Saturday: You Are Here for a Reason

This post is the eighth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Saturday is a day of Dharma. The message today is, “You are here for a reason.”

This day is really neat. It’s the day we look at our own unique talents and find ways that we can use them to make the world a better place. Neko and I had a conversation about her talents and why she might be here – we agree that one of her gifts is a love for animals.

In the future, there are so many fun things we could do on Saturdays. One thing that I would really like to do is to volunteer on that day.

Here are my ideas:

a) list your unique talents – it’s fun to sit down with your child and talk about your unique talents. They might point out a talent of yours that you wouldn’t have identified, and vice versa. How could these talents or gifts benefit others?

b) volunteer your time or efforts – this is especially great if you’re using your talents, but if one of your talents is being personable, or attention to detail, or something else that is applicable in a variety of situations, that leaves you with tons of options for volunteering opportunities!

c) think of ways you changed the world today – this is a nice “lying in bed at the end of the day conversation. Can you think of someone to whom you made a difference today?

d) learn about a famous person who had a purpose in life – read a short biography of someone who had real purpose in their life – Louis Pasteur? Martin Luther King? Mother Teresa?

e) spend time doing something you feel you have a talent for – by practicing what we love, we can enter a state of flow. This is similar to meditation, and is good for the body and soul.

f) tell your child ways they have improved your life today

g) tell your child the story of when they were conceived/born/adopted/came into your life – a big part of your child’s life story and purpose is where they came from and how. Reminisce about these memories with your child.

Movie ideas: Surf’s Up, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Happy Feet, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, The Muppets

Book ideas: Oliver Button is a Sissy (Tomie dePaola), Augustine (Melanie Watt), Class Clown (Robert Munsch), The Happiness Tree (Andrea Alban Gosline), One (Katheryn Otoshi)

Friday: Enjoy the Journey

This post is the seventh in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Friday is a day of Detachment. The message for today is, “Enjoy the journey.”

The idea for today is to stop worrying about controlling the outcome of everything. Ideally we will teach our kids to throw themselves into things with enthusiasm despite the fact that we never know what the outcome will be. While I feel like this will take a long time for Neko to understand, I also think this is extremely important for children to learn. Right away, I can see the situations where this would be a valuable lesson – board games, for instance.

We had a nice day on Friday, and I felt like it was fitting for the “Detachment” idea. Mairead and Finn were supposed to come over in the afternoon, but the whole family was sick, so they stayed home. Justan had to work nearby, which meant Neko and I were left alone, but with the car. This hasn’t happened in a long time! Mairead and Finn don’t fit in our car (well… they do. But there is not enough room for three carseats.), and usually when Justan is working, he has the car. I thought it was funny that we had an unexpected turn of events today!

I turned to my Pinterest boards for fun ideas, and Neko and I chose a few. We then made a list of the supplies we needed, and visited the thrift shop, the dollar store and the craft store.

We chose….

I can’t find the original poster of this one, but it’s made the social network rounds and has been anecdotally proven to be a hit!

This charming idea from the Color Me Katie blog really captured our attention. We both love rocks! How simple and cute!

I will do a separate post with the results of these. We had a lot of fun. I have quite a few ideas for things to do on future Fridays. I think this will be one of the days we have the most fun! Here are my ideas:

a) do unpredictable experiments – I don’t have any specific ideas yet. This is a little tricky, because usually experiments suggested for kids have a set outcome. But maybe something weather dependent, or maybe testing out different styles of paper airplanes? Lots of wiggle room here, though, as many experiments are unpredictable to kids. I’ll be keeping this in mind and I’ll see what I come up with. As always, I would love suggestions!

b) talk about our own lives, and what might happen – I personally find comfort in thinking of all the most likely outcomes and being okay with any of them. I’d love to pass this on to Neko.

c) play a board game – win or lose, it’s about having fun. Hey… kind of like life!

d) enter a contest – Neko is always seeing contests (usually drawing contests) on kids’ morning TV. I’m sure there are better contests for learning this lesson – like entering for a door prize at an event we attend – as it has more of an impact if you can see the contest results.

e) burn or release the intentions from yesterday – if you wrote intentions on paper yesterday, how about cooking over the fire (or lighting a fire in the fireplace) tonight and burning those intentions to release them. Don’t be attached to the outcome!

f) play with a tone matrix – yes, it’s true, you could figure out what each combination will sound like. But the fun is on choosing random spots and checking out the result. Try this tone matrix  or this one that “pulsates” and looks and sounds a bit like raindrops.

