Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Education Should Be About October 14, 2011

In my last post I wrote about the rewards of parenting and grandparenting and promised to share two essays written by my twin grandsons who are in the third grade this year. This is Connor’s. The assignment was to describe the most beautiful place in nature he could imagine. He also drew this picture. Enjoy.

An Amazing Day At The Beach!

“When I’m at the beach I always wake up to the beautiful sound of birds and the tide rolling in and out. Then I chomp down my breakfast, throw on my bathing suit and run down to the beach. I can always feel the sand sifting through my feet like an hour glass. Then when I finally get there I go out to the beautiful aquamarine and white sea. I can hear the seagulls flying overhead. Then I go boogie boarding and feel the cool breeze in the air and the foam in the water falling around my neck and I feel like I’m flying. Can you imagine that? Then I go up to the sand and try to collect shells. Once I even found a crab shell. It had specks of bright red but most of it was a beautiful tangerine orange color. Then I eat a wonderful dinner and sometimes go for a walk on the beach. I saw an amazing sunset that was purple like a grape and red like a cherry. Have you ever experienced something as amazing as that? When we were walking back it started to rain but I still had an awesome time! And I thought to myself what an awesome day! I hope some day you can have such an amazing day as I.”

Connor copied his story in his best handwriting and handed it in. As far as he and his classmates knew, this was the end of it. But their teacher had a surprise for them. She thought this activity would be much more fun if the parents wrote letters in response; so she put each child’s essay in a large envelope, added a page of instructions, sealed the envelope, put the name of the family on the front, and at the bottom wrote the warning “Adults Only” in red ink!

When she handed out the envelopes a few days later, the children had no idea they had anything to do with their essays. She simply told them something top secret was going on, and only the adults could know about it for now. But, she assured them, it wouldn’t be long before they would be let in on the secret. So on the back of their envelopes the children wrote in large letters, “Please Don’t Show Me! Top Secret!” and took them home to their parents.

Our son, Matt, wrote back to Connor;  our daughter-in-law wrote to his brother, Jake. (I’ll be sharing their stories next  time.)  Both responses were returned to the teacher in sealed envelopes. What happened next is the coolest thing ever. Along with his job as an economist Matt is a gifted screenwriter, (he even has a Hollywood manager), so instead of a regular letter, he wrote a script! At the age of three Connor had carried a stack of stapled papers around for weeks, adding scribbles from time to time to his “script.” Can you imagine how he must have felt when he opened his envelope and saw a script from his father, written just for him, inside? I’ve included it below.

I love everything about this assignment. Is there a third grader in the world who doesn’t love mysteries, secrets, and surprises? Who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a warm and personal letter from a parent praising a job well done? Who wouldn’t think writing is so much fun they’d want to keep doing it? Providing exciting and personally meaningful learning experiences is what education should be about.

 

Matt’s Script:

 

                              AN AMAZING DAY IN ST. THOMAS!  

                                                                                          FADE IN:

                INT. OFFICE – MORNING

               A rectangular black desk sits on a floor of white marble
               tile.  The surrounding walls abound with smiling faces,
               moments in time captured and preserved in frames of wood. 

               With warm hearts and innocent eyes, the smiling faces (three
               brothers at various ages) look down on a MAN who sits at his
               desk, reading a piece of paper.

               The man is slender and in his late 30’s.  He has coal black
               hair with flecks of gray.  His eyes are big and brown, just
               like the boys in the pictures.  

               On his desk is an opened envelope that reads…

               PLEASE DON’T SHOW ME!  TOP SECRET!

               With a big smile, the man places the paper on his desk.  We
               see the title of the paper.  It reads…

               AN AMAZING DAY AT THE BEACH!

               The man turns to his computer and begins to type.

                                   MAN (V.O.)
                         Connor, I am so very proud of you.
                         Your writing, like the day you
                         described, is truly “amazing”.
                         When I read your essay, I felt as
                         though I was actually at the beach.
                         I could hear the seagulls and feel
                         the sand between my toes.  What a
                         special day that was.  And, what a
                         truly astounding job you did of
                         capturing that day forever in
                         words.
                             (Beat)
                         If it’s alright, I’d like to share
                         a special day in nature with you.
                         I’m certain that I will not be able
                         to express myself as beautifully as
                         you did, but I will try.
                             (Beat)
                         Here goes.  My day begins like
                         this…

               EXT. ST. THOMAS – U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – MORNING

               SUPER:  JULY 1, 2000

               The crystal clear turquoise water washes in and out over the
               soft, cotton-white sand.  Seagulls dance in the cool breeze.
               An iguana slumbers on a nearby cropping of palm trees.

