Life Has It's Way, and Children know it. Let's Listen to Them
Life Has It's Way, and Children know it. Let's Listen to Them
By Skye Hirst, Ph.D. September, 2003
Life and living organisms function with an integrity and order that is now being recognized at a depth and comprehension unlike any time in human history as many frontier sciences lead the way. These unfolding insights expand beyond mainstream thought, beliefs and science to give us preliminary peaks at a world that is truly miraculous. These insights can now help us to recognize why some approaches to education work better than others.
To grasp these emerging insights is a challenge, because they point out organizing principles that are ever present to us, but hard to know until we have a means to know to look for them. An organizing principle is like the law of gravity. Humanity walked around on the planet a long time before Newton discovered laws of gravity 300 years ago. Now we can fly to the moon using these laws. So now, organizing principles of Life, not just matter, are being revealed.
I’ll try to help introduce some of these principles so that you can begin to recognize them for yourself, not on my say so, but through your own inquiry using this new frame of reference. I’ll begin with learning environments and children’s process natural learning processes.
Picture a school where the Director and facilitators (not teachers) create a learning experience in which the child is understood and honored as intelligent, having her/his own integrity with greater self-knowledge than anyone else can or will ever have; 100% of the children excited to be present, alive and engaged in learning of their choosing. The children tell facilitators what they need, what they want. Then facilitators help them learn the skills they need to accomplish their vision, their creative impulses to be themselves.
The key is giving children back their personal power to choose and know what is right for them. Believe me, they know. Then help them to know what the consequences are for their choices. To do this, communication is paramount between everyone constantly as each person’s uniqueness is honored and respected. Miracles happen. The children can’t wait to get at what they want to do. There are no discipline problems because each child is able to find his or her own coherence with support and minimal structure. If ever there is a disturbance, the kids get asked what they need to be more engaged. They think about it and come up with a response that is met with respect and consideration. Ask for agreement about what is to be done and if it makes sense to them, they agree. Children want nothing more than to learn and be in an environment that permits them to do so, their way. They need space and time in which to find what has meaning, and value to them. In this way children discover their gifts and talents by engaging in inquiry, trying out their creative ideas. They do whatever it takes to express something that they’ve found important. They concentrate for hours with one focus until they complete what they want to do.
In a school called Riley School, Glen Cove, Me. what I’ve just described is a reality. Schools, like Riley need to be acknowledged more fully as this nation and others face increasing problems with “schooling”. As schools trust the children’s wisdom to know what they want to pursue and learn, children will come to enjoy their learning without any outside push. Their creative energies are freed to spring into form as is true to that particular’s child’s integrity demands. I believe the children today are bringing us what the universe needs right now. Let’s learn and listen. Don’t squelch it.
Knowing what makes it work. To know this with more than words, we need a new frame of living process reference to help us; the organizing principles that organize living process. They are requirements for certain action if we want to fulfill particular conditions for life and living (like the laws of gravity). Without knowing these living operatives, humankind has made choices, decisions, policy, designed programs for education, managed companies, communities, and nations in ways that have produced dastardly results. Life has its ways. If you go against it, sooner or later, it will have its way and the correction will affect anyone, and everything that tries to stop it. By knowing life’s requirements, we can create healthful solutions that work with life so that our choices help all life thrive. Every day, at schools like Riley, the children are showing the way. What happens in children is happening within each of us everyday.
How are we organized as living organisms? I’ll try to explain metaphorically. Each human being is made up of approximately 70 trillion cells working harmoniously in a pure democracy. There are no controllers or bosses telling the cells what choices to make. The body/mind is not a thing. It is comprised of many processes which function interdependently in relationship to each other, each nested in always larger and larger encompassing organisms of order. Each cell is autonomous (making choices by it own self-law), yet interdependent on other cells and the larger order of the organism to survive. And the converse is true for the larger organism also dependent on every cell being itself, uniquely, to help it thrive and survive. The diversity of each autonomous cell is what makes it possible to respond to all the possible conditions we may encounter over a lifetime.