Neko really enjoyed trying both. They kept her amused for quite some time!

Embarrassingly, I have not been able to come with any story ideas yet. Not for lack of trying! I’m sure Helen Lester must have one about not being a sore loser.

Movie ideas: Homeward Bound, Up!

Thursday: Every Time You Wish or Want, You Plant a Seed

This post is the sixth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Thursday is the day of Intention of Desire. The message for today is, “Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.”

I like this idea, because it’s one that I believe in strongly. I believe that the Universe (context: I’m a pantheist) wants to give each of us what we want, and we help it to do so by creating intentions. I also believe that our intentions send out certain vibrations and thus attract like vibrations, in turn bringing us just what we put out. At least, that’s an overly simplified explanation. Neko and I talked about this today, including how you should be careful what you wish for, as sometimes you might wish for something that isn’t actually in your best interest, but then you might get it. Her first thought when I asked what she would really like her life to be like? She said she either wants to go to Narnia, or have the Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan come here. I wasn’t sure what to say to that, especially since Sunday’s lesson is that “anything is possible” (really struggling with that one from a child’s perspective). Is it really possible for the characters from our favourite books to come visit us? Help me out here, Deepak.

I have tons of neat ideas for upcoming Thursdays, as this theme lends itself easily to all sorts of crafts, activities and conversations, but for today, we did a little visualization exercise before bed. I visualized sitting inside our strawbale house and feeling very peaceful, while Neko visualized seeing the boy she has a crush on, and also attending another Jellybean Dance. She loves visualizing so this went over well.

A part of my strawbale house visualization – the view from our homesite at Solstice.

Onto those neat ideas. Some things I’d like to do on Thursdays:

a) make a vision board – using pictures cut out from magazines, printed off the computer, or drawn, create a collage of just how you would like your life to be. This can encompass your whole life, or a certain area, such as fitness, work, home, or family. Don’t limit yourself by attempting to be reasonable – dream big. You never know what might manifest in your life!

b) write a story in which the thing you want to happen, is happening – this is something I often do for myself. When I do it on my own, I write what my life would like if my wish came true, only I write about it in the present tense. “I am so happy right now in our strawbale house. It’s so peaceful here…” I think this same idea would adapt well to kids!

c) practice visualization – have your child choose something they really want. Are they missing someone? Is there an activity they would like to try? A trip they’d like to take? Talk them through a visualization in which they experience what they’re wishing for, in their head. Visualization is a powerful tool, and one that will help them later in life. Among other things, using visualization before an athletic event to picture yourself doing well has been proven to improve performance!

d) set goals with lists of how to achieve them – setting actual goals, and listing ideas of just what needs to be done to reach those goals, is a practical way of making your dreams coming true. Goal setting is another valuable habit for kids to learn.

e) blow bubbles – put an intention into each bubble, then watch it float away. Another part of today’s message is that once we release our intention, we must have faith that if it’s in our best interest, it will happen. We can’t continue to obsess over whether it will happen, or we could get in the way. Practice setting intentions, releasing them, then watching the bubbles pop and release those intentions themselves!

f) write your wishes on paper – we’ll do something further with these papers tomorrow.

g) make prayer flags – we did this for Winter Solstice this year. As the flags blow in the wind, they release the wishes. Once the flags are worn out, you can burn them to fully release the intentions they contain. For more information, see my post on Winter Solstice 2011.

Our Solstice prayer flags, hanging from the chicken coop.

h) plant a seed – that’s right. Plant an actual seed, and watch it grow. There are endless ways you could do this (maybe Thursday is a good day to plant the garden!) – here is one.

