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Consciousness

Why I Chose To Un-School My Son

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Now more than ever before our society is seeing the need to take matters into our own hands and not rely on others to get the job done for us. The topic of un-schooling has become quite popular and with good reason.

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According to Wikipedia:

“Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the most personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and, therefore, useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in the education of each unique child.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s about taking the reigns in our children’s education to ensure that they are not just getting a good one but they have the opportunity to see the great joy of learning. After six years of leaving it up to the system, my son lost that great joy.

All Children Love To Learn

All kids love to learn and my son was not excluded from that. After a couple years of school, I noticed that school didn’t feel like a place of learning for him. Learning was something that naturally manifested into his life. I taught him sign language before he ever said his first word. He loved books, songs, art, counting and all the stuff a child his age liked to learn about.

As early as grade one, he began showing signs that he would prefer not to go there. Recently I saw an episode of The Simpsons titled, ‘Lisa’s Sax’ from Season 9, which shows a flashback to Bart’s first day of kindergarten. Some of you PicMonkey Collagemay know the one. In the episode, Bart starts his first day saying, “School will be fun.” Shortly after, his initial enthusiasm is crushed by an uncaring and bitter teacher who says that he would be a failure at life, and he draws a violent sketch of his feelings. I feel that’s what it was like for my son (and many other kids) when they entered school for the first time. They go in with enthusiasm and excitement and end up with disdain and confusion.

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In grade four, he began to ask me questions regarding the structure of school. He told me he didn’t like that the kids were constantly being told to be quiet and sit still. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t eat when he was hungry. He was confused why he couldn’t learn about the things that he liked or was interested in. He asked why the teachers stopped using games and songs and kept play time to a scheduled time once a week. Prompted by my son’s inquires, I was compelled to do research about public education and its origins which I will share my findings later in this article.

When my son was in grade 5, I noticed that he didn’t understand basic math concepts. Concerned, I reached out to his teacher who told me that she hadn’t noticed. She said she would look into it and I put my faith in her that she would get to the bottom of the problem. She never did and before I could follow up with her as to why nothing had been done, the teachers went on strike until the following school year. My son entered grade 6 and more problems regarding school began to arise.

The Move That Changed Our Lives

By February of this year, school had created a horrible rift in our home life. When I would try to help my son with his homework, he would become extremely emotional and shut down. This made it almost impossible to help him. Eventually he had an emotional breakdown. He began by telling me that he was not going back to school. After asking him why he felt so strongly about this, he listed numerous reasons over the course of two hours. The things he brought up were that he felt like school was militarized. When asking why he felt like that he said because of the rules, the loudschools-as-factories sound of the bell and that they made them run outside in the winter rain and cold everyday even if they didn’t want to. He felt like school was boring because he never had the opportunity to learn what he was interested in. How many of you reading this ask your children what they learned about in school when they come home and they reply with, “Nothing” or “Boring stuff”? My son disagreed with how the kids were treated, specifically that the teachers were above the students and that they were like masters and the kids were like slaves (his words). He didn’t feel like what he was learning about would benefit him in any way, not now, not ever. He felt stupid and the pressure of “competing” with his peers was unbearable.

This incident deeply saddened me. From what I could see, my baby was suffering and as his mother, it was my duty to find a solution to this and I feel I have. I had been toying with the idea of home education for years. Every day after school, I would tutor my son on things he would never learn while attending school which I think was the basis for him to be able to have an awareness that something just wasn’t right at that place. I so badly wanted him to see the joy of learning and how beneficial it is to be educated but felt with the lack of funding and set curriculum that was not possible. After laying out my options with home education and studying the philosophies and methods of un-schooling, I pulled my son from the school.

The Teachers Know That Public Education Is Horribly Flawed

I sent an email to his teacher explaining a bit about why I was taking my son out of public education which prompted the teacher to call me. We had a very long, enlightening conversation regarding the school system. The teacher told me that he completely supported and agreed with my decision to educate my son at home. He knew that the system was out-dated at best and the kids are not benefiting from it in anyway. He stated that most kids in his class were having meltdowns at home and in school regarding it. He agreed with me that the system doesn’t teach the kids how to be critical thinkers and that can be very dangerous for a society as a whole. He told me that he will not be putting his kids in public education. That statement alone was enough to tell me I was doing the right thing. My son was in a split class and had two teachers. Between the two teachers, they shared 65 students. That is unbelievable! The teacher stated that he so badly wants to teach but it’s so conflicting because as a teacher, his hands are tied. He has to stick to a set curriculum and can’t really go outside of it. He said that there literally is no funding. Most teachers pay for a lot of school supplies out of their own pockets. This morning I read a Polk county public school teacher’s letter of resignation. To me it’s more proof that the teachers know that the system is horribly flawed!

