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A Child as a Spiritual Being in a Physical Body

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Reflections from the World Teachers' Conference in Dornach - Part 7 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7)


By Judi Remigio, Parent and Child Teacher




A 'picture' from Rudolf Steiner's study of the human being: a child as a spiritual being in a physical body, a being that belongs to eternity and to time, that succumbs to matter, no other being has to practice this, no one 'above nor below' as their "I" does not incarnate.


As humans, we, alone, are of land, matter and spirit. We have to establish a deep, honest relationship with body and planet earth, to make it at good home for Spirit.


Early childhood, birth through to 7-years-old, is a "golden time to do this", as are the years between 7 and 14-years- old. So much is being done to make us forget our true Spiritual selves.


Here are five little glossy postcards (a little image for your mind's eye):

  1. Picture a grade 2 class in the woods, an excited circle around a chameleon; the children give it their protective attention;

  2. It is May, warm, a grade 1 class is walking along a path to the spring, the path is rocky and irregular, it is a 50-minute walk, the children are sweaty, once they reach the spring, they disrobe and jump in;

  3. A grade 7 class are in the 3rd day of their trek, they come upon desert 'pond clay', the students make clay balls, figures; they mold and sculpt; fingers follow their imagination; shared creativity;

  4. Grade 6, early morning arrival, tired and sleepy, class teacher, "please follow me", down they go down a quiet road, walk begins with moaning, complaints, then becomes quiet, walking becomes agile, some conversations, some run, 40-minutes later, the students are breathing deeply, awake, "I look into the World ..."


Henry David Thoreau, on his book about Walking, spoke of the inner talent for walking in nature, walking for "walking's sake", walk like a camel, ruminate as you walk, deep inner activity, rethinking, 'digesting'. Once, when a man was passing by the house of William Wordsworth, the man asked the caretaker where Wordsworth wrote his poetry. The answer, "outside". Emerson wrote that in each given moment, 'nature is interested in your well-being, don't oppose or resist it.' Virginia Woolf's father, Leslie Stephen, placed a white stone to mark the day where he was walking when he was finally initiated into the 'mystery of walking'. Shakespeare wrote, 'dance on the path' and was known to say, 'I must walk daily'. Even Aristotle, to complete this gallery, loved teaching while walking. Very few children still walk to school. Most children begin the day with running engines, no fresh air, the will is not active, breathing is shallow. Afternoon hours are also limited with screen hours, there is less 'education' for what Waldorf teachers call the 'four lower, or foundational, senses (senses of touch, balance, movement and life). Early childhood Waldorf teachers devote their work to the development of these senses. We are a culture of sitting, 'out of body' life-style; it is the ground for blossoming of fear, anxiety and massive loss of will. A pedagogical consideration: we need to update beauty, so 'body' can 'become homeland for spirit', so 'body-intelligence' can lead to 'spirit-intelligence, so that the human being may cultivate the 'four higher sense, the social senses, the senses for 'feeling what another is experience, for hearing and taking an interest in another, with nothing to be gained or lost; authentic empathy that can only emerge when the human being is at rest in their nervous system, and their "Higher I" can emerge. Climbing rocks, safe encounters with animals, experience the elements in weather, fresh running water, soil. Walking is rhythmical, it increases the flow of blood, warmth elevates us, wakes us up, allows balance and 'good manners' (have you ever walked through the forest at our school? the forest is full of people with good manners), allows balance, the heart opens. Walking takes time and can gently correct the three errors/dangers of our technological age: it takes real steps to cover real distances, the real stream of time, the "I am body" (we 'find our feet' and rely on our body). Walking comes first and is a pre-condition for speaking.


5. The grade 6 class travel south and have a 4-day walk to cross a desert crater. One child is new to the class, and quite worried about access to showers and the comforts of home. The child relinquishes and hesitantly agrees to attend. It's a long walk with beautiful weather. By the 2nd and 3rd days, the child 'begins to shed his layers; he seems 'more himself'. By the 4th day, the child discovers that there is food left and proclaims, " we can stay one or two more days!"


I'm going for a walk now, until we meet again, love to you all,

Judi

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