               EXT. OUTDOOR CAFE – MORNING

               The man (late 20’s, no gray hair yet) sits across a small,
               cloth-covered table from a beautiful WOMAN (late 20’s, green
               eyes, the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen).  The two sit
               eating breakfast with big, eager smiles on their faces.

               EXT. BEACH – MORNING

               The man and woman relax on chairs as they gaze out at the
               endless blue sea.  Islands once inhabited by pirates dot
               the tropical landscape.  Sail boats with sheets of white
               flapping in the wind float across the tranquil horizon. 

               EXT. OCEAN – AFTERNOON

               Beneath the sea the man and woman swim with masks and
               snorkels.  The man points out a delicate reef of white
               speckled coral.  Urchins, anemones and sea fans in shades of
               lilac and crimson cling to the reef and wave to and fro.  A
               school of blue and yellow fish swims past.  It is amazing. 

               INT. HOTEL ROOM – AFTERNOON

               The man stands before his FATHER (late 50’s, black hair and a
               mustache).  Both men are wearing black tuxedoes.  The FATHER
               helps the man straighten his silver tie.

                                   MAN
                         Thanks, Dad.

               The father smiles, holding back his tears.

                                   MAN (CONT’D)
                         Hopefully, one day I’ll be doing
                         this with my son.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – SUNSET

               The woman stands next to a PRIEST, before a crowd of FAMILY
               and FRIENDS.  She is wearing an elegant white gown and
               holding a bouquet of white lilies.  She is the prettiest
               thing on Earth.  The sun sinks slowly behind her into the
               ocean.  Shades of tangerine shimmer across the bay.

               The man sees the woman for the first time and cannot help but
               cry.  Wiping tears from his eyes, he walks toward her.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – SUNSET – MOMENTS LATER

               The man and woman hold hands and stare into each others’ eyes.
               Seagulls float overhead.  Palm trees rustle with the breeze.
               An acoustic guitar plays in the background.  Just then…

               SPLAT!!!

               A seagull poops on the woman’s dress.  The two cannot help
               but laugh.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – SUNSET – MOMENTS LATER

               The man and the woman share a kiss.  The crowd cheers.  They
               are now husband and wife.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – EVENING

               The night sky is alive with the twinkle of a million bright
               stars.  Music plays from a nearby ballroom.  Everyone is
               singing and dancing.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – EVENING – LATER

               With glowing sparklers in hand, family and friends make a
               tunnel for the man and woman to run through.  Everyone
               cheers. 

               EXT. BEACH – EVENING

               The man and woman walk hand in hand on the peaceful, moon-lit
               beach. 

                                   WOMAN
                         This was the best day ever.

                                   MAN
                         I agree.

                                   WOMAN
                         Maybe one day when we have kids
                         we can come back here.

                                   MAN
                         That would be great.

                                   WOMAN
                         By the way, how many kids do you
                         think we’ll have?

                                   MAN
                         One maybe two.

                                   WOMAN
                         Wouldn’t it be cool if we had
                         twins?

                                   MAN
                         I don’t know about that.

               The two laugh and smile as they walk on.  Holding hands, they
               disappear into the darkness.

               INT. OFFICE – MORNING

               The man takes the essay and lovingly places it back into the
               envelope.  He returns to his keyboard and types…

                                         THE END

 

Investing in Our Grandchildren’s Future October 11, 2011

Many people probably feel as I did when I had my first child: How can I possibly be a mother? I’m still my mother’s child! But my baby was born and there I was, hugging as I wanted to be hugged, loving as I wanted to be loved. I felt the same when I became a grandmother for the first time. Sure, I’d been a parent, but I was still my grandmothers’ granddaughter. The babies came, first twin boys, two weeks later a granddaughter, then another girl and another boy, and I kept hugging them as I wanted my grandparents to hug me, loving them as I wanted to be loved.

In my youth I had no experience with babies, never babysat or wanted to. By pure luck I got an education scholarship which I paid back by teaching in the public school system. My studies, followed by five years of teaching and a master’s in Early Childhood Education, taught me the enormous responsibility of preparing a new soul for life.  But they didn’t automatically prepare me for parenthood.

This past July I posted a piece titled “Conscious Parenting” about how the way we were parented unconsciously influences our own parenting (and grandparenting). For example, some people habitually copy dysfunctional parental behaviors without realizing it. Others see their parents’ flaws and try to make amends by raising their children differently without seeing how they sometimes err in the opposite direction. Still others treat their children as possessions whose reason for being is to satisfy their parents’ needs.