How My Son’s Life Has Changed

 cartoon-thinking-outside-box_final

Since we started our journey of un-schooling, he now understands basic math concepts. His mood has also improved greatly. When I first caught wind to him being behind, I knew that it stemmed from his grade two year and he couldn’t get caught up because the teachers unfortunately don’t do one-on-one help. He got behind in the first place because he was being bullied and his teacher at the time was also doing questionable things like not letting him go to the bathroom. That was a bad year for him. I know that experience had a part in his perception of school and him falling behind. Regardless, nothing was done on the teacher’s part to rectify the problem and how could they if they don’t have the time or resources to give one-on-one help. The principal of my son’s school said that they don’t offer one-on-one help at that school and most public schools.

The change from my son while he was in public school to un-schooling is like night and day. Now, he has complete say in what he learns about and because I know his interests, I can incorporate them into all subjects that he’s doing for that week. For example: he is completely obsessed with Samurais. So he completed math worksheets that had samurais on them, we explored the science of making katana swords, the geography of Japan, the history of the Edo period (time of the Samurais), writing assignments based on monks and Buddhism, the culture of Japan throughout history and now, and lots more. I couldn’t believe how I could incorporate samurais into every single subject.

Eventually, he started having self-directed days where he is his own teacher. He has the reigns and can decide what pace to go at and how much he wants to complete in one day. Some people have asked me if he does anything on the days when were not working together. Through un-schooling he has learned the importance and magic of learning. It’s all centered around his interests, passions, and curiosities so of course he does. He has the awareness that learning can manifest in anything. Whether it’s practicing his archery, tending to the plants, cooking, travelling, engaging in his passions and spending time with the ones he loves; he knows anything he engages himself in can teach him. When he was in school, he never set goals. Since we’ve been working together he sets goals and achieves them all the time. We have no set curriculum; he is in control with me as a guide.

The greatest thing that I’ve learned through this experience is that we must be engaged in our children’s learning. Even if un-schooling doesn’t seem like an option. We can’t expect that all their education needs will be met at school. For example, the things he has learned through un-schooling that he could not learn while attending public education include: cooking, the Japanese language, Nikola Tesla, how to take notes, the power of one, philosophy, philosophers, astronomy, Gandhi (and other greats like him), quantum physics, Buddhism, Jesus, yoga, meditation, critical thinking, archery, how to grow food, laws of attraction, the power of gratitude, wilderness survival, various conscious documentaries like “I Am”, in depth political history and how society was built, natural healing and medicines, knowledge of self and so, so, so much more! As a parent and an enthusiastic student of the universe, I believe all these things and more should be taught through public education! We must fill in the gaps whatever way we can in our current situations. The system is broken and the children are suffering.

The Evidence That Something Needs To Change

Aside from my son’s personal experience with school, there are other reasons that pushed me to make the move into home education. The most important one is the origins of public education. I truly believe that if parents knew what public education was really created for, they would never enrol their children in it.

Horace Mann

I wrote an article regarding the origins which you can view here. I highly recommend that you read this article which highlights John D. Rockefeller’s investment of and his involvement in it (to the outcry of parents and education professionals alike) as well as Horace Mann’s (“The Father of Education”) role in it and his ties to Prussia.

A notable person I have come across who has actually taken the time to study the long term status of the un-schoolers is Peter Gray. He is a Boston College research professor who has studied how learning happens without any academic requirements at a democratic school. In 2011, he decided to conduct a study with his colleague Gina Riley regarding a question he had that was centered around the outcome of the 10% of un-schoolers from the estimated two million children who are home schooled. He was prompted to conduct the study after finding no academic studies that adequately answered his question.