Book ideas: Charlotte’s Web

Movie ideas: Charlotte’s Web, Freaky Friday

Wednesday: Don’t Say No, Go With the Flow

This post is the fifth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Wednesday is the day of Least Effort. The message for today is, “Don’t say no—go with the flow.”

Neko and I going with the flow… sort of.

This was another day that, for this week, we didn’t do much for. That said, I don’t expect we’ll always have a big activity or lesson, but I hope more that we will keep each thought in mind as we go through the corresponding days. Some weeks, we will incorporate lessons or activities. I explained this idea to Neko in the morning before I went to work, and asked her to please try to go with the flow and think of creative solutions as she went about her day. I’m not sure whether she did as she spent the day with her dad, and then Nicole’s family!

On our drive home at the end of the day, Neko mentioned that she had spotted an eagle gliding over our neighbourhood that morning. Perfect! Eagles were one creature I immediately thought of when brainstorming themes for Wednesdays, because they go with the flow – instead of working hard to stay aloft, they glide and ride the air currents to get to where they need to go. I explained this to Neko and told her that when you see a large raptor in the sky, you can tell it’s an eagle if it is riding the wind instead of flapping its wings much. When we got home, we watched some videos on YouTube of eagles riding the wind. Neko asked a really good question: “But what if they want to go somewhere that the wind isn’t going?” I wasn’t entirely sure of the answer, and I told her as much, but also told her that I thought an eagle might try to find a higher or lower current going in the direction it wants to go.

While supper was cooking, we read The Gruffalo, because I think that the mouse in the story goes with the flow and thinks up really neat ways to solve problems and keep himself alive. Plus, we love The Gruffalo. We talked about these things and about how, if the mouse had freaked out or reacted in a different way, instead of keeping calm and thinking creatively, he might have been lunch for any of the threatening creatures along the way.

On future Wednesdays, I would like to…

a) find the game in work or a chore – we need to get Neko doing more chores around the house anyway, and I’d love to have regular chore time during the day (often things just feel too crazy and it slips by us – plus I tend to put cleaning and such things pretty low on the priority list). I’m all for finding the fun in chores! That’s a lifelong skill that won’t let you down.

b) float a boat down a stream – a toy boat, a paper boat, a boat we’ve made as a craft. This is always a fun activity anyway! We have lots of streams and rivers around us, so this is an easy one for us to access. And is there anything more fun in the spring when the snow melts? We can take the opportunity to talk about how the boat follows the current, what happens when it gets stuck, and whether different types of boats are better at “going with the flow.”

c) take responsibility for our actions – as you go about your day, try not to blame others for things that happen. Take responsibility for the things you say and do, and how those things affect others. Placing the blame on others wastes time and detracts from the opportunity to find a solution.

d) create something that feels fun to create, or do something active that doesn’t feel like work to you – when you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work!

e) in the pool or lake, let the current move us around as we float, and see where it takes us – similar to the boat idea, only in this case, we’re the boat! You could be on an inflatable toy, or just floating on your back. Play safely, of course! Lifejackets are great.

f) have a wandering day – leave the house and just go where feels right. You could be walking or driving. See where you end up! I love the instructions in the following image (from tumblr) so I’ll leave it at that.

g) learn about how eagles float on air currents – we didn’t have a ton of luck on YouTube, but I’m sure with a bit more searching we could have found other websites with much more information. Books or DVDs from the library, or a visit to your local bird sanctuary would also be helpful!

Book ideas: The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson), But No Elephants (Jerry Smath)

Movie ideas: Winnie the Pooh, Shrek

Tuesday: When You Make a Choice, You Change the Future

This post is the fourth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Tuesday is the day of Karma. The message for today is, “When you make a choice, you change the future.”

This, today, this is the day I’m struggling with. I believe in karma, and I understand it, mostly (well… as much as any regular person can). Not in the way that people flippantly refer to it, as if it’s instant and applies to things like spilling your milkshake after making fun of a friend, but in a much more holistic, long-term sense. But how on earth do you explain that to a child? I picture myself explaining it to Neko, and then her thinking that she’ll be rich if she’s nice to people, or assuming someone got sick because they weren’t a nice person. Throw reincarnation and karma over several lives in there and I’m stumped! I need it to be simple enough to explain to her, but not have her oversimplify it in selfish or harmful ways. Perhaps this will just come with time.

