Today I am so pleased to present a beautiful guest post from ILCHI LEE. Mr. Lee is an educator, mentor, and trailblazer who is the developer of many mind-body training methods including Dahn Yoga and Brain Education. He is also the founder of Sedona Mago Retreat and the author of thirty-three books, including the New York Times bestseller, The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart. For more information about his teachings, visit www.callofsedona.com.
As you may already know, children are naturally spiritual. They are naturally intuitive and compassionate, and they are completely open-minded without any hard and fast beliefs. To a large degree, you can simply let your child’s spiritual development unfold naturally and without much effort on your part. I recommend exposing your children to various spiritual elements without forcing them to accept or embrace anything. Just make it fun, and they will be naturally curious.
Another powerful tool for the teaching of spirituality is nature. I would even say that nature is far superior to any cathedral or temple for developing one’s spirituality. By spending time in nature, children can learn the very important skill of being. Nature, by its essence, allows people to feel oneness with all of creation, as well as their own true nature. As a parent, there is very little that you need to do to make nature a spiritual experience for children.
But, you can help your children connect to and experience the natural world more often. Our children’s lives are often woefully lacking in contact with the natural world. Out of fear, we rarely let them roam freely, and contacts with the wild world are few and far between. You might ask yourself, “Does my child know the difference between an oak tree and a pine tree? Between a sparrow and a robin?”
Author Richard Louv, in the book Last Child in the Woods, contends that many of the behavioral and learning issues that plague kids today are actually the result of something he calls “nature-deficit disorder.” Many play experiences these days are “virtual” rather than “real.” Essentially, this leads to a kind of spiritual and mental disconnection that creates many problems. For this reason, many psychologists have turned to “nature-play” as a treatment for attention deficit disorders.
Do what you can to reconnect yourself and your children to the joys of nature. A family summer vacation at a beautiful beach or a camping in a remote mountain valley will be a memorable event. But the time you spend with your kid while walking in a nearby park or watering the plants in your back yard may be more meaningful to the child.
Here are three sample exercises that you can do with your kids in nature. But, remember that your child’s spirituality is already there in the same way that the oak tree is in the acorn. It’s not really up to you to instill spirituality in your child. Just find ways to allow your child’s spirituality to bloom in its own way and at its own time.
Aliens in the Woods
Go to some natural setting, such as a park or wooded area. Ask your child to pretend to be a space alien who has just landed on planet Earth. The alien really wants to experience Earth, but he or she does not have eyes like humans. So you must carefully guide your little alien to experience the wonders of nature. Blindfold the child or have him or her close eyes tight. You can guide the hand to feel the bark of a tree, or pick up a leaf and rub it gently against the cheek. (Watch out for itchy and prickly things!) Instruct the alien to smell a fragrant flower or rub rocks together to make a sound. After a while, switch roles, making the child the human and you the alien.
When you go to a river, beach, or stream, try this exercise with your kids. Sit comfortably in a quiet location where you can hear the sound of the water. Soaking your legs in the water can be a good idea, unless the water is too cold. Focus on the sounds you hear. You may close your eyes. Then you can hear the sound of the water flow more clearly.
Imagine that the water flows through your whole body from the top of your head to your toes. The clear water washes down your face, neck, and straight through your chest. It continues to flow through your belly, thighs, knees, ankles, and toes. While you do this, let water wash away all the worries in your heart. Water carries your worries to the big ocean where your worries will be melted away. Conclude by thanking water for taking your worries away and bringing peace and happiness instead.
A Tree Hugger
Visit a place you can meet lots of trees such as forest, woodland, or a nearby park. Take some time to walk in the area until you feel refreshed and comfortable. As you walk, try to engage all of your senses fully. Take in all the layers of sound and smell the many fragrant odors of the area.
Find a tree that you like. There will be a tree that your heart feels drawn to. Try expressing that feeling. You can place your hand on the trunk and feel the energy of the tree, and you can even have a conversation with the tree.
If you meet a good-looking tree, you can say, “You’re a very good looking tree,” and start up a conversation as if it were your friend. As you do this, a bond will form between you and the tree.
Hug the tree like you hug your best friend. Listen to the tree, and it may say something to you. Have enough time to enjoy your new tree friend. Thank the tree and say good-bye.