Thursday, December 31, 2009

winter blessing

a wish for the new year

I was sitting at the dining table yesterday afternoon, and the winter sun cast a soft glow on our nativity that rested quietly in the middle of the table. The table runner is of hand spun yarn that the family together had woven. Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were felted by Jennifer and the children. The transparency scenes were created by Ricky and Joey. The twig house was made by me a couple of years ago. A family's heart and hands.

While the Christmas items around the house will soon be stored or transformed for other uses, the image of the nativity will remain with me as the new year approaches. The spirit by which it was created continues to live on. The blessing of family bridges the seasons and the years. Our creative striving and our love for each other continue to sustain our souls for all eternity.

My new year blessing to you:

year to year
season to season
morning, noon, and eve
with creative souls
and giving hearts
love does a family weave.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

winter rain

december in fair oaks

rain drop on a maple branch

oak leaf on a wet deck

I wanted to capture the mood of this morning. It had rained while we slept, and this morning, the sky is gray, the ground is damp, and it is quiet and still except for the gentle sound of the creek.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

winter snow

painting with salt

The kids and I made wet-method paintings of a winter scene. Using table salt (rock salt would also give an interesting effect), we sprinkled a bit onto the sky, which absorbed some of the pigment, creating the look of falling snow. On Wilson's, the sky appeared like far away snow-capped mountains - magical!

Wilson, 6 years old

Joey, 10 years old

Ricky, 12 years old

Daddy, not too old

Monday, December 21, 2009

east bay waldorf

happy holidays to staff and students
in the kindergarten play area at East Bay Waldorf with my kids

Three weeks at East Bay Waldorf School with the seventh grade and eighth grade classes went by quickly - I suppose we must have been having fun! I just wanted to wish all students and staff at East Bay Waldorf a truly blessed winter season. Much gratitude for your warmth and dedication to the art of teaching and learning.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

reproductive system

for the seventh grade boy and girl

The following blog has content meant for parents and children 12 years of age and older. If you are younger than 12, do not read on without your parents' consent. (Of course, now that I said DO NOT READ ON, you might be tempted even more to do so...!)

My seventh grade physiology block at East Bay Waldorf in El Sobrante, CA, culminated in a week's discussion of puberty and human sexuality. I was so pleased with how well the students received the material that I am considering turning it into an ebook or a short published unit for Waldorf teachers!

Here are a few highlights of how the week unfolded.

Day One: Reproduction and Relationships

Humankind's experience of sexuality is truly of a dual nature. I pointed out to the students that the cycle of life has two complementary turning circles: reproduction and relationships, or biology and biography. And it starts with the duality of genes and jeans!

On the biological side, our genes, our DNA, are key to the passing on of the human design. On the biographical side, our jeans, which I used to represent the social aspect of ATTRACTION, are key to the turning on of human desire.

Attraction leads to HOPE. On the reproduction side is the male SPERM, and its complementary symbol on the relationship side is a STAR, which I used to represent the wish (wishing upon a star!) or hope for partnership, after attraction.

Hope leads to LOVE. The female EGG, the reproductive side, complements the EARTH, representing oneness, the love formed in partnerships.

Love leads to FAMILY. On the reproduction side, FERTILIZATION. The concept here is that our reproductive capacity to create Life is complemented by the relationships needed to nurture Life.

This dual concept of reproduction and relationship I believe is so important in laying the foundation for the seventh grader in making happy, healthy choices (which is the umbrella theme for the entire physio block). As they undergo puberty, knowing what is going on with their reproductive organs is obviously important. But at 12 and 13 years of age, even though they are capable of having children biologically-speaking, are they ready for the relationship side, for nurturing offspring? I made it clear that creating life is one miraculous human achievement, but nurturing life, having the maturity to be in a partnership with another human, to dedicate oneself to taking care of a child, requires many more years of growth. (My anti-teen pregnancy talk!)

Day Two: The Parts and Counterparts

The second day, I introduced the reproductive organs to the students. (A sidebar: as a teacher, I was sensitive to the delivery of the material. When we talked about digestion, I showed huge drawings on the board. With reproduction, I sensed that the material needed to be delivered on a more intimate scale, so our discussion occured in a small circle of chairs, with no board work. I instead made drawings on handouts.) I had the students make observations on the male and femal parts that I had drawn side by side, and they also labeled the parts. The students could easily see that parts had counterparts, such as with the male testes and female ovaries. I would point to the part and say it, such as PENIS, or VAGINA. Delivered in this way, they got used to hearing the words objectively, removing some of the giggle factor!

