I would like to live like a river flows carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.
Sitting in my inbox is an email reminding me that it is time to renew this website domain. It sits also in my mind pressing me to confront questions that have been forming during the near six months since my last post.
The tagline for this blog, supporting the emergent, is the impulse behind my inquires: Is it time to let go of the way I have done my work in order to support what wants to emerge? Is something longing to come that needs a new kind of space to live and grow?
This blog has served an important purpose- it has given me a structure through which to share my insights and the writing of each post has been a nourishing act. Now I sense its purpose complete. Like the weeds working their way through the rocks in the path, I am tentative yet convicted that my writing in the form of this blog has come to a close.
I can not say what is wanting to emerge nor do I have a plan for how my work ought to take shape, but I can say I trust in the ever emergent journey of life and that despite my fears and limitations, I am wholeheartedly open to the creative flowing through me and taking the form it wishes to take in the world.
This website will stay live for now but as the river flows, who knows?
I have learned, as every good doula knows, sometimes the easiest thing is the hardest thing to do- nothing except hold the space for new life to come. I’ve been occupying a state of extreme nothing-ness and it can feel really scary. Now I’m sipping my tea watching the northeast winds fling brown and yellow leaves from the mulberry tree with nothing more to do.
I once had an intuitive tell me that I would not be happy unless I was living a wild life.
“HELL YEAH,” I thought, even while my life was sweet and conventional, the way I’d always played it, safe.
The off-ness of the comment confused people, they just couldn’t match it up with the person they saw in front of them.
But it wasn’t off to me. It was right on. And I knew it. In fact, receiving those words was like diving into a warm sea of recognition. When for so long I’d been fine, just fine, on the shore in my self-constructed, hurricane-proof house.
And then came the pain from wanting to be seen, to feel my self alive. To escape on a boat and rock it so severely that I’d fall into the embrace of those warm waters that loved me. I thought an escape was necessary. Until I realized- I didn’t want to leave my life, I wanted to show up for my life! I needed to be seen with my own two eyes.
It is mightily uncomfortable to allow pain to wash through me and flood all the structures that keep me safe. Oh but the insights and gifts that flow through that wash! And then the greatest, most unexpected one of all: this water that washes loves me too. It sees me, adores me, and moves me.
My wild life was begging to be born. Wild, creative energy ready to be released.
And slowly, ever ever so slowly, I was no longer on my knees in supplication but on my knees in glorified gratitude and grace, prone in the green grass hugging me, holding me.
With more than a pulse, with the breath of God flowing through me.
From the outside, nothing looks all that different (yet), I create my wild life every day here and now in the sacred spaces I cultivate, becoming as liquid as the water that drives nature and swallows up hurricane-proof lives.
At the ready for transformation.
I am enthralled by where the flow will go.
I remember the ache. I remember how it badgered me one morning at the breakfast table, the song from Sesame Street popping up in my head: Which one of these things is different? Which one of these things just doesn’t belong?
homemade banana pancakes
vermont maple syrup
a sweet family eating breakfast together
It was the ache. It should not have been there. I remember feeling like a royal criminal for being incapable of adoring this beautiful, still-frame moment in which I had everything I could ask for. What was wrong with me? Why was there an ache, a dullness inside of me?
I’m certain that if I had not had the support from a community of wise women around me, and the fortunate ability to create consistent downtime in my week, I would have been one out of the every four women in America on psychiatric medication. In a recent New York Times article, Medicating Women’s Feelings, author and psychiatrist, Julie Holland explains how this medicated normal is at odds with women’s biology. I hope you’ll click on the link, along with this follow up from my friend who shares what anti-anxiety pills did for her (got her through severe panic attacks), and what they did not do for her (change her life). Neither article is shaming, but rather a reframing.
So, we’re chucking perfect together and continuing this conversation. We can shift perspectives on how we feel, whether you are a mom or a dad feeling anxious around the pressures of work and money, of getting the children fed and the laundry done…whatever the feeling, we need new guiding questions, a new way to understand something that effects us all.
