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Building Resilience in Children to Meet Life’s Challenges

Talk and Garden Activity at Glenaeon Steiner Preschool Thursday October 19th, 2017 at 9:30-12:00

In the central kindergarten of the preschool, a circle was formed with a chair for each adult. In the centre of the circle were some ‘healing baskets’ filled with ‘tools’ that may help in the daily responsibility of parents supporting their children through life’s challenges.

Following Peggy’s introduction of Sandra, we stood up from our chairs and stretched up high to the heavens that holds the sun that rises every day all over the world whether we give it attention or not. We dug our toes into the floor, affirming that which holds us: here we stand between heaven and earth.

We marched around the outside of the circle of chairs and stopped at each chair saying ‘HO’ as we hit above our breastplate with our right fist (on the thymus gland, stimulating our lungs and heart, the blood moving us). *

Each person in turn introduced themselves and said what brings them joy. We may feel sensorial relief when we put our hand in the soft warm fur of a pet whom we love. Ah joy!

Many of these reflections on what brings us joy are also ‘tools for the toolbox’ of ideas we must have to meet life’s every day challenges and possible catastrophes. The resulting events themselves may range from a bumped knee to witnessing a car accident to

unresolved individual, family, cultural, systemic and multi – generational grief from wars, poverties, cruelties suffered. Perhaps a fear of learning something new, like a language, may in turn affect our ability to embrace the learning of new things in life.

How do we transform ‘trauma’ into strength and resilience?

Our ‘introduction game’ itself provided many examples of ‘health giving’. By simply walking, we connect our heart to the earth with every foot step. We create a rhythm as we place one foot after the other. The human body is thus supported in ‘moving’ itself toward health.

Saying an emboldened: ‘HO’ while hitting our breastplate is akin to the ‘war cry’ that many cultures express before they enter a challenge together. (In the Jewish faith this is done at the time of ‘atonement’, symbolising a time of confronting the ‘dark side’ of ourselves.)

On that morning as we enthusiastically “HO’ed” we sounded so power-full that we had to ‘tone down our communal ‘HO’s’, as we were aware that we didn’t want to traumatize children that morning with the emphatic tone of our voices and stomping of our feet.

When we reached our own chair again, we sat down and Sandra explained the healing points of the exercise and then elaborated on the topic. Having completed such an exercise, we are reminded that getting ourselves and our children walking, in nature, up and down staircases, anywhere rather than ‘instant’ transport of a car or elevator is a health giving exercise.

Speaking the words of our trauma as we tell the story to someone or hear a child’s story, can in itself, be a turning point in our transformation from experiencing a traumatic event to creating a healing opportunity. We have a witness to this dramatic event, we

have been heard. Someone else is now carrying this happening in their heart and mind and may be able to support us somehow. We can help someone by sharing our story or listening to theirs. This is a strengthening and unifying practice for our familial and community fabric. We can feel proud of our scars, our ‘initiation tests’ rather than ‘ashamed’.

Our children can grow in a culture that welcomes the story of ’that which happened’. Children will ‘play’ and this is self-healing. As they act out the story, each time a little differently we will witness that “play’ as a tool is available to us too. We may need to actively help children to act out the event to externalize and allow them to see it differently, as if from a distance. ‘Role Play’ is a healthful process for we adults too! We can use objects as puppets or actually ‘dress up’ to act out the event.

When we sing or tell a story as a healing modality, the rhythm of the child’s heart joins our own. Thus to embrace our child and to sing: ‘Healing, healing loving for my beautiful daughter/son, healing, healing has begun, soon my son/daughter will have some fun. **

We are addressing the ailment and giving a touch or water or medicine and then making ‘fun’ (a tickle). We may repeat our comforting song or gesture a few times, but we won’t ‘stay ‘in a sympathetic mode. (Staying in sympathetic mode can make us fearful and self- consumed unnecessarily.) The muscles moving in our bellies as we laugh, and the muscles moving on our faces as we smile are themselves healing tools.