“In 2011, he and colleague Gina Riley surveyed 232 parents who unschool their children, which they defined as not following any curriculum, instead letting the children take charge of their own education. The respondents were overwhelmingly positive about their unschooling experience, saying it improved their children’s general well-being as well as their learning, and also enhanced family harmony. Their challenges primarily stemmed from feeling a need to defend their practices to family and friends, and overcoming their own deeply ingrained ways of thinking about education. (The results are discussed at length here.)”

Prompted by his own curiosity about how un-schooled children felt about their education experience and how this may have impacted their ability to pursue higher education and obtain gainful and satisfying employment, he conducted a study in 2013 in which he surveyed 75 adults ranging in age from 18 to 49; almost all of them had 3 years of un-schooling experience. The results and Gray’s remarks on the findings of the survey are quite long. You can read the entirety of the article and results here. Below I will paraphrase some of the points that really stood out for me in regards to questions I have been asked regarding my son’s future (going to college or finding employment).

All but three of the 75 respondents felt the advantages of unschooling clearly outweighed the disadvantages. Almost all said they benefited from having had the time and freedom to discover and pursue their personal interests, giving them a head start on figuring out their career preferences and developing expertise in relevant areas. Seventy percent also said “the experience enabled them to develop as highly self-motivated, self-directed individuals,” Gray notes on his blog. Other commonly cited benefits included having a broader range of learning opportunities; a richer, age-mixed social life; and a relatively seamless transition to adult life. “In many ways I started as an adult, responsible for my own thinking and doing,” said one woman who responded to Gray’s survey.”

“Very few had any serious complaints against unschooling,” Gray says, and more than a third of the respondents said they could think of no disadvantages at all. For the remainder, the most significant disadvantages were: dealing with others’ judgments; some degree of social isolation; and the challenges they experienced adjusting to the social styles and values of their schooled peers.

What stood out, he adds, is that “many more said they felt their social experiences were better than they would have had in school.” Sixty-nine percent were “clearly happy with their social lives,” he says, and made friends through such avenues as local homeschooling groups, organized afterschool activities, church, volunteer or youth organizations, jobs, and neighbors. In particular, “they really treasured the fact that they had friends who were older or younger, including adults. They felt this was a more normal kind of socializing experience than just being with other people your age.”

Three people were very dissatisfied overall. In all three cases, the respondents said their mothers were in poor mental health and the fathers were uninvolved. Two of the three also happened to be the only ones who mentioned having been raised in a fundamentalist religious home, though the survey didn’t ask this question specifically. It appeared to Gray that the unschooling was not intentional—the parent had aimed to teach a religious curriculum, “but was incompetent and stopped teaching,” he notes. In all of these cases, the children’s contact with other people was also very restricted; moreover, they were not given any choice about their schooling and therefore felt deprived of school.

Overall, 83 percent of the respondents had gone on to pursue some form of higher education. Almost half of those had either completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, or were currently enrolled in such a program; they attended (or had graduated from) a wide range of colleges, from Ivy League universities to state universities and smaller liberal-arts colleges.

In the words of one woman: “I already had a wealth of experience with self-directed study. I knew how to motivate myself, manage my time, and complete assignments without the structure that most traditional students are accustomed to. … I know how to figure things out for myself and how to get help when I need it.” Added another: “I discovered that people wanted the teacher to tell them what to think. … It had never, ever occurred to me to ask someone else to tell me what to think when I read something.”

More Evidence

 Jeff Bliss – A  Voice From The Front Lines

Hackschooling Makes Me happy | Logan LaPlante | TEDxUniversityofNevada

High School Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling

4th Grade Student Sounds Off On State Testing

What Is The Solution?

I’m all about creating sustainable solutions that we can start implementing today. I wanted to share my story about my son in hopes that it will help other parents who are watching their children suffer in the school system and to know that there are other options. I believe that our children are the future and as such, it is our duty to make sure they have not just a good education but an inspiring and enlightening one so they don’t make the same mistakes my generation and generations before me have made. There has been a large increase on discussions regarding public education and the effect it’s having on our children. I personally believe that the whole system needs to be changed. It’s outdated and has sinister roots. We have the power to change things and talking about the solutions is a good start.

Recently, I read an article titled, ‘Why every parent should consider un-schooling’. In it, it states that with programs519dde98cf479_image_ like No Child Left Behind (millions of children have actually been left behind) and Common Core (otherwise known as Common Conformity) in the United States, parents are finding the educational climate so unacceptable that they are willing to take a radically different path. Upon reading that, I was reminded of another article I read regarding director James Cameron (Titantic, Avatar) and his wife Suzy Cameron creating an innovative school called Muse. The concept behind MUSE came about after Suzy, a global environmental activist, mother of 5, and proud wife, grew tired of watching her older children struggle in the traditional education system, and sought an alternative and more environmentally aware option.

