Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nature's Classroom

"Let nature be your teacher." ~William Wordsworth


I asked the Youngest One (age 5) how he would like to learn when discussing homeschooling last week. "Through nature," he exclaimed without hesitation. "What would that look like?" I inquired. "You know...we can go in nature and count the trees and add them together. Or identify them." As his eyes sparkled, I knew he was speaking from my own heart. Nature teaches, nature heals.

"A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he." ~Walt Whitman

Yesterday found us packed up with art supplies, some books on trees and poetry, a picnic lunch, and an extra change of clothes headed towards our nearby state park. We had invited a few other families to join us for an unstructured time in nature for the majority of the day. No planned activities, but ample materials to take the interests of the children in the direction they wanted to go.

We arrived about 10am and set up camp on top of an old rock foundation of a house from long ago. It's nestled up in the hill overlooking the trail and a pavilion, so it's a perfect place for a hide out. The boys have often pretended it is their castle and that morning was no exception. They designated their boundaries and drew a map, asking me to help record who their enemies, allies, and neighboring kingdoms would be.

Once that was sorted out, the other families arrived and we began to feel hungry. We meandered back to the open field next to the parking lot to get out our food and the children played tag, climbed trees, swung from vines hanging over a log suspended across the creek and stopped to have a few bites of food when they were hungry. Our gang consisted of three mamas, a couple of daddies, and a total of seven children ranging from 13 months to 8 years old.

"It is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world." ~Rachel Carson

Exploration then took us to the bridge crossing the creek. There the children waded in the water, hauled big logs up and out of the creek bed, climbed tree roots and jumped off into the water, pretended they were fairies, and reenacted "Billy Goats Gruff" with all seven children acting as billy goats and the mothers taking turns being the trolls. Imagination, team work, physical and spacial negotiation, courage and discernment, and literacy knowledge all came into play during their time in the creek. All were included and everyone played a part at the level they were comfortable with...not too easy, not too hard of a challenge as it was self-directed by the children.

"From wonder into wonder existence opens." ~Lao-Tzu

By this time, it was nearing 2pm and we made our way back to the picnic table. The five "bigger" children wanted to go explore the castle more, so the band of 4-8 year olds made their way up the short trail to their "kingdom". It felt good to give them the freedom to be just out of sight, trusting that together they could conquer whatever challenges that would come their way...or they would send a representative back to get us. Within about five minutes they did. They had come across a garter snake who had caught a leopard frog by the leg and it was putting up a good fight. The mamas made their way to the scene and we all circled round nature's drama and watched as the snake strategically ended the frog's life and ensured his meal. We discussed predator/prey, the food chain, and the perspective of the frog and the snake. A moment that any show on Animal Planet could not beat. We experienced it with our own senses.

"It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to... The feeling for things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures." ~Vincent Van Gogh

As we made our way back to our cars and back into the realm of the "civilized world", I reflected on how much they had learned in nature that day. We didn't count trees, but we did experience so much of what really counts. Each time we make time to go into the wild, we have the opportunity to experience the natural world and feel it's healing powers, learning the lessons it's offering to teach us that day. You can find stories of creeks, castles, bridges, and fields in books...but experience is what memories are made of. And that is a curriculum I can invest in.

For more information on the importance of unstructured time in nature (for children and adults), check out Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Beginnings of Yoga, Homeschooling, and Acknowledging My Own Dharma

Today is a day of beginnings for a lot of people in my town: the first day of our public school's school year. My children are officially a Kindergartener and Second Grader, although they won't be getting on that yellow school bus. This is the first day we are "officially" homeschooling both children. We are celebrating with a trip to the state park, art materials and sack lunches in tow, to what the Youngest One calls, "Nature School"...if the thunder I hear outside right now blows over quickly.

My beginning began a few years ago, but it's infancy stages have matured into a fledgling, ready to take flight. For the past couple years, my heart has wandered to focus heavily on yoga. I'm six months into an eight-month-long 200-hour level teacher training. I teach 5-6 yoga classes a week to Mommy/Baby, Toddlers and their parents, and children. I have a fairly consistent personal practice which includes asana, pranayama, chanting, and meditation. I'm reading the ancient texts and have learned so much.