Whenever anything happens to one of the cells, an instantaneous communication occurs to all the cells near and far within the whole organism. At an electromagnetic energy level, the cells sense the environment they are in even before the nervous systems gets it. Each cell acts from it’s uniqueness and does what it needs to do (including cooperation) to help the larger organism survive because it’s in it own best interest. This occurs through the electrical characteristics of the connective tissue which is liquid crystalline in nature. Through this method of communication, all cells can then make the best choice of action as required for the situation instantaneously. Each cell organizes itself instantly by it’s own self-law for what works best for itself as well as for the larger organism. This way, new and original patterns are constantly created to accommodate the new condition. This is truly a dance. The whole organism adjusts when even one tiny cell function is changed. Every relationship is maintained, yet changed. Cells choose to work together cooperatively so that the larger organism can thrive and survive. Freedom to act, and desire to cooperate is paramount and the cells seek every possible way to organize in response to whatever happens for the benefit of all concerned. Cooperation and communication are ever paramount.
The best metaphor we’ve come up with for understanding organizing principles is that of a jazz band. Each member plays improvisations that are unique and original while the whole band maintains an order that holds the musical piece together. The organizing principles for the process are the harmonies (chord structures), the rhythms (the beat), the melody (the tune), and form (aba). It takes all these principles to make music. When a group has played together for some time, something happens that is like instant communication. Everyone is improvising at the same time and yet they feel their way, changing (the improvisation) to maintain the relationships as required to keep the coherence going.
You and I are autonomous, yet nested in and dependent on many other relationships for our survival just as the cells in our bodies. We are both interdependent and autonomous at the same time, all trying to find the most effective action for ourselves, and all concerned. Kids are no different.
Each of us play in a giant jazz band called the universe. We are truly meant to be here playing our particular melody to the rhythms, structures, and forms together. The universe needs us, right now, or we wouldn’t be here. As valuable contributors to many larger organisms, in our combined novelty, we all form infinite potential for an array of harmonizations that can instantly change, form, learn, evolve ways for all life to thrive, not just survive. We can only do this together each being true to our own self-law. And that is an organizing principle, Life’s way.
Disease occurs when the conditions in which the organism lives and functions don’t allow for this natural dance to occur freely and with support. I’ve observed how naturally children know this dance when given the freedom to make choices and know the responsibility it takes to fulfill their own inside>out intentions.
Some of the organizing principles I’ve referred to above include, autonomy (self-law), self-reference (self-knowledge, knowing from within), instant electromagnetic energy communication through nature of liquid crystals and unity of coherence.
So how do you know your own self-laws if you haven’t had such an educational experience as I’ve described?
When something you do works for you, how do you know? It feels good in some way, doesn’t it? It’s something you intend to accomplish and when you do, you feel a sense of satisfaction, fulfillment. You feel it in your body/mind. You, as a whole organism, hum (vibrate freely) and you experience a unity of “coherence.” Nothing, in such a moment, feels out of sync. In turn, how you feel affects the larger organism in which you live whether family, community, nation or the cosmos. As we each recognize that these laws are operative, within us, and others, we can make choices that are more aligned with Life’s ways. We self-know. No one else can know what you know within your skin, from your experience. It is unique to you what you know. Trust this process and discover for yourself what the children already know and are trying to tell us.
Return to yourselves and others the right for freedom to choose life at these fundamental levels and watch how quickly our world will self-organize, self-discipline and self-love itself into a harmonization that works for all life. Life does have its way. The children can show it to us if we watch and listen to them knowing these new emergent insights about how life works; Life As It Is. You can extend these organizing principles to other living environments like the family, workplace, community, the nation, and the world. Consider how they work. Let me hear from you what you discover. For more information about Riley School go to their website www.rileyschool.com .
Children Know Life’s Ways. Let’s Listen To Them. Part II
Self-law; knowing how it works in us.
How do we come to know our own self-law. How do we recapture awareness of the living dance that is occurring within us? How do we keep it alive in our children and help bring this wisdom to bear in the workplace and in making our life-decisions? Every single moment of our lives leads to a crossroads where the whole of our experience is unified and acted from to find correct action that only we can know is right for us. It’s the whole of us that knows.
