Expansion Is the Key to Spiritual Growth
Some people are confused about what actually constitutes a “spiritual activity” for children. Obviously, empty outward practices do little to uplift a child. If repeatedly enforced by an adult, they can even cause the child to turn away from spiritual matters altogether. On the other hand, not to offer them opportunities to experience the world of Spirit would also be a great disservice. How then, do we determine whether an activity just leads them through the motions, or actually is spiritually beneficial?
Over the years I have observed that a spiritually beneficial activity is one that leads to an expansion of the child’s consciousness. For me this expansion consists of three main aspects or types of growth. Understanding these types has helped me to determine if an activity truly opens the window to a child’s spirituality.
The first aspect of expansion broadens a child’s self-definition to include the soul, higher self, or inner reality. So much of one’s identity is often built upon what one does, owns, or looks like outwardly, rather than on what one is inwardly. To expand one’s sense of self beyond one’s body, outward talents, and personality traits, to include one’s soul reality is an important step to take.
The second aspect of expansion opens the child to the consciousness and needs of other people, plants and animals, and even non-physical realities such as the angels and nature spirits. Expanding in this way, the child feels a part of, not separate from, the rest of creation. With this feeling of oneness also comes a growing sense of caring and love.
The third aspect of expansion connects the child’s consciousness with a higher power, or God. The concept of an omnipotent, omnipresent power is very important to most children. It helps them feel secure, cared for, and protected.
In addition to understanding these three types of growth, it is equally important to attend to the child’s level of interest and energy. Obviously, suggesting an activity that requires compassion just after a child has had a temper tantrum would be inappropriate and ineffective.
As you observe individual differences, you will notice that some children will enjoy one type of activity but receive very little from others. Even the interest of the same child will ebb and flow and shift focus. This is natural and to be expected. For some children the activities in this book offer a chance to examine, in deeper and varied ways, aspects of life they are already interested in. Others will proceed more slowly since they are exploring parts of themselves that are less familiar. Some children are helped when there is an element of challenge, such as trying to concentrate deeply for a set number of minutes. All children will benefit from a mixture of lively and quiet activities. It is part of your journey together to explore and discover what is most meaningful. That is the work, the adventure, and the joy!
As adults, our comfort and familiarity with our own chosen spiritual practices may tend to limit our creativity when it comes to working with our children’s inner life. We need to look beyond the ideas and activities that we were brought up with, or those that we now embrace, and try to keep open to the unique possibilities present in each child. Each time you work with your children, look to your intuition as a source of fresh ideas and energy. It can also be helpful to ask your children for suggestions. In many cases they will choose activities that touch them inwardly in some way. Remember, there are no set rules. Be as open as you can to new ideas and inspiration.
It is also important to note that you are only one part of this overall equation. Just as a diligent gardener does everything he can for the plants in his garden but cannot force them to grow and bloom, so it is with children’s inner lives. It is our responsibility to provide them with the environment that is most conducive to their spiritual growth, but we cannot make them blossom. After we have done the best we are capable of, we must honor and trust the divine power in the universe, and the souls of the children. They will develop and unfold in the time and manner that is right for them.
Chapter 3: Matching an Activity to a Child’s Age