt deeply affected each time I experienced something cruel, unfair, disrespectful – and the inactivity of people in my environment. How could they live their lives without addressing all the burning injustices and imbalances first? I felt helpless and overwhelmed and desperately looked for guidance and options. My parents weren’t practising any religion, but I was surrounded by people who followed Christian or Islamic traditions, so I started praying to this god they were mentioning who would come and support those who needed help. I prayed for all the animals, for the trees that were cut down in the forest (I heard them cry), for all the people who were mistreated, sick, not well, suffering… Sometimes, what I saw and experienced almost broke me: people in my village, my father’s life story, people with different abilities that were ridiculed and made fun of, stories I heard in the news or watched on TV, the stories of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, of my uncle describing reality in Native American reservations… I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a big revolution. Surely someone had to press “pause” and deal with all the injustice and imbalances, before “life as usual” could go on! Why was this not happening? And what could I do? When I spoke to others, some seemed to agree, some not, but almost no one seemed to take action.
I spent my teenage and young adult years campaigning and “fighting” as an activist – however, I am not a fighter and activism drained my energies big time. I longed for spiritual nurturing, for spiritual guidance to put everything in a bigger perspective, to anchor me and to make sense of it all.
When I work with young ones (ages 4-17), I often observe a similar longing, similar questions. Some express their needs, worries, fears and feelings clearly, others try to cope and to function within the given structures and systems, suppressing feelings of despair, frustration, and overwhelm. There are various degrees of denial as a coping mechanism. Modern societies haven’t got much to offer to still the hunger for spiritual nurturing and guidance. Religions try to fill the gap, however, they still have to address power abuse and traumatizing actions that happened in the past (and still to this day) in the name of all major religions. Before that happens, they cannot provide a safe spiritual space. Young people often feel this intuitively – and look for other alternatives. New Age and esoteric options are trending. The use of plant and animal medicine, star and divine ascension teachings are trying to show a way to spiritual fulfilment and consciousness. However, as our ancestors waaaay back knew: all these (originally shamanic) pathways are not easy to walk without experienced and conscious guidance and assistance. And many self acclaimed teachers and guides do not have the depths and wisdom to lead others safely – yet. Without the guidance of elders, of wisdom keepers, or – even better – without rediscovering the “direct link” to spirit within oneself, young ones can end up feeling even more vulnerable, overwhelmed and confused in the long run.
In these chaotic times, when humans reclaim their spiritual identity and traditions, it is important to assist young ones to maintain their innate connection to “spirit world” and to rekindle their spiritual awareness, so that they are able to discern what’s “real” and what’s not. So that their senses remain open and they learn to speak spirit language. We are all spiritual beings. When we are born, this is a vital (= life-giving and life-sustaining) part of us. Excluding, suppressing, neglecting or even dismissing the spiritual aspect of life, of us, has drastic consequences. All other aspects of our being – physical, mental and emotional – suffer, if we do not integrate spiritual energies. It affects our vitality, our creativity and our overall balance. The rise of mental health issues, youth suicide, depression, anxiety, obesity, anorexia and other eating disorders, substance abuse, aggression, ADHD, allergies, autism and so many others are a clear indication of a “system overload”: we are mentally, emotionally and physically drained, stressed and overwhelmed. Our nervous systems cannot cope with the continuous pressure and our immune systems cannot maintain physical balance and health. We need practices that restore the balance and release (suppressed) energies out of our systems. By consciously reintegrating spiritual energies and guidance into our lives, we reconnect ourselves to the bigger picture of life, activating vital life-giving energy sources that are at the base of all life. Shamanic practices are at the core of many indigenous cultures and were applied by our ancestors, no matter where we come from. It is time to re-member these life-sustaining practices, and to hold a space for spiritual connection within and without ourselves so that we can share it, once again, with our young ones.
If you haven’t grown up in an environment that acknowledged the spiritual aspect of life, you might feel unsure and unconfident as for how to teach your children in this matter. As is true for all things, we can only share what we have experienced ourselves. I recommend that you begin with yourself and start developing a conscious connection to your own spirituality. Explore yourself as a spiritual being. There are many ways to do this – follow the resonance principle, ask your spirit guides, your ancestors, for support and guidance. Set your intention – and the path will reveal itself. Your children can be your teachers! Allow them to show you the way – they often know how to connect to spirit world and share their insights with everyone who is open to observe and to listen. Trees and birds and natural water sources can also be your guides on this journey.
Lie on the earth, walk barefoot through the forest, watch the clouds pass by and the stars at night…
Slow down and hold space. And in due time, you will discover and reintegrate long lost parts of yourself.
Create your own little rituals together with your children. Listen inside, trust yourself and don’t be afraid to go “wrong” – if you follow your intuition and set a pure intention, you will find your own access way to bring spiritual energies into your life. I wrote a whole book to help parents, educators as well as young ones, to get started and to share some ideas and tools to be in-spired – there is so much to be (re-) discovered on this topic.
On your quest it is good to remember that all of our ancestors have had their own spiritual practices and that we naturally are spiritual beings. If you feel “lost”, allow yourself to stop and to slow down. Immerse yourself in nature, ask your spirit guides to show up, connect with your ancestors – and trust that you will be shown the next steps. Also trust that your children will follow their own spiritual path – if their environment allows and supports this!
When we follow natural cycles (e.g. moon cycles, seasons) and align ourselves to vital rhythms, we allow vital energies to flow freely and strengthen not only our physical, mental and emotional resilience, but also our connection to the spiritual realms. And if we (and, as a consequence our young ones) have a strong spiritual connection and awareness, anxiety and the feeling of being lost goes away. Spiritual connection allows us to feel safe and to calm our nervous system. It helps us to move and release (trauma/suppressed) energies and boosts our resilience, overall stability and a healthy balance. A strong spiritual foundation and connection strengthens and guides us from within and is the best gift we can give to ourselves and share with our community.
Here are some resources that you might find helpful to explore with your child(ren):
Dance into your Inner Light – book (paperback and ebook)
Dance into your Inner Light – guided imageries with music (instrumental and guided versions)
Power Tools for Power Kids – book (paperback and ebook)