Day Three: Puberty and the Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle allowed us to talk about female puberty. The signal for reproductive maturity in females is the period, along with other changes to the female body. In the 28-day cycle, we talked about the developing egg, the endometrium, and the hormones invovled.

I wrote a song (sung to Jingle Bells, since 'tis the season):

In the ovary,
The follicle does grow,
Inside there is an egg,
And soon it will explode.
If unfertilized it stays,
The egg it travels on,
Through the tube and uterus,
And with the blood it's gone!

FSH, estrogen, LH, progesterone,
FSH, estrogen, LH, progesterone,
FSH, estrogen, LH, progesterone,
FSH, estrogen, LH, progesterone!

Day Four: Puberty and Spermatogenesis

Our circle of chairs became the lining of the testes. Using bean bags, I described the maturation of the sperm as it traveled from the edges to the center on the testes to become mature sperm. Spermatogonia to spermatocyctes to spermatids to spermatozoa. They then moved to the epididymis for storage, and mixed with seminal fluid from the glands and prostate, and ejaculated upon stimulation of the penis.

If you are wondering, the mechanism of bringing egg and sperm together was in fact briefly discussed. I simply said that the act of intercourse, when the male penis is erect and stimulated, releases the seminal fluid into the vagina where the sperm, all 500 million of them, needs to travel to the Fallopian tubes, and just ONE sperm fertilizes the egg, quite a journey!

The Guy Talk

On the fourth day, we had a break out session, I spoke with the boys, and Mrs. Nelson, my partner teacher, spoke with the girls. I was really impressed that the boys were very open and candid with the guy topics!

The week went very well, and I was glad to have been involved with this crucial stage in the lives of these dear children.

Friday, December 11, 2009

say yes

to hugs, no to drugs

For the seventh and eighth grade students at East Bay Waldorf, I brought an anti-drug presentation that reminded them of the things in their lives to say YES to. Then, they can say NO to drugs with conviction. I had made it interactive to engage them in heart, head, and hands!

I posed to them that it will be the actions of love that will keep them safe from the harmful effects of drug abuse.

I gave each of the students a paper circle with a street name of a drug written on it, and we grouped them into the common illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. We also discussed smoking, alcohol, and steroids. I began with how the drugs are taken and how they enter the bloodstream to affect the brain and other organs of the body. I listed many of their effects, which I hoped had painted a fairly graphic image of the physical consequences such as convulsions, hallucinations, organ damage, irreversible brain injury, and death. Additionally, I touched on the legal consequences of manufacturing, distributing, possessing, and using illegal drugs.

The paper circles that each student held allowed me to do interactive statistics with them. For instance, with 35 of the students in my class, I had 7 stand to show the percentage of eighth graders who will smoke marijuana for the first time. Quite effectively, I had students stand to show how many would start smoking tobacco by high school, and who would end up dying as a result of it.

We also did an impromptu play about peer influence and peer pressure. The students really enjoyed it, as I had four with purple bean bags try to convince two friends to start playing with the cool bean bags. I commended the students who resisted, despite the pressuring and pushing of their peers!

Despite knowing about the consequences of illegal drug use, some people still cannot say no. I posed to the the students that perhaps these people do not have in their lives the things to say YES to. I had the students close their eyes and bring into their hearts the people in their lives who support and love them, and the activities they engage in that fill them with passion and strength. All the things that give us a natural high on life.

On the board, the students one by one placed the drug names in an arch around children I had drawn to show the pressure of negative influences bearing down on them. Then, I had asked each one to tell me what it was in their hearts. I wrote those on the board between the drugs and the boy and girl I had drawn. These things, hobbies, music, sports, family, all provided a supportive barrier against drug use. And if you look closely at the picture, you can see that I had written in yellow chalk the word LOVE - the actions of love that keep them safe from harm!

What are they keeping safe, I asked. Their self-identity, self-respect, self-worth, their health, their spirits.

And finally, I ended the discussion with a verse I had written for them:

My body is a sailing vessel
I am captain of its course
A voyage of wish and wonder
To the magic of distant shores.

North, South, East, and West
I am guided by sun and moon
Waves may batter at my hull
Yet I remain strong and true.

The journey moves my spirit
Love of life and Self drives me,
Joyfulness expands in my wake,
I sail on towards destiny.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

circulatory system

more physiology with grade seven

Grade seven and I spent three days on the circulatory system, or cardiovascular system (CVS). The transition from the digestive system was seamless, as we followed the absorbed nutrients from the small intestine to the bloodstream. The circulatory system distributes necessary nutrients, energy stores, and oxygen throughout the body.

