Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Walking the Labyrinth

Last month, my 8 year old daughter accompanied me to the Nashua YMCA to hear me speak about my experiences working with children and labyrinths. As we walked into the building, I pointed out to Haelie that I had attended preschool there, years before of course. We could smell the chlorine from the pool where I had learned how to swim, and where Haelie first swam with her father when she was 6 months old. We turned the corner and began walking towards they gym where I had spent many winters playing indoor soccer, and where my daughter and I participated in our first Mommy and Me gym class when she was just 1 year old. I hadn't realized the connection I had to this place.

We were a bit early to arrive, so we stopped by the room next door where a large canvas labyrinth had been set up for visitors to walk. It was surrounded by candlelight, and we could hear soothing music. Haelie and I slipped off our shoes by the door and approached the entrance of this beautiful labyrinth. Slowly, we began our journey on the path. Haelie followed me in complete silence as we encountered the twists and turns of the labyrinth. Slowly, step by step, we breathed quietly, and proceeded silently to the center, mother leading daughter.

As we walked I thought about how walking this labyrinth, in this particular moment, was so metaphorical. Haelie wasn't ready to trust that she could navigate the twists and turns of the labyrinth on her own. She needed to see, she needed to follow, and she needed me to show her and silently reassure her that she could do it, and that I would be there every step of the way. I had learned some of those same lessons as a child, teen, and parent, in the classrooms, swimming pool, and gymnasiums of that building.

In the center, we took pause before journeying back out. Haelie whispered to me that she wanted to lead this time. She wanted me to follow her back out. She was ready. I had showed her enough to allow her the confidence to do it on her own. Now I followed Haelie in complete silence, as we encountered the twists and turns of the labyrinth. Slowly, step by step, we breathed quietly, and proceeded silently to where we had began, daughter leading mother.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Want to learn more about the benefits of labyrinths for children? Come join me on Thursday, Nov. 19th at 5:30 at the YMCA in Nashua for an informational, and hopefully motivational, presentation about a remarkable labyrinth coming to Nashua in the fall.

Hope to see you there!!

The Reflection Garden & Labyrinth - Nashua, NHJ
Source: www.nashualabyrinth.org
Mission To create an interactive commissioned art walk and garden that will bring a message of beauty, hope, love and peace to the citizens of Greater Nashua for future generations to come.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Poor Kids

My kids have heard the word "peace" more times than could even attempt to count. They have seen me teach peace education in the classroom, they have been dragged to numerous yoga classes for children, and have heard countless bedtime stories about peace. My kids were present every step of the way as I became a teacher, wrote my thesis, and my book. You may say they have had their fill of peace by now. How can I tell? The word "peace" is often followed up by an eye roll or a groan by one of my wonderful children.

I have to sympathize with them to a point. How awful it must have been to have parents and teachers teach them how to resolve conflicts peacefully at such a young age! How terrible it must have been to have tools to calm themselves down when they were feeling out of control or angry! And, perhaps the most unfortunate of them all, how absolutely horrible to have a mother who kept talking about peace despite the eye rolling, groans, and protests.

In truth, my kids are getting to the age where nothing that I say will be right, or cool. However, I am discovering that regardless of how much they say they hate to hear about peace, and can't stand to talk about it for one more minute, they are showing me otherwise.

In my book, one of the questions posed to me by teachers was, "How will we know if it works?". My answer then, and now, is "You'll see it when it counts." Last week my daughter was drawing before breakfast, just as she typically does every other day of the week. She quietly hung her masterpiece on the refrigerator and went on with her morning routine. It wasn't until dinner time that I had noticed what it said.

"Be peaceful!! If you do, it will feel like you are in a magical land."

I had to laugh to myself. Despite all of the protests to the contrary, she does listen when we speak of peace. She does take it to heart, and she does truly understand. "You'll see it when it counts." I see it when she works through a disagreement with her sister, I see it as she navigates her way through social issues, and I see it in the way she treats others.

