The French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
For most of us, there is something about this idea, “… we are spiritual beings having a human experience,” that resonates at a very deep level. It is as if something in us knows, deep in the gut, perhaps at an unconscious level, that we are made of more than just the sum total of our believes, thoughts, feelings and the life situation that we are living at the moment.
We have a sense of being larger, more infinite than just the “I.” And for most of us, the idea that we humans are vaster than just a finite ego, feels true, even if we can’t quite access the knowing of it directly.
This off course doesn’t mean you have to believe in a supreme being or even subscribe to any particular religion to know this. Subsequently, whatever your beliefs, you probably want your child to know the following:
To really recognise and understand that life is sacred, that nature deserves respect, that their presence in this world actually should make it a better place not worse, also that their voice matters, that they are not victims but creators, that the greatest happiness comes from connecting and sharing with others, that giving is more rewarding than receiving, that struggling can push us to grow, and that while we don’t always get what we want, we can always choose to make the most of what we have, and that love is always, always stronger than hate.
So, here is a few ideas for helping you to awaken your child’s spirituality:
Albert Einstein once said that the most important decision each person makes is deciding whether or not this is a friendly universe. So by helping your child to understand that this universe smiles on them is a great gift to give them.
Why? Because when people feel safe in the world they are more emotionally and physically healthy, as well as more compassionate to others, which off course increases their happiness. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to teach your children how to keep themselves safe, but the knowledge that some people are not to be trusted, cruel and even dangerous, should not keep them from kindness. Einstein was probably commending on a deeper level of trust, a sense that life has meaning and that the good we do in the world actually matters.
This way of looking at life helps children when they do encounter tragedy and may feel powerless to help, in this they can find an inner balance and not grow into cynical, victim adults.
Because when they feel empowered to make a difference, they grow strong and find their own inner voice, and are more likely to stand up for themselves and others.
The easiest way of guiding your children to become empowered adults is by making full use of everyday, even small, opportunities. For example, to help children feel empowered rather than hopeless, look at the way you answer their questions. Remember, your children’s questions are in fact their way of trying to organize and integrate their world view.
It’s fine to say you don’t know the answer to everything, to wonder together, to grieve, and to search together for answers. But it’s also important to communicate to your child that tragedy does not just fall out of the sky. Even if we can’t see the reason, there are reasons for the things that happen.
So you might explain an act of violence by saying something like, “Sometimes people disagree with each other and they don’t use their words but rather fight with their hands, or guns, or bombs. But those things always create more pain and hurt. That’s why we always try to use words.”
“And there is always something each one of us can do to make things better. When something bad happens, like a fire or earthquake, there are always people who will help each other to safety. Those are the real heroes.”
Respect for Nature.
Studies have shown that people who feel connected to nature are healthier physically and emotionally. You might even say that the magic children find in nature is the beginning of spirituality. A sunset, a waterfall, puppies being born, even the smell of newly cut grass or a small flower full in bloom. As Hans Christian Andersen said, “Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
This is important because it teaches children gratitude. And gratitude is a well-known spiritual path that works regardless of your beliefs about the nature of the divine. Experiencing gratitude actually makes us happier. And when we’re struggling emotionally, gratitude heals.
The deeper our gratitude, the greater our ability to receive, and the more we get out of life. Of course, children seldom understand their many blessings, and guilt is not an effective teacher. Showing gratitude is the best strategy, and simply saying out loud how lucky we are creates gratitude awareness. “Ah what a beautiful day… or you are so lucky to have such an awesome teacher…”
And of course, small habits like grace before meal, or counting our blessings, or a thank you at bedtime for the wonderful day, can serve as a reminder to a deeper gratitude.
Limit technology noise so you can hear the stillness.
Children, even more than the rest of us, need quiet time to simply be present with themselves. Many of us fills our lives with noise so to avoid being alone with ourselves. Tablets, smart phones, TV, computer games and social media has become human beings great distracters. And this has created zombies, unhappy and depressed people. Increasingly, we find more stressed and anxious children because of too much noise and too little silence.
All of us need silence in our lives. So that we can discover, again, that there’s a stillness at the core of our being that connects us to something greater than our conscious mind.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross puts it like this: “Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
Take time for what really matters.
Try to build in enough time so that you can stop rushing your children past the wondrous moments of everyday life. Marvel at the sun glittering on the leaves. Stop and smell the freshly baked bread. Bless the rainbow. Don’t feel you have to turn it into a science lesson, reducing the sacred whole to mechanistic parts. Just notice that daily life is full of miracles, and appreciate them together.
Just sitting non-judgmentally with big questions or the unresolved issues in our heart directs the light of conscious awareness to those challenges, which has a healing effect. At the very least, it usually illuminates the next question or the next step toward gently loosening a tight situation.
Teach your child to meditate. Go on regular walks and when the sky is clear at night help them to look up at the moon.
To end of, life is difficult.
Echoing M. Scott Peck’s most famous words: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult.”
Nobody likes to struggle through life. Unfortunately, that is also what may be stopping you from having that great life. Don’t be afraid of hard work, effort or struggle. You can do hard things.
Most of us avoid discomfort, but being uncomfortable often pushes us to learn, grow and improve. Get good at discomfort. Avoiding discomfort is very common, but a big mistake. Learning to be OK with some discomfort will change your life. Children need to understand that most things that are worth doing are hard.
The things that stress you out don’t matter. Take a larger perspective: will this matter in five years? Most likely the answer is no. If the answer is yes, attend to it.
Most moral choices cost us in some way, that’s why they’re moral choices. That’s okay. You can do hard things. So can your child. Hard things teaches us the greatest lessons and can lead us to greatness.
Open your heart. Life is amazing if you don’t shut it out. Other people are amazing. Open your heart, be willing to take the wounds that come with an open heart, and you will experience the best of life.
And to end of: Let love be your rule. Love your family and friends. Love even those who think they’re your enemy. Love the animals we treat as food and objects. Most of all, love yourself.
And always know, no matter what: you are loved!