Sometimes we just yearn for peace and all we feel is frustration. Maybe we are frustrated with the developmental stage of our child – you know, that rough patch that we hope will pass soon, or maybe we are frustrated with our partners or spouses. Our bodies, our lack of exercise, our homes, our less than perfect lives. Did I cover it all? Continue reading
I picked up this book at a local bookstore because I was very intrigued by the author’s experience as a Presbyterian minister who is also a Benedictine oblate at a monastery in Oregon. I also have been recently interested in Christian formation from a contemplative perspective. I feel myself drawn more and more to this path in deepening my own walk and am studying many of the lives of the Saints and the Desert Fathers in accordance with Anglican/Episcopalian tradition. There are actually a number of Anglican/Episcopalian monasteries based upon The Rule of St. Benedict, and a number of Benedictine oblates who seek to live their lives in faith according to the Rule of St. Benedict within their own place in the world, whatever their job or marital status might be.
This book is divided into two main parts. Part One includes “Ancient Perspectives On Christian Formation” and has 7 chapters, including How Benedict Transformed the World, Benedictine Essentials for the Journey, The Path of Communal Prayer, The Path of Spiritual Guidance, The Path of Ordinary Spirituality, The Path of Lectio Divinia, The Path of Hospitality. Part Two includes “Christian Formation As A Way of Life Together” and includes chapters on How Benedict is Still Transforming the World, Five Case Studies of Christian Formation, A Guide For Christian Formation in a Local Church, User’s Guide to Going on a Monastic Retreat, and A Year of Tools for Christian Formation. Each chapter has a bullet-point list associated with it at the end with different activities and further reading to do in order to take steps into deeper Christian formation.
The book starts with an apt description of private spirituality, antimomian spirituality and nomadic spirituality and moves into the inner and outer life of the Christian. Benedictine formation begins with a commitment to stability in community, fidelity in community and obedience in community. Then the author takes the time to talk about the life of Benedict, which was really fascinating in and of itself and he also discusses the impact Benedict and Benedictine monasteries had upon the world in the arts, literacy, health care and economic development. Later in the book, the author writes, “In this efficient system of communal labor, Benedictine monks planted orchards and vineyards, hand copied hundreds of thousands of biblical manuscripts, founded and maintained most of the first libraries of Europe, created crafts guilds that birthed the artisan middle class of medieval Europe, dug wells, and built irrigation systems interlacing much of Europe.”
Chapter Two details the essentials of the Benedictine way of life, including spiritual leadership, shared wisdom, tools for spiritual formation, obedience and humility. There are twelve steps in an ascending ladder of humility alone, which provides so much food for thought in how to live. One of my favorite chapters was Chapter Three, which went through “praying in the dark”, morning prayer, praying through the psalms and The Divine Office. I love how the author points out that “the Jewish people have always viewed the book of Psalms as their prayer book, the instruction manual for the life of prayer, both in community and solitude.” Jesus prayed the Psalms from the cross, and the early church prayed the Psalms, so it was fascinating to see how this is such a rich and important part of prayer life for so many. This is probably one of my most favorite chapters in the book, along with the section regarding “Silence and Solitude” in Chapter Six and Chapter Twelve: “A Year of Tools For Christian Formation.” I think the chapters and sections on obedience are also important for thoughtful reading as obedience doesn’t seem to be a popular idea any more but vital to living life in the Christian faith and I think also with living peacefully with each other.
I didn’t feel as drawn to the chapters in the book discussing how to implement a Benedictine Rule within your own place of worship; I guess I was reading this book and thinking more of this path for myself rather than for my parish. However, with the emphasis within the Rule of St. Benedict, of course this makes perfect sense. Perhaps it is just the idea of bringing this into community and organizing that seems challenging to a beginner like me who is just starting to deepen my walk into contemplative practices.
All in all, a book well worth reading from Paraclete Press, Here is a link to the e-book version so you can look at it for yourself: http://www.paracletepress.com/ancient-paths-discovering-christian-formation-the-benedictine-way-epub.html
Part of the Collect for today, Easter Wednesday, invokes a prayer to “open the eyes of our faith.” In a parenting context, I could not help but think about all the parents out there who feel they really are not good enough; that they should be more, that their children deserve more, that their house is not calm enough or peaceful enough, that their house is not clean enough or that they should do a better job feeding their family.
I think there it is one thing to think about improving oneself; to have in progress and at work the desire to improve something that is challenging or a weaker area in oneself.