We discussed that there is about 5 liters of blood in an average sized adult. Going to the microscopic level, we thought about what is really in blood. If we were to examine a given sample of blood (I simply drew a test tube on the board), it shows about 50% fluid, the plasma, which contains the sugars and proteins floating around in it. About 4% are the platelets, which help our blood clot, and 1% white blood cells, essential against germs. The most important element in our discussion was the red blood cells at 45%. Using a clear vase, I poured water into it, put in an apple to represent a red blood cell, an orange to represent a white blood cell, a chestnut for the platelet, and an assortment of stones and shells to show the other stuff in the plasma. I wanted to show the students that a sample of blood contains a number of individual cells, with the RBCs giving the red color of blood. How many red blood cells can fit on the head of a pin? Five million!


Transporting the blood all over the body are the blood vessels. I showed that the capillary beds (those web-like areas on the diagram above) were the sight of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, and nutrient movement to the tissues and organs. From arteries arose smaller diameter tubes called arterioles, to capillaries, then widens to form the venuoles (carrying deoxygenated blood), and to veins. Capillaries are just wide enough in diameter to allow one RBC (1/3500 inches in diameter) at a time to travel. Its walls are thin, which allow for gases like oxygen to pass from the lungs to the blood, and oxygen in the blood to muscles and organs. I had the students act as RBCs and they had to squeeze in between desks I arranged in the room and travel in single file.

The diagram shows the circulation of the blood in the body and into the heart. This super highway of blood vessels cycles blood at about 5 liters per minute. You can follow the path on the diagram above.

Day Three: THE HEART

We then discussed the pumping station of the system that keeps that blood going and going, the heart. It has four chambers that act in concert to receive and eject blood. The diagram above represents the cycle of the heart, showing the "lub-dub" of the heart. The two heart sounds are when the valves in the heart close. The LUB is in the beginning of ventricular contraction, forcing the valves between atria and ventricles to close. The DUB is when the ventricles just finish contracting, and the blood from the exiting vessels (the aorta and pulmonic artery) push the aortic and pulmonic valves close. The kids enjoyed the stethoscope I allowed them to use to listen to their heart beats!

Friday, December 4, 2009

digestive system

physiology block for grade seven

still life by Paul Cezanne

This first week of Advent, I began teaching as a guest teacher the physiology block on the digestive system for grade seven at East Bay Waldorf in El Sobrante, CA. While the rhythm of the week included preparations for an Advent assembly, my grade seven students and I had a wonderful week learning about the journey of food through our bodies.

Here is a brief recap of our week:

Day One

I introduced the topic of digestion by bringing samples of food to the classroom - a good place to start! Food is valued by us as humans for several reasons. I cut an apple in half and showed the children the five-pointed core. From it, I created a drawing on the board to show the five "Apple Core Values of Food." At each point of the apple star, I worte: Combustion, Nutrtion, Tradition, Recreation, and Inspiration. Food is important to us because we use it for energy (combustion), for nutrients (nutrition), for culture and family (tradition), for social gatherings (recreation), and to inspire art such as in Cezanne's still life of fruit (inspiration). I said that the balance of these core values of food leads to happy, healthy lives.

I also posed an idea for them to think about: in going from origin to table, the less steps in food processing it takes, the healthier the food is. We compared an apple, a potato, a bag of trail mix, and a Lunchable. Just in attempting to read the ingredients on the Lunchable box was enough to convince us that some of those chemicals listed should not be ingested! We figured it took lots and lots of step to bring the Lunchable to the table. In contrast, the apple simply was planted from seed, grown, picked, washed, and eaten!

Day Two

The second day of the lesson we started with a discussion of how we engage our senses to start the process of digestion even before we take the first bite. Not only is this important physiologically, but it brings the whole human into the realm of the lesson (the core values of food also brings this holistic approach). Then I drew the anatomy of the human as I talked about the path of the food.

Day Three

On this day, I traced for children the path of the food using a schematic diagram of the digestive tract I drew on the board, and talked about what was happening to the food as it passed through the different parts. As a visual aid, I put some crushed crackers in a sandwich bag to show how the food looks in the mouth, then I added some water and flour to show how it looks as a bolus, then chyme, then took some water out to show undigested matter.

Day Four

For their main lesson book, I had them copy this table to show the functions of each part and organ. This tabular form helped to recap the lecture from the day before. The colored bars represent the five processes: motility, digestion, secretion, absorption, and elimination.