For now, we will focus on identifying how the choices we make change the future, and that when we do things that help bring happiness and success to others, that we ourselves are more likely to be happy and successful. We will use today as an opportunity to discuss how to know what is the right choice – listening to our intuition, and asking ourselves how our choice will affect ourselves and others, before deciding.

In the end, we didn’t talk very much about choices today. I’ll write this off as a day to prepare for future Tuesdays, and next week I’ll be sure to have a good conversation about it with Neko!

a) read books about karma – any suggestions? I thought of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an example of book where people “get what they deserve” – that’s the best I’ve come up with. ETA: My friend Jen suggested the Grimm’s fairy tale Mother Holle. This got me thinking – many fairy tales have a rather karmic theme to them. Cinderella, for instance. I think Tuesday would be a good day for fairy tales and fables.

b) talk about good things that have happened to us

c) talk about our beliefs about karma

d) talk about situations that happened today and choices we made, and why we made the choices we did – Talk about how we feel about that choice. You could also write a story or make a book about these choices.

e) talk about listening to our intuition to help us make choices

f) Pick a situation in your life – what can you learn from it? Sometimes things happen to us because we can learn from them.

Book ideas: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Movie ideas: The Cat Returns, A Little Princess

Monday: If You Want to Get Something, Give It

This post is the third in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Monday is a day of giving. The message for today is, “If you want to get something, give it.”

First thing Monday morning, Neko and I had a conversation about this. “If you want others to share, or be nice to you, a good thing to do is share and be nice to them,” I told her. An apt lesson, as she was headed to Mairead’s house for the day, and the two of them don’t have the most stellar record for sharing and getting along. In fact, they know exactly how to push one another’s buttons, and do so on a regular basis. Neko was taking an avocado pit (“dinosaur egg”) to their house and was plotting how she would keep it away from Mairead, so we talked about how if she expects Mairead to share her things, Neko should give Mairead a chance with the “dinosaur egg,” as a start.

We also planned, together, to give out lots of compliments during the day. At the end of the day, we would share with one another the compliments we had given.

In the future, we will also talk a lot about being grateful for the things we have, and how, by being grateful for what we have, it can seem like enough, and we can also have more of what we need come to us almost magically.

It was a really great day, and I definitely had lots to be thankful for. In the morning, before I left for work and to drop Neko off (Justan was working downtown today and took the bus), Neko and I did yoga, I fed the hens (and gave them some whey from our cheesemaking to drink), I made coffee and a double-egg and avocado sandwich, and we had time to spare. Neko had a great day at the bookstore and playing outside, and I was thankful to have an extra staff member to help me during my shift, and good friends who stopped by for hugs in celebration of Chinese New Year – and they brought me lunch, including Pocky and fortune cookies!

I have lots of ideas of things we could do on Mondays in the future…

a) compliment each other and strangers – but remember, it’s important that the compliments are sincere!

b) practice random acts of kindness – all sorts of fun possibilities here! I won’t list them, as there are tons of ideas out there, and I’m sure you can think of your own. Look, there’s a whole website about it!

c) free hug day – I have been wanting to do this with kids for some time. A conversation would need to happen beforehand about only hugging if you are comfortable with it and you and the other person consent, but I think it could be really awesome!

d) talk about the things you’re thankful for at dinner – this is a really simple tradition that can, of course, be incorporated at dinner every day.

e) make a gift – whether there is a birthday or gift-giving holiday coming up or not, this is a great day to think of people you know who might like a gift, or to whom you’d like to give a gift. There are lots of amazing ideas for easy, handmade gifts on Pinterest!

f) send a love letter – for kids who can write (or younger ones who can dictate to an adult), writing a love letter to a best friend, grandparent or anyone else they love is a great exercise in expressing feelings and gratitude. While you’re at it, write one out yourself – maybe even to yourself! Or perhaps a spouse or parent hasn’t been told lately just how much they mean to you. Who benefits more in this exercise – the sender or the receiver?

