I think I doubted the existence of angels as a child because they seemed too abstract and impractical. Sunday school drawings of winged, beautiful beings that I could not reach didn’t convince me God loved me. That didn’t seem loving at all.
But playing in the woods in rural Virginia, I experienced something more real and practical. In these “real” moments, the air stood still and the busy cycle of life from the tree tops to the forest floor held its breath. Life seemed to enter into a sacred suspension for… I still don’t know… a shift, an opening, something indescribable, before resuming, perhaps changed, on a level that I could sense but not understand. As a child, I did understand that it didn’t matter that I didn’t understand as, I too, returned to playing in the woods as a part of the life matrix around me that now seemed to giggle over the shared moment of suspension/suspense, comfortable with the mystery.
In hindsight, it seems that Nature taught me to feel and sense these pauses, openings, shifts and then to continue to participate in life, letting go of a need to know what happened, why and what did it all mean? These moments mostly stopped coming as I moved out of the woods and through adolescence, my parents’ divorce, and a long trek to put myself through college. When I became a mother, the moments of pausing or suspension returned, which could be inconvenient standing in a grocery store line. I could describe many of those moments, but some of the more notable and intense ones came in conversations, also awkward.
When I talked with Peggy O’Mara about writing for Mothering magazine, my life raft in the late ‘90s, her courageous presence alone inspired me to listen more deeply than ever to the intuitive wisdom that came through in those moments of pausing and shifting as a new mother. (Listen to my recent audio interview with Peggy here and at the bottom of this page.)
A few years later, I was speaking with a new playwright about her play, Birth, when once again, the swirling vortex of life around me paused. And still later, it was myriad late night calls with Kelly Wendorf in Australia, whose electrifying, continent and ocean-spanning compassion for parents made it impossible for me to turn away from a path of family and child advocacy.
“She’s listening too,” I felt. “She’s intentionally pausing and listening. She knows.”
These days, the “real” moments are so frequent, moments of feeling life pause, shift, go on, that I spend more time than ever pausing myself, in meditation, prayer, solitude, and gardening. A year of health challenges, and the unexpected death of my father, has pushed this sacred pausing practice into a near permanent state of suspended animation. So, I think it is funny when some people say they are impressed with “all I get done.” Ha. Am I?
Something is happening, and many of us feel, sense and know it in our core. The conscious living movement, kicked into high gear when we humans saw the truth of our finite home Earth from space in 1972, is overflowing into all aspects of modern culture, including parenting. There is so much to DO now that we KNOW, the internet would have us believe. Is there? I’m not so sure these days. It feels like there is a need for more pausing than ever, a pausing that allows a full beingness, a noticing, an inner re-integration, before returning our enriched attention to the outer world of our bodies, our children, our communities, and our planet.
Neuroscience labels pausing as mindfulness and meditation practices and new studies continue to point to the necessity of self-awareness and self-regulation for holistic, sustainable wellness. It is the “pausing,” pioneering researchers show, that allows us full access to our pre-frontal cortex where imagination and critical thinking are possible. Fearful thoughts drive our awareness into our amygdala, our lizard brain, in a lightening quick flash that loses up to fifty IQ points along the way – and that is intelligence and imagination we could use!
All that brain science is great, but it is not the New Story. It’s looking at the binding and wrapper of one organ of many, of every cell in all of life, in fact, that carries the New Story in it.
In my own frustration to understand this New Story, I have sat with seminal thinkers like Joseph Chilton Pearce and asked, what is it? In the home he built from the trees and rocks on the surrounding hillside as a young man, Pearce shook his head and replied, “The best minds in the world don’t know. The language to describe what is happening is difficult.”
Bruce Lipton told Kindred readers last year that “conscious parenting is the rule of the day if we are going to get ourselves out of this mess.” His book, Spontaneous Evolution, blazes a path to a New Story, but at Kindred, we want to look at the conscious parenting part, the beginning of our relationships with ourselves, each other and the world, natural and man-made.
The most rivet answer to my questions about the New Story came from Charles Eisensten last August at his Space Between Stories workshop in Charlottesvile, Virginia.
Knowing that the workshop was about this Old Story and New Story and where we live now, in the Space Between them, I brought along with me my own bear trap of a question that I wanted Eisenstein to answer. This question was formulated just a tad wee bit out of frustration over the lack of application of so many of the uplifting insights of the New Story to the practical day to day issues of parenting and family life.
Eisenstein simplifies the core of the Old Story and New Story to a belief in separation or connection, and the present as the Space Between Stories. At the retreat I participated with forty seekers in filling a forty by ten foot wall with familiar catch phrases and beliefs of the Old and the New Story. Before the workshop group embarked on a game of answering one another’s real life questions from the perspectives of the Old and New Story, Eisenstein offered to model for us how this was done by taking our questions. Feeling a little smarmy, I pulled out the question that I kept in my pocket on the drive out to the mountain retreat and laid it carefully on the eco-built cabin’s wood floor:
“Why bring children into a violent and dying world?”