How do we ‘hold’ our child when we ourselves are frightened? We don’t want them to take that fear within their bodies and so we must acknowledge what the ‘phenomena’ is. We must actively take hold of this event and mould it, transform it in the moment so that our child too can rise to the occasion and experience a strength- creation.

Sandra then told a story of being on an extremely bumpy flight and recognizing that she needed to model ‘fearlessness’ to her four- year old daughter. An inspiration came to her of pretending that she and her daughter were the pilots and had steering wheels and so they careened from side to side in their seats focusing on ‘driving the aeroplane’ through the cloudy skies rather than being victims of the inclement weather. An accompanying mantra evolved which they still use 22 years later: ‘we don’t get scared we get excited’. This is an example of positively using the adrenalin that rushes inside us making us freeze or want to take flight. With continual practice we can use that adrenalin to conquer the occasion rather than be overwhelmed by it.

Being in nature provides a vast opportunity for healing as we create with earth and sand, sticks and stones, shells and pine cones, leaves and seeds, under the trees. So much do the children and we learn from form and texture and ourselves in such play scapes.

In our kitchen we have rice, flour and other foods that can be independently poured from one vessel into another providing opportunities for children to focus on something and ‘lose themselves’ as they become absorbed in the activity. For children who have difficulty with sensorial ‘messy’ activities it is necessary to begin with ‘dry’ un-messy and, when they are ready, progress to ‘adding water’ to the dry matter to explore new sensations.

This activity as described was passed around the circle for participants to explore.

The kitchen itself can be considered as a temple of alchemy to give ourselves and children of all ages opportunities for self -growth, reflection and learnings of the sciences, arts and way of nature. All of these activities help to heal the challenges of the day and to ‘set us right’ in their transitional way. “Playing/working with food is a profound way to be together doing nourishing tasks.

The creation of rhythm as we go about our daily, weekly, seasonally, yearly activities, supports our healing from trauma. Rudolf Steiner Education is particularly developed to do this.

We can choose as much as possible to avoid anxiety creating scenes such as being in overly stimulating environments like a grocery store checkout, where we are all vulnerable under the pressures of temptation and the over exposure of our nervous systems.

Rudolf Steiner suggested that we can protect ourselves with sphagnum or peat moss when we need extra protection from external stimuli and influences. Wearing a sphagni oil helps children and adults to withstand and be protected against outside influences such as heavy traffic, air travel, radiation and situations causing separation anxiety. (www.southernswan.net.au)

Sandra finished the formal part of her presentation by displaying a doll that reminded her of challenging times in her life that led her to many wonders including becoming an immigrant to her beloved Australia.

We concluded this inside time together with a moving circle holding hands and singing ‘Ring around the rosie a pocket full of posey, tissue, tissue we all fall down. The cows are in the meadow eating buttercups, and along came a mouse who frightened them all up!’ The group dispersed: some leaving the preschool and other staying for the garden activity.

Having time in nature: connecting through relationships and releasing tensions gifts us.
Having time to rest in the quiet, regularly and for long enough is restorative for everyone.

Having health giving nutritious foods with time to enjoy this eating time is foundational for us all.

*Body Eloquence: The Power of Myth and Story to Awaken the Body’s Energies, page 183, by Nancy Mellon. Energy Psychology Press Santa Rosa CA 2008
**Seven Times the Sun: Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day, by Shea Darian. Gilead Press, Marshall, Australia 1999

Garden Care

Following a plate of fresh fruit and vegetable refreshment we met in the preschool garden and mixed up a bucket of ‘tree paste’ for to heal the trees wounds with.

We discussed the merits of each substance that goes into this simple tree paste: cow manure (millions of nutritional microbes, antiseptic); sand (high in formative, reflective silica), clay (binding mineral -rich mediator); water (as needed for consistency). Although gloves were on offer, most participants chose to enjoy the sensation of mixing the paste by hand. Memories were evoked of life in rural China, Japan and Brazil. ‘my family dried it and burned it for heat; we used to throw handfuls of cow manure at each other’; I recall the smell from my childhood visits to a farm every weekend.’