There is no expert in this world who is more expert about you than you. Remember you are a unique whole unity and in each moment, you make judgements and decisions about what makes sense to your particular unity. The way you make these judgements is that you evaluate experience and information with your own “felt senses” that have formed in you over your lifetime of experience. It’s the whole self and all that has and is forming you from which you find effective action for yourself. Choices rarely come from what we think about in words, but from the whole of our experience. We actually don’t know what will be the outcomes of our choices, but we have a feeling about them. An action feels right or not if we learn to turn our attention from outside, other’s ideas about what’s right for us or trying to get it “right” according to someone else’s standards.
Children naturally do this process early in their lives. They move towards what feels right to them and away from what doesn’t. If children are encouraged to trust this knowing, they come to feel confident in making choices and finding their way in managing their lives. If a child’s wishes are constantly over-powered, or reasoned away by adults who think they know better for the child, you will soon see a child who exhibits some form of behavior that is out of coherence and fragmented. The natural creativeness of the child will kick in to find a way to have his/her own way. Adults do the same thing. If they work in an environment that doesn’t allow them to express themselves with some degree of freedom, and/or they are given so many rules that natural, healthy responses to situations of injustice, control and dominance aren’t allowed, that’s when you will find low morale, lots of staff turnover, absences, and probably lots of subversive sabotage called political manipulation amongst workers.
As living beings, we seek to bring all our experience into a coherent unity. That means a constant evaluation of the whole (we do this unconsciously all the time). Some experiences must be thrown out, while new experience is added. Sometimes it means going against what we have been told is the right way to act such as in the following situation.
A mother and daughter agreed that the 9 year old would save her money towards the purchase of something she said she wanted. The daughter went to a craft fair with the grandmother and decided to buy something she saw there. When she came home, she told the mother someone had given her the money to do the purchase and in fact, lied about what she had done. The mother soon learned of the lie and felt she should punish her for the lying and grounded her for a week or so. The mother also was critical of the girl for not keeping her agreement to not spend her money.
What happened here? First the daughter felt she had done something wrong that the mother would not like, so she felt the need to lie instead of telling her what she had done. Lying was to the child an effective action in the situation. She didn’t feel she would get caught and that was a better choice than telling her mother the truth. The mother’s values around keeping to the commitment were obviously known to the daughter and she felt in some way the mother would not have liked her breaking the commitment. The mother could have communicated to the girl that sometimes we change our mind and we need to recognize that is human as well. How many times have you or I said we weren’t going to spend money and something catches our attention and we do so, anyway. Asking the girl how she could do better next time, or for her to revisit her commitment might have provided a wonderful learning experience and self-learning for both mother and daughter. The girl would have learned that changing your mind doesn’t call for lying or being punished, but instead an opportunity for learning. However, given what action the mother chose to take (for what seems like good intentions) probably taught the girl she needed to become a better liar if she is to be free to act from her own judgement.
The organizing principle of self-law, finding effective action of creating a coherent unity out of the experience makes for very creative processes sometimes. If parents can recognize that the child is trying to find her way in learning most of the time, lessons can come of the experience rather than the need for punishment. A 12 year old girl told me once, “Don’t’ parents know we are just learning. Sometimes we do something wrong. We don’t need to be punished. Just tell us what we did wrong and don’t lecture us. We’ll get it faster than being grounded or punished for learning and making mistakes.”
If you want your children to learn self-discipline and ability to manage their lives, give them opportunities to do so, whenever possible. When a child refuses to kiss her grandpa, don’t push her towards doing it anyway. There is a reason and the child knows why. You may want to pay attention and listen to the child. She may not be able to tell you because she doesn’t know why, but grandpa may not smell good or grandpa may be unfamiliar or frightening to her in some way. Support the child’s knowing and look for opportunities for learning more about your child’s reasoning.
Don’t jump in so quickly to help your younger children put their clothes on or tie their shoes or poor the syrup. They soon reach a point when they want to try to do it themselves. The struggle and the time it takes for them to do it may require a lot of patience, but it will pay off a hundred times as they grow into their confidence to try new things because they know they can learn how in time.
