I recently spent six days at Kripalu where a true visionary, John Milton, (http://sacredpassage.com) guided a group of sixteen people from across the country on an extraordinary spiritual practice in nature. John taught us the basics of Tai chi and Qigong in the mornings and in the afternoons sent us out solo into the surrounding hills of the Berkshires on a “sacred passage.”
Using Taoist teachings as a starting point, he instructed us in how to use our five senses (and more) to make authentic connections with nature. Slowly we began to respond mindfully (moment to moment) and not automatically to sights, sounds, smells and source messages in nature. I found it difficult at first to shed the patterns of response that often surround and protect me. The daily practice of Qigong enabled me to begin to interact with people, occurrences and nature in creative and perceptive ways that I had never experienced.
Or so I thought.
I realized that I had experiences similar to the ones I had a Kirpalu – when I was a young kid: Playing games and going on backyard adventures – making spontaneous and imaginative connections that amused, surprised and, at times, frightened me. The channels of creativity were wide open and flowing. Then school took over specifically around fifth grade – at a strict, tie and jacket all-boys school where hard work, strict regimentation and order were rewarded. Imagination and creativity were left to wither.
Before I left Kripalu, I found five heart-shaped stones that I planned as gifts for my wife and ten year-old daughter. I was drawn to one stone – it had the color of the night sky with a shimmering white line like a shooting star.
When I got home, I wasn’t sure how to give 5 presents to 2 people.
But my daughter did.
We went to my outdoor writing studio and I laid out all the stones and asked her, “Which one are you drawn to?”
Natalie quietly looked at the heart shaped stones – experiencing each in her own way. She picked the most colorful one. “It’s the most childish – see all the colors,” she explained. “Automatic connection,” she smiled playfully, pointing two fingers to her eyes and then toward her stone.
She patiently looked from one stone to the other, and discovered a creative order and design to them that was crystal clear to her:
“This stone is for Mom because it has two paths – the big path is the one she’s taken for family and the other path is a developing path for her new business.”
“Why are you smiling?” Natalie asked when she chose the night sky stone for me. “It’s my favorite,” I told her.
I saw Natalie was very focused, but also having fun as she teased a story from the stones in front of her:
“And you see,” she added, “My stone is a combination of the colors in yours and Mom’s – because I’m a combination of both of you!”
Here were the basics of visual literacy in the form of a creative activity:
Playfully she was utilizing creative thinking skills to explore and map out information in the form of an image.
Two stones remained on the table in front of us:
She chose a dark stone with a moon-like circle for my wife to keep in her truck – because she explained, “It’s like yours and it will remind Mom of you. And it has different patterns – and she looks for style when she hunts for mid century furniture.”
She chose the final stone for me – “Look – the sand colors are like the colors in my stone and Mom’s.” “Okay, can I go now?” she asked me – already through the deck door and on to something new…..
The stones from nature launched my daughter into a creative and intuitive activity which parallels the wonderful cloud game that my colleague Matt Worwood wrote about in his posting: http://dadsforcreativity.com/when-did-you-last-play-the-cloud-game/
Visual literacy is a key skill today as information is increasingly exchanged in a digital multi-media format.
As parents we can encourage a wide range of creative thinking skills in our kids. One way is to become more present and patient as they explore and map out designs and ideas that spring from their imagination. These journeys often take routes that are beyond what we as parents can imagine – but that’s fine.
-Nature provides endless opportunities for parents and children to expand their senses and to open and channel creativity into new and different ways.
-Watch young kids play – they do this spontaneously and intuitively.
-Encouraging creative activities can be a central focus of how we interact with our kids especially as they begin to inch away from us and shape their own identities.
-As parents we sometimes have to be reminded of this as our kids leave their single digits and move into their tens and elevens where school regimentation and social pressure can inhibit their natural creativity.
-Take as many adventures into nature with your kids as you can – and together you may discover new connections there.
-As a parent be aware of how you might change the patterns of how you interact with your kids – to encourage more creative activities – and journeys that may take you and your kids to places you’ve never imagined.
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