Once mixed, the tree paste was applied to openings on nearby trees, with children participating gleefully. The tree paste helps to seal the wounds on the trees so that fungus and insects cannot enter the tree and ultimately destroy it. Wherever it is applied it will give nutritional fertilizer to the tree whose bark and trunk is like its soil.

People remarked that they felt a bonding with the trees as they applied the paste with their hands or by painting it on with brushes. When the Bay tree was halved as was necessary, the cut was covered by tree paste. A song accompanied the two actions.

‘The sawers are sawing, sawing the Bay leaf tree, the sawers are sawing, sawing the tree.

‘ Healing,healing tree medicine for our beautiful Bay leaf tree. Healing, healing has begun, soon our tree will be safe again.’

In a bucket of water we then stirred a biodynamic soil activator fertilizer that contained many minerals and especially prepared medicinal preparations. This stirring is a dynamizing process as homeopathic medicines are made. Repeatedly a vortex is made by stirring the water with one’s hand in one direction, and then a chaos ensues as the water is stirred in the opposite direction and eventually a vortex is formed again. This ensures that every drop of water is infused with the fertilizer placed in the water. After stirring this fertilizer infused water for 20 minutes, we divided it into bowls and sprinkled it out over the gardens and grounds of the preschool with the children in eager attendance. As it is homeopathic, only drops of the medicines are needed to encourage the forces of nature to stimulate each other.

This mineral and microbe rich fertilizer will assist in the soil becoming more vibrant and colloidal. In addition to more nutritious foods, the area, itself will be strengthened and more resilient to the natural wearing down from weather and pollutants too. ‘Bio’ means life and ‘dynamic’ is about moving life. This we practiced in our garden activity.

After each parent and accompanying eager children planted a seedling of their choice, we encircled a garden bed and stated our experience of the morning in one word. “Growing; learning; persistence; transformational; connected to the earth; eager to plant; footsteps to self”, were recorded.

A natural modelling dough (beeswax, lanolin and calcium carbonate) was offered for participants to take home and experience as a simple and transportable ‘de-stresser and healing opportunity’ for they and their children. http://www.phlanaklay.com or info@phlanaklay.com.au

ECE REGIONAL MEETING

On May 13, 2017, a large group (20+) of Steiner Early Childhood teachers  from Northern NSW/Queensland Region met on the veranda of Pierina Barbaresco’s kindergarten at Casuarina Steiner School.

Marilou Araullo and Julie McVeigh, our regional representatives and key members of ‘The Core Group’ of  AARSECE, led and supported us in a review of The Vital Years held in Hobart in July 2016.

Our vibrant discussions included the prevalent food related issues of today. What Rudolf Steiner said about nutrition and society in 1924 is supportive now, as we do active research on what food diet is best for us and our family. Are we inclusive in our ‘Steiner Community’ to all people regardless of their food preferences? How do we meet our own food related fears and those of the children and families we work with? What attitudes must we embody to embrace each child and family, while remaining true to our own values?

Challenges a teacher may experience are lunches, bread baking and share- a- plate social times. How does one graciously host such an event with so many individual needs being expressed? Are we causing stress for the parents of our children when they prepare children’s lunches and plates for social times?

Quote by quote, ‘what Steiner said’ may give us strength. As the principles of biodynamic agriculture and homeopathic medicines are designed to heal and strengthen. That we can meet what may ail us, valiantly. Likewise Steiner’s quotes may embolden us for the daily adventure of feeding ourselves and our community. Allow the quotes and the challenges to be ‘bread for the journey’ rather than ‘lead for the saddlebags’. ’Take what works for you and leave the rest’ is another way to look the topic. Or, ‘live and let live’!