It is a whole other ball of wax to constantly berate oneself for not being a different person or for not being perfect. They need their eyes to be opened in order to have faith and belief and confidence in themselves as a parent.
I understand how easy it is to lose faith and confidence in oneself as a parent. I can look to the fact that we are having small families in isolation from past generations as part of the challenge, and I can see where the societal push toward “having it all” (whatever that means) and the use of technology and experts for “instant answers” has truly impacted parenting. Perfectionism is a much-tossed about buzz word in many arenas of life.
Have you ever felt less than perfect as a parent? Less than confident? I am sure we all have!
However, I think really the only thing that can counteract what is going on in the life of the parent at this point in American society is an uprising of the individual parent’s consciousness and confidence. There are so many mothers (and fathers) I see that berate themselves for not being it all, for not being able to do it all, and I wish that their eyes could be opened to having faith in themselves.
Good enough is okay. Children and life with small children is noisy, messy, full of conflict and growth and strife and frogs and wet kisses and squishy chubby bellies and mud. (Okay, I threw some of those things in to see if you were actually reading. But the frogs and mud do co-exist with children quite nicely).
Your children only have you. Rise up and be the best you that you can be. Don’t get mucked down in the “would have, could have, should have’s” of life but put that game face back on and jump back in the game.
“Whew! Mommy got angry, but boy do I feel better! Let’s go have some fun now!”
“I can solve this problem and see it as a gift!”
“I can choose this course of action to help my child and if it is not the right course I will think about it and try something different.”
“This is working great for my family right now and it fits in with what I know about childhood development.”
“I can control myself with my children even if I am angry or upset because I want them to grow up to be a parent who can do this with my grandchildren.”
Keep striving in a confident way; you really can do this!
Live big and love your children,
I see so many mothers striving to set the tone for their families; mothers who are really working to create a family life that will nurture their children even if it means hard work and facing emotional growth on their part. It is heart-warming and exciting to see mothers who are doing that!
I also see so many mothers who want to strive but don’t seem to have any idea how to take the bull by the horns and be the authority for their family. For whatever reason, the idea of being the person who sets the tone in their home for their family is scary, or met with fear instead of joy.
I think the root of this may lie in that these mothers do not think they are worthy of being an Authentic Leader in their home. I have a few words for you today, just for you.
To My Precious Striving Friend,
You know, you are worthy of setting the tone for your spouse/partner and your children. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t have the best childhood, and have no memories of home-cooked meals or nightly routines and rhythms. It doesn’t matter at all if you can find the will within yourself to rise up and to want to learn how to create a nurturing home life for your family.
The truth is, this process will nurture you. It will nurture your family, and it will nurture the children in the neighborhood who come over to play with your children, it will nurture all those who come into your house. Your house is more than a physical space, but it has an ambience, a feeling, and a tone to it that you set and nurture every day by having a vision and what you do to feed the beauty, truth and goodness that lives in your home.
You are worthy of having this. You love your family, and you are being drawn to this idea of being an Authentic Leader in your home for a purpose and a reason. You, this very day, are helping to raise your grandchildren by the way you love and treat your children. You are extending your values and beliefs through the generations to come.
You feel confused as to how to take on this role? Don’t be afraid. Authority is not a bad thing; only misuse and abuse of power is…Authority is about making the right decisions at the right time for the children in the family who are not yet ready to do it for themselves. They need all the lessons you have learn; you have experience in love and warmth to share. No one will ever love your children more than you!
You don’t know where to start in practical terms? Start with yourself. Parents and homeschooling parents are not more patient or better than anyone else, but we have to be more persistent in working on our own areas of challenge. Work on your courage, your patience, your warmth…pick one area and make a plan! Read sacred texts, find inspiring verses to keep you on track, study, meditate, pray.
Create warmth through the beauty in your home, through the truth and goodness you show your children, your partner, yourself! Ask yourself, is this good, is this true, is this worthy, is this pure? If it is not, what are you doing? You deserve to be surrounded by these things. Rise up and claim it!
To My Precious Striving Friend, you can do this! Be an Authentic Leader in your home, do what is right! It is not about perfection but the process of striving. Overcome your own inertia, your own doubts, your own fears and make a plan to start somewhere. The journey begins with the one step, and if you stumble, get back up and keep going. Your family is counting on you.