A little girl who was ill with leukemia told her mommy she didn’t want to take a bath. The mother tried to change her mind by reminding her how good she felt after a bath. The little girl insisted, “No I don’t want to take a bath. Wash my face and hands, but I don’t’ want to get in the water, ” said the little girl. The mother paused a moment and realized the little girl had tubes for medication in her belly and the little girl didn’t like to get them wet. When the mother realized this, she was able to help the little girl manage the situation so she would feel o.k. taking the bath. How simple it was to ask and not insist.
“Children know more about themselves than we will ever know, even as parents who love them,” says Glenna Plaisted, Founder of Riley School. Our job as teachers and parents is to provide enough structure so chaos does not rule, but enough freedom so the child can find her own way. In this manner, the children find their own coherence and unity for finding effective action for themselves. The results are children and people who grow up to be confident, assured in taking risks, learning new ideas, being creative, innovative, responsive and responsible, self-disciplined human beings. You can feel their harmony.
As we each recognize that these laws are operative, within children, within us and others, we can make choices that are more aligned with Life’s ways. We self-know. No one else can know what you know within your skin, from your experience. It is unique to you what you know.
Let’s help give children and ourselves the right for freedom to choose life at these fundamental levels and watch how quickly our world will self-organize, self-discipline and self-love itself into a harmonization that works for all life. Life does have its way. The children can show it to us if we watch and listen to them knowing these new emergent insights about how life works. You can extend these organizing principles to other living environments like the family, workplace, community, the nation, and the world. Consider how they work. Let me hear from you what you discover. For more information about Riley School go to their website www.rileyschool.org .
Implications of Organizing Life Principles
© held by Skye Hirst, Ph.D.
For Learning Environments and Workplace
- Each individual is able to find effective ways of being herself, of expressing, her/his own unique ability, style and identity. Each person is encouraged to participate in the co-creation of the learning environment or workplace as a unit while valuing and respecting individual differences.
- Each person is able to find meaning and act in accordance with what feels like correct action to him/herself.
- Each person feels a connectedness, feeling part of a greater whole, and each person experiences her part as important and making a difference to the whole.
- Each person feels he/she could change and feel in control of what he or she is doing daily.
- Each person discovers ways to grow and expand his/her own genius beyond common boundaries or she discovers the possibility for growing her own particular genius.
- Individuals learn how to form teams around getting work accomplished, be it learning something new, or meeting the demands of some task or project in which they have all agreed to participate.
- Facilitators (instead of teachers or managers) encourage people to take time for reflection and time out for renewal to integrate what is being learned. Such times are free of new stimulus, a quiet time turning inward, individually and as a group. In workplaces such times are given to remembering why they are working and what they are trying to accomplish with their efforts. In learning environments, people can take this time to refocus on what is most important to them, what they want to do and what skills they may need to accomplish the task.
- Stories of progress, process and personal achievement, as defined by the individual, or the group, are shared. Through this process everyone gets to know one another and discover how their differences are valuable, and not a barrier.
- Facilitators encourage each one to be tolerant for their own and others' "not knowing", allowing for a process of discovery and trial and error, especially when approaching new or unfamiliar experiences. Everyone learns in his or her own time and way.
- Mistakes are not punished but valued as a source for learning.
- Few rules are required. Rules are determined, as needed, for guiding the process, moment-to-moment. Some rules are more enduring because they continue to work well for everyone and they enable rather than constrain. A rule like “driving on the right side of the road” enables everyone to do what they want to do. This takes little enforcement because it works for everyone.
- Facilitators allow rules to change frequently as needed for the task, the group’s needs for agreement for working together and each individual’s own growing process. Rules come out of daily process to get done what everyone wants to get accomplished, discovering what works better and better and finding structure that helps that work for both the individuals and the group, or larger organization.
- In the workplace or learning environment, everyone wins because the morale is high, there is less turn over, less sick time, and productivity soars because everyone is achieving what works for self as well as for the company.
- Facilitators support people in valuing learning and self-discovery, as they learn and work together.