Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ecstatic Alternatives to Punishment

When I first put the words "ecstatic" and "mothering" together, I did so because there was just something about that combination that resonated with me. I am just now realizing what ecstatic mothering truly means to me, and how it guides my entire experience of parenting (and living).

Ecstatic communion is a state of being we can experience in any relationship with any living being during our lives. It is most commonly felt as the blissful high when we first "fall in love" with a lover... it is like we are transported to another dimension where everything is right and perfect, and the whole world is our playground. Ecstatic communion is characterized by feelings of deep attunement with another being, wordless understanding, a blissful dance of energetic entwinement, and being unspoken allies who are always inspired towards their shared highest good.

Ecstatic communion is my guiding light, my highest aspiration, for all my close relationships, especially my children (since their entire experience of relationship is initially defined by their relationship with me). This type of all-encompassing love is our most cherished desire as living beings... if we are lacking in this, nothing else in existence is good enough to replace it. Helpful hint: we can give this to our own selves too, in fact, we must if we are to truly receive it from another.

I feel sad when I see a parent spank their child, or verbally/emotionally manipulate their child, humiliate them, bribe them, or use any other form of "love withdrawal" to control behavior. My sadness comes not from seeing the spanking/anger/manipulation itself, but because of what it implies: neither the parent nor the child are experiencing the nourishing, blissful state of ecstatic communion with each other. They are experiencing disconnection, frustration, emotional pain and despair, although they may not recognize them to be that because those are such normal feelings for so many. The parent does not understand the child, and is not softening their opinion of what is happening and questioning deeply enough to hope to reach an understanding of their child.

Many parents think their child does not know how to act in the world, and it is their job to show the child how to act, by whatever means necessary, for the child's own good. The end justifies the means. But think... which is more innately perfect, the "ways of the world" (meaning our cultural routines and unquestioned traditions), or your child who just entered the world and looks upon it with pure eyes, and interacts with it with pure, highly sensitive and huge feelings? Your child has not yet created an emotional stone wall between the way they feel about an experience they had, and the way they are told they should feel about it. Hopefully, they will never have to.

Of course, it is beneficial to accept the world as it is, even if there are many things you wish to change. But that does not mean you have to compel your child to conform to the "ways of the world" using stern and angry feelings. You certainly can, and that is okay... but how do you feel when you do that? Is that how you desire to feel?

What I do instead, simply because it inspires my experience of ecstatic communion: I remember that my child is more perfect than the world... and will certainly improve the world by their presence, if their higher-vibrational purity is allowed and encouraged. Then from this place, I am my child's ally, and show him around the world he entered with all its nuances, willing to patiently demonstrate and explain anything he requests a deeper understanding of. Example: I ask myself, is he ready for the responsibility of carrying a glass over a hard floor? If not, all the glasses stay out of his reach, and if he sees me with one and wants it, I explain why I am going to hold it for now, so he becomes familiar with the concept long before I feel he is ready and willing to take on the responsibility of caring for something as fragile as glass. If he throws a fit about it (which is likely, since his desire for experience is so strong), I acknowledge his feelings (usually just with my peaceful, loving presence) and offer him a more appropriate activity to direct his energy into. There are many more examples, some simpler and some more complex in their most harmonious approaches. But examples aren't necessary if you let ecstatic communion be your guide.

If you desire to experience more ecstatic communion in your relationship with your child, here are some aspects of ecstasy consciousness I value the most:

Be in Your Bliss, All-Ways. Live for yourself, not for your child. You can't be centered in someone else... so be self-centered. If you ever feel depressed, lonely, exhausted, irritable, etc... it means you are not doing what you are meant to be doing at that moment. This is of such vital importance to parenting. Your child looks to you for their primary example of HOW TO LIVE. Would you rather them see you enthusiastic about each day and all the amazing things in your life... or trudging along and living your life for someone else, mood swings and all? You know what it is that fills you with life. If you are feeling unfulfilled, ask yourself, "if I could do anything right now, what would it be?" ... then consider how you can restructure your life to bring you more of this element, and all others that inspire you. Your child will see that life is grand and beautiful, and that it is to be lived fully and with appreciation.