In order to handle the rigors of family life, I have posited in the last few posts that we must think about biography, balance of the physical body and the inner bodies, faith and faithfulness (our beliefs, and how faithful are we in ACTION to our beliefs). In addition to the things I already mentioned in the first three parts of this series, I want to name some concrete actions you could take to start your own inner work so you can be centered for your best parenting:
- Create a space in your day for meditation and prayer. It may be that you do this whilst you nurse a baby or in the shower. As a parent, you may not really get even fifteen minutes to yourself to sit quietly, so you have to be open to cultivating a new kind of practice that entails quieting your mind whilst moving or doing something else. This is just a season; children do grow!
- Watch your computer habit. Most mothers I speak with use their computers as an escape tool at times. Force yourself to be present even if you don’t want to. If you are trying to escape because you are tired, bored, resentful, work on trying to fix the root cause of those feelings with action, not escape.
- Practice cultivating silence in the home when you can. Less words, more warm smiles and hugs, soft humming, silence and reverence together.
- Work in the arts: music, painting, sculpting, crafts, reading all build up your reserves of energy.
- Have an area of your own personality, will that you are working and striving to cultivate.
- Spend time in nature.
- Have rhythm in your life. Keep striving for this if it is a difficult area for you. Write down what you want to do in the area of rhythm, and do it for forty days. If you “fall off the wagon”, get back on.
- Keep in mind that each minute is a new start. Keep striving and going.
- Balance your year by season – there are some seasons where we are move active in outside the home activities and some seasons where we might be home more. Look at your year.
- Look at your monthly rhythm – many women feel tired around the time of their menstrual cycles, and it may be worth it to plan this into your monthly rhythm as much as you can to honor that time. This is a beautiful time, not a time to be medicated and rushed through.
- Where are your “no’s” in life? What are your boundaries for you personally? No’s help maintain balance, no’s help us find the time to be home and centered for our own inner work and parenting in an unhurried manner.
- Wake up before your children. If you are rubbing your eyes and the children are already fighting, making a mess, helping themselves to what is in the kitchen, then the morning is not off to the best start.
- Keep a day of rest, a Sabbath. This is important during the weekly rhythm. You yourself must hold how to do this.
- I think it is important to work toward being objective in parenting. Many times if we can just pull back and look at things without so much emotion, we find the right answers for our children. If we can let go of guilt, which does NOTHING to move any situation forward, we can reach more joy in our homes.
For this Lent, I have been reading the words of our Early Church Fathers and I have also been doing a Beth Moore Bible Study called, “Believing God: Experiencing a Fresh Explosion of Faith”. I think this is one of the best Bible studies, if not the best study, I have ever done. If you like Bible studies and haven’t done this one, I encourage you to check it out.
One thing that Beth Moore mentions in this study is the difference between faith and faithfulness. She writes, “……I conceptualized faith as believing God, while I tended to imagine faithfulness as obediently serving God and keeping His commands. Though faith certainly encompasses serving and obeying God, I am opening my spiritual eyes to the fact that faith is the root of all faithfulness to God. In fact, we might say ultimately, faithfulness – serving and obeying God – is the outward expression of an inward fullness of faith.”
Let’s apply this to parenting for a moment, shall we? I think this is an important part of inner work and personal development in parenting.
Faith makes me think about belief. So what are your beliefs about parenting? If you homeschool, what are your beliefs about homeschooling? Have you elucidated this for yourself and your family? This does take time to figure out, but one must at least make the effort to think about it.
And then, the question becomes, does this faith, do these beliefs that you carry in your heart about parenting translate to what you do every day: are you faithful in the details, in how you make these beliefs reality in your own home?
This is not about perfection. No one is perfect. There are always mistakes and things we wish we didn’t do. There are always times of challenge. There is always learning and growing in parenting. Even if you have been through one particular developmental stage with five children, that sixth child is an individual or his or her own and it will be different. So perhaps part of faithfulness is also forgiveness. Forgiveness when you do something the way you didn’t want to do. Forgiveness for being human. Forgiveness for being fallible.
But perhaps faithfulness in the details also means having a plan, having a vision, and most of all, overcoming our own inertia and weakness. For me personally, for that, I have to ask my Creator. We have to WANT to not be stagnant, we have to want to grow and change. We have to work, and tweak things as we go along and discover.
I think the other part of faith in parenting is having a self –confidence that you can indeed be faithful and show these beliefs concretely in real life and in your real actions. How many times have we heard, “Actions speak louder than words”? That is truth.
