The topic of this newsletter has special significance for me today--as my first book and newsletter are launched. It's a milestone in my life, and one that I want to gratefully acknowledge by giving thanks, and celebrating with both long-time friends and new friends. I have so much in my life to be grateful for, including each and every one of you.
Opening to Grace through Awareness and Gratitude
The Role of Rituals
In November, the cooler weather draws us inside with an invitation to focus inward. As I tell the children at the beginning of The Inside-Out Blessing Game recording,
Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, most of us associate the month of November with gratitude and grace. Grace infuses the entire meaning of thankfulness, and yet it is even more. Try as I might to describe it, I find words to be woefully inadequate. As mothers, we experience grace when we hear the sweet, angelic sound of children singing—and find our hearts overflowing with pure love while our eyes well over with tears. Or when we watch a baby reach for something with wide eyes full of wonder, and are momentarily able to see the world anew. We may experience grace when we are immersed in nature: awe-struck by a beautiful sunset, the vastness of the ocean, or the majesty of mountains. Beautiful music, dancing, or works of art can also open our hearts to its ecstasy. When we open to grace we experience a connection to the life force of the universe. During these moments we are likely to find ourselves sighing as we soften into our bodies, reveling in joy and gratitude at the sheer splendor of life itself.
Babies and toddlers exist in a perpetual state of grace. They are immersed in each moment and exude a magical sense of ease, freedom, wonder, and joy. But little by little, many children lose their carefree, joyful way of being as a feeling of entitlement displaces gratitude and grace. It’s certainly understandable how this can happen in a society that all too often equates happiness with having money, possessions, power, and beauty. Oftentimes, children pick up society’s refrain of entitlement—they begin to ask for, or worse yet demand, more, newer, and better things. But of course this inevitably leads to more dissatisfaction, as each new toy or piece of clothing becomes old and they continually want, or actually feel they need, something else that is better and newer.
In order for children to be thankful for their many blessings, they must first be made aware of them. The most basic and yet profound blessings, such as the food we eat and the water we drink, are often not even recognized—let alone acknowledged or appreciated. As we rush about, meals are often eaten mindlessly without a thought, let alone a ceremony of appreciation. No matter what your religion, taking a moment to ‘give thanks’ will help foster appreciation and gratitude. And by slowing down the pace of our lives, children will have more opportunities to enjoy and appreciate the world in all its splendor.
The gentle art of making a home involves choosing rituals that bring us together with the members of our family, sometimes one on one, and other times as a family unit. A mundane routine becomes a ritual when it is done mindfully, or with awareness. Some rituals, such as the family dinner, are celebrations of the ordinary. While ordinary, they can have a big impact on children, connecting families with a legacy of love.
While some of our rituals are performed daily, others, such as the Thanksgiving dinner, are annual events. Thanksgiving has retained many elements from the first Thanksgiving that was celebrated more than three centuries ago. It’s still a time to reconnect and share food with family and friends, to pray, and give thanks.
For those of you who are suffering
There have been difficult times in my own life when I could not muster up gratitude. I hope that I don’t seem insensitive to those of you whose families are dealing with a serious problem or a catastrophic illness. If you are in the midst of despair, you may not be able to honestly feel grateful. I’ve found that while you may not be able to eliminate pain, there will be times when you can prevent it from becoming suffering by focusing on the here and now. And I mean this very moment. As much as possible, don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. And when you’ve done all that is humanly possible— surrender to a higher power. Faith can help us to get through the difficult times. Always remember, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” There is more to life than meets the eye, and as humans, our spiritual understanding may be too narrow to accurately see the bigger picture.
Please share your favorite family ritual or Thanksgiving blessing on our brand new blog.
Ways to Encourage Gratitude:
The Floppy Sleep Game Book includes a number of delightful rituals that could become a favorite part of your child’s nightly bedtime routine. There are shared rituals in which you help your child to put worries to bed, banish bedtime fears and express gratitude. And there are rituals that your child will learn to do on his own; nightly routines that he can use to turn inward, relax, and fall asleep independently.
The Inside-Out Blessing Game recording focuses on blessings, and helps children to appreciate their bodies and look inward. It’s a great naptime, bedtime, or quiet-time tool, encouraging reflection and gratitude.