What is wrong with me? is the wrong question. Holland says that brain and body chemicals are meant to be in flux. Accepting our gloomy moods as a natural part of our biology is a big first step, and it opens up all sorts of possibilities:
What if these were normal states that don’t need to be fixed?
What if these states were actually very fertile and can catalyze positive change?
What if it’s worsened by trying to comprehend, control and resist natural feelings?
And an even bigger question-
What if our low states were a part of the creative process?
And an even bigger question still-
What if by trusting these states of being, we allow something creative to come through?
And bigger still-
What if it is in this deep acceptance of our natural rhythms (and life’s) that we harness our true potential?
Because we allow the creative process to work through us.
Because what if it’s more a question of expression, not depression?
And what if the world is waiting for our unique expression?
Maybe the future’s not stark,
maybe in the dark
there’s nothing wrong
maybe a new kind of strong
is incubating, updating, resonating
we are mutating
What do you think? Could your low state be telling you something new wants to express itself? Can you trust it? If you need support with medication, can it serve as a bridge to bring you back to your rhythm?
I encourage you to contribute your thoughts in the comments below.
If you’re a mom (local to Jacksonville) in need of downtime to connect with yourself, please consider joining us for Deep Relaxation & Connection.
“If teaching is to be reformed in our time, it will not be the result of snappier teaching techniques. It will happen because we are in the midst of a far-reaching intellectual and spiritual revisioning of reality and how we know it.” Parker Palmer
Parker Palmer’s To Know As We Are Known, first published in 1983, is deeply relevant today, and this quote in particular has everything to do with what we like to call innovative education. I found the book when I was a graduate student studying educational psychology at the turn of the millennium, and I was awestruck- I did not know exactly what was meant by a new reality, and at the same time, I could feel the exactness of the words cutting straight to my heart. Looking back now, I can see how the future was pulling me toward it.
In 2015, this message of a new reality is everywhere. Scientific evidence provides support for a global field environment that connects all living systems and consciousness. We are revisioning who we are and how we know, along with our relationships to each other and to the planet.
Some schools are adapting, taking a more holistic view of the child, and cultivating what are termed “21st century skills,” such as empathy and teamwork. The majority are stuck in an outdated and narrow definition of intelligence and how to measure it. We know this, but how do we get un-stuck?
We can’t just throw in some “snappier teaching techniques” and call it transformation. Leaders in education and in every sector have to become active participants in the revisioning of reality, which begins within ourselves.
Once we relax into ourselves
we can trust in the planetary crises as evolutionary drivers
we can open to a fuller picture of the human being
Yes, we have to relax. We have to relax into ourselves. This is a radical act, because we want to get out there and fix things! But that is the old way of the mind- forcing solutions based on limited logic, and it’s out of balance. Changes in the system will not bring the wholeness we desire. It is the cultivation of wholeness within ourselves from which new systems will be built.
With a relaxed mind and ego, we activate the intelligence of the heart, an understanding that arises from our whole being. From this space, we can sense a possible future that our minds can’t yet even grasp–
this is the unknown, emergent future, from where we must lead.
Our actions in the world must come from this inner knowing. In economics, MIT researcher and founding chair of the Presencing Institute, Otto Scharmer, calls this the shift from ego-systems to eco-systems. In education, so much depends on how we answer the questions- Who are we? How do we know?
I can think of nothing more innovative in education than to support teachers in this new way of being. Innovations in all sectors will sustain when we cut through the red tape and birth new structures based in this new reality…a reality to which we must be radically receptive.
How lucky are we to be living in these times of great challenge and potential, with the opportunity to re-imagine ourselves and our relationships with one another and with the world?
(A huge thanks to the Association for Childhood Education International for giving me the opportunity to lead a roundtable discussion on this topic titled Transformation from the Inside Out, at the Institute for Global Education Diplomacy)
*A version of this article was first published on Montessori Tides School website.