Day Five

On the last day, I emphasized some important points. I also brought the material back out of the parts to the larger picture of our place in the world. I commented that I believed how truly amazing it is to know that our bodies have been designed to perfectly break down the foods that are available to us from our earth. We are of this world, made of this world.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

reflection moments

meditation in the everyday

our spiral pathway I designed for our courtyard

I was recently asked about what I do to meditate. Like most people, I picture a moment of stillness, sitting perhaps in quietness and solitude, whereby I consciously look inward to tap into some peaceful place to bring clarity to my thoughts or to seek answers. I think, like most people, rarely do I have time in my family life and work life to have the luxury to create the formal atmosphere for meditation. While I do occasionally make the effort to create a meditative moment, I realized that upon further reflection, meditative moments happen in the everyday activities of my life.

What is the purpose of meditation? For me, it is to create harmony of spirit. By this, I mean, it could be the need to center oneself, to seek clarity, to open oneself up to a revelation, to deepen one's spirituality, or to tap into one's joyfulness and creativity.

It dawned on me that aside from those times when I actually sit in a meditative manner, I create harmony of spirit - meditation - when I engage my emotional and will forces in an activity that is inherently peaceful, reflective, and rhythmic.

These meditative moments are:

1. When I watch our rabbit eat after I have given her some fresh vegetables, and she seems content as the sun bathes her in morning light.
2. When I slowly walk the garbage cans to the curb, and the sound of its wheels roll hollowly and deeply, and crunch leaves on the driveway.
3. When I sip a cup of coffee as I breathe in the cool morning dew.
4. When I write a verse from scratch, with pen in hand and paper on my lap, and I reach within for words that fit what I am feeling and express what I want to say.
5. When I play the harp and improvise the melodies.
6. When I sand a wooden snail or streamer wand and think about where it will go and who will play with it.
7. When I listen to my daughter play guitar.
8. When I hear the spinning wheel that my wife is using to spin some yarn.
9. When I look closely at leaves and branches and see that there is something so beautiful in the patterns of shapes, colors, and textures.
10. When I drive long distances (this might be a guy thing!)
11. When I wake up in the morning from a tent, unzip the door flap, and step out into the wooded setting to bear witness to the majesty of our world.
12. When I clean the house and everything appears in order, each thing repsectfully sitting in its rightful place.
13. When the kids are in bed and the house is breathing, relaxing, re-energizing.

In each moment, it is a connection with the stillness of the world around us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

verse for thanks

for my family

Journeys are made across oceans

through uncharted waters

and into new worlds.

With courage

you face the day

with faith

you face the night

with hope

you face the future.

Only with your family

can you face


Thank you Jennifer,

Ricky, Joey, and Wilson

for helping me

see me

and making the journey


Happy Thanksgiving

to all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

five spheres

of waldorf education

Rudolf Steiner created a richly textured world when he developed anthroposophy and laid the foundation of Waldorf education. It would take a lifetime - and perhaps two or three more incarnations - to understand all of it! So, the best I can do in this life, in my striving as a creative spirit, is to make the journey with the help of art. The five symbols here, for me, represent the main concepts of Waldorf education.

The circumpunct is the first symbol of the Five Spheres of Waldorf Education. It represents the singularity of the self. It symbolizes oneness and wholeness. The individual human soul is unique, and our strength to do good in the outer world comes out of working the inner life. This inner development is the core of anthroposophy. Through meditation, practical training of one's internal faculties, and living a life of good intent and genuine striving does a person develop character and presence, valued by Steiner as paramount to a Waldorf teacher.

The second symbol is the yin yang. In eastern philosophy, it symbolizes the dynamics of polarity: male and female, light and dark, heaven and earth. I borrowed it to represent synergy between relationships, how a cycle of growth develops within the particular relationship between individuals. In Waldorf education, the quality of relationships is key in strengthening us and the community. Key relationships for the Waldorf teacher are with the student, the school, and the parents. For the Waldorf school, its relationship with the community is key in its growth.

Between teacher and student: the teacher nurtures, guides, inspires, and models for the student, who grows, and in turn, encourages, motivates, and respects the teacher.

Between teacher and parents: the teacher maintains open and honest communication, offering reassurances for the parent, who grows in the Waldorf philosophy, and in turn, develops trust and faith in the teacher.

Between teacher and colleagues: the teacher contributes, collaborates, and cooperates with colleagues, who in turn offer mentorship and support, and the school grows in its vision.

The third symbol is the triform. In Waldorf education, the familiar head, heart, and hands, or thinking, feeling, and willing, is represented by this simple triangle. Balance of these three areas of human development is carefully attenuated in the Waldorf classrooms. I also like to refer to the three areas as: 1. practical cognition (thinking), 2. creative freedom (feeling), and 3. global citizenry (willing). In the service of the Waldorf student, the dynamic balance of these three areas provides an exciting framework for the teacher in bringing the art of education to the child.

