May wisdom shine through me
May love glow within me
May strength penetrate me
That in me might arise
A helper for humanity,
A servant of sacred things,
Selfless and true.
This verse by Rudolf Steiner is a wonderful mantra for parenting. It speaks to the connection with spirit that guides our thoughts, feelings and actions. When we allow our ego to step back and humbly open to divine guidance in all its manifestations, we become attuned to the universal “All” or “Oneness” which is our own humanness, selfless and true. This is what we call seeking spiritual guidance and working with the spiritual world.
Parenting can be a spiritual journey for us through which we learn not only who our children are but also who we are ourselves. Golden opportunities come to us, through the eyes, hearts and actions of our children, to grow into our best and truest selves and to sort out what is essential and meaningful in life. We do this sorting for the sake of our children, if not for our own striving towards truth. Sometimes we do it to regain our own sanity! Through their directness, innocence and immaturity, children offer daily chances to discover or test our own maturity, wisdom and truths about life.
Our children help us discover what is important. Is it more important to spend time together or to have money to spend? What enriches us more – gathering material things for a sense of security and/or keeping up with cultural standards or spending time in meaningful relationships with each other? When faced with a child’s demanding or searching gaze, we must ask ourselves such questions. Sometimes we are successful in clarifying our values and sometimes we fail to even recognize that an opportunity to clarify values has been offered to us. Often we may feel confused about what is really important.
The Reality of Spiritual Guidance
To whom and in what directions do we seek guidance? Rudolf Steiner suggests that one way to ensure connection with spiritual worlds is through contact with our Angel. Some may relate to the fact of a guardian Angel while others may be more comfortable relating to the idea of spirit-guides. Rudolf Steiner spoke around the turn of the 20th century of what he called the “Third Hierarchy,” among several Hierarchies in the spiritual world. This Third Hierarchy consists of the spiritual beings that are closest to humanity, namely the Angels, Archangels and Archai. The names for these beings come from Greek culture, but these spiritual realities, says Steiner, have always existed. The Angels, closest to humanity, help us in several ways:
- opening our heart and soul to Higher Truth, thus helping us develop Imagination;
- opening our inner “ear” to hear spiritual guidance, thus helping us develop Inspiration;
- opening our will to allow the will-of-the-world to work in ours, thus helping us develop Intuition.
In addition, the Angels “inhabit” the space between the earth and the moon, the “etheric body” of the earth. Here also “reside” two other spiritual beings that guide and serve humanity:
- the Archangel Michael, guiding spirit of this age, and
- the universal Spirit of Love—also called the Christ—who serves as guide for the evolution of humanity and all living beings and who lives within each human heart.
All of nature knows the reality of spiritual guidance on earth, according to Steiner. We human beings, however, tend to bicker over the names and descriptions of what we cannot see, define or even fully understand. As we move more fully into the 21st century, it is our task to learn to put our trust in the reality of the spiritual world and its guidance so that spiritual beings can work for, within and through us. Many people do this without thinking about it. For others, the mental struggle to understand, name and define the phenomena of the unseen world may help or hinder their ability to receive and use spiritual guidance.
Fostering Connections with Spirit
A parent’s relationship to the spiritual world has great significance for his or her children. According to Steiner, when parents or other adults in a child’s life strive to connect to the higher world, this activity forms a bridge which helps the child preserve his or her connection with that world. Building this bridge can be accomplished especially by working with Angels, as Angels–as well as all of the Third Hierarchy–have the task of helping humanity connect with spiritual reality. Waldorf Kindergarten birthday stories express in imaginative pictures the reality of the journey every human soul makes before birth, with the guardian Angel guiding us through heavenly spheres as we prepare for our coming earth life. Steiner describes how we visit each of the planetary spheres and the singing stars, working and collecting gifts to bring as talents, inclinations, intentions and abilities. When the time comes, after we have chosen our family, we slip across the rainbow bridge into the bosom of earthly existence. The Angel remains active in guiding us from across the threshold, although there are changes in the nature of this guidance as we grow and mature.
There are many ways in which we can foster a connection with the spiritual world for ourselves and for our children. Young children live in a reality that is still permeated with spiritual values, having come so recently from the spiritual world. Their innate sense of awe, wonder, reverence and gratitude is natural and unequivocal. A child can be deeply shocked to witness actions that are not in alignment with these values. Adults who are caring for young children can cultivate a clear relationship to these values in order to help young children feel welcomed and at peace in their growing connection with life on earth.