I definitely think creating new schools with the basis of the “un-schooling” philosophy is what we need but for many parents that can seem like light years away especially when our children are suffering now. I’ve written many articles on how any parent can adopt the philosophies of un-schooling or home education even if they have to work during the day. There is always a way. It really depends on how much work you are willing to put in. I will list the articles below as well as some other resources about un-schooling. I hope they are helpful for those who are considering like I was. Above all, I think if we work together, we can create a better, happier and more sustainable world for ourselves and generations to come and I believe the key to this is conscious education rooted from passion and expansion with no child ever being excluded or left behind.

Un-Schooling Resources:

For Those Who Are Considering Home Education <- Click to Read Article

Home Education For The Conscious Parent <- Click to Read Article

Dayna Martin

 dayna-martin-unschooling-home-640-e1361236441611Dayna Martin is an activist, educator and author of, Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun. She does Unschooling and Peaceful Parenting coaching. You can learn more about Dayna at her website: http://daynamartin.com/

petergrayPeter Gray, Ph. D, research professor at Boston College, is author of Free to Learn (Basic Books, 2013) and Psychology (Worth Publishers, a college textbook now in its 7th edition).  He has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology. He did his undergraduate study at Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at Rockefeller University. His current research and writing focus primarily on children’s natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. You can learn more about Peter and his work at this website: http://www.freetolearnbook.com/

Sources:

http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/09/02/how-do-unschoolers-turn-out/

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/01/07/this-is-what-happens-when-a-kid-leaves-traditional-education/

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/03/08/high-school-valedictorian-speaks-out-against-schooling/

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/04/21/4th-grader-rocks-common-core-education-by-asking-school-board-one-question/

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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 26: The Banker)

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

26. The Banker

In the banker’s office at the village bank on the island of Allandon, the glassblower was just completing a loan application for renovations to his glass shop. He was about to sign when he noticed something peculiar about the final sentence.

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“What’s this?” he asked as he read the final line: “Warning: late payments will not lead to prosecution.

“Yes, what about it?”

“Well, it must be a typo. Surely you meant ‘…will lead to prosecution.’”

The banker smiled to himself for a moment. Then he said, “Do you want me to let you in on a little secret?”

“Sure,” said the glassblower.

“A while back many people were not making their monthly payments on time. They had every excuse in the book. So I had that line added to the bottom of the contract to prevent them from taking advantage of me. And so you’re right, it is a typo. The printer put in the ‘not’ by mistake.”

“Well, don’t you think you should change it right away?” asked the glassblower.

“Well, I was going to when it first came to my attention,” said the banker. “The first customer that saw the new contract pointed it out. But he thought it was my way of showing my trust in him. He promised that he wouldn’t let me down. I was too embarrassed to tell him it was a typo.”

“But then you didn’t change it.”

“I was planning to, but before I could get in touch with the printer, another customer also noticed it. She was amazed at the way I was willing to do business. She made quite a big fuss about it.”

“Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. What if the word got out that you were doing this?”

“Well, long story short—it did. She told a lot of people and suddenly they were coming to me, calling me ‘the trusting banker,’ and ‘the caring banker’. And certainly they would all be looking for that line in their contracts when they came to me for loans.”

“And so you were stuck.”

“You could say that—but I promised myself that I would fix it the next time someone was late with a payment.” After a slight pause the banker added, “That was twenty years ago.”

Whenever we want to ensure right action, whether it be in a business deal, teaching our kids, or holding a vision for humanity, we tend to automatically resort to discouraging wrong action. This is the persistent temptation we face living in a world of duality.

Proclaiming ‘Thou shalt not…’ followed by a threat of retribution has long purported to be what is required to maintain an orderly and harmonious community and world. The underlying assumption here is that there are universal ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ actions, an absolute code of what is good and what is evil. In many religious traditions, there exists a supreme Being who is the author and enforcer of an absolute code of moral conduct, the rules and commandments that we must follow in order to be saved. This supreme Being presides on our ‘day of judgment’ after our death, to determine if our cumulative actions in the world merit either eternal salvation or eternal damnation.