This four pointed symbol, while looking much like the rose cross, is used here as the compass rose. The rhythms of life, in seasonal changes, the seven-year cycle, math concepts, nature, and music, are revered in Waldorf education. I have used the compass rose to symbolize the rhythm of the main lesson.

Beginning with E, East: ENTER the classroom. The children are greeted by the teacher, and begin circle time, which synchronizes the energy of the classroom, and makes them ready to receive the day.

Moving counterclockwise to N, North: NEW content is introduced. After review of previous content, and some mental activities, the teacher introduces the new material of the main lesson.

Now heading to W, West: WORK in the practice books and main lesson books begins. Following two-day or three-day rhythms in learning material, the students work in their practice books or main lesson books, and here they may also be work with manipulatives or other activities to engage the student in a multisensory experience.

Finally, at S, South: STORYTIME closes the main lesson. Now, I don't think there is a hard and fast rule about storytime, as it seems to be different with class teachers and grade levels. However, generally, a story does help conclude the main lesson to help the student breathe out, and also offers the student something relevant to sleep on.

The fifth symbol is the pentacle, which symbolizes many things in different faiths and cultures. Here, it represents the concept of course, with two meanings. One, as a path of discovery, and two, as an area of study. It is about the Waldorf curriculum. If you can picture Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian man superimposed onto the star, at the head is language, in the left hand is music, arts, and crafts, in the right hand is math, in the left foot is social studies such as history, including geography, and in the right foot is natural science.

By being mindful of the concepts that each symbol represent, I believe that the Waldorf teacher will have a balanced and fulfilling experience in guiding his or her students to love learning.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

veteran's hope

honoring our warriors

My grandfather Lolo Victor had served in WWII, a military engineer, a warrior, a man who helped me hone an artistic eye.

In honor of our veterans, let us proceed today in peace and hope.

My verse for veterans:

in war
they were soldiers
a fraternity of singular purpose
brothers in arms in mind in heart
eyes that have seen
the darkness
of war
at home
free men and women
individuals with many endeavors
holding family in arms
finding peace of mind
longing for love
to replace darkness
with light
at home

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

calendar of the soul

for november 10 thru 16

I feel my own force bearing fruit,
growing strong to give me to the world:
I feel my own being gaining power,
turning to clarity
in the weaving of life's destiny.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

soul train

more on reincarnation and karma

Wilson visits with one of Arneson's "eggheads" at UC Davis, 2006

Our study group forged ahead on our study of Steiner's Reincarnation and Karma. In Chapter 2, Steiner offered philosophical concepts to help in our understanding of the movement of the soul through birth and death and rebirth.

What resonated with me was his illustration of the young child as the evidence for former incarnations. Soon after birth, the newborn is so full of life and energy. Without yet the provocations of the external world and influences of a thinking life, the baby is active in the will and strong in the feeling life. Where did these forces come from? Steiner believes they are what was carried over from the former incarnation. While the thoughts and concepts of one's life is learned and dissolves upon death, the striving of the individual, translated in the soul as the gestalt of feeling and will, is carried through the period between death and rebirth. This soul force is what is present in the newborn.

I created an image of my own - perhaps a simplification of reincarnation - but helpful in my understanding of the soul force. It is the soul train. Picture a train as the vehicle of the eternal soul, traveling through time and space. Each station that it arrives at is the physical embodiment of the soul, our life between birth and death. While at the station, the soul train experiences thoughts, feelings, and actions of the human being. Before it departs, the train loads the essence of the human: the striving, the feelings, the will forces. Upon death, the train leaves and travels once again through the spaces before it proceeds to the next station. At previous stations - former incarnations - the soul train builds and carries the essence of the soul, and every incarnation thereafter is a product of that force.

Each human of course is unique. We value our individuality, or in the context of Steiner's philosophy of human freedom, our individualized concepts. While the essence of the soul train lives within us, we are free to be who we are in the physical realm of human existence.

Clearly, we have a responsibility for what the soul train will take into the next incarnation. If we load the train, our soul, with positive feelings and good intentions of the will, then the human of our next incarnation will have the essence of a decent, striving individual, no matter what his or her endeavors and talents are. Karma - pass it forward.