Remember the fun we used to have as children playing and singing-
Ms. Mary Mack Mack Mack
All dressed in black, black, black…
Down, down baby,
down by the roller coaster…
We thought we were just playing. We didn’t know that we were wiring neural pathways in our brain that would make learning easier.
We know now that movement strengthens learning. This is supported by a groundswell of research in neuroscience, showing the powerful connection between movement and cognition. Appropriate developmental movement sets the stage for academic learning, and without the establishment of certain sensory-motor skills (ie..skipping, balancing on one foot), a child’s readiness for reading, writing and math can be hindered.
I have been volunteering at Montessori Tides School bringing specific rhythm and movement activities to the lower elementary students. We’ve learned hand-clap games, beanbag games, and lots of singing games that are healthy, enjoyable ways to strengthen capacities for success in reading, writing and math (such as visual and auditory perception, spatial orientation, concentration, rhythm and rhyme, sensory and midline integration). Equally important, singing and moving together builds community and spreads joy, and gives us all an experience of being in our physical bodies.
Some old favorites from my own childhood, like “Go all the way ‘round zero…” have been a hit with the students. When my daughter told me they played this circle game on their own at recess, I was thrilled. Thrilled! This meant that someone exercised self-initiative to get the group and game going; it meant everyone involved had to come into relationship with each other, and make something happen that could only be done in a group working together; it meant they created a feeling of togetherness, respect and camaraderie. As if sharpening their social skills didn’t thrill me enough, they were also becoming better readers on the playground. The skills they were calling upon- memorization, concentration, sensitivity to sounds, rhyme and rhythm- are skills needed for reading. They think they are just playing. And they are, of course!
This play supports their learning…AND this play is vital in and of itself for the sheer joy of it, and for the unhindered ability to just be children, doing what children naturally love to do.
Here are some of my favorite resources on movement and learning:
If your child is having difficulty sitting still in school or difficulties learning, I encourage you to look at how developmental movement can help. Check out Dr. Susan R. Johnson’s educational articles, the above websites for more on neurodevelopment movement programs, and how consulting with programs such as Balance in Childhood can help.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked into the Bay & Bee playspace was a toddler with a wooden train boxcar in each hand. She was talking quietly to herself and touching the magnets of the boxcars together. She put them on the track and rolled them. She was completely engaged in her play, with her back to her mother, and did not notice me noticing her. Her mom was curled in a comfy popasan chair, watching.
There it was- a perfect image to match the conversation around our book, A Child’s Way, which is about slowing down and considering: What have our children come to teach us?
This particular mom was not directing her daughter’s play, nor was she asking questions, like “what color is the train?” She was giving her daughter the opportunity for self-initiative, while her presence was still “with” the child. She was also giving herself a nice little rest, while her daughter was doing exactly what she needed to be doing for her own development.
When we are really present with our children, when we engage eye-to-eye and have those touchstone moments of heart connection throughout the day, we create a rhythm of being together, and being independent. In other words, once they’ve had our complete attention, they will be ready to do the things they need to be doing on their own because they take our felt presence with them. What they end up doing are things that are vital to their growth as human beings. For example, the infant lying on her back, and later turning over, lifting herself up and crawling is experiencing crucial developmental movements that are related to later academic learning.
This rhythm of both presence and independence is a daily practice that helps us: understand our own needs with those of our children, and create the relationships we want with our children- who challenge us and teach us what matters.
While we have been efficient, effective and accomplished in other areas of our life, children remind us that not everything can be condensed down to lists, techniques and how to’s. The truth is we are not happy unless our heart is involved.
So check in with your heart throughout the day. Ask yourself what the moment is for:
Is it for efficiency, or for noticing what my child is noticing? Is it for teaching my child something, or for him to teach me? Is it for getting the job done effectively or remaining true to myself and what I love?
Every moment is designed for you. No book, no person, no technique has your answers. What if you and your child were giving each other the joys and challenges that are exactly what each of you need?
It was absolutely wonderful to be at Bay & Bee, where the gift of a space to be is provided for both parent and child. Thank you to Monica and Zuzia!
Bay & Bee is now a retailer of A Child’s Way.