Ahem.

I’m not saying this state of affairs is impossible, but it has long puzzled me how an all-powerful and omniscient Being could ever find the motivation or desire to judge good acts from evil acts, since this Being is ultimately the source of all acts. The idea that this Being would somehow have a need for our obedience, or have any needs whatsoever in fact, doesn’t make any sense to me. It smacks of anthropomorphism—our tendency to give human attributes to something that is not human.

This ‘supreme Judger’ appears to me as a projection of our Ego Self onto the Being that I have called the Dao. When we come from the perspective of the Ego Self, then we tend to be deeply involved in matters of right and wrong, judgment and retribution. We are likely to believe that some among us are basically evil, not to be trusted, and if given the freedom to act from an inner compass will undoubtedly seek to harm others. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because in coming from an environment of mistrust and fear we continue to create mistrust and fear.

This perspective is only reinforced by the media, which sells copy and maintains ratings by clearly distinguishing the heroes from the villains in our society. It is easy to buy into it, as it can be comforting to know who the good people are and who the bad people are—especially since we consider ourselves to be on the side of good. And so naturally it appears more than obvious that we need to have some common form of morality to contain the potential damage coming from the bad guys.

The idea that we will be considered good if and only if we follow some universal code of moral responsibility towards others is very tempting, as it saves us the work of figuring out from the inside how we should act. But therein lies my firm objection, and why I take the opposite tack: I believe we have absolutely no moral responsibility to others. We do not ‘owe’ people respect, compassion, or charity. Of higher importance is that we actually feel that we have a choice.

Our true moral obligation, our path, our destiny, and also not coincidentally our greatest bliss, is to endeavor to find and be our true self. But this is not even a real obligation, it’s a choice we made that we have forgotten about, the choice to come into this world. If we owe other people anything it is to get to know ourselves better so that we can act from our connectedness while sharing the gift of our unique perspective. The closer we move to the center of our being, the more we become aligned with our freedom of choice, of real choice, not of choice based on compulsion or command. My experience of life has shown me that when I am free to act in accordance with my true self, my Dao Self, I act out of love. The love flows easily, and is genuine and empowering. When I am ‘loving’ as a result of some outwardly proscribed moral directive, the expression is always dry, stunted, and unenthusiastic.

What is morality but one person’s idea thrust upon another? No system of morality ever sponsored great love, compassion or true acceptance. All commands, orders, rules and imperatives come from the fear of the Ego Self. Even the greatest commandment of all, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ loses its essential power if it is taken as a commandment rather than as a proposal freely offered to consider. Enlightened masters who spoke powerfully about love such as Jesus understood that real love is a natural expression of our true self. Throughout our history the tendency of humans has been to misinterpret this call to love as a ‘you must do this’ rather than a ‘try this on’. I don’t believe it has ever been the intention of the truly enlightened masters to have their offerings hardened into mandatory moral codes.

When we stand behind a moral code we can become righteous about our own moral superiority. From on high, it is easy to condemn and judge others for what we have determined are ‘evil’ acts. But this judgment and condemnation is actually the lynchpin of the entire problem. Someone might say, “I believe that everyone should respect each other,” but in saying so they might feel justified in closing the door to respecting people who do not respect them. And so the person who most desperately needs respect and love—the one who cannot in a given moment respect and love others—does not receive it, and we all get stuck. It is only when we are able to move closer to our Dao Self that we get in touch with our authentic desire to respect others, out of the pure joy of expansion and expression of love. This respect is afforded even when—especially when—the other has no respect for us, because this is where the respect is most pressingly needed.

Consider the possibility that right and wrong are never absolute, and in fact we are all continually making it up as we go along, to create dramatic effect in the unfolding of the play called human life. In the old Spaghetti Westerns, we could tell the good guys and the bad guys apart, since the good guys wore the white hats and the bad guys wore the black hats. The difference in real life is that everybody thinks that they are the good guy. They really do. And do you know why they think so? Because they are. We are all good. Wars and fighting only occur between some good guys who have one idea of what is good and other good guys who have a different idea about what is good.

