More than ever, we need a new spirituality which embraces all the practical aspects of our lives. As we struggle with disasters, both natural and man-made we are beginning to understand our impact and that we might well be on a path of self destruction. Unless we examine ourselves and the way we live and cease damaging the environment and each other, we may well not survive or flourish in our universe.
How do we create a future in which our children can live peacefully and in harmony with themselves, each other and our magnificent earth? Where do we begin?
First of all, therefore, we need to begin with ourselves. Who are we, where do we come from and where are we going? What pain do we carry handed down from the previous generations, our family ancestry, and our history? What is our spiritual ancestry? Are we able to truly love ourselves as well as those who share our world with us?
We are co-creators with The Divine and bear within us the potential for harmonious and peaceful living, for compassion and loving acts towards each other. Part of our journey on earth is to reconnect with this potential, this capacity to love and be loved, to live together in social harmony. To do this we need to reconnect with all our experiences and the full range of our feelings. When we hold in and are unable to express angry or hurt feelings as children, we may act them out in non-peaceful ways, which may hurt others and ourselves.
When we are hurt, we need to remember, relive and release the anger, hurt and loss until we are clam and able to reconnect with the parts of ourselves we have hidden away. For this we need a Listener, a Shaman, a Therapist who provides a safe space and can mirror to us the love we should have been given but never received. From the darkest nights of our souls can shine the brightest illuminations, as this process of finding and recreating ourselves brings us to self love and compassion for others.
It is interesting that from early on in our civilization there have been wise leaders who have admonished their people on how to raise their children. Tolstoy wrote: “There are two important rules in education: 1) Live well according to the highest moral ideal. (2) Perfect yourself continually, and conceal nothing from your children, especially your faults, mistakes, and shortcomings. Children are much more sensitive morally than are adults. Without saying or even being directly conscious of it children not only see the faults of their parents, but even the worst of all faults, their hypocrisy. . .
Mosso, A great Italian physiologist wrote: “Every ugly thing, told to the child, every shock, every fright given him, will remain like minute splinters in the flesh, to torture him all his life long.”
Even Plato, so many years ago urges that “you must train the children to their studies in a playful manner, and without any air of constraint, with the further object of discerning more readily the natural bent of their characters.”
And of Course Jesus, The great Master of our time taught his disciples a grave lesson: “And there arose a dispute among them which of them should be the greatest.” When Jesus saw the thought of their hearts, he took a little child, and set him by his side, and said unto them: “Whosoever shall receive this little child in my name receiveth me.” (Luk 9, 46) “And they brought him little children that he should touch them: and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said unto them, Suffer little children to come unto me; forbid them not; for such is the Kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. And he took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.” (Mark 10, 13).
Secondly we need to be reverent towards the power we bear to create new life and bring in new souls consciously. Every baby deserves to be a planned and wanted child. An unwanted baby is imprinted with the trauma of rejection and healing this trauma is difficult, though not impossible. Where pregnancy is unplanned, every effort needs to be made to understand why this child has come to us at this time, to share with us their spirit. Feelings of being overwhelmed, by having to cope with the demands a small baby will bring, need to be acknowledged and told to someone who can listen and support.
The Bushmen peoples of Southern Africa as well as the Aboriginal people of Australia were aware of their coming children sometimes years before conception. Future babies have brought reassurance, conveyed love, announced, persuaded, offered guidance and sought to prepare mothers for their arrival. A friend of mine, whose second pregnancy was unplanned, felt her baby respond strongly to her touch at 18 weeks of pregnancy and distinctly “heard” him say ‘It’s OK mom, I understand and love you and we’ll get through this together’. This mother was able to feel a deep love for and acceptance of her unborn son.
As parents we need to commit ourselves to resolve or transform conflicts without physical or verbal violence. We need to prevent violence by educating ourselves about our children’s stages of development. We need to understand from where our own feelings of frustration and despair arise. We need to touch our children in ways that promote peace and teach them to touch others, including animals, in the same way.
As parents, we need to somehow be working towards the removal of the vast economic differences between groups and take care of the environment by using resources and disposing of waste with respect. We need to promote a sense of shared responsibility and participation, respecting differences and human rights, including religious freedom. Children need to be taught appropriate ways of discharging anger without hurting people, plants or animals. Whether we are mothers, fathers, co-parents, stepparents, married parents, single parents, our task is to lay the foundations for building a culture of peace based on non-violence, tolerance and respect.
How do we do this when our baby won’t stop crying? Or our toddler is screaming for chocolate in the supermarket? Or our two-year-old is blatantly saying “no” to a simple request? Or our 10-year-old gets sassy and our teenager lives in a bedroom that looks like a slum? There are no easy answers, but I have started a list below of ways to begin promoting a culture of peace. Please share with us your views or suggestions and add to this list.
• Know yourself: Seek help, therapy or counseling when you are struggling, when you feel violent towards your children, when you are grieving or in despair.
• Love each other: If you are in an intimate relationship with a partner or the parent of your child, be kind towards each other. Destructive relationships are also destructive for any children involved. Children grow better in an atmosphere of love than of discord.
• Connect with your baby while pregnant by singing, touching and talking to your unborn child
• Touch infants frequently in the first days and months of life using Kangaroo Mother Care ( Skin to Skin Contact and unrestricted access to breastfeeding).
• Talk to your children: tell them about your world. Dance with them, sing to and with them.
• Listen to and watch your children: really listen and respond to their body language and cues when babies, their verbal communication when older.
• Never hit, shake, slap, or beat young children. (Or anyone for that matter!) This only frightens them and teaches them that violence is acceptable and that they are victims
• Help and allow children to express their feelings, to cry, to rage when upset. Provide a safe environment for them to do this.
• Provide age appropriate activities, games for them to play and play, play, play with your children.
We call on parents to take up the challenge of spiritual and peaceful and to contact us if you would like more information, or wish to share experiences. “Promoting peace is a journey and demands that we respect all forms of life, especially human life and that love, compassion, human dignity and justice are preserved.”(Threshold 2000, Conexus Press, U.S.A.)