If you feel anger or frustration about your child behaving differently than you desire, immediately assume that the core of what initiated their behavior was a desire for something good, important and essential. Even if you don't know what it is at first (sometimes it is buried deep under a seemingly unrelated behavior), knowing that their core, hidden desire was for something beneficial, will change the way you respond to them, and you are more likely to seek harmonious resolution, express acceptance and loving kindness, and return more quickly to ecstatic communion with them. Extend this same assumption to yourself whenever you feel moody or "act out", and you will experience so much more self-love and self-understanding.

If you happen to find yourself in a state where your stress threshold is near its tipping point (most of us have been there at some point... always a result of not being in our Bliss at that moment), and your child just triggered you, and you have an urge to yell or hit something, this is an important moment where much learning can occur. You can turn around and yell away from your child, and/or hit a pillow or the floor, or something similar... and your child will see that it is not about them, it's about you. They will learn that strong emotion, when it is OWNED (rather than projected onto another with anger or blame), is a powerful energy capable of great benefit. They need to see how to handle strong emotion, since they have so much of it that is seemingly out of their control when they are young. After you vent some and are feeling a little calmer, sit down next to them (so you are at their "level"), make eye contact, and talk to them about your feelings. For example, "I feel so angry right now, because you are doing this thing and I have yet to find a way to influence you in the way I desire. I feel sad because it seems like you haven't been listening to me, and I desire to be heard! How can we strengthen our communication so you can understand what I desire? I realize I have also been feeling sad lately because I haven't been with my friends as often as I desire... let's plan a time where we can be with friends soon" etc... let all the passion you feel, your desire for illumination, come through your voice with authenticity. This is MUCH more beneficial than either suppressing your feelings, or projecting angry opinions towards them. This way, you are acknowledging that your anger is a personal transformative energy, and you are up for the challenge of transforming in the heat of that moment. Then an experience that was seemingly just stressful and frustrating becomes a very powerful learning experience for both of you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Magic of Expectation: A Story

A couple weeks ago, Cedar and I were "reading" a book that he loves, Evie's Kitchen by Shazzie (totally awesome book, btw, about raising ecstatic children!). He loves to look at the pictures, and asks me to read the words and tell him the letters. Anyway, on the back cover of the book is a picture of Evie, probably as a 3 or 4-year old. Blue butterflies are photoshopped around her in the picture, and one butterfly appears to be in her hair, on the left side above her ear. Cedar loves pointing at her and saying "E-bee", and pointing at the butterfly and saying "buh". So he was doing that, and I said "Cedar, a butterfly landed in Evie's hair!!" ... "Uh-huh!" he said. "Cedar, do you think a butterfly will land in your hair, too?" I asked him. He then gazed off into the distance, like he was imagining something, then a moment later said "Uh-huh", his vocal inflections full of wonder and desire. I said in confirmation, "I think so, too".

A few days, maybe a week, later... we were sitting in my parents' pool room, and I saw a butterfly flying towards us, behind Cedar. It landed in his hair, right above his left ear, in the exact place it is in the picture of Evie. He didn't see it, so I told him "Cedar, there's a butterfly in your hair!!" and pointed to the spot. He reached up and gently pulled it off, and saw it in his hand, then it fluttered off. He squealed with delight!! He was very excited about the whole experience.

This was a powerful experience for me, as well, and showed me the magical power of PURE expectation: truly expecting something to happen, with such purity and zero doubts.

Think about this, and think about what your child can create for him/herself if he/she believes it can happen. The only thing they need to be able to believe AND physically manifest something, is the support of the people in their lives they look up to and believe are powerful. If you tell them something is possible, it absolutely is for them. And then, because of the purity of their thought, they will be able to manifest it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Natural Parenting Works

When Cedar was an infant, in-arms, and I was already doing many things differently than conventional, modern parenting (see previous blog posts), there was no obvious way at the time to see the implications and long-term results my approaches were going to have... I was just doing things My Way, simply because this was how Love & Joy were guiding me.

