anthroposophy

Separating Grief and Trauma

How do we proceed with such important matters so that, by cultivating the right attitude and taking the right actions, we might even prevent certain developments? Because that also is part of our task since Anthroposophy would be meaningless if we only practiced it privately for ourselves.—Ita Wegman, 1933


Over the past week, I attended the London Book Fair and was able to meet some friends of SteinerBooks in the UK. This meeting of people from around the world was united through the written word and its ability to bring people together. While we were there, we heard about rising knife violence in London, a tragic plane crash in Ethiopia, and a shooting at a mosque in New Zealand. The outside world kept moving, while we learned of new thoughts and ideas that could help the world.

How do we help our communities overcome the trauma, begin to grieve, and finally heal? How do we continue to live in the world, while learning new ways to engage and support our fellow citizens? Today, I will share some books that are helping me work through these questions.

“Despite some essential similarities between trauma and grief, there are obvious differences that one needs to be aware of. As part of a sociological study, William Steele and Melvyn Raider (2001, 155) listed the following differences between trauma and grief responses. While the grieving process involves feelings of sadness that have no effect on the griever’s self-image or self-confidence, trauma evokes a sense of horror and overwhelming powerlessness and leads to a loss of any sense of safety, a distorted self-image and the loss of self-reliance. Grief results in despondence while trauma leads to silent suffering.” - Bernd Ruf, Educating Traumatized Children

We need to understand the difference between trauma and grief if we are to help our communities heal after tragic events and to provide a process to help others restore their faith in the world. We can do this through soul nurturing activities like reading fairy tales to children, connecting to nature, and establishing rituals to ground us in times of inconceivable world events. We need to practice activities that interrupt what Bernd Ruff calls “shock energy”.

Many of us would like a handbook for working through trying times such as these. No matter how we work through this shock energy, we must move through it.

More Radiant than the Sun will be a valuable companion for anyone ready to move beyond reading verses into working with verses by Rudolf Steiner. This handbook offers verses, exercises, and original instructions from Steiner, along with commentary, suggestions, and context from Gertrude Reif Hughes, a student of Anthroposophy for much of her life.

Centering Prayer and the Healing of the Unconscious is an essential work for all those interested in the history and practice of centering prayer. In addition to describing the background of this unique and effective practice, Fr. Ó Madagáin offers unique insights into the ideas of one of its leading contemporary teachers and practitioners.

Our world will continue to swing between tragedy and joy, but we have an opportunity to grow stronger and wiser during the times of conflict so that we can live more deeply in joy in times of health.



What Does it Mean to Be Human?

On many winter Sundays you can find me at our local ski mountain, as a ski instructor. Our wonderful nonprofit is a winter playground to our communities’ children and families. I have had the pleasure of teaching many of our community children to ski over the last two seasons.

Last Sunday was different, as I was asked to teach a young man that doctors told his parents would likely not walk, or talk much less ski. G, as I will refer to him, was born 12 weeks premature and with a brain bleed that was shunted. I met G, now age 19 and his mom last Sunday, and spent over two hours helping my new friend make turns in the freshly fallen snow.

“...the people in ancient times were aware that everything in the human being is connected not only with the things that develop on Earth but also with everything that the eye can see when it turns towards the heavens.” - Rudolf Steiner, What is Necessary in These Urgent Times, (CW196)

I found myself with a broad smile as I guided my new friend down our ski trails. I look forward to meeting him tomorrow and learning more from a boy that many thought would never communicate. In him, you can see how much we do not understand and how much we have yet to learn.

“Our task is to discover the real difference between those processes in the human organism that we call disease processes—which are basically quite normal, natural processes, even though specific causes must precipitate them—and the everyday processes that we call healthy. We must discover this radical distinction, but we shall not be able to do so if we cannot take up a way of looking at human beings that really leads to their essential nature.” —Rudolf Steiner, Introducing Anthroposophical Medicine (CW 312)





Fellowship and Community Building

It is certainly clear to anybody who keeps up with the way civilization and culture are presently developing that the times themselves demand the deepening of knowledge, the ethical practice, the inner religious life that anthroposophy has to offer. On the other hand, however, a society such as ours has to act as a vanguard in an ever wider disseminating of those elements that are so needed under the conditions that prevail today. - Rudolf Steiner, Awakening to Community, SteinerBooks / Anthroposophic Press

I visited a special place this week, The Fellowship Community, An Inter-Generational Care Community, settled on 80 acres of farm and forest, 90 minutes north of New York City. The Fellowship Community serves the needs of elder members through the phases of aging. A place like no other I have experienced. The warmth of the community cuts through the winter temperatures and leaves you with a sense that this experience has changed you in some way.

The members of this community, including our dear friends at Mercury Press, are there to support their fellow community members in an aging process that is not only dignified but energized by the spirit of everyone you meet. My only wish is that all Americans could experience their final days on this earth in a place that celebrates this transformation and the journey ahead.