The Dream Maker's November Dream Starters
Dream Starters are visualizations which promote relaxation, imagination and well-being as they guide children into the world of dreams.
To prepare for these dream starters, (or visualizations), create a quiet comfortable atmosphere in which your child can relax.
Step One ~ Progressive Relaxation (Tensing & Relaxing Muscle Groups)
Have your child lie down in his bed. Have him lift each arm and leg individually, holding each limb tightly before loosely flopping it down on his bed. Then have him wrinkle his face and hold his eyes tightly closed, before relaxing his face. (Tense each muscle group for at least 5 seconds.)
Step Two ~ Focus on the breath
Have your child get very quiet and watch his own breath.
Step Three ~ Creative Visualization
Now that your child is relaxed, read (or tell) one of the following visualizations. Of course, feel free to modify it according to your child’s age and interests.
The Bedtime Orchestra
The Bedtime Orchestra is written in rhyme and will appeal to younger children. This whimsical routine focuses on an appreciation of the soft sounds and sights of the night. Read it rhythmically and slowly, allowing the listener to focus on his own breath and heartbeat.
The bedtime orchestra plays with delight, gently rocking the world each
The orchestra tunes up with delight, the whole world starts to rock
The orchestra plays on with delight, gently rocking the world tonight
The orchestra plays on with delight, gently rocking the world tonight
Ride the rhythm of the night, rock into your dreams tonight
Your Own Movie
In this visualization, the cool November weather draws animals and people inside their homes. Most importantly it teaches children to visualize, by creating their own movies in their imaginations. Feel free to individualize the visualization to make it age appropriate and to suit your child’s interests. Read slowly to allow time for the scenes to set in the listener's mind.
The Dream Maker tosses a falling star into the sky. Instantly, you arrive in Dream Land where the air is filled with tiny sparkles. Each sparkle is a child’s dream and the tiny pieces of silvery glitter dart every which way throughout Dream Land. Large, colorful crystals begin to hum, signaling that dream class is ready to begin. You and the other dreaming children hang any troubles or worries you have on Willow’s strong branches. The sturdy, magical tree will work on solving any problems you may have. Without a care, you enter the crystal dome of the Dream Academy. You are welcomed by the kindly, magical Dream Maker. "Good evening, (child’s name), I’m glad you’re here."
The Dream Academy is not like other schools. Instead of desks, small, white, fluffy clouds float near the floor. You and the other children each choose one to lie down on. Sink into the softness of your own feather-soft cloud. There is no ceiling so you are able to look up at the golden moon and the bright, sparkling stars. (Pause)
The Dream Maker says that tonight you are going to see a movie. She sweeps her hands up towards the sky and a large screen magically appears overhead. You settle back to watch the show. The screen bursts with beautiful autumn colors. You see a lovely forest with evergreen trees and trees with bare brown branches. Colorful orange, brick-red, and gold leaves cover the ground. Looking up, you see the last golden glow of daylight peeking through the treetops. The leaves softly crackle as you watch yourself walk along a forest path. Something quickly darts out from behind a tree and then disappears. You wonder what it was. You stop and listen…you hear rustling and look towards a hollow log. Behind it, you see a chipmunk. He has bright black eyes and a black and white stripe runs down his back. You watch him as he stuffs his cheeks with nuts. Then, he darts quickly into a pile of brush. This is his home. Inside, he arranges dry leaves to make himself a comfortable bed. You are very quiet so you don’t startle him. The little chipmunk curls himself up into a tiny ball and falls asleep. As the movie ends, the Dream Maker tosses a star into the sky and you find yourself in your own cozy bed. It’s cold outside, but you are nice and warm under your covers. Your eyes are gently closed. You are safe and loved.
Proceed with the following section - Tip: At first, you might want to provide your child with more details. Visualization will improve with practice. Gradually, your child will be able to effortless visualize his own ‘movie scenes’.
As you fall asleep, make your own movie. Fill it with pictures of your favorite things. (Individualize this section to suit your child’s interests.) See the people and animals you love—and the places you like to go. (pause) Watch yourself playing your favorite games. Enjoy watching special times that you’ve had as you drift into your dreams.