|We All Belong|
|Posted on September 27, 2012|
I’ve just discovered a gold mine in my local community called Earthwalk Vermont. http://earthwalkvermont.org/ My 8-year old just started the Village School program, where she spends every Friday in the woods becoming more intimate with the natural world. Of course the program is education-based, but from my perspective it is also quite therapeutic – beyond what a young person may gain from a therapist or other type of social service.
First off, the kids are barefoot! Now all those hovering parents out there may cringe (myself included), but what this allows kids to do right away is to feel. To enter into the sensory environment of the natural world, kids have an ability to feel and receive information from their bodies!! This is something many therapist struggle to do in an office setting. Through walking barefoot, kids become more present, aware and mindful of the woods/meadow/ stream they are walking through. When we are more present and engaged with our full bodies, we are less driven by repetitive or discursive thoughts in our minds.
Kids also become more aware of natural consequences while barefoot as there are thorns, sharp rocks and other potential hazards underfoot. In childrearing today, we cannot remove all the hazards, but we can teach kids to make thoughtful choices while navigating their terrain. This exercise in barefootedness is quite a benign way for kids to learn to pay attention, and perhaps to learn the hard way to watch where they step.
Another vital component to Earthwalk is a daily gratitude circle. Kids pass the talking stick and share whatever they feel grateful for. This is not something we are oriented toward in our childrearing culture today as entitlement is on the rise and a sense of always wanting more. I have observed kids exclaim a wide-range of thanks. In this process they open their hearts, become vulnerable and share what they are grateful for: their life, the trees, their parents, their mentors, their siblings, the call of the crow, their pets – what a wonderful exercise.
However……..the most profound aspect of Earthwalk is the singing and sense of belonging. The sense of belonging in our culture is even scarcer than feeling our feelings or giving thanks. In our schools, kids all want to be the same to “fit-in.” This does not end in childhood; in our culture at large we all are looking for acceptance. Yet in the natural world, the trees belong, the rocks belong, the plants belong, the raccoons belong, the birds belong, the insects belong. We don’t say, ‘this rock should be here and that rock shouldn’t or this tree belongs and that tree does not.’ Everything has its place in the natural world and the same is true for all of us. It is said in a forest of 100,000 trees, every tree is different. None of us belong more than anyone else; in fact, we all make up the whole.
What I notice in my daughter as she goes from 3rd grade public school to Earthwalk Village School is a profound difference in belonging. In public school the friendships are up and down, the dynamics constantly in flux, and she comes home with a restless energy. While after Earthwalk there is a profound sense of peace and calm. I think the lesson we can learn from this is that whether we spend the day in the woods or not, whether we perceive that we “fit-in,” we have to remember the frogs and the moles and the butterflies and each of us all have inherent worth, whether it is noticed or not.
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