In the study group, the image of the soul train sparked some humorous imagining of the train. What kind of train lives in me? A bullet train, locomotive, mag lev, the Chicago "L" train, a steam engine? Perhaps, it is that Little Blue Engine That Could.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

strings and yarn

the best moments of life

Autumn's warm, dappled sun and crisp, cool air drew me, my daughter, and youngest son outdoors to enjoy a joyful moment. Guitar strumming and singing. Knitting. The synchronicity and spontaneity of the soul forces - it is an awesome feeling when the vibrations and rhythms of family, earth, and heaven just hum together.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

verse for sleep

soul as nocturnal being

"spiral spirit" by rick tan, acrylic on canvas

an angel's inky blue veil
descends from the heavens
i close my eyes to welcome sleep
so that my body may rebuild
and my mind may release
the nocturnal nature
of my spirit self

free to travel
about the cosmos

chance meeting
with destiny
exploring all
making unbiased
digging deep
into the unknown
seeds of hope
flying high
by simple will
dancing with
the stars
finding insight
into worldy matters
God's graces.

reincarnation and karma

a study group seeks to understand

People come together drawn by a collective motivation to seek truth and order, or to activate the will towards a common goal. Our study group aims for both. In a book titled Reincarnation and Karma, a compilation of five lectures by Steiner, he makes a bold statement: "The whole of life I now lead has no foundation for me if I cannot know anything of my former incarnation."

Our study group, comprised of anthroposophists and those new to Steiner's works, all academics with advanced degrees, educators, administrators, and authors, artists and musicians, philosophers and scientists, does not simply accept things as written. Even Steiner would agree, we must discover the truths within us, we must first seek to understand. Then we can act with full intensity.

So, in diving into the first lecture (some have read the book more than once), the subject opened the floodgates as important questions and concerns poured forth!

Steiner poses the first question: "To what extent can we find, in the facts of life, proof that the conception of repeated earth lives and karma is true?"

The group offered more to ponder:

"If knowing that our abilities in this life are determined by faculties of a former incarnation, can this lead to a position of surrender and non-accountability?"

"What is a soul-kernel?"

"Upon death, we discard the physical body and our most penetrating thoughts. What then does the soul take with it into the spiritual realm?"

"If thoughts are so central to Steiner's philosophy, why does the soul not take them with it? Or does it, in a different form?"

"Is there a practical application, a usefulness, in knowing that my soul had former incarnations?"

"When Steiner says we must have knowledge of former incarnations, does he mean we should have a literal and direct knowledge of a former life, or does it mean we should have an openness to the general concept of renincarnation?"

"Does that knowledge mean being mindful of consequences?"

"Does that knowledge mean the acceptance of a spiritual reality?"

"Are we anxious for meaning?"

"What is the origin of the concepts and beliefs of reincarnation and karma?"

In the course of our discussion in the next few weeks, we hope to answer some of those questions.

To start, I would like to present a thing that Steiner describes in this first lecture that, for me, may answer some of those questions (well, at least, it will help me answer mine), and that is the word "force." Steiner uses this word to describe an intensified form of the thoughts or whatever else that is passed into the next life.

In our layered human existence, the kernel is our striving. Striving is a force. A powerful force. If in your striving you have layered positive thoughts and pure will, the force that Steiner speaks of will carry much weight in the spiritual realm. And into the next incarnation.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

autumn storm

beauty in chaos and decay

organic material of Nature's body
through the spirit of God
receives Life and gives Death

storm fashioned from Earth and Heaven
through the eyes of Humankind
receives Death and gives Life

Thursday, October 15, 2009

dalai lama

from syrendell's world leader series

I am pleased to announce a new member of our Syrendell family of wood crafts: Dalai Lama in the Dell! Freshly carved, sanded, and painted, he is available through our Etsy shop.

Along with Mother Theresa and Gandhi, our Dalai Lama reminds us to seek peace in our daily lives.

Here is my verse for peace:

born from the cosmic seed all
humankind begins as a cellular ball
with potential energy to proceed in love

growing in the womb of our earth mother
tethered to spirit cords of one another
a family cared for by our heaven father above

we crawl then walk and talk and interact
with innate sense for mindfulness and tact
yet some brothers choose to push and shove

a downward spiral created by the unthinking few
ending our earth stay in a catastrophic brew
so I offer now suggestions to extend our lease

close your eyes and inside you will find
your earth family connected by oneness of mind
think collectively and goodness will increase

the blood of angels from your chest the flow starts
coursing with others via oneness of heart
feel in empathic wisdom and be naturally at ease

sift through wartime rubble or play in timeless sand
we choose our actions through oneness of hands
so in kinetic energy let us proceed today in peace

