FEB 25, 2013
Manifesting A Dream – bringing Earth Wisdom Teachings into schools, through the ‘Children’s Fire Project’
A paddling pool is not a standard piece of shamanic kit, but I’m holding a ceremony in front of one, and teaching a group of children about the universal energy field. I tell them the still water represents the energy within and all around us, and the pebbles I hand out to throw in represent their thoughts, words and actions: “Let’s see what effect they have on this field of energy.”
We throw our pebbles in and watch the ripples emanating out, crossing and interacting with each other, and one of the children remarks, “It’s like when you throw a coin in a wishing well.”
“Exactly, everything we think, say and do ripples out into the energy field, but not all our thoughts come true, not in the way we expect,” I say. “And it’s partly because everything else is making wishes too.”
I’m in a primary school as part of an initiative called ‘The Children’s Fire.’ The overall aim is to introduce ‘Earth Wisdom Teachings’ and ‘Earth Education’ into schools, to help children know their relationship with their self and Life. Can we teach the next generation that we’re not separate from Life and our energy is always affecting the energy of Life around us?
That day standing around the paddling pool, several of the class and their teacher were away in London. They were in a competition to win a badly-needed new classroom. In fact they had reached the finals: out of 450 primary schools that had entered, Park School had gone through to the last round with three others, and in that very moment the absent children could be presenting their designs to the suits-and-ties of the company offering the prize.
I took this as a chance to teach more about the power of thought, explaining that we can connect with others even when they’re far away. I invited the children to join hands and send energy to their classmates, “Imagine we’re all throwing a big stone in together, and send our thoughts out into the energy field, if it’s the right thing for that new classroom to come here, so be it. And if one of the other schools needs it more than us…we let go and let the universe decide.”
DRAWN FROM THE UNSEEN
Teaching the children we are part of a co-creative universe in which we help shape the future is only a part of the project. On the way to that principle of cause and effect we’ve given them many activities to experience their relatedness with the universe.
Like everything else, ‘The Children’s Fire had its origins in the unseen, but there were three strands of thought that came together to weave it into manifestation: the ideas behind Park School; the tradition of ‘Earth Education’, and the ancient lineage of ‘Earth Wisdom’ that carries the medicine wheel teachings.
Park School is at Dartington in Devon. It’s lucky enough to have a big playing field and woods sloping down to a water meadow where the River Dart flows quietly towards Totnes. It’s been a pioneer in human-scale education: small class sizes allow its teachers to follow the children’s individuality, and its independence allows them to create their own curriculum. The school emphasises respect – for self, other people and the environment.
Earth Education is about learning to live on our planet; it aims to help people live more harmoniously and joyously with Nature, and is a head, heart and hands approach to understanding Mother Earth’s ways.
I was doing this work with Mark Jefferys, who had trained as an ‘Earth Education’ trainer. I met Mark at a ceremony, and we had both been walking the same path of teachings. When Mark moved to the area I live, we decided to collaborate on this project.
And for myself I’ve been learning and growing with the medicine wheel for over twenty-five years. From my perspective it has the potential to help humanity come back into harmony with ourselves, with each other and with our planet.
What is the medicine wheel? Well, we could understand it as a great mirror in which all the things of the universe are reflected. As we look into this mirror we come to realise our oneness, our relationship with all of Creation. All things – from stars to stones, from carrots to kangaroos – are on the medicine wheel; all things are made of energy and have consciousness; and all things are our kin. Or we could think of it as a map, a compass of orientation aligned to the directions – East, West, South, North. It’s a map that enables us to navigate in this universe of energy-consciousness. it shows us, for example, our relationship with the elements – Fire, Earth, Water and Air – and how these are not only ‘out there’ but also ‘in here,’ in our spirit, body, emotion and heart-mind.
DREAMING THE WAY
One of the seeds for the Children’s Fire initiative came in a dreaming ceremony held by my medicine teachers, RainbowHawk, WindEagle and WhiteEagle. It was on their land in the high desert of New Mexico.
This is an extraordinary landscape of dry dust, crumbling rock and scratchy plants and it reminded me of something out of the books by Carlos Casteneda. It has a numinous quality, an extraordinary silence in which Spirit is as close as your breath: you feel the unseen witnessing your every thought. The sun bears down like a hammer on anvil and the desert wind whispers its dreams, It’s a land that loves without pity.
In the ancient tradition of Earth Medicine, ‘Dreaming’ does not only take place at night. The teachings tell us that what we call reality is really a dream-field, in which we are dreaming and being dreamed. We are creating reality out of our states of consciousness and ‘dreaming’ all the time – with our thoughts, words and actions.
To aid the dreaming, to make it more of a conscious act, we decided to create a ceremonial dreaming space to help us find our vision – our dream. With meticulous attention we created a sacred space – dreamer lodge – using the poles of a tipi; dressing them with green give-aways; pinyon pine and juniper. These herbs gave off sweet aromas, and imbued the lodge with lush life-giving energy. Added to this was our strong collective intention in the form of many red prayer ties hung among the greenery of the lodge, and we used Mayan figures and symbols of the Mystery to create an altar around the centre fire. The overall affect was of ineffable beauty: it was a stunning earth temple.