I've also put the majority of my heart energy into discovering which method of homeschooling meets my children and my needs most optimally at this point in our lives. I've read hundreds of blog posts and several books. We've tried structured curriculum, complete radical unschooling, Waldorf, theme-based learning, and many things in between. I've reflected, asked the children their thoughts, and learned so much.

Where my heart has wandered during this break...yoga and children!
And, I'm still learning. I took significant time off writing for many reasons, but the main one is that I didn't feel "qualified" to write about these Heart Wanderings until I had lived it awhile, processed, and knew just what it was I was talking about. Well, at times I still feel like I don't know what I'm talking about, but my spirit says it's time to share what I'm learning as some of it may relate to others on similar paths.

I can't pretend to have all of the answers, but my calling seems to be to help raise the questions and invite others to follow their heart wanderings into a place of deeper knowing, whether it be through yoga, parenting, homeschooling, or another avenue that whispers to their soul.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna, "It is better to do your own duty badly than to perfectly do another's; ... No one should relinquish his duty, even though it is flawed; all actions are enveloped by flaws as fire is enveloped by smoke."

So, beginning today, I begin again to share from my heart. From what I know, what I'm learning, and what I wander to and wonder about. I'd be honored if you join me on this journey.

Namaste~
Santosha

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Snow Day Challenge


Today a large snowstorm is supposed to grip our town, shutting down all universities and colleges, most city departments, and pretty much everything that can be closed will be closed. This storm is anticipated to rock most of the Midwest U.S. and my friends are jokingly referring to it as 'Snowmaggedon'.

For those of us who have the priviledge of a warm home and a job which allows us to stay there safe and sound with our loved ones, today we have a choice. We could complain about not being able to go do what we were scheduled to do. We could worry about our job, the pipes freezing, or if we will ever see warm weather again. We could feel overwhelmed or frustrated that the kids are stuck inside again and afraid that we won't know what to do with them and all of that pent-up energy. We could glue ourselves to the Weather Channel or local news and relive and analyze every detail of this 'horrific winter emergency' brought to you by reporters who were trained not only in meteorology, but also theatrics I'm sure...drama keeps the ratings high, you know.

OR... You could find out the basic information you need, turn off the channel, and walk away. "Snowing all day. Don't drive. Got it." Click. Instead of complaining, worrying, and resisting reality as it is, you could simply exhale. You don't have to be anywhere or do anything else. The moment is as it is. 

You could sit on the couch with a comfy blanket and read, with our without a child on your lap. You could stay in your pajamas all day or play dress up and break out the make up and pearls. You could get on the floor and play dollhouse or Batman with your child. You could make a blanket fort or hot chocolate or playdough or cookies. You could take a long, hot bath. You could have a dance party or a tea party or a Wii Tournament or a Family Game Day. You could finally clean out your closet or your spice cabinet or get paperwork together to file your taxes. You could paint or draw or play guitar or complete that Pinterest project you've been wanting to try. You could declare it "Kid Choice Day" and follow your child's lead to find their bliss and reconnect with the inner child within you.

Remember how excited you felt on a snow day while growing up? A day with no expectations or responsibilities. A day out of the normal routine. A whole day with nothing but open-ended possibilities...

If it's a snow day in your part of the world, I challenge you to make a choice. Choose real connection over the need for media input. Choose to follow your children's lead or your own bliss and let go of your to-do list and your accomplishment-based agenda for this one day. Choose to slow down and take in the present moment with your senses rather than be pulled towards worry, overwhelm, or frustration with thoughts of the future or past. Choose joy and wonder and reconnect with the wide-eyed child who's excitement can light up the room.

"It's a SNOW DAY! YAY!!!"

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Mother's Morning Blessing

I arise at dawn
body slips from the covers
a moment of silence
before the boisterous sound of children awakes.

I breathe in and out
stretching my muscles
stretching my limits
stretching myself to be capable to meet my children's needs for the day.

I pray for peace in my heart
I pray for peace in my home
because that is what makes the world go round
Peace.