Cedar will soon be 20 months. I can officially announce that my approaches have worked... and I believe they will continue to work in more profound ways as he grows. I see so many things about the way that he is that inspire wonder and awe in me, things that are reflections of his influences as a fetus, newborn and infant.

This blog post was inspired by a little boy who was just born to some friends of mine who live a similar lifestyle as we do, nature-infused and free. They, also, will be raising their child Their Way, and I desired to share with them how rewarding it has been ALREADY for my husband and I to raise Cedar according to our hearts and intuition, rather than other people's theories or cultural programming.

If you are parenting with purpose, and with consciousness of the effects of every influence you provide, you will see your own version of the results I am seeing. Here are examples of my version, to inspire you to continue with conscious and purposeful child-raising, with enthusiasm and faith in the inevitably amazing rewards!

At 19.5 months, my son Cedar...

...is the most cold-hardy person I have ever met. Do you really have to "bundle up" little babies in thick clothing during the winter to protect them? Or are we meant to develop a natural level of comfort in any weather with minimal or no clothing, if only we are given the chance as an infant? Cedar wears minimal or no clothing (depending on the season, and if we are at home or in public), usually just a t-shirt or two and leg-warmers at home in the middle of winter. We use minimal to no heat in our home in the winter (usually just a couple of space heaters on the coldest winter days). I have become fairly cold-hardy, from purposeful adaptation... but Cedar is WAY moreso, and I am in awe :)

...has never worn a diaper. At his early age, he is pretty much "potty trained". He knows (and often announces) when he is going to pee or poop, and usually does so outside in the grass (this works for us, since we have some wild acreage). At night during sleep, we used to use a puddle pad and towel in our bed for him to sleep on, and at this point most of the time he just sleeps directly on the sheets with me, because it's rare that he pees on the bed now. If he has to pee during the night, I take him to the bathtub and hold him while he goes. I will write a more detailed blog post soon about our experiences with elimination communication, since this is one of the most common things I am asked about!

...has never worn shoes. I can tell that his feet and ankles are extremely strong and well-developed, in perfect proportion to his body, and super cute! He walks around in wild grasses and nature, barefoot. The bottoms of his feet are smooth and beautiful, with an evenly-distributed padding underneath the skin (they do NOT have unsightly callouses, as one might think from not wearing shoes). This beautiful padding on the soles of his feet protects them from sharp burrs and things on the ground, and looks completely natural. From being barefoot, he has learned to be aware of where he is walking, and avoids anthills, spiky plants, sharp rocks, etc. He does love playing "dress up" by walking around in my shoes, which is fun for him... shoes are about play, not something he needs to navigate challenging environments.

...can identify most edible wild plants that grow on our land, and enjoys eating them! He even has his own names for many of them. He can identify, and enjoys eating wood sorrel leaves and flowers, wild arugula flowers ("woo-tah"), wild garlic greens and flowers, greenbriar tips, henbit, dandelion flowers, chamomile, wild dewberries, hackberries, pecans, juniper berries, and more. He can also identify, and avoids, the sharp spiky things that grow here, like bull thistle leaves! We're still working on poison ivy identification... :)

...has already planted seeds in his own garden bed, watered them, watched them grow into plants, and eaten their fruits. He is learning about the growth cycle, and the time it takes, and the nurturing and waiting required for the perfect ripening of plants.

...enjoys a wide variety of strongly-flavored, healthy, natural foods. He experiences a high level of freedom in his food choices, because all the foods I provide for him are nutrient-dense and unprocessed; therefore, it is okay with me whatever he chooses to eat, or not eat. No pressure, no expectations, no enforced mealtimes... just freedom and exploration. One big reason this is possible, besides being only provided with nutrient-dense foods, is that he is still breastfeeding many times daily (he is probably 75% lactarian right now... haha!); so whether he eats or not, I feel confident he is receiving the nutrients he needs from his natural urge to continue nursing on cue.