The sooner we see that good and evil is really a fabrication of the Ego Self, the sooner we will be able to take the next leap in consciousness, and come more fully from our Dao Self. When we do, we will gain an understanding that we are all fundamentally good, and when we are able to act authentically we can be trusted to exercise our free will in ways that will benefit others. It stands to reason: from the perspective of the Dao Self, we and others are the same. Coming from our Dao Self we would never harm the world because our Dao Self is the world.

No matter how ‘moral’ we consider ourselves to be, if we are still judging others for being less ‘moral’, then we are instantly pulled by our judgment out of the realm of our Dao Self and back into our Ego Self. For the time being, I think the best we can do to move things along is to realize that those who do ‘wrong’—that is to say, detrimental to others—are simply acting out of fear, and are unaware of their true nature. Rather than being condemned and castigated they need to be understood and accepted. The condemnation of evil should not be confused with the celebration of good. The emotional need to exact revenge by condemning people who have perpetrated crimes is the same as the emotional need behind the crime itself. We actually circulate divisive energy by overtly demonstrating our opposition to ignorance of self. And so to me, whenever I see on the news the hordes of people standing outside a prison, vilifying a man or woman who is to be executed for a heinous crime, I can only think that those people are projecting the very darkness that they are condemning.

The attempt to legitimize the separation of people as good and evil, worthy and unworthy is itself a denial of our unity and connectedness as human beings. As Khalil Gibran says,

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.

But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you, so the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

And as a single leaf does not turn yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden knowledge of you all.

When we come from a place of oneness, judgment is pointless. We are captured by the joyful feeling that we are all in this together. Eventually it is possible to see that all acts, those we call good and those we call evil, are really on a continuum of actions all motivated by the same basic human desire—the desire for unity. The low point of this continuum is total ignorance of who we are and the high point is fully embodied knowledge of our true nature—as One. The acts that emerge from a knowledge of self try to arrive at unity by embracing diversity. Acts of charity, humility, and compassion are obvious attempts to unite with others. The acts that emerge from an ignorance of self tend to try to arrive at unity by suppressing or destroying diversity. The need to conform is a good example. So is jealousy, which stems from the desire to be united with another. Even the act of genocide is founded on an attempt to unify one’s race or culture—by killing people who are different.

Easy now. Let’s not misunderstand what is being said here. The assertion that there is no absolute good and evil does not mean that we need to consider all acts as the same. When we let go of judgment we are still left with the power of discernment. We know an act of kindness has a significantly different effect from an act of violence. We know from experience that the kind of unity that the Ego Self seeks inevitably tears us farther apart. But if we as witnesses of such acts can frame them not as evil but rather as simply ignorant, then it helps us to maintain a vision of ourselves and the other as One. From there we can see that if people knew more about who they were and what they were doing that they would be seeking to unify not out of a fear of being alone but out of a love of being One.

Of course as individuals we are not there yet. We are all at various stages or levels of awareness of our true self. And that is all well and good. Being at one place on the continuum of awareness is no better than being at another. Being self-aware is not ‘better’ than being ignorant. It simply is what is. For each of us I believe a time will come in our evolution when we will realize that our diversity is our greatest gift. It is actually what makes any worthwhile experience possible. And the easiest way to achieve unity without rejecting diversity is to act with the belief that there is already a unity underneath our differences. This, in all its shades and nuances, is what it means to act out of love.

I am not saying we ought to act this way. There is no ‘should’ in love. Love flows naturally. So rather than enforcing moral standards, informing each other what is right and wrong, we are better off trying to be gentle and accepting, creating a space that is big enough to allow each person to think, speak, and act in accordance with what they believe is good. The new conversation honors your personal morality based on your unique set of values and experiences. It does not support a fixed and universal morality since this can actually serve to hide you from your true nature. After all, if you follow rules that oppose your desires, how will you ever learn about your true nature? How will you ever come to face your own ignorance? It is only in a space where we feel we are allowed to show our ignorance, our darkness, that we become capable of dissolving our ignorance and seeing who we truly are. And as we go forward we become more able to help others discover the same thing about themselves—not out of some moral imperative, but out of the joy of expressing and expanding ourselves into the world.

The new conversation is a call to heal our darkness together. There is no one we need to look to but ourselves. There is no guru, no expert, no savior, because all of us have darkness. All of us need healing. As imperfect beings we will create the space as best we can, a space without right and wrong. We only need to be authentic, and speak the truth of our desires. In an environment where we no longer feel the need to suppress our true desires in favor of the ‘right’ way to think, speak and act, we are likely to enjoy a far more empowering sense of ourselves as beings of pure love.