I believe, no, I know, that no job is more important, no role more vital to the future of our world, than parenting. When I became a mother at 27 I took this job very seriously indeed. My high standards and constant awareness of the disconnect between my ideals and the day-to-day reality of my inner thoughts and outer behavior made this the most difficult, gut-wrenching job I’d ever had, and I often despaired at my maternal limitations. Fortunately, my education and teaching experience coupled with my determination to do my best enabled me to be a good enough mother. Now I can honestly say being a parent is also the most satisfying job I’ve ever had.

I’m convinced that the combination of 1) raising and educating our children with conscious, loving intention, 2) working to protect their and their children’s future, and 3) knowing how our own shadows get in the way is the solution to global problems. I just wish I knew how to show our legislators their shadows. The majority of our Florida politicians seem unable to hug our educational system as they wanted to be hugged, love  and protect our children and planet as they wanted to be loved and protected. Their voting records say it all:  their personal biases and religious agendas take precedence over the welfare of future generations.

Like most parents, we began investing in our grandchildren’s futures long before they were born. Now they attend a school which likewise prioritizes children’s well-being, parental involvement, intergenerational communication and shared responsibility for each other and our Mother Earth. For instance, every fall the third-graders write a journal entry describing the most beautiful place in nature they can imagine and the parents respond to them in warmly affirming letters.

Since I forgot to mention or celebrate Grandparent’s Day this year (it fell on Sept.11th), I’d like to devote my next two posts to the stories our twin grandsons wrote and the responses of their parents. I suspect their words will demonstrate the benefits of investing in the future of our children and planet far better than anything I could write.

 

Conscious Parenting July 15, 2011

I’ve just spent two weeks with my five grandchildren and their parents. I am so proud of my children: how they turned out, who they married, how well they are raising their children.  Their parenting styles are different in many ways, yet both sets of children are delightful: sweet, funny, bright, good-natured, well mannered….(I could go on, of course, but I’ll spare you more grandparental gushing!) Our time together reminds me that no matter how well-prepared we may be for the role of parenting, much of how we approach this most difficult of all jobs is the result of unconscious factors over which we have no control.

Many of these factors result from the way our parents raised us. For example, I thought of my mother as an intelligent, well-meaning, independent kind of person with an unemotional and trusting parenting style. Having a full-time job, she was never involved with our education or social lives, trusting us to get along fine without her participation or advice. I took this for granted as a child, but as an adult I realized how much I had longed for her to attend my plays and concerts, how good it would have felt if she had been a room mother or a member of the PTA, how nice it would have been to come home to a warm, clean house and find her always waiting for me, perhaps with a tray of cookies or freshly baked bread. So these were things I vowed to do for my children. As it happened, my conscious choices, combined with a lot of good luck, an education in child development, help from a good husband, and a strong desire to be a good parent made me a good-enough mother.

But beneath the conscious aspects of my upbringing was an emotional undercurrent of which I was utterly unaware. For instance, I never heard or saw my parents argue or fight. (Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that Daddy was rarely home!)  Moreover, I can think of only two instances in which my mother and I ever exchanged heated words. And when she used the word “damn,” I was shocked into silence. Intuiting her deeply repressed anxiety and emotional fragility and wanting to spare her more pain after my parents’ divorce, I by-passed the normal adolescent period of rebellion and unconsciously developed a deep-seated fear of anger and conflict.

When I became a parent, these factors had a powerful influence on the way I treated my children.  I had no idea I had inherited my mother’s anxiety and emotional fragility. But the reality was that agitation and conflict made me so anxious that too often when my children argued with me or each other my intervention was based more on appeasing my anxiety than on patiently seeking the most fair and just resolution.  It took years of inner work before I could see my anxiety and  understand the part it played in the unhealthy aspects of our family interactions.

The unresolved issues of our parents are handed down to us through underground passageways that connect their emotional flow to ours, and we pass them on to our children the same way. With every step forward I’ve made toward seeing and resolving my anxiety, my attitudes and behavior have changed for the better. Best of all, my family no longer has to bear the burden of my unconscious “stuff” of which I’ve become aware. I’ll never be a perfect wife, mother, or grandmother, whatever these elusive creatures might be, but sparing my family the worst of myself has been more than enough reward.

 

A Thanksgiving Blessing November 23, 2010

Years ago when The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth was first published, I presented several workshops about the differences between the life cycles of men and women. Using the model of the ancient descent myths which preceded hero myths and often featured women whose journeys followed a pattern of sacrifice, suffering, death, and rebirth — for example, the Sumerian myth of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth — I encouraged participants to reflect on how they had experienced these stages in their own lives.