...is exceptionally healthy and robust. He is strong and gorgeous, with 12 perfect teeth and long blonde hair. He has only had runny noses a handful of times (after being around other children with runny noses), which are only a minor discomfort for him, and only last a few days as his immune system accommodates the new "information".

...understands most of what I say to him. I speak to him in adult language (no baby talk, although I love using his words), and often explain things in detail, with the energetic expectation that he will know or feel what I am talking about. He listens intently, and demonstrates with his actions or words afterward that he understands. When I speak with him, I form concepts as clearly as possible, and also see the images in my mind. I believe there is also a telepathic aspect contributing to his exceptional level of understanding, which is actually normal between parents (especially mothers) and small children... but only if we know it's possible and normal, and act accordingly!

All that said, this is just as important: when I say "Natural Parenting Works", I am NOT saying that he never cries or fusses, never acts clingy or demanding, or never expresses frustration. He passionately expresses all the emotions that are natural to all humans I have ever met. When he expresses himself, he does it fully, then he is done and onto something else... if he is upset and screaming about something, and I am calmly present with him and listen to him (without getting riled up or trying to change his experience or rushing to "make it better"), he usually resolves it on his own and is laughing again moments later. Childhood is full-on, and intense! This can certainly be challenging for us parents at times, but I can honestly say that the most challenging moments, looked back on, have been some of the greatest gifts he has brought me. I have matured through those moments, by feeling my way through them and being open to their lessons, and I am truly strengthened. I embody more grace, harmony and strength in my being than ever before in my life.

I encourage all parents who read this, as you raise your children, to DO IT YOUR WAY. It may look similar to my way, or very different, but the important thing is to be guided by your own Heart, your own intuition, and what inspires Joy for you. As you make choices consciously and with specific purpose, you WILL see this reflected in your child (immediately or eventually), and your greatest reward will be the Joy you feel from seeing the flowering of the Being in form who is in your care at this time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Radical Nourishment for Your Magical Toddler

This coming September, my family will be returning to the completely amazing Rethinking Everything conference -- a 5-day conference for families who are forging new paths by transforming lives filled with long-believed societal limitations into lives abundant in freedom, creativity and joy. This annual international conference is in Dallas, Texas, and it has always been a peak point of excitement for me every year I have attended! This year I am hosting two sessions of my own: Radical Nourishment for Your Magical Toddler, and Brave New World. Barb Lundgren, Queen Creator of this conference and an amazing woman/mother I have known for most of my life, recently asked me for a half-hour phone interview on radical nourishment for young children. Our interview went by fast, as there was so much to say!

Click here to listen to the recording of our interview for free!

(click to listen, or right-click to save the file to your computer)

Before our interview, I took tons of notes. I realized during the interview that the way I write is very different than the way I speak... we had an inspired conversation, which went so differently than what I had written down! I'm going to post my notes here, so you can have both. It's all so relevant to this blog, and all these subjects could be expanded upon immensely (and they probably will be). Enjoy!!

Q: Tell me about radical nourishment for a young child. It begins with breastfeeding, right? What about breastfeeding? What makes one mama's breast milk different from another?

A: It actually begins with pre-conception cleansing/nourishment of BOTH parents, then pregnancy, then breastfeeding on cue, full-term. Introducing other foods gradually, when the child is truly ready (some signs of true readiness include having teeth to bite & chew, ability to sit upright on their own, true interest in eating rather than just touching/tasting/feeling with mouth). Child-led food exploration, fully supported by breastfeeding. Until a child is 2 or older, eating food is more about exploring the world than taking in nutrients... breastmilk is there in abundance to provide the majority of the nutrients, which eliminates parental stress about "finicky" toddler eating habits. The substances in the contents of each mother's unique milk will transfer affinities for certain foods to the child even before they are eating food... (for example, Cedar LOVES strong-tasting healthy foods like algae, olives, and lots of wild foods).

Q: How do you know what is safe or right for your young child?