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Consciousness

How To Deal With Society Pressuring You To Get Married

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When I was younger, I would think about the concept of marriage and get overwhelmed with emotions: excitement for the potential to find my soulmate and to share my life with that person, fear of knowing that this may never happen, and panic in considering what legally binding myself to another person truly means. As a child, I simply assumed I’d get married, because that’s what society considers “normal.” As I got older, my perception changed and I started noticing that most of my peers shared one thing in common: All of them wanted to get married. This seemed backwards to me, as I couldn’t possibly know if I wanted to get married before I met someone I wanted to be with forever. Marriage has become a social norm; society expects you to get married and to do so before the age of 30 (sometimes even younger depending on what culture you’re from). This belief system puts significant pressure on couples, creating “the marriage trap.”

How Marriage Became a Social Norm

When it all boils down, marriage is a legal contract. By choosing to marry your partner, you are legally required to be committed to that individual and typically to share your assets. Contracts are usually made for a limited time period and designed with an “if you do this… then I will do this…” mentality. If your relationship is so strong that you know, deep down, that you will be with your partner for the rest of your life, then why should you require a binding contract to verify your bond?

According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of people in Western societies get married before the age of 50. A shocking 86% of young people in the U.S. believe that when they get married, it will be for life (literally, “until death do us part”). Many may view this number as high, but I perceive it to be surprisingly low. If you’re about to commit to being in a relationship for your entire life, shouldn’t you be 100% positive it will last forever? In Western societies, people between the ages of 25 and 35 are heavily pressured to get married and have kids. People seem to be more concerned about accomplishing this goal than they are about potentially marrying the wrong person. It’s no wonder approximately half of the married couples in the U.S. end up divorced.

What is the Marriage Trap? 

If you’ve already decided that you will get married in the future, you’re willingly creating expectations about your present and/or future partner. You could currently be with the “right person,” but because you’ve constructed a timeline for your relationship (when and if you want to get married, have kids, etc.), you’re putting added stress on your partner and yourself. Society will also pressure you into marrying your partner after you’ve been together for a certain length of time. If you’re not married within that timeframe, people assume there’s something wrong with your relationship. The weight of all of these expectations can make couples feel like they’re approaching an ultimatum, forcing them to choose between getting married or breaking up. If you’ve felt these societal pressures or you’re struggling to decide whether or not to marry your partner, you may have been sucked into the marriage trap.

How People Typically Decide Whether or Not to Get Married:

  1. Allowing your partner to make the decision: the easiest way to avoid your feelings.
  2. Letting love guide you: If you’re referring to self love, then that’s perfect. However, if you’re assuming that your love for an individual will fix all of your problems, you have a problem.
  3. Fear: of losing that person if you decide you don’t want to get married, of what others will think of you if you don’t get married, or of eventually growing apart from your partner instead of together.
  4. Ego: Your ego says you need to get married because society tells you to do so, allowing societal pressures to force you into an unwanted relationship.
  5. Physical attraction: A strong sex drive doesn’t always equate to love.
  6. Intuition: Following your gut can often provide incredible insights; however, if you’re not self-aware it may be difficult for you to listen to guidance from your Higher Self.
  7. Brain: Your brain may convince you you’re in love with someone, when you’re actually in love with the idea of that person. Just because your partner checks off all of the appropriate “boxes” you used to theorize your ideal partner, doesn’t mean you’re in love with them either.
  8. Biological clock: It’s typically easier for women to conceive before the age of 40, so they’ll often have biological children with the wrong mate instead of adopting children or taking the risk of not having children with the right person.
  9. Comparing your partner to other people: One study found that our dating choices are “98% a response to market conditions and just 2% immutable desires. Proposals to date tall, short, fat, thin, professional, clerical, educated, educated, uneducated people are all more than nine-tenths governed by what’s on offer that night.” This essentially means that most people will choose a partner by comparing them to other potential partners instead of truly following their heart.

What We Can Learn From the Marriage Trap

One study found that being married is 20 times more important to a person’s well-being than their income and 13 times more important than owning a house. That same study found that marriage makes people happier than religion and money. Although marriage has the power to form a strong, loving bond between two people and provide them with happiness, I don’t think that’s the underlying message we should take from these studies.