My purpose was threefold. First, I wanted them to understand the differences between how their feminine and masculine sides experience life, and to know that both are valid and worthy of our attention. Second, I wanted to guide them in an experience of inner work that would expand their self-knowledge. Third, I wanted them to understand the repetitive nature of life’s processes so that they might acquire trust that each ending is also always a hopeful new beginning.

One memory from those workshops stands out from all others. Having experienced a lengthy and painful death-like period in the middle of my life, I was speaking about the hope and gratitude that had followed it when a psychiatrist asked me a question. “I have a client who is a deeply depressed and bitter quadriplegic,” she told us. “He can’t do anything for himself. He will spend the rest of his life this way. He is not religious. What hope can I give him about rebirth? What should he be grateful for?”

The room was silent. My first thoughts were, Who am I to be talking about rebirth when I’ve never had a death experience remotely like the one this man is suffering at this very moment? What kind of hope does he have? I had an answer, but in that moment I couldn’t think how to express it in a way that wouldn’t sound flippant.  I was very humbled and remember expressing that feeling, but have no recollection of what else I said. I have carried that question with me ever since and would like to answer it to the best of my ability now, just in case that doctor or patient, or someone like them, might someday find my thoughts helpful.

If you are reading this post on the day of its publication two days before Thanksgiving, I am on a plane headed for Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia, sites of some of the most horrendous killing fields on the planet where vast numbers of human beings suffered and died in ways I cannot imagine or bear to think about. What was left for them to be grateful for in their last moments?

Life. They had Sophia’s sacred spark of Life. Until their last breaths they had traces of sensory awareness, memories, thoughts, feelings. Perhaps they saw the sunlight sparkle on a blade of grass, felt a cool breeze, remembered the taste of chocolate ice cream or the feel of a mother’s tender touch, experienced a rush of love for their lovers, children, or grandchildren.

We have Life. What could be more worthy of thanks? May the miracle of being alive in this precious moment, this perfect Now, give you hope and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day and in the days to come.

 

Grandparenting October 2, 2010

I just learned that September 12th was Grandparents Day. I missed it, but intend to celebrate it next year. The catalyst for this decision is an essay my eight-year-old granddaughter recently wrote for her third grade science and social studies class. I offer it with her original words and spelling for all you grandparents to enjoy.

“The Best Summer Ever!”

When I went on a trip to North Carolina I saw the greenest emrald grass and I saw the most robin’s egg blue sky. There was a shimmering pearl sun. It was so beautiful! It felt so good. Would you like that? I went to the barn and met my grandma. She helped me on the horse and rode and rode and rode until I was so tired. We went up to the house for dinner. The next day was even better, I got to ride the zipline and then I went to horse riding class. Horse riding was fun, but not as much as at home. After horse riding I got to play in the stream. Would you feel the same as I did? That night we had dinner outside. There was a gentle breeze and a lovely, gorgeous cobalt sky. I could see purple mountains waiting. It felt like a dream. It felt so good. It felt magical. What I imagined was marrvellous. I dreamed the horse would be waiting for me in the morning, and sure enough he was waiting for me the same way I had dreamed. My heart was racing to ride, but I started running and stopped for my grandma. I rode until sunset. It was peaceful that night and so beautiful. I just new I wouldn’t forget that amazing, beautiful, peaceful, happy, day! It was thrilling enough to make a girl cry. It was a great summer that I will never ever forget!

What does my granddaughter’s essay have to do with this blog’s theme of thinking psychologically and living spiritually? Oh, I don’t know……..  Everything?

Thinking Psychologically is the secret to waking up to our life and truly living it. Without self-knowledge we are like dry flower seeds in a sealed packet. If we are not planted, watered, fertilized, and exposed to light we will not grow. If we do not grow we cannot nourish others with the blessing of our dormant beauty. Thus, we withhold from the next generation — and the one after that — the single most valuable gift we have to offer: our truest, wisest, highest and deepest selves. In doing so we deprive our progeny of a special kind of mentoring that could guide them on their own journey to meaningful living. So I ask myself, would I have been able to help give my granddaughter her Best Summer Ever if I had not spent the past forty years struggling to grow into myself?

Then there’s Living Spiritually. I believe, in the words of Episcopal Bishop John Spong, that our spiritual goals are to “live fully, love wastefully, and be all we are meant to be.” Loving my grandchildren, being loved by them in return, enjoying the privilege of spending time with them in a place I helped create, where I feel free to be who I am and do what I love, is my idea of paradise. I don’t manage to live that way all the time, of course, but when I do it feels deeply spiritual.

Contrary to messages from the materialistic world, Grandparenting is not just about giving. It’s also about being the gift. May we each be gifts that will help our grandchildren live full and meaningful lives.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this amazon link and at Larson Publications.

 

 
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