Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Turning of the Year - 9 recommendations

The turning point of the year is a time to look back at what we have done, and consider what we could do better in the future. In the northern hemisphere where I live most of the time, the days are shorter at this time of year leading to more introspection and reflection. It is a time to take hold of one’s own development and self-education. 

British poet and playwright Christopher Fry wrote the following words in 1951 in his play A Sleep of Prisoners. They also speak clearly to our time, to our moment in world history;

The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no dark winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move,
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise
Is exploration into God.

Where are you going? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity’s sake....

What can we each do to wake up? It is no easy task, this “longest stride of soul.” Only we ourselves know what to do to make ourselves into into the better person we can become. How can I better serve the world and the young children who are the future?

I wish you all strength and enthusiasm in your own work at shining some light into your shadows and creating new habits that are more supportive and life affirming. 

As we transition from 2015 to 2016, I’d like to share nine recommendations that are valuable and meaningful for me - some of my favorite resources to help you on your way. .

1. The Alliance for Childhood promotes policies and practices that support children’s healthy development, love of learning, and joy in living. Their public education campaigns bring to light both the promise and the vulnerability of childhood. The Alliance has published various writings in support of healthy development and a sustainable future for our children. They campaign on behalf of the children for a more just and healthy future.

2. For 20 years now, LILIPOH magazine has been offering ideas on living a healthy lifestyle from many perspectives. Their wonderful articles address nutrition and food, health, gardening, social life, education, economics and more. I hope you have had a chance to read some of their issues, if not...now is the time.

3. The Challenge of the Will, written by Margret Meyerkort and Rudi Lissau, offers guidance for understanding young children and human beings of all ages. The tone of this book is very much one of questioning. We are not told what to do, but through the images that are offered we can decide how to best meet the needs of the young child. This little book also looks to the self-education of the adult as a key to the child’s healthy development. When we can wake up and be more present, we can better serve the needs of the children.

4. Helle Heckmann led a program for 1- to 6-year-olds in Copenhagen and has traveled widely offering workshops, lectures and mentoring. For 30 years, her goal has been to support parents and child caregivers who want to nurture early childhood and help young children blossom and thrive. Helle writes an inspiring blog!

The next few listings are folks who support the work of adult self development. They offer tools and paradigms for self-education as well as practices for self-transformation.

5. Rick Hanson is a psychologist, writer and Buddhist teacher. His books include Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha's Brain. Rick’s work examines the relationship of meditative activity and neurology and offers techniques for changing our own neurology. He also offers an online program to help you develop positive neuroplasticity called Foundations for Wellbeing. This program helps you turn everyday experiences into inner strengths including kindness toward yourself, insight into others, grit, gratitude and self-worth.

6. David Richo is another psychologist and Buddhist teacher. His many books include You Are Not What You Think and How to Be and Adult in Relationships. David offers insight into how getting our needs met in our early years (or not) has repercussions in adulthood.

7. Brene Brown has devoted her life to studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her insights into the human condition in our modern times is profound. She also has written three bestselling books:Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. 

Drs. Hanson, Richo and Brown all have numerous audio and video recordings you can access on the internet to more fully consider their work and its implications for your life.

8. The 8-Shields Foundation is dedicated to the work of deep nature connection, culture repair, cultural mentoring and community resilience. They offer support in strengthening families and guidance in developing true mentoring. The practices they offer come from the wisdom traditions and elders of many cultures.

9. Self-care. Nobody can do this for you. You need to find some balance and remember to enjoy yourself. What do you love to do?

I suggest reading delicious novels and listening to great music. Here are a few authors I suggest; Louise Erdrich (Plague of Doves, Four Souls), Terry Pratchett (the Disc World books) and Jane Yolen (Except the Queen). Each of these writers has published many, many books and I haven’t found a single lemon yet.

And as for music, if you ever get a chance to see Bongo Love perform, don’t miss it! This band of young musicians from Zimbabwe play a unique style of music they call ‘afrocoustics.’  Their positive message of love and peace is steeped in an infectious rhythm and high musicianship. 

Make time for renewal and fun! Take some grownup time. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Self-care your way to a balanced life that enriches your children too!

So as we enter into 2016, again I wish you wisdom, strength and enthusiasm to meet the world and nurture the young children who are the future. The world is depending on them!