g) hold the door for people – going out today? Take the opportunity to hold the door for anyone you can.

h) write a story about something you’re thankful for – when I was a kid, I loved making books; and now Neko does too. Take some regular, white, 8×10 paper and cut in half width-wise. Stack these new half-sheets together, fold in half and staple in the middle. Now fill with a lovely gratitude story, and be sure to include lots of drawings!

i) give each other back rubs – giving, and gratitude together! Plus – backrubs!

j) give to charity – this will have extra impact if your child or children choose the charity, and what to give. Something more palpable and less abstract than money, like toys, clothes, and so on, are easier for kids to understand.

k) talk about the Golden Rule – I remember learning this as a child: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” or “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” It is absolutely, number one, the best life rule I have ever learned, and it’s easy for kids to understand (especially once they develop empathy around age seven)!

l) have a mini Thanksgiving dinner – if you celebrate Thanksgiving, how about preparing something similar to what you would serve on that day, only on a smaller scale? This may bring more of a focus to the idea of giving thanks. Be sure to talk about all the things for which you have to be thankful as you eat!

m) take someone flowers – pick some flowers from your garden, or wildflowers (just be careful picking wildflowers! Choose something safe like dandelions or a flower that grows with abandon in your area, and not anything that is threatened or rare), or buy some locally grown flowers in-season from your local farmers market, and take them to a friend. A simple way to brighten someone’s day (including yours)!

I didn’t come up with many ideas for books or movies for today, but as always, I welcome more!

Book ideas: Ribbon Rescue (Robert Munsch), Socks for Supper (Jack Kent)

Movie ideas: One Magic Christmas

Sunday: Anything is Possible

Yesterday, I wrote about Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. That post provides the context for this one.

Sunday is a day of pure potentiality. The message for today is, “Everything is possible, no matter what.”

Today was our first day of talking about the “Seven Laws” with Neko. We didn’t do a specific activity today (and I don’t expect to every week), but I did tell her that we were going to be talking more about spirituality and the big ideas involved in that. I didn’t go into a long-winded explanation of the idea behind “everything is possible,” but kept it simple and will wait for the questions to come naturally.

Today, we read several chapters of “The Magician’s Nephew” (the first book in the Narnia series) and also watched Spirited Away – and we talked about how seemingly impossible things happen in both.

On future Sundays, some activities I’d like to incorporate include:

a) meditation or quiet time – probably guided. The idea behind “everything is possible” is connecting with the larger consciousness and understanding that we are one with the universe and everything in it, so even some quiet meditation provides the groundwork for a lifetime of tuning in to higher consciousness.

b) nature walk – by examining small and large objects in nature, from a stone or some moss, to an old tree or the ocean, we can connect with nature or a higher power very easily. Plus, of course, it’s very important for kids to be in nature on a regular basis. And by talking about the amazing things that are possible in the natural world, we can be reminded that there are powers much greater than ourselves.

c) discussing problems or situations in our lives, and possible solutions – this wouldn’t be a planned activity, but if Neko is having a problem, or we’re having one as a family, talking about solutions could be a great way to open our own eyes to different possibilities.

d) build a labyrinth for a walking meditation – I think this could be really fun in the winter, but you could also do it with stones in the summer.

e) draw or colour a mandala – this is yet another way of reminding ourselves of our connection with a higher power, and our place in a complex world, and universe. MandalaProject.org includes some great information and ideas about both mandalas and labyrinths. Mandala colouring books can be purchased from mandali.com, or you may want to print off single colouring pages.

You may also want to simply read a book, or watch a movie to tie in with the “anything is possible” idea. Fantasy books and movies tie in, in a simplistic way, but for more of a message, how about:

Book ideas: Stone Soup (Ann McGovern), Oh The Places You’ll Go (Dr. Seuss)

Movie ideas: March of the Penguins, A Dolphin’s Tale, Ponyo, My Neighbour Totoro, Babe

The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents

For a long time now, I have wanted to incorporate Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents into our daily life. As with his Seven Spiritual Laws for Success, the book plots the laws and lessons by weekday, so that each day of the week corresponds with a spiritual lesson to work on. I really enjoy his ideas for relating the lessons to kids – each law is put into language that kids can understand, although many of the ideas are still so abstract that parents will only be able to touch on very simplified versions of the ideas.

