Children are the ones who hold our future in their hands, as they will someday be the ones to lead the way. Though they will be taught about the workings of life by others and by their own experiences, it’s up to spiritually awake adults to help them come to know their spiritual Self. Parents, grandparents, and other significant adults can provide conscious guidance and teaching, not through dogmatic or coercive methods, but through their own example and gentle, welcoming invitation.
One dimension of spirituality that has been neglected in our western culture is that of the spirits of the natural world. We’ve tended to view the Earth as here mainly for our benefit rather than understanding that we’re simply a part of the web of life, intimately connected to all beings, both physically and spiritually.
This view has been gradually changing as new paradigms emerge across many fronts. We’re drawing from the wisdom of indigenous and ancient peoples, those who had a deep reverence and understanding of the natural world and our profound relationship to it. We are coming to deeply appreciate how Spirit moves in all things and learning to receive Spirit’s messages from any number of sources. It’s inherent in the emerging paradigm that we must reconcile our relationship with Spirit—and with our Earth Mother.
SPIRIT IN THE NATURAL WORLD
So how do we encourage our children’s spirituality and in particular, how to receive guidance from the many voices of Spirit? How do we influence our children’s familiarity and appreciation of the natural world and come to know the Life force that expresses not only through but also as everything? It starts with overcoming the addiction to technological devices and getting outside as much as possible. From there we can teach our children by our own fascination with the magic that’s inherent in the Earth.
The degree of estrangement from the world around us has increased in direct proportion to our reliance on technology. With this explosion of electronic tools available to us, it’s easy for parents and children to succumb to the allure of the multitude of devices, from smartphones to computers to television. The downside is that it keeps children inside, close to electrical outlets or wireless routers, at the cost of the direct experience with the three-dimensional world. There is increasing evidence of the detrimental effects of this obsessive preoccupation. On the flip side, there’s also a growing awareness of the benefits of regular contact with the natural environment.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, coined the term “nature deficit disorder” in that book to describe the growing alienation that children—and many adults—are experiencing in this increasingly technologically-dominated world. In article about this book Louv goes on to say:
“. . . new studies demonstrate just how important direct contact with the outdoors is to healthy human development. Most of the new evidence that connects nature to well-being and restoration has focused on adults, but during the past decade, scientists have begun to study the impact of nearby nature on child development. Environmental psychologists reported in 2003 that that nature in or around the home, or simply a room with a view of a natural landscape, helped protect the psychological well-being of the children.
Researchers have found that children with disabilities gain enhanced body image and positive behavior changes through direct interaction with nature. Studies of outdoor- education programs geared toward troubled youth — especially those diagnosed with mental-health problems — show a clear therapeutic value. Some of the most intriguing studies are being done by the Human-Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois, where researchers have discovered that children as young as five showed a significant reduction in the symptoms of Attention-Deficit Disorder when they engaged with nature. Could nature therapy could be a new option for ADD treatment?”’
ANIMALS AND ANIMAL SPIRIT GUIDES
There’s ample evidence of how animals are intertwined in our lives, from the shoes we wear to the food we eat (if you’re an omnivore). Our pets give us comfort and solace, while animals in the wild give us a glimpse into our own instinctual nature. With rare exceptions, children readily relate to animals, sometimes starting with their attachment to that stuffed animal figure that they fall to sleep with every night.
It’s a short step from a child’s love of animals to eventually understanding that animals can also be teachers and guides. Have your child simply observe an animal, whether a pet or an animal in Nature, and ask them what kind of impressions do they get as they do so. Often they can intuitively tell what the animal is feeling or trying to communicate. This encourages children to pay closer attention to the animals and helps them develop a different kind of relationship.
Another aspect to develop with children is how animals sometimes show up as spirit guides. When an animal shows up in an unusual way or repeatedly in a short space of time, whether the physical animal or a symbol of that animal, the spirit or oversoul of that animal species is attempting to get a message by sending this particular courier. For instance if you’re walking in the woods and a deer comes up and looks directly at you, Deer spirit may be suggesting you be gentler and kinder with yourself and others. If you dream a big dream of an elephant, Elephant spirit may be coming to you to encourage you to overcome any obstacles you see in a project or relationship.
There are several tools available that can help you and your children understand the messages from spirit animals, including the Children’s Spirit Animal Cards created by Jesseca Camacho and myself, however these and others serve simply as bridges to receiving those messages directly. The more we pay attention the natural world and the spirit of the beings that exist there, the easier it becomes to receive messages from Spirit through the animals, plants and trees. The more we do so, the more we understand the spirit nature of animals and ultimately with all forms of life through the lessons our animal teachers as their spirit essence provide us. In this way we can influence and help to shape the future generations toward a more conscious and thoughtful world.