“In 1924, following repeated requests, Rudolf Steiner agreed to give a series of lectures to farmers in what was then Eastern Germany. These farmers had already noticed the deterioration of plant and animal health due to chemical fertilization. They wanted to know how to strengthen the vitality and forces of their crops and livestock. This course of lectures became the foundation for the Biodynamic Method of agriculture.” Roderick Shouldice, Foreword AGRICULTURE (Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of AGRICULTURE) by Rudolf Steiner, Edited by Malcolm Gardner 1993 Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association,Inc. Kimberton PA U.S.A

Our challenge as ECE teachers: are we educating ourselves in Biodynamics and ensuring that our school gardens are thus invigorated so that we can support ourselves and the people who grace our school? (93 years after Steiner gave his Agriculture lectures we are experiencing the crisis of our deteriorated crops and animals manifesting as a crisis of human health. )

 “In the lecture on ‘Nutrition and Health’ Rudolf Steiner examines nutrition specifically from the perspective of health and healing and how a detailed knowledge of the spiritual as well as the materialistic constitution of the human being and of the substances in nature is necessary if proper remedies are to be found. What is poison in one context can heal a person in another. However, specifically with regard to diet, he also makes the subtle point that the positive or negative effect of the food we eat –if we move to a vegetarian diet, for example- depends as much on the harmony between our physical and spiritual organism as the actual food itself, that the material change also needs to be accompanied by spiritual development. The human being must also be looked at in the round. “ Christine von Arnim compiled and edited NUTRITION: Food Health, and Spiritual Development from the work of Rudolf Steiner. Rudolf Steiner Press 2008 & 2012, Hillside House, The Square, Forest Row England.

Our challenge as ECE teachers is to understand that nutrition and health cannot be ‘prescriptive’. We must act as scientists, observing the children in our care and supporting them as best we can within our mandate to ‘free their spirit’ from the burdens of our tendency as adults to ‘materialistic’ thinking. For example in our modern society we have a tendency to de-nature our grains and dairy ‘products’ into ‘gluten and lactose ’ issues. What does this mean to a child (or any of us?). If we embrace grains and dairy as beautiful gifts from our mother earth’s bounty, then to eat or not eat them may be a personal choice that is dependent on our needs or expression of individuality at a particular time of our life.

The more we are compelled or advised to have some extra kind of food — or altogether anything special — the more unsocial we become. The significance of the Last Supper is that Christ gave the same to all of his disciples and not something special to each one. Making it possible to be together as human beings when eating or drinking has a great social significance, and anything that might tend to repress this healthy tendency should be treated with some caution.” page 199 of Nutrition and Stimulants by Rudolf Steiner Published by Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association/PA 1991

Our challenge as ECE teachers is to respect the individuality of the children and their families in regard to food and yet maintain a healthy happy social mood in the school. There are many stories about Rudolf Steiner and his somewhat humorous answers when he was questioned about particular diets or foods by well- meaning anthroposophists.  The quote above indicates his caution that we become so precious about our diets that we become anti -social.  Now that particular diets have become more prevalent we are in danger of losing our soci-ability tobreak bread together. What tools do we have to assist us to be mediators of a healthy social fabric?

We are given guidance to assist us in our consciousness, (and perhaps repentance) in regard to ‘food issues’. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask divinity, (our Father)“Give us this day our daily bread (to sustain us physically) Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (our etheric environmental community) And lead us not into temptation (our astral challenges of impulses and desires) But deliver us from evil (our ego need to express our independence may be at the expense of others)”  The Lord’s Prayer: An Esoteric Study, by Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press,Inc. New York 1970, 1977

Our challenge as ECE teachers is to rise to the occasion of these food/social issues of our times and develop our own spiritual and moral strength to lead and guide the people in our care. Perhaps the illnesses of childhood will provide destiny situations for ourselves and other adults in the childrens lives. Perhaps our children are the catalyst for us to work with the spiritual world both individually and together.

Thank you to all meeting participants for this lively discussion. I hope that I have done our conversation justice with the above research and ponderings.

Sincerely, Sandra Frain   Wise Ways Work:  Educational for All Ages
www.SandraFrain.com   Sandrafrain58@gmail.com      0413271308