I would argue that it’s simply love that’s making these people happy and that they can find that same love within themselves, even if they’re single. Ultimately, it all comes down to self-awareness and self-love. You need to know yourself and love yourself before you can fully love another. Once you develop more self-love and a deeper understanding of your fundamental needs as an individual and in a partner, you’ll be prepared to choose a life partner (if you even want one).

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I’m not suggesting you should never get married, nor am I against monogamy. I’m simply saying you should avoid setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and others and that you need to look within instead of outwards before making “the marriage decision.” Many people view marriage and love as synonymous and they forget that they can fuel that same love within themselves; you don’t need to be married to be happy and feel love. However, more and more people are realizing this and choosing not to get married. This begs the question, are we meant to be with only one person for the rest of our lives? I don’t think there’s a clear answer to this question because it differs for every person. The only thing I believe to remain true is that regardless of whether you’re single or in a relationship, you have the ability to find everlasting love within yourself.

“The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

– Rumi

Inspired by: The Marriage Decision: Everything Forever or Nothing Ever Again on Wait But Why

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Awareness

5 Great Benefits Kids Can Get From Yoga

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Yoga has a number of mind and body benefits, and those benefits have also been seen in children.

  • Reflect On:

    Should schools be incorporating yoga programs into their curriculum?

Kermit the Frog has a wonderful song – “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” And kids love this song because they can relate. After all, it’s not easy being a kid today either. More and more is asked of them in school; they are hurried from one activity to the next; homework begins at much earlier grade levels now, and then there are all of the digital distractions that top off fully exhausting days and evenings.

It’s Beginning to Show in the Classroom

Teachers are frustrated because attention spans seem to be so short and because they have to be entertainers if they want to engage learning in their classrooms. Parents worry that their kids won’t pass the standardized state tests that often decide promotion to the next grade. So, they cart their kids to tutoring sessions, among all of the sports practices. Kids just don’t have any non-stimulated time, and that is a huge concern. This is where yoga comes in.

Yoga – the Balance Every Kid Needs

Amidst the flurry of activity, there should be time for all kids to turn off their devices and tune out their activities and school work. There should be time for non-competitive physical activity, for some quiet reflection, and for the opportunity to enhance their ability to focus.

These are the big benefits of yoga and this is what kids can get when they learn and practice it.


  • Become aware of their breathing and the connections between deep breathing and the body’s feel.
    Techniques and games that foster this connection serve to improve focus, reduce stress, and actually cause the release of healthy hormones.


  • Balance: Techniques that focus on balance do far more than just develop control over the physical body. They assist increases in attention in natural ways, rather than through medication, which doctors are so quick to prescribe. As kids focus on a balance pose, they also clear their minds, thinking only of what their bodies are doing.

  • Kids have lots of natural flexibility – something that we adults lose as we grow older.  Doing stretching exercises increases flexibility, a flexibility that forms in muscles and joints and allows them to “yield.” Football players who practice yoga, for example, have far fewer serious injuries because they have developed flexibility. If flexibility exercises can become habitual with kids, they will perform better in any sport.

  • Focus and Awareness: A typical yoga exercise for young children is to have them close their eyes and focus on sitting just as a statue. They must become aware of all parts of their body in order to keep them still and stiff, and focus on keeping them that way. Then, when a short period of time is over, they are told to relax and just start laughing as hard as they can – a great release of energy and stress. They come to understand that they have control of their bodies and of their minds, and with this understanding comes confidence.

  • Relaxation and Meditation: This may be the most important benefit of yoga for young children. The early exercises of tightening and then relaxing muscles, of holding poses and moving from one pose into another, all take the mind away from the “harried” nature of their lives and have a strong calming effect. Meditation on their mats can occur as they sit in a pose or lie flat. In both instances, children can be guided to place their thought on a single thing – maybe a favorite pet or color.

Gradually, additional visualization can be added to meditation. One small private school has an assembly each morning. Children are on mats and perform yoga poses and exercises to music. Then, the “quiet” time begins. As they sit on their mats, softer music is played and they are asked to think of one thing they want to accomplish that day and to see themselves doing it – a small activity that inspires.

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Yoga for kids is all about developing habits of body and mind working together to create a more balanced lifestyle and develop great study habits. When these habits are instilled early, they tend to “stick” better.

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