How confident are you as a parent? You are the expert of your own family. I believe there are some essential truths to work with in childhood development and parenting, but the application may look different depending on the family. Perhaps thinking about your beliefs in parenting and how your life would look if you could strive to be true to what you believed would lead you to increased authenticity and confidence. Perhaps this would lead you to stop comparing yourself.
So, what do you believe about parenting? About homeschooling? How do you find forgiveness for yourself? How do you use your beliefs to be more confident in your parenting?
Parenting can be challenging. Some parents actually have children that I feel are pretty easy to parent, and some parents have children that are truly challenging. However, how we view and respond in parenting, like anything else in life, begins with us. How calm are we? What is our temperament? What are our challenges? What are our triggers?
But, most of all, how can we grow and strive and improve?
I think there are two fundamental places to start in personal development in parenting: one is biography and one is assessing balance in your life.
Biography is the process of looking at oneself, one’s story. What patterns are in our life when we look back through it? What responsibility have I taken for my own life, my own actions? How do I accept myself, meet myself? What people have I really connected with during this lifetime?
Can I think about my life? What do I remember? Can I put them within seven year cycles as talked about in “Tapestries” by Betty Staley? We went through “Tapestries” chapter by chapter on this blog; fascinating!
What do I feel about these events? What empathy do I have for myself, for others connected to my story? To other’s stories?
What can I do with this for the future? What goals do I have?
Biography is the first piece in knowing oneself and in being able to do that in order to connect with others. It is the first step too, toward looking at your parenting patterns.
The other critical piece, I feel, is balance. I see so many mothers that seem either to only live for their children with no thought for themselves or their spouses or go the other way and the children are deemed almost an afterthought or an inconvenience. Where is the balance?
Where is the balance between the outer and inner selves? The outer self, the physical body, is often seen by many as diminishing in the 40s…but this doesn’t mean that the physical body should be ignored. Too often I see mothers who seem to not take great care of themselves. You are important to your family, and your body is an important part of who you are! Vibrant health, physical activity, clothes that make you feel good and influence how you feel – what is the place of all of these things for you?
The inner self is the other part that is equally important in this balance. This is the piece people seem to think about in regards to personal development more often than biography or balance. How does one develop the inner self? We tend to think of developing certain characteristics such as patience or calmness; we may look to spirituality and religion to help us meet those goals. I feel if spirituality is our attitude and concern toward the Divine, then perhaps religion is the way we express that.
One thing that has helped me immensely in developing my inner self is the use of rhythm in the day, the week, the year. Liturgical rhythm through my religion. Meditation on what I hear from God and prayer to God. These pieces, along with nurturing the physical body and the use of art, help keep me in balance.
Our personal development impacts our health, and our health in turn provides the foundation for our family.
Biography and balance. Just a thought for today with a bit more about inner work to come in the next post.
In parenting and education, we recognize that every individual brings not only a hereditary history with him or her but also an individuality. Waldorf Education recognizes the individuality in each and every child that exists from before conception and birth and recognizes that each child has a personal destiny. I guess a Christian perspective of this would be that God knows the child before the child is born and that the child has a destiny.
Throughout this time of childhood we are working with the whole child, with every aspect of the child – body, soul, spirit. We work with things from the most physical to the most mysterious and strive to be continually conscious of being an upright moral example that the child can imitate. We work to not provide hindrances to the child’s development. We also work to provide an environment conducive to development, a protected environment for optimal development of the 12 senses and the child, but yet one where the child can develop unhindered
In the second lecture of “Curative Education”, Steiner talks about The Pedagogical Law in which it is who we are that teaches and educates; how children can perceive the gesture behind our words. Steiner lectured about the great responsibility we have when we raise small children.
In the lectures compiled in “Soul Economy”, Steiner said in the lecture regarding children before the seventh year: ”Anyone in charge of young children – especially those who work in children’s homes- who is aware of the activity of destiny must ask, Have I been specifically chosen for the important task of guiding and educating these children? And other questions must follow: What must I do to eliminate as far as possible my personal self, so I can leave those in my care unburdened by my subjective nature?”
This can be a tall order where sometimes just surviving in parenting is where we are – and maybe just where we should be if we have children under the age of five. It can be a tall order where things don’t go the way one wants them to; this happens to ALL of us because we are human! Raising children is hard work!