Today, I am sharing Rudolf Steiner’s lecture, Awakening to Community, in the hopes that you all can find ways to bring care and celebration to those in your community who need your fellowship. - Kathy Donchak

If this anthroposophical life is to develop in a practical direction, everything it undertakes must be born of fearless knowledge and a really strong will. This presupposes learning to live with the world in a truly anthroposophical way. People used to learn to live anthroposophically by fleeing the world. But they will have to learn to live anthroposophically with the world and to carry the anthroposophical impulse into everyday life and practice.
— Rudolf Steiner

How to Achieve Existence in the World of Ideas

Two Lectures Cycles, Followed by Two Christmas Lectures Dornach, October 3–7 
and December 12–20, 1914; Dornach, December 26 and Basel, December 27, 1914 (CW 156)

The first lectures expand on the idea of inner “reading” and “hearing” as the path to spiritual knowing. The spiritual world gives something and we, as spiritual researchers, receive and then read or interpret it. Spiritual knowledge is not a matter of will, desire, or intention on our part, but a gift from the spiritual world for which we must prepare ourselves by silencing our desires, emptying ourselves, and presenting ourselves in humility and devotion to the spiritual world. Then we become aware of the reality that the spiritual world is nowhere else but here, all around us; and if we dissolve the sense of being skin-bound, we can become open to it, reflect its images in our astral bodies, and then learn to read them by identification. Steiner describes this complex, subtle, existential and living process, in which ultimately we can become one with the universe, in a masterful way from which anyone who meditates, or wishes to begin to meditate, will gain a great deal.

The second lecture cycle, “How to Achieve Existence in the World of Ideas,” deepens the themes developed in the first cycle, so that the two together provide a useful guide to the processes underlying meditation or learning to know the spiritual world. At the same time, because work was just beginning on the building that would become the Goetheanum, Steiner connects the esoteric principles of its design with the overall theme of the suprasensory human being in relation to meditation and spiritual knowing.

The volume closes with two wonderful lectures in celebration of Christmas. Here Steiner has a threefold emphasis: Christ, supraearthly, glorious, and divine, fully united with humanity and the Earth and born in each human heart. To celebrate Christmas truly means that we recognize all three of these as one in the spiritual world, in the earthly world, and in ourselves. Learn more

The Language of the Consciousness Soul: A Guide to Rudolf Steiner’s “Leading Thoughts”

The impulses of the consciousness soul tend toward isolation and separation if not practiced anthroposophically. This can be seen as a tragedy for humanity. Nevertheless, it is exactly this inner solitude of contemporary human beings that awakens a great longing for community. Anthroposophy needs to be experienced in the stillness of the soul, but it gives rise to community most significantly when, through the cooperation and unified efforts of many, something higher can take shape.
— Rudolf Steiner

In The Language of the Consciousness Soul, Carl Unger unfolds and expands Rudolf Steiner’s “leading thoughts” to help the reader comprehend the deeper meaning behind the words. Unger lets us see how Rudolf Steiner created a mandala-like image of Anthroposophy, revealing an ever-expanding cosmology and epistemology that goes far beyond mere philosophy or a belief system to a practical path of spiritual investigation and knowledge for modern humankind.


Practical Training in Thought

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The revolutionary ideas that come to education in the future will come from the hoards of parents leading the experimental movement called homeschooling. 

I am reading a new book that was sent by Steiner Books, one that a few sentences into the first chapter, I said: “oh my…”. 

Books are my favorite way to learn of new ideas, and consider them against my own beliefs and experiences. 

This book had an energy to it. I knew I would want to share it but not in the physical sense - get your own! This one will be on my bookshelf to share with my kids.

I consider books an asset of ideas to pass down to my kids. What if you had a personal collection of books, and notes to tell your kids how it changed your thinking? A hope chest or bottom drawer of ideas to consider has been whirling in my mind for a while now. A physical collection of ideas to consider as they make their way in the world. 

My father was a reader; he loved a good crime novel or book of history. We traded books often when we lived nearby, and later in life when I moved out of state and Amazon became my gift (book) delivery service, I would send him books I thought he would enjoy. 

Home library collections can show the journey of discovery over our lifespan. 

As families dive into the possibility of directing their child’s education, Waldorf education is likely to come into view. As I began searching for methods to consider with my children, the healing power of sunlight diffused rooms, natural materials, beautiful chalk drawings drew me in without even as much as a small understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy on education. It just felt right.

How many things in our lives just feel right?

The book I chose for my first read was Anthroposophy in Everyday Life: Four Lectures by Rudolf Steiner published by Steiner Books. The book drew me in from the introduction. 

“we find their so-called “practical thought” is often not thought at all but only continuing pursuit of traditional opinions and habits.” Rudolf Steiner

As parents dive into the world of home education, they will find themselves in a sea of opinions and habits of others. Without realizing it, we look to authorities to see our way, not governmental authorities necessarily, but rather individuals that have become an expert in homeschooling. 

I would venture to say there is no such thing. 

We need thought leaders and visionaries to share ideas without authority, much like our hope chest of ideas to consider. I believe in my small understanding of Steiner; he gave indications for learning which is what will bring the revolution needed in education. As a visionary, his thinking was years ahead of others, but it is time we begin to unwrap his thoughtful gifts for the well-being of our children and theirs.

My initial thoughts on Practical Training in Thought Karlsruhe, January 18,1909.

If we embarked on this journey of directing our children’s education through homeschooling to help them retain and discover who they are and what their journey through life will bring to the world, then Practical Training in Thought is an essential foundational skill.    

" When something really practical has been invented, it has often been done by a person without practical knowledge of that particular subject." R.S. 

This statement confirms what millions of parents are doing worldwide for their children by directing their education. The innovations of business, science, the arts, and design thinking are coming together in pursuit of a vibrant, safe education for our children. 

Training your thought begins with practicing in nature. It is something I do without even thinking, but Steiner's words remind me that we must practice objective thinking and nature allows us the perfect connection.

I don't want to ruin the experience for you by telling you every detail, but take a moment each day and look up at the sky. Don't try to define the type of clouds or predict the weather, just observe and you are well on your way to training your thinking mind.

I will share more of my impressions from Anthroposophy in Everyday Life: Four Lectures by Rudolf Steiner by Steiner Books, but why wait? Order your copy and read along with me.