A: A little bit of research, and a lot of intuition and common sense. Breastfeeding exclusively for as long as possible gives a baby the chance to prepare fully before eating ANY foods (this could be 6 months, or 9 months, or a year, depending on the child's desire and readiness for food). Most superfoods are safe (things like algae, seaweeds, berries, olives, grass powders), as they are simply nutrient-dense foods. A certain class of herbs called tonic, or adaptogenic, herbs are also safe and very beneficial. Wild foods (most, not all) and medicinal herbs contain more alkaloids (which can be medicinal and healing in small amounts, and can be toxic in large amounts). Especially if you are wild-foraging these, the child will guide themself on this. At 18 months, there are many wild greens which Cedar still has no interest in, and they are often the bitter and fibrous ones. I eat these things, so he receives their benefits through my breastmilk, and from this he is already cultivating a taste for them for later on when they become appropriate for him. He enjoys eating certain flowers more than greens at this point... generally flowers are milder tasting, and have pollens which are gentle, very nutritious and beneficial. If you live on land that your child can freely forage from (where no chemicals have been sprayed), it is good to learn about the small number of poisonous plants, and just pull these up so they aren't an area of concern. Many wild plants and weeds are highly nutritious foods, and many other wild plants are not really used as food for humans, but are not blatantly toxic either. A relatively small amount are toxic. Naturally, we would intuitively know what is edible and what isn't, but we have a ways to go to reconnect fully to that intuition. That's why, as a parent, if you choose to enjoy wild food and allow your child to, learning how to identify plants is an important and very empowering skill to cultivate! I believe it is well worth the time and effort to receive the benefits to you and your child of exceptional health, strength and mental powers, as well as the joyfully freeing knowledge that you are no longer fully dependent on the "system" for your nourishment! ...Your most nutritious food staples are given to you freely by nature, with no corporate middle-man... this is probably AS important to your health as the actual nutrient benefits!

Think about this... all pharmaceutical drugs originally come from medicinal plants. The drugs are isolates of some of the strongest alkaloids in specific plants. These drugs are toxic to our bodies, because all the co-factors that occur naturally in that plant to balance and regulate the effects of the "active" alkaloid have been removed. Yet, people still take these drugs and at first they seem to work. Why? And why do people seem to need these drugs? Because in our culture's standard diet of processed foods, and foods that have been hybridized so they will taste better (which means removing most of the alkaloids, aka medicines), is devoid of medicine. "Your food shall be your medicine, and your medicine your food". So, people need drugs. Including children... many parents give children drugs for illnesses, ear infections, etc, to seeming good effect (only at first, of course, because it is simply quick-fixing the symptom without correcting the underlying issue). When you use your logic to put all this together, it shows that even children require plant alkaloids to stay healthy!

Q: How do you handle outside influences and your child, specifically those that send messages regarding sugars, processed foods, fast food, etc? How do you empower the child at every moment and minimize the bad stuff at the same time?

A: In the world we are living in right now, this can be a challenging situation, which I have thought about and still think about a lot. Ideally, we would be living in community, in nature. The only food that would exist is the foods that we and our fellow community grow by our own hands. A child growing up in their own flourishing garden paradise with healthy community all around is in a very different position than children in today's world. This is what we are transitioning towards, and yet, what do we do as we raise children during this transition? My approach is: choose influences wisely, with as much discernment as possible and practical. Choose friends that care for themselves and their children in radical ways, and your child will experience this as being "normal". We have no desire to go to places in the "old dimension", such as the mall, restaurants, and places that have reason to sell junk food or other artificial, unhealthy contrivances. Instead, we choose to exist in the "new dimension" of abundance, health, nature, community, where everyone is a healthy influence. We host gatherings, parties and playdates at our house, and invite friends and community we resonate with. And we attend gatherings at their places, too. This provides PLENTY of satisfying social interaction for me and for my son, without having to resort to interactions with people who are choosing to live unhealthy lifestyles.