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

calendar of the soul

for the week of october 13 - 19

watercolor painting by Ricky

Inwardly revived again, I can feel
my own being's vastness.
I can pour forth powerful beams of thought
rising from the soul's Sun-like might -
to solve life's mysteries
and give fulfillment to many wishes
whose wings loss of hope had lamed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

east bay waldorf

serenity in el sobrante

Nestled atop a ridge along Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Contra Costa County, East Bay Waldorf School nurtures its children in the spirit of anthroposophy, educating them through the gifts of art, music, and nature. The rolling chaparral with coast live oak, eucalyptus, and maple provides the setting for this 11-acre K-8 school founded in 1980. Lavender and wild grasses grow along the perimeter, maples dot the school grounds, and a lone pepper tree stands guard next to a stuccoed bell tower in the central courtyard. A straw-bale structure houses wood-working tables, and an earthen chicken coup shelters hens and a couple of roosters. Wooden decks and large overhangs extend out from the classrooms to give students the continued feeling of protection in their daily lessons. Wood pegs lined one railing with colorful rubber boots made for small feet, apparently to let children play in puddles on rainy days - wonderful!

I was a guest teacher on Thursday, having done a main lesson for the third grade class, and an art lesson for their fourth grade class. Culturally diverse, and altogether endearing, the chidlren shared with me their joyful energy and youthful spirits.

For the third grade child, who is transitioning away from the security of oneness, and into the adventure of separateness, I had each one introduce him or herself while striking a pose, and repeating what each of their classmates also had done. As you might imagine, some had quite lively and exuberant poses, while others simple and quiet. It was my barometer to see what the students were like, and a way for me to remember their names.

Paying attention to the rhythms of our activities, I had them do a controlled exercise of passing a wood squirrel I had made, with words:

This is Sally Squirrel
There she goes
She will stop
Where the acorns grow!

Then they all placed acorn caps on their heads, and while balancing, sung to the tune of Little Tea Pot:

I'm a giant acorn
Here's my crown
When the wind blows
I fall down!

I then played my harp for them. After the end of each song, they asked for another one, and another. I was so glad they enjoyed the harp music.

The students were learning about time, so I brought as our new content and practice, wood blocks I fashioned from branches, along with sticks, and a circular mat (from our Syrendell Etsy shop). It was a partner activity where I instructed the children to count by ones using the short stick, and by fives using the long stick. Then, the sticks became the hands of the clock, and I gave them a time to match with their clock faces.

For storytime, I recounted from my own childhood the story of The Sleeping Giant, about my grandfather's adventures with me and my brothers through the countryside of the Philippines - the Sleeping Giant was a mountainside whose silhouette was that of a reclining man. The students are also learning about Cain and Abel, so I wanted to bring up in my story about my loving relationship with my younger brothers.

I closed with a simple verse, and their teacher then lead their rituals of getting ready for snack time. I felt blessed to have had the chance to be with the children and offer them some jewels of my life and work.

For the fourth grade class, I taught an art lesson on basic shading techniques using colored pencils. Their curriculum is all about the adventurous spirit of humankind - Norse mythology, Native American studies, California history. This is tied to their studies of zoology, geometry, and map making. The fourth grade child is expanding his or her boundaries, meeting the world with a mix of trepidation, wonder, and courage. Heroism is called for, strength and boldness is essential. Guidance is absolutely necessary.

I offered them the Warrior Code:

Fight for love
Aim for victory
Embrace fear
Accept destiny.

With reverence for the art instrument, I also asked them to recite with art pencil raised high above their heads:

In my hand I hold
The power to express
The beauty of my world
I use it with respect.

A classroom of 19 students, I prepared a drawing for each child from which they practiced shading corners and circles, creating three-dimensional spaces. In the end, using an extended version of the Warrior Code, with each word of the code I printed on the backs of their art papers, they reassembled their individual works to reveal the Midgard sea serpent! I had first prepped 20 sheets of paper by drawing a sea serpent (with artistic elements that allowed for the lesson on shading), then distributing them randomly in the classroom. It was like putting a puzzle together. The reveal was the coolest part of the lesson!

I was very thankful for East Bay Waldorf for welcoming me that day. It was clear to me that the teachers of the school cared deeply for the welfare of the children. I sensed in those I met, genuine and gentle souls.

In the peaceful setting of the school, through the spirits of the teachers, I
know that the children were loved and supported through their individual strivings.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

inner work

the six essential exercises

Once we develop these inner qualities, we stand above all the dangers that can arise from the division in human nature. We can no longer stray from the path. These qualities, therefore, must be formed with the greatest precision. Then we enter the esoteric life.
-Steiner, Berlin, December 7, 1905

Steiner describes a series of qualities that are essential to our growth and development. Inner work is a major construct of anthroposophy, and one can easily understand the importance of it for the Waldorf classroom teacher, and for anyone else who wants to work on their inner Self.