One thing I think that can help, though, is this idea of non-judgmental self-review (um, the key is non-judgmental, to view yourself and your actions through the eyes of being a friend to yourself). Here is a wonderful article about self-review for the teacher that would work equally well for parents of small children: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW57schweizer.pdf
I do love how this article asks us to look at ourselves and what we do during the day with our rhythm, our work and the children. But, remember, do forgive yourself if things were not what you wanted. Self-forgiveness and striving (and asking for help when you need it!) is so important.
During this season of Great Lent I wonder how we can work with both our physical body and our spiritual body in order to benefit our families. Like all things in Waldorf parenting and education, balance is a primary goal. Dogma and rigidity is not. Finding the Middle Way is of great import.
Our next post will deal with concrete ways to work with our own physical and spiritual lives. You must want to do this work, but we must be careful to maintain balance as we strive.
More to come.
I have been at the La Leche League of Georgia conference listening to the very talented Diane Wiessinger speak (see her informative website here: www.normalfed.com). She was speaking about the fact that breastfeeding is something that we have turned into a sometimes complicated act that undermines a mother’s feeling that she can own this experience without a professional telling her what to do. One example she gave was about the times mothers call her and want her to help them learn to nurse lying down, when really mothers could lay down on their bed with some pillows and experiment! Some things in life are really just up to you to figure out!
Sometimes it is easy to forget that you really are the expert on your own family and children. Many of you know I come from a background of working in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I have worked with some very fragile premature infants and their families, and the families often felt as if the medical team knew their infant and what their infant needed better than they did. They often felt the medical team could read their infant’s stress signs better than they did, and the team, not them, knew what their infant needed. How discouraging and challenging! I always tried to encourage the families I was working with, that whilst they didn’t have a medical background, that their infants certainly knew THEM and their smell and the taste of thier mothers’ milk and how no one in the world could mother this baby the way that family could.
Here is a different sort of scenario, but with similarities: how about the family with their first child, and then when that child hits about three or four years and is so “challenging” and different from before? The child’s own will is emerging, and it can be so difficult to support that child where they are. Every book may hold an answer, every expert may know better than the parent. But at the end of the day, the family knows that child best. It may take trial and error, it may take experimentation, but instead of viewing this as a failure and that an ‘expert’ could have figured ‘it’ out faster, perhaps a more productive attitude toward this would be to note that the journey is in the striving, and this striving must come from within.
It is popular to say these days that, “Well, this works for that family and this works for that family” and almost everything is deemed okay if it works for that family. I am here to say that there are essential truths to work with in childhood, (you can see this blog post for some of the things I consider essential in parenting: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/23/carries-laws-of-childhood/ ) but thankfully one of the essential truths is that you learn to trust your own intuition, if you can remain calm long enough to discover what your intuition is telling you. Build up your confidence and surround yourself with people who will encourage you!
You are the best mother for your child, your child loves you and you are doing your best. Even if you are making different choices now than what you made in the past, you made the best decisions you could at the time with the information you had.
Mothering is also a process of growing and developing and maturing. Your own inner work to be a calm parent, your own ordering of your home, your own rhythm to the day, and most of all, your own love for your child is there.
Many blessings to you today!
I am getting ready to give a talk next Saturday regarding a peaceful family life as supported by rhythm, and today I wanted to highlight this portion for all of my readers near and far to meditate upon:
What Are The Benefits of Rhythm In The Home?
· Gives children a sense of security
· Rhythm can calm a high-needs, anxious, nervous or difficult child
· Children can see the tasks of daily life as process from beginning to end
· Once children have external rhythms, they then develop internal rhythms for eating, sleeping
· Helps the child focus their energy on play and growth and balance as opposed to wondering when the next snack time will be or when bedtime is
· Rhythm helps maintain a person or child’s strength for daily tasks
· Connects a child to nature
· Provides a structure for a child that is neither boring nor over-stimulating; provides a balance
· A True Help in Loving Guidance – because children are so centered in their physical bodies and in imitation, rhythm becomes a real help in avoiding arguments
· Helps children become helpers in the home and in life by building in times for setting up and cleaning up activities within the rhythm; this helps calm nervous and difficult children
· Rhythm helps the adults of the family build up their own self-discipline so we can model this to our children
· A rhythm helps a child feel certain that their needs will be met
· A rhythm is a vital piece in establishing for young children that there is a time for all things
· Rhythm helps parents not only with self-discipline but with enabling the energy of the house to flow smoothly and to support the needs of everyone in the entire family, not just one child or the children
· A disorganized life is not truly free!
I encourage you all to think and meditate on this; start small! The day starts with the night before, so perhaps thinking about bedtime would be a good place to begin.