Eisenstein responded, “What a great question. I have an infant son downstairs, did you know? Well, the Old Story would say, ‘How could you be so selfish and bring your child into this world?’ And because The Old Story believes in its industry, it would also say, ‘Don’t worry. Technology will save us!’” Eisenstein leaned back into his chair and paused, something I have seen others and myself need to do when shifting to and accessing a part of us, a more integrated part, that is needed for the New Story response.
“And the New Story,” he said. “Well, children are the New Story.”
I knew he told the truth, the kind of truth that made my heart move in my chest and my eyes to leak in front of forty workshop participants. In his Space Between Stories article, Eisenstein says we cannot prepare for this New Story, “but we are being prepared.” To that, my entire being pauses… and says yes.
Clues in Our Language
It is the language, the most frequent words used to describe conscious parenting, that point to an aspect of the New Story that is genuinely new to the human race: compassion, connection, conscious. No, we don’t know what the New Story is, but these ideal states of being allow us to “facilitate” the New Story, or midwife or doula it.
What does the New Story have to do with parenting? I think of the first time I saw the Kindred slogan in 2004, “Sustainability Begins With Conception.” I almost dropped into a fetal position and started sucking my thumb. In a glorious act of codependent activism, I even, temporarily, took the slogan down when I became executive editor because I did not want to frighten or discourage parents.
How is sustainability possible if our capacity for wholeness is created at conception? The answer to this question is beyond our current capacity to answer completely, but we are inching closer…
Now, after 40 years of pre and perinatal psychology studies, we know just how true that original Kindred slogan is – and promising. And while neuroscience is conducting a thorough inventory of our book binding, it is also confirming that we are designed with a blueprint for wellness that we can return to again and again with a little, or a lot of, support. (Watch Kate White talk about the emerging and fascinating field of prenatal psychology here.)
Human development scholar, Pam Leo, summed it up best when she quipped, “How we treat children is how they will treat the world.” How do we close the gap in ourselves, the cultural conditioning of the Old Story of Separation and the New Story of Connection?
Over the years, I have begun to believe that perhaps this is what all of the pausing is about, to experience the connections, allow for the inner re-integrating, expand our capacity to move into a greater story of who we are as a human family. Social scientist, Paul Ray, says it is this process that will allow us, the Cultural Creatives, to bring forward the Practical Wisdom, aka Phronesis, that is needed at this turning point in history. With the help of mentors, like the long-suffering and patient, Michael Mendizza, I am also beginning to get a sense of the true potential of this New Story.
What is true, so far? We, the Cultural Creatives, are living into and facilitating a New Story through our willingness to explore our own consciousness, to recognize the connectivity of life and to act with compassion toward ourselves and others, especially our children and the planet they will inherit. Of this integration of our personal inner and outer worlds, a Practical Wisdom is born that will naturally empower us to engage in counter-cultural, wellness practices, like mindfulness, attachment and compassionate parenting, non-violent communication, prenatal re-patterning, natural medicine, supporting local food sources and economies, and an emerging world of sustainable possibilities.
In his always empathetic insight, Australian psychologist and parenting historian, Robin Grille encourages parents to resist feeling overwhelmed as they set out to pioneer a new paradigm with little social support. Grille says to do this, it is necessary that we understand living into a New Story does not mean we are trying to save the world. “We cannot save the world because the world does not want to be saved.” Instead, Grille suggests we simply agree to play a game called “Let’s Save the World.” In this game, we show up giggling, share our campfire stories, “tag” each other and then run off in all directions through the real and virtual, internet forests yelling, “You’re it!”
So, perhaps, as midwives of this New Story, we push pause, then play?
If you take up the cause of conscious parenting, social scientist, Paul Ray, says it is important that you recognize you are participating in a consciousness-raising movement, one that requires you to discover that you are not alone and to seek out and create like-minded community for support. Thinking we are alone in our beliefs is our greatest hurdle as Cultural Creatives, says Ray. (If you are interested in starting a Kindred Community for support in your town, email here and get in on the beginning of this year’s community-building project: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Thank you, Karen, Peggy, Kelly, Robin, Michael, Kate and all of Kindred’s contributing authors who are “Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood and the Human Family” and, most gratefully, the Kindred’s readers who are living it. Thank you for pausing, noticing, listening, and then continuing on with your play/work.
I may not have believed in winged-beings as a child, but as an adult I whole-heartedly believe in heavenly messengers!
Download and Listen to Peggy O’Mara Share 30 Years of Insights Into the Natural and Conscious Parenting Movement