Unschooling my Spirituality

IMG_3356_2I grew up with two imposed givens in life—education and religion. Education happened in school, a place I was obliged to go Monday through Friday. Religion, reserved for Sundays, was fortified and demonstrated by my family’s regular attendance at church and rewarded with warm donuts and scalding coffee served in styrofoam cups in the community hall. We usually skipped that part in order to be the first to get out of the parking lot.

These two obligations were not of my choice and I never really questioned either until I had children. Two uniquely designed, impossibly small bodies imprinted with years and years of genetic scrambling and combined ancestral traits and yet I didn’t see them as part of me, or as part of my husband, but rather as two free souls who chose us as parents. My husband and I have always described our children’s births as special occasions when we were introduced to the two most important people in our lives. Of course we felt fiercely protective of them (and still do), but we are constantly working to avoid any notion of proprietorship. We take Kahlil Gibran’s words to heart and to bed, and hope to remember them as more than a poem during the day.

Having my own children had the unexpected side-effect of stripping away old belief sets. It was as if, through their painful and clamorous births, I was given a fresh start as well. It wasn’t sudden, or obvious, or easy, but for their sake, I wiped the slate clean with some threadbare remnants that I no longer had use for. My vision got clearer, my heart and mind woke to a sense of self that swept away the imposed veil to reveal a very clear understanding that I had choices and that I would offer them to my children.

There would be no imposed school. School is merely a place, a building. But there would be expansive and meaningful learning. There would be play. There would be exploration and expeditions of the imagination. We would choose experiences over things, curiosity over information, expression over conformity. Because learning lives in all these spaces, seen and unseen.

There would be no imposed religion, no housing of beliefs. All doors of worship would lay open,  with their similar beauty and identical fears. There would be mindfulness. There would be gratitude. There would be loving kindness and equanimity and compassion. We would expose our children to mosques and temples and cathedrals, to museums and cafés and booksellers, to lectures and concerts and performances, and to mossy gardens and majestic forests. Because the spirit of life lives in all these places, seen and unseen.

As I watched my children pull together an education independent of time, pace, place or someone else’s agenda, it occurred to me that I could craft my own form of spiritual expression according to my own interests, my own curiosity, and whatever helped me make sense of the world. I could unschool my spirituality in the same way they were unschooling their education. And I could do it with joy, purpose and intention.

I put aside obligation and legacy and thought about what made my heart bloom. Gospel music, reciting the Gayatri mantra, a regular practice of Qi gong, the Hawaiian principles of Ho’oponopono, keeping a gratitude journal, Buddhist teachings and meditation, cooking a meal for loved ones, holding compassion for others. The spiritual patchwork I pieced together is nothing that could fit into a neat category. It can’t be extorted and will never be profitable. It wields no guilt and promises no rewards. And because I sewed it together, I don’t need to call it anything. It is what it is. We are who we are.

 

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9 thoughts on “Unschooling my Spirituality

      • I did Ellen, have returned to read over a few times, and will re-blog it to share. Am well thank you, busy diving into how to bring reading/letters to our nine year old who is now eager to read. Had believed it would be ‘easy’ since I’d done this three times already, hahaa, what a pipe dream! Am finding it’s like making soap: from a recipe used dozens of time with great results, then you move and humidity, temperature, elevation changes; suddenly that recipe is void and the exasperation of working it out to present conditions comes along and says hello, here’s a challenge . . . and it’s even of a bubbly nature, just . . . not soap 🙂 Congratulations on the publication of your book. Best wishes.

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  1. Beautiful Ellen. And when your spirituality is organic, it’s genuinely and transcends all the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts,” ironically bringing you closer to the Divine than any church (even though coffee and donuts sound pretty awesome!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Marjie! You’re absolutely right about the authenticity part. I’m learning that this is such a personal path. I still love the smell of coffee and donuts! And of course eating them. XO

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  2. Thank you for sharing your spiritual journey! I can relate to your struggle of looking beyond the structured norms we’ve grown up learning and finding the spiritual path that truly speaks to us. I discuss spirituality on my blog as well, if you have the chance to check it out. 🙂

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