It was in this space that we yielded to the universe, dreaming and received some of the ‘dream-seeds’ of how our world will be.
These are some of the dream-seeds that came to me: In the dreaming we see images of a renewed global culture: the Great Tree of Consciousness pushing up through concrete; as its leaves open, a new harmony with our planet.
Education has more emphasis on learning from nature. Parts of teacher training take place in wilderness areas, and children have spiritual adventures in nature such as rites of passage…
In schools, the spirit of individuality within togetherness enables children to remain clear about their unique identity. They learn how to focus their consciousness, how to work with energy and how to be truly present in relationship with Life.
Children are brought up in self-authority, their power to author their life. They are guided lovingly by older people, free to explore, play and create. Taught how to be still, how to respond to Life, able to wonder at the world, to feel their kinship with all beings…”
In my own schooling I wasn’t taught to pay attention to the unseen, but since then I have been on a healing journey to transcend my conditioning and accept the nagual – the spirit world – as just as real as the tonal – the physical world. Now I understand that yielding to the universe and allowing these dreams is the ‘being’ side of creation. On one level they’re already real. But what is needed to move them into ‘becoming’ and actualise them?
GROUNDING THE DREAM
As we broke our fast at the completion of three days of dreaming, we were all in blissful and numinous states of consciousness. Many beautiful dreams had been spoken around the fire, as we passed the talking stick and each of us ‘claimed’ the visions we would stand for – the dream-seedlings we would tend into manifestation. I chose to stand for this dream of a more conscious-orientated approach to education.
In our first session with the children, we built a stone medicine wheel in the school grounds. This would serve as a map for our journey as well as a space for many of the teachings and experiences. The children also learned some practical geometry, using compass, scissors and string. We laid out the circle with willow wands and put coloured flags at each of the directions.
Once the wheel was complete we lit a fire in the centre and stood around in a circle. In a ceremony it’s good to hear everyone’s voice, so we passed the talking stick round and asked the children to speak of one of their favorite things. Simply hearing what brought them joy – games and gadgets, toys and technology, friends and family, dogs and DVDs – help raise the group energy.
But learning to listen is an essential skill, and being heard is empowering for the individual and the whole circle, so we incited them to sit with the water element, in the form of the school pond, and to contemplate how water flows through them. Of course they all giggled at the thought of ‘wee-wee,’ but we also brought their attention to the flow of feelings.
After this they each created a ‘medicine shield’ of their own watery emotional element by painting on a circular card, then we took them into the sandpit to connect with the material world and sculpt their earth element in sand. Next we all ran up to the top of the climbing frame to feel the air, then back to the Wheel to connect to the mystery of fire.
At the end of this session one of the girls, aged about eleven, commented, “This has been a life-changing experience”. I smiled inwardly at her earnest expression, but it also affirmed my sense that this work has much to offer.
THE DREAMING DEVELOPS
Another way we worked with the four directions of the Medicine Wheel was to put the children into four clans – buzzards, otters, badgers and foxes. Each clan was invited to develop an expression of their clan totem and then teach it to the whole circle. The groups created movements, sounds and rhythms, and then taught them to the whole circle. People have always sought to connect with the animal powers, and this also gave them a tribal sense of belonging to a group within a larger community.
We also used a Medicine Wheel teaching called ‘The Four Attentions,’ which describes how to focus attention. It can help children – and adults – to train their consciousness. It brought the children into a deep state of presence, and afterwards one of the teachers told me it had had a really clear effect: “Now when I say, ‘listen,’ they know how to actually listen, so it makes my job easier.”
COMPLETING THE BEGINNING
At the end of the project the whole school met in the Medicine Wheel to celebrate, and we used the drum to honour the journey we had completed. The parents gathered round to witness, and with remarkable confidence groups of children showed them some of the experiences and things they’d learned. We rounded it all off with a feast of tea and cake. It was a celebration of growth and learning for the whole community.
The Children’s Fire has made a successful start at bringing self-knowledge teachings into schools. it is based on the recognition that if children are helped to know themselves they will develop a more balanced relationship with our planet. This could form the basis of future education, a foundation on which other skills such as literacy and numeracy could be easily assimilated. We don’t know what challenges our children’s children will face, but if they can access their inner resources of consciousness, they’ll be better able to meet their challenges in a way of wholeness.
Consciousness is vast and mysterious. Human consciousness is multi-faceted, and brain-mind thought is only one aspect of it. Words can point us towards the Mystery but can never illuminate it fully.
Metaphor may help too, which is where a paddling pool can come in just as handy as a pipe, drum or rattle. A pool of clear standing water is like the stillness of our essence-self, the field of unlimited potential within. When we introduce a power-thought into this field it has an effect – especially if we aren’t attached to the outcome. And helping children to know the essence-self and our power of conscious dreaming is a needed part of our evolution of consciousness.
The night after the paddling pool ceremony and our exploration of cause and effect, my phone rang again. It was one of the Park School teachers and he’d just been speaking with those who’d gone up to London for the new classroom competition: “They won! They won the classroom! Those prayers we sent must have worked!”…