I send love to their slumbering bodies
I send love to their divine souls
My little ones wrapped in love and light
from dawn until dusk
and all throughout the night.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

You are Good Enough Just as You Are

How can we feel good enough about ourselves when our core belief instilled within us since birth is that we are indeed not? When I get the next promotion, then I will be good enough. When I lose 10 pounds, then I will be good enough. When I buy that new car, then I will be good enough. What if you accomplish all of those things and still feel insecure about your place in the world? When in reality it isn't what you lack that is holding you back, it is your flawed, wounded ego.

Because if you are Divine -if we are all One-then there is NO WAY that you cannot be good enough. You are pure goodness. You are pure awareness. You have everything you need and everything is perfect RIGHT NOW.

 It doesn't mean that we stop growing and learning or life wouldn't be more comfortable with a little extra money in the bank, but it means you are where you are on your life's journey and you are put in these places for a reason. To be used as a vessel to transmit love. To grow closer to the light within and to allow it to radiate out to those who are looking to move out of the darkness. How can that not be good enough?

Once I realized that this type of bullshit was going on in my psyche-the bullying and belittling-I then got angry. What the fuck? How could I let this type of thing bring me down for so long? However, who am I to be angry at? Myself as a baby or small child? My parents? The church I was raised in? The school system I attended? All doing the best they could with what they knew at the time and contributors to my inner view, I am certain. But, I am a thirty-five year old woman. We are grown up now. We are no longer under our parents' rule. Or the churches or the school system. And a little forgiveness towards my inner child and those who did the best they could when I was small would allow some grace to enter. Some softness.

So, instead of anger...how about gentleness? How about when we notice these things cropping up-the voices telling us we aren't good enough or we have to do x, y, and z before we are-instead of raging against them or letting them run the show, how about we do this... Why not lay them aside and say, "Those things you don't need anymore. Let them go and stand in your truth here and now. You are Divine. You are a child of light and a manifestation of pure awareness." Allow yourself to rest, to shine, and stretch even farther towards that Truth. It's there for you and you are perfect just as you are, as you always were, and will forever be.

The light within me bows to the light within you.
So Hum,
Amber


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Divine Mothering

Image by Mary Herrera via www.mysticmamma.com

On the morn of this transformative full moon, I invite more mothering of myself into my daily life. Gentle self-care, lovingly setting priorities, and thoughtful challenging of those things which harm, limit, and hold me back from walking in awareness of the Divine within and around me.

A loving mother knows when to push.
"Yes, you will get up at 5:00am and do an hour of yoga before everyone awakes."

She knows when to back off. 
"That laundry can wait until tomorrow, my dear." 

She encourages creative expression and growth.
"Go ahead and play your guitar! Sing some songs!" 

She knows when it is time to focus.
"One hour of paper work...you can do it!" 

She knows that life is better when there is loving, supportive encouragement instead of berating, nagging, and shaming going on. She loves fiercely and protects the Soul above all else. She has high expectations, yet empathizes when softness is needed.

The Divine Mother.

She flows within my veins and her wisdom isn't reserved for only my offspring.
First and foremost, she is needed by me.
To heal the wounded past.
To caress the sore spots of my soul.
To nurture that which has been neglected.
To love unconditionally that which had been cast aside as unlovable.

Her arms open wide and I feel her embrace on this transformative full moon.
And again, I feel held.
I feel whole.
I feel loved.
I am love.

Full moon blessings to you,
Amber

Friday, November 29, 2013

Awakening



I wipe the crust from my eyes
and I struggle to pull the covers from over my head.
I've been asleep for so long
my bed a prison now
instead of the warm, cozy respite it once was.

The alarm sounds and I hear the whispers,
"Get up NOW! You MUST!"
Then I hear a stern voice demanding me to reason,
"But you're so comfortable here. Just five more minutes..."

The thing is, I'm NOT comfortable here any longer.

I'm sweating.
I'm suffocating.
I don't have room to breathe.

I'm withering.
I'm dwindling.
I feel my light growing dim.

I have become comfortably numb.

So my whispers crescendo into a full-fledged scream
as I hurl the downy covers across the room and leap from the bed.
It's cold out here and a little intimidating in the early morning light, but...

I am awake.
I am alive.
And I breathe in all there is to be.