That is all a wonderful, creative thought/ideal, and remember we are in transition, and will experience situations that don't fit into this view. For example, with family members like grandparents, cousins/uncles/aunts, etc. In this case, for any of these people who have an active role in your child's life, sit down with them and share with them the way you are choosing to raise your child, and have a conversation about how they can support you in that. This will be a conversation you will revisit with them as your child grows. Clear communication and honesty about your ideals are very important to maintain respect and love between you.

Q: How long does a parent need to be concerned with the quality of all the food their child is eating?

A: Cedar is only 18 months, and I am already noticing in a big way his (and all children's) desire to explore EVERYTHING in his environment. If there is something in a child's environment that you don't want them to explore, it will very likely become a power struggle at some point. To the degree we are able to provide environments they are able to explore as freely as possible, is the amount of ease we will experience in our relationship with our child. For example, if you want your child to only eat certain foods that you consider healthy, and yet you personally eat some other foods, or keep them in your house for some reason, your child will eventually want to experience them. You can think about how this applies to your particular situation, and make any modifications from there. Just don't expect your child to show no interest in the influences YOU have provided them, whether its your habits, or other children, school, daycare, etc.

Gradually, as your child matures, they will begin choosing their own influences. By this time, if you have raised them to enjoy healthy food and other healthy lifestyle practices, they will have this as their deep-rooted foundation, and for their entire life they will be comparing (often in a deep, subconscious way) everything they choose and experience to their foundational experiences. I have noticed that children who are raised in a healthy environment, even if they choose at some point to delve into some of the harmful things in today's society (which I did myself as a teenager, simply to understand what it is all about), they will learn something valuable from their experience, and most often end up creating a very healthy environment for themselves as adults (and for their children)... often even healthier than the way they were raised! That is my personal experience of my life so far, and I have seen this in others I know, as well.

Q: What about water, juice and other beverages?

A: We drink wild-harvested spring water. Cedar loves it. He especially loves it cold or in "ice" form. Fresh vegetable or fruit juices are great, even right at the beginning of their solid food explorations. Cedar also drinks sips here and there of smoothies and superfood drinks that I make (in small amounts, he seems to prefer food that has more solid textures at this point), and homemade lacto-fermented "sodas" that I make.

Cedar's current favorite foods & beverages: my breastmilk (still 75% of his food intake), radishes from our garden, homegrown sunflower sprouts, wild foods: right now arugula flowers, wood sorrel flowers and leaves, wild garlic greens... chlorella tablets (he loves the crunch), nori seaweed, avocados, apples, frozen berries, cold/frozen spring water and nettle tea infusions ... I waited for a while to introduce seeds and nuts (seed, nut and grain digestive enzymes mature at 2.3 years), but he began expressing a strong interest in activated (soaked then dehydrated, to minimize enzyme inhibitors) seeds, and in-shell pecans from our land, so I am following his intent and letting him practice chewing these things (he has 12 teeth now, including 4 molars)


One thing that is of primary importance in radical nourishment is growing your own food, and eating wild foods, so your child can experience directly WHERE FOOD ACTUALLY COMES FROM. This is TRUE "fresh food". It is powerful for a child to learn through experience that food comes from the earth, and grew from little seeds that you and they planted themselves and cared lovingly for until fruition... not lined up neatly on shelves in a big building with bright lights, where you can only have it if you give certain people pieces of green paper and metal coins. Their observation and experience of this is just as significant as the actual nutritional difference between homegrown/wild food and store-bought food. Simply put, children will believe as true the things they experience directly for themselves, OVER what they are told exists in theory.

If you live in a place with absolutely NO ground space to plant a garden, buy lots of pots and start a big, lush container garden on your balcony, in your kitchen, etc! Do what you can do right now, while you steer your life towards your ideal vision in the long term.

Resources for more information:

Come to my RE session, "Radical Nourishment for Your Magical Toddler" in Sept 2011 ... and for the broader aspects of child raising in a community setting, my session "Brave New World"

Wild-harvest spring water for free in your area: findaspring.com
Read the Ringing Cedars book series by Vladimir Megre