Of these qualities, gratitude is so important! It is so strengthening for you and your children if you can be grateful for life, grateful that your children have chosen you to be their earthly guides! When we can be grateful for our own lives, our destiny, our work and even our challenges, we discover life is a journey of limitless opportunity for inner growth and transformation. Through gratitude for all that life brings us we develop the love of truth. And, as the saying goes, truth does set us free! Our personal striving for truth is one significant way that we establish a living connection with spirit. We humbly surrender to that which is greater than ourselves, from which we came, and to which we will return. Our children can experience the peace that develops deep within our souls from living so connected to truth, no matter the ups and downs of daily life.
There are many other ways to foster connection with spiritual reality, including meditation, prayer, yoga, t’ai chi, among many possibilities. One exercise, given by Rudolf Steiner, involves the backward review of the day. It is called the ruckshau. This backward-review of daily events strengthens our powers of observation and concentration. It is practiced in the evening before sleep. As we see the events of our day in reverse in our mind’s eye, we can ask the following questions:
- What events transpired?
- Could I have responded better?
- Did I feel a spiritual presence at the time?
Such introspective analysis of our actions leads us to the desire for the good. The desire to do better and to see and forgive our own foibles helps us develop a stronger relationship with our Angel. It is our Angel who guides us during sleep through reviewing the day just past and preparing for the coming day, helping us develop the appropriate soul mood during the night to meet our unfolding destiny or purpose in the coming day. Awareness of this process and conscious connection with our Angel before sleep and/or upon waking facilitates the Angel’s activity in preparing us for the new day and brings us a feeling of our Angel’s presence. Through this activity our thoughts also become imbued with spiritual reality which can carry over into our deeds.
Developing the awareness of the divine purpose of our sleep helps to bring us into presence in daily life. An important key to good parenting is this very thing: being present with the child, in the now, all the time–for this is where our children live, the source of their learning and the foundation of their being for life. Working with the ruckshau can make this key to parenting more available.
Spiritual guidance comes to us in a variety of ways. Steiner teaches that spirit beings “whisper inwardly” to us when we develop a receptive mood and prepare to hear and receive their wisdom. Their guidance comes to us as thoughts–imaginations, inspirations, and/or intuitions. This is due to the fact that thoughts live in the spiritual world and humans have the capacity to “catch” them, to become aware of them, understand, align with and apply them. We offer below several possibilities for practices or activities for attuning with higher truth.
Times of quiet reflection and meditation are always strengthening, whether you see its fruit in daily life right away or not. One possible practice is to think about and reflect on inspiring words to nourish yourself mentally and spiritually on a daily basis. The sources of inspiration for parents are many and varied. If you need some direction, you might look in The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran, for his thoughts on parenting:
“…[Your] children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday…”
Some Steiner verses that are helpful for parents include the one quoted at the beginning of this article and this one which can also be used as a prayer to say aloud over a very small child:
May light stream into you that can take hold of you.
I follow its rays with the warmth of my love.
I think with my thinking’s best thoughts of joy
On the stirrings of your heart.
May they strengthen you,
May they carry you,
May they cleanse you.
I want to gather my thoughts of joy
Before the steps of your life,
That they unite with your will for life,
So that it finds itself with strength
In the world,
Holding Questions, Waiting for Answers
If you sense that there is a higher world which helps us make decisions and you wish to access that wisdom, practice “holding questions” and waiting for answers from that world. Become clear about your deepest intention for change or understanding. Notice what questions relate to this intention. Reflect on your question [or questions], write about it, meditate on it, hold it in your awareness consciously each day. This can happen while you are going about your daily life, if that is what works best for you. Then during the day, pay attention to what happens, what inspires you, what occurs to you or what comes towards you. Think about how your new awarenesses and experiences reflect on the question you are holding and your wish for new inspiration in your relationship to your child. You may begin to notice you are finding your way to new behaviors and attitudes with your child.
Working with the Dead
Working with the spiritual world through the agency of loved ones who have passed through the portal of death is another important way we can connect with guidance from spiritual realms. The so-called “dead” build bridges between us and higher worlds, especially when we make efforts to connect with them. Steiner has taught us that the dead need contact with us as much as we need them. He suggests that we read from spiritually inspired texts to those on the other side of the threshold regularly, possibly once a week before sleep. This reading helps the dead continue to grow in their connection with spiritual truth after they leave the earth. In return, the dead are able to help us transform our world because of their connection with social ideals. According to Steiner, the dead are particularly interested in and can perceive how social interactions can be brought into greater alignment with higher values.
The next blog post will discuss a Self and Child Observation and Imagination Exercise. The third part of this series will be about Working With a Child’s Angel and Sleep.