The six essential qualities are as follows:

1. Control of Thoughts. Mastery of one's thoughts begins with setting aside a short time each day to focus consciously on a thought, placing it center in one's mind, and actively arranging other thoughts related to it in a logical manner. In this way, one practices creating order and logic in one's mind.

2. Self-Initiated Action. Often, our actions are a result of reactive circumstances, obligations to work and family, and environmental stimuli. This exercise asks one to initiate an activity or task that is derived solely from one's own inner drive, creating a connection with one's individualistic, unique Self.

3. Eveness of Feelings. Steiner describes it as detachment or imperturbability (detachment sounds too emotionless, and imperturbability is a funky word!) so I am using "eveness of feelings." One simply practices in regulating one's emotions to weather the ups and downs of life. Also, it decribes one's ability to take an objective perspective to fully evaluate the circumstances of one's surroundings. Sometimes, it helps to step outside of the self to see oneself clearly.

4. Goodness of a Thing. In everything, there is goodness. One must practice in seeing the silver lining in every situation that arises. Yin and yang. We are confronted everyday by what appears to us as negativity. It is a higher state to see the positive within it.

5. Having Faith. In the esoteric sense, this means that every new experience is met with openness. One must practice in avoiding past events and circumstances to color how one may approach a new idea or thought or concept. This allows you more freedom to experience the fullness of the world. You become fearless.

6. Balance. This is key to any esoteric or practical training. One must practice in harmonizing one's activities so that there is time for meditation, for practicing these exercises, for family, and everything else that develops one as a fully functioning human being.

Friday, October 2, 2009

my children

joyful hearts, hands, and faces

The kids were each watercoloring an autumn image. Picture op!

(Click on the kids' pictures to view their blogs.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

sand meditation

versatility of our new sandbox

With three rocks from our collection of geological treasures and a piece of wood I cut teeth into, Joey discovered the art of the Zen garden in our own little sandbox! Traditional Japanese meditation gardens capture the essence of nature through minimalist use of the elements - stones, raked gravel, and a few carefully chosen plants.

Joey placed the three rocks with a great eye for design! Upon completing the raking, Joey commented that it needed more. I said to her, "These days, we live in a world where we always seem to want more, but really what we need to do is learn to live with less."

I introduced her to the thinking behind the Zen garden. The minimalist approach encourages one to find the most beauty in an object, in the experience. The form and color of the earth elements, their arrangement, their relationship to each other, their connection to our own life experiences, from these are derived the beauty of nature. We learn to appreciate the smallest yet most meaningful moments of our everyday life.

"You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain; I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care. As the peach blossom which flows downstream and is gone into the unknown, I have a world apart that is not among men." -- Li Po

Friday, September 25, 2009

building willfulness

a sandbox project for the kids

Arts and crafts, including wood working, plays an important role in the development of children. Creativity and imagination is expressed through handwork, building confidence, skills, and willfulness in the child. The finished product, when well conceived, is both beautiful and functional, connecting us with the world's resources and with the inner spirit. When designed, built, and enjoyed as family, handwork projects connect us to each other.

This sandbox project was completed in one day by Ricky, Joey, Wilson, and myself.

We began by designing the sandbox, whose dimensions would be fitting for Wilson. It would be compact enough to move around in the yard, yet adequate for homeschool lessons and lots of imaginative play activities!

We decided that its dimensions would be 27 inches tall to the top edge of the box, and be roughly 27 inches by 20 inches in length and width, and about 6 inches deep. We used 1 x 8 cedar fencing for the side panels,1/2 inch oak plywood for the base, and 2 x 2 cedar for the legs.

Under my supervision at all times, we cut the cedar panels to the appropriate lengths to meet the pre-exisiting dimensions of our plywood oak base.

We nailed the cedar panels to the plywood base roughly 2 inches from the bottom edge of the cedar planks.

Wilson also helped! Each nail we used a nail set tool to bury the head of the nail for a more finished look.

Using a drill, we pre-drilled holes to screw in the tops of the legs to the plywood base.

After drilling and gluing the legs into place, we used braces with 45 degree angle cuts to support the legs, gluing those into place.

When the glue was sufficiently dry and the legs appeared quite sturdy, we flipped the sandbox over and sanded the edges to minimize splinters.

Then, we poured 50 pounds of playsand into the box.

And voila! A new sandbox for Wilson - and everyone else too - to enjoy!