I think that there is potential to make this a very central part of our homeschooling schedule, with activities ranging from language, to art, to science tying in to the lessons from week to week. I’ve made lists of ideas and will be posting them on the corresponding days next week. These include book and film suggestions that tie in to the lessons.

Importantly, as we go through the spiritual lessons day by day, we, as parents, need to practice the laws as well. For instance, Wednesday is about the Law of Least Effort, when we tell our child, “Don’t say no – go with the flow.” Chopra tells us to accept situations as they occur; take responsibility for our situation; and relinquish the need to defend our point of view. As we have conversations with our children about these themes, we need to be honest with them about our own actions, reactions and feelings, whether we succeeded that day, or in the past, with the lesson, or whether there was a time when we were unable to

I’ll also try to remember, as Neko talks to me about her dreams and feelings, to not be judgmental of the things she comes out with.

Ideally, I would like to make a felt or magnetic weekly calendar, where we could mark which law we’re learning about each day, things like the weather and events or classes, and well… okay I haven’t thought about it much beyond weather and the Seven Spiritual Laws. I’ve tried to find an example of something similar to what I’m thinking but I can’t find anything close! If I make one, I’ll post a photo.

The days are as follows. I’ve listed a few ideas here, though like I said, I’ll be going into more depth over the next week (starting Sunday, Jan. 22) as I post the laws day by day.

Sunday is a day of pure potentiality. The message for today is, “Everything is possible, no matter what.”

Activities for today would centre around meditation, being in nature, and discussing the different possibilities in a particular situation.

For the expanded version of ideas for Sunday, click here.

Or maybe we build a walking labyrinth in nature for meditation?

Monday is a day of giving. The message for today is, “If you want to get something, give it.”

Activities today would centre around gratitude, giving gifts and compliments, and receiving gifts and kindness with grace.

For the expanded version of ideas for Monday, click here.

Tuesday is a day of Karma. The message for today is, “When you make a choice, you change the future.”

Today is a day to talk about choices, and how we can choose how to act or react in any situation. This is a great time to talk to your children about how to know whether they’re making the right choice. Activities for today might include talking about choices we’ve made today, and how they affected our lives and those of others.

To be honest, this is the day I’m having the most trouble with, as far as coming up with actual activities, or books. How on earth do you teach a kid about something as abstract and complicated as karma? I would welcome any ideas!

For the expanded version of Tuesday, click here.

This little quote is a good start, though.

Wednesday is a day of Least Effort. The message for today is, “Don’t say no—go with the flow.”

Today’s activities focus on finding the game in work or chores; taking responsibility for your actions and reactions; and identifying the work that doesn’t feel like work to you. Some ideas might be floating boats down a stream, wandering without a destination, or engaging in creative pursuits.

For the expanded version of Wednesday, click here.

“Flow Back” by Tim Donnelly

Thursday is a day of Intention of Desire. The message for today is, “Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.”

Today is about identifying what you want, and putting that intention out to the universe. Some activities might include making a vision board, practicing visualization, or making prayer flags.

For the expanded version of Thursday, click here.

Here’s a great example of a vision board from the blog “The Parenting Files.”

Friday is a day of Detachment. The message for today is, “Enjoy the journey.”

This is a day to let those intentions from yesterday go and allow things to happen the way they’re meant to. I’m trying to gather ideas for some experiments that have unpredictable results to do on this day. This is also a good day to play a board game, enter a contest, and burn or otherwise release the intentions you wrote down on Thursday.

Saturday is a day of Dharma. The message today is, “You are here for a reason.”

Saturday is about discovering your own talents and skills, and using them to enrich your own life and lives of others. Activities today focus on spending time pursuing your talents, volunteering your time and talents for others, and learning about historical figures who have changed the world with their own unique talents.