My poor kids. I can see it when it counts, and they are still in denial. I will laugh myself to sleep tonight knowing that for now, my plan to nurture peaceful kids is still working!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Family Traditions

One of my family's favorite parts of attending church each week is a tradition called "Joys and Concerns". In this moment, people are invited to the front of the sanctuary to light a candle of joy or concern, and briefly share some words with the community. In these moments, we feel connected to each other as we hear about love and loss, the trials and tribulations of life, and the everyday moments which make life what it is.

Some years ago, we took that tradition home. Every now and again, we will sit down as a family, around a small tray of candles. I will light the large pillar in the center, and there are smaller tea-lights around the tray. After a brief moment of silence, we take turns lighting a candle, and sharing with each other the things we are feeling really good about, and the things that we are worrying about as well. We have this great opportunity to really be able to share how we are feeling, and each person has the chance to be genuinely heard. That is not always the case during our day to day activities. My kids have shared some feelings that I wonder if I would have been able to key into had we not shared that time together.

Lighting our own candles of "Joys and Concerns" as a family, allows us to reconnect and take the needed step back to pause. There is something peaceful about sitting quietly, staring at the flickering flames of the candles, and being in the company of loved ones, that truly is spiritual.

"Learning how to become emotionally literate is one of the best investments that human beings can make for themselves, their children, and the future."
~ Ayman Sawaf

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Children are Watching

I don't know why, but I have had the unfortunate opportunity to witness several acts of road rage recently, with my children in the back seat. In one instance, the young driver in the car next to us exited his vehicle at a stop light and screamed at the elderly driver in front of him, "I'm going to beat you old man!"
I could not believe that someone could get so worked up about being caught behind someone doing the speed limit. Yet, here I was, getting equally worked up about this sickening public display. I rolled down my window and asked the man to please get back in his car. There were children watching him.

Raising kids to be peaceful is a challenge in its own right. They are witnessing everyday examples of adults and leaders resolving conflicts using less than peaceful measures. In that moment, I could have joined the madness and started to rant and rave. What good would have come from that? What good could possibly come from this man threatening another?

When you are stuck in seemingly endless traffic, or that person forgot to use their directional to switch into your lane, or you are stuck behind the guy driving 5 miles below the speed limit, I urge you to take a a deep breath. The traffic will end, you will get where you need to be, and the other drivers around you are most likely not conspiring to cut you off or drive you crazy. The children are watching your responses. Your children, and the children in the cars driving by you or stopped at a red light. They are watching your very move and learning how to be adults. Let's help them to learn to be the peaceful variety.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finding Calm in the Midst of Chaos

I was at a meeting with some colleagues yesterday when the reality hit me. We hadn't seen each other in some months and started our meeting by "checking in" with each other. As I finished talking about dealing with the aftermath of the recent Mont Vernon tragedy, visiting the possibility of saying goodbye to the job I have grown to love, and accepting the addition of my husband's 14 year old son into our home, one of my colleagues really summed it up for me. "Wow. Everything you know to be stable and true is being threatened right now. Everything is up and the air and you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. How scary!" Hmm....you might be on to something?!

I am by no means the princess of peace. I study it, promote it, and write about it, but living peacefully remains a work in progress for me. I still am unable to meditate or silence my mind for any real length of time. My competitive nature does me no favors in yoga class when I end up hurting myself by trying to hold the poses longer than the rest of the class. So no, I am not a meditating yogi. I am an over extended mom trying her hardest to tread water in this sea of chaos.

The truth of the matter is that no matter how crazy life gets, I have found ways to return to that feeling of peace. Every now and then I have to put my foot on the breaks, step back, and remember to live for a minute. Last week, my daughters and I took a day together to visit our favorite msueum, the Mariposa Multicultural Museusm in Peterborough, NH. This is a place that always leaves us feeling peacful, hopeful, and inspired. The gorgeous scenic drive through the NH foliage didn't hurt either.

I know that my life will always breathe chaos. My datebook will always be filled, my phone will keep ringing, and my inbox will always be full. I know this. But I also know that from time to time, I need to return to peace. It may be momentarily, it may be for the day, or in some cases even the weekend! However brief my peaceful experience may be, I know it the only way I will be able to continue to keep my head above water and get through the next challenges and obtacles that will inevitably come my way.