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.

Education and the Moral Life

Today we have anthropology and we have psychology.

Anthropology’s main concern is the abstract observation of the

physical aspect of the human being, while that of psychology

is the abstract observation of the human soul and spirit as

entities separate from the physical body. What is missing is the

anthroposophical perspective, which observes the human

being—body, soul, and spirit—as a unity; a point of view that

shows everywhere how and where spirit is flowing into matter,

sending its forces into material counterparts.

- Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy Part 2

Education and the Moral Life

Rudolf Steiner


Everyone involved to any degree at all in social life will certainly feel that the moral aspect is one of the most important aspects in the entire field of education. At the same time, one realizes that it is precisely this aspect that is the most subtle and difficult one to handle, for it relates to the most intimate area of education.

I have already emphasized that educational practice needs to be built on real knowledge of, and insight into, the human being. The comprehension, perception and observation that I tried to characterize last night will give the knowledge necessary to train the child’s cognitional capacities. Practically speaking, knowledge of the human being, supported by the science of the spirit, will enable one to reach, more or less easily, the child’s powers of cognition. One will be able to find one’s way to the child. If, on the other hand, one wishes to appeal to a child’s artistic receptivity as described yesterday, which is equally important, it is necessary to find a way to each child individually, to have a sense for the way various children express themselves from an artistic comprehension of the world. When it comes to moral education, all of one’s skill for sensitive observation and all of one’s intimate psychological interest must be kept in mind, so that all the teacher’s knowledge of the human being and of nature can be put at the service of what each child brings forth individually. To reach children in a moral way, the only choice is to approach each child on an individual basis. However, with regard to moral education, yet another difficulty has to be overcome—that is, an individual’s sense of morality can only be appealed to through full inner freedom and with full inner cooperation.

This requires that educators approach moral teaching so that, when later in life the students have passed the age of formal education, they can feel free as individuals in every respect. What teachers must never do is to pass on to developing students the relics of their own brand of morality or anything derived from personal sympathies or antipathies in the moral realm. We must not be tempted to give our own ethical codes to young people as they make their way into life, since these will leave them unfree when it becomes necessary that they find their own moral impulses. We must respect and acknowledge the young person’s complete inner freedom, particularly in the realm of moral education. Such respect and tolerance truly demand a great deal of selflessness from educators, and a renunciation of any self-interest. Nor is there, as is the case in all other subject matters, the opportunity of treating morality as a subject in its own right; as such, it would be very unfruitful. The moral element must be allowed to pervade all of one’s teaching.

What Makes a Great Teacher?


A conversation with Dr. Lakshmi Prasanna about her upcoming residential retreat in Sacramento, left me wanting to understand more about a spiritual path for teachers towards thinking and knowing.

As she described her event, I was struck that it was a beginning of a journey for the participants and their teachers. It is uncomfortable, intense and freeing at the same  time. There is no prerequisite to this training other than to be open and willing, but that does not mean it will be easy. As with any transformational experience, you will feel the joy of discovery and the fatigue as well.

As I asked her to explain the process of her retreat, I felt her words with great intensity and curiosity to understand more from this great teacher. I knew it was a new level of learning, not because I had read a study or found evidence in a scientific journal, but because my intuitive mind was open enough to receive it. 

Being open is unnerving and exciting. It is also the gateway to learning.

She like many great healers, speaks on a different level, not intellectually superior, but rather spiritually higher. It is a process that allows the ideas and sensations to come to you as your sleep and digest them. You will begin to unravel them long after the conversation or class ends. You will,  as I did this morning, have moments of 'oh...that is what she meant'.

As we learn from teachers like Lakshmi, we begin to exercise our patience muscles that we had in our first years of life. It is like being born into a new awareness, and as with any birth you must have patience, heal from the process of growing and birthing, and resting after your release. It is this resting that allows you to connect with her teaching and you begin to learn. You begin to learn to connect with the spirit of your inner knowledge and your personal beliefs, your intuitive intellect. This way of knowing that is yours and yours alone.  

To become a great teacher, you must be connected with your intuitive intellect, your way of knowing the world. 

It is the only way to teach, guide, and love.

To become a great teacher, you need a great teacher.

She’s doing the work, asking the questions, and doing that heart-thinking thing I’ve been hearing so much about. Reading this was like talking with a close friend. My heart feels warmed. People who went to see her lecture said that about her: she’s just embodied love, and you feel it in the room when she’s there. Hooray for love.
— Reader Review: Autism Meet Me Who I Am -Andrew via GoodReads April 2018

It is the space of love that she brings us her work and also makes the experience of speaking to her so precious. I felt like I was able to go to my village elder and seek guidance, wisdom, and love even though I never asked for any of those things. She exudes this essence, it comes from her as she connects to you.

Dr. Lakshmi Prasanna, is a true gift to the world and her retreats are a gateway into the question, what is it to be human?' something I believe Steiner himself would consider a creative force.

You can join Dr. Lakshmi Prassana in her US based retreat in Sacramento, June 18-22, 2018. Space is limited, so sign up today. You will begin a journey to a new way of knowing to guide the children in your care. A spiritual gift of a lifetime.

Kids Don't Need Socialization, Kids Need Belonging

Teaching always has been, and I hope will always remain, an intensely human endeavor. We become what we teach and we teach what we are.
— Practical Advice to Teachers, Rudolf Steiner

Across the United States families are planning summer activities and travel, but for many like me, their mind is pointed towards next fall and contemplating homeschooling their children. They search online in groups asking strangers questions and hoping to find the answer to their own very personal query.

  • Should we homeschool?
  • Can I homeschool my kids and work?
  • Can I really teach my own kids?
  • Is homeschooling better for my sensitive child?
  • Will my children have friends?
  • Will they belong?
  • Will I?

Those last questions were on my mind as I spoke to a friend a couple of weeks ago. As working mothers who direct their children’s education, we did not come to homeschooling from a calling per se, but instead because we wanted our children to be able to follow their individual needs. As we spoke about summer travel plans of camps and activities, our conversation turned to one about belonging. Before we knew it, we were asking how do we help our children find their tribe? How do we help them know they belong? How do we? Is that important?

Parents who homeschool are fiercely independent, otherwise, we would not ever consider this as an option. As women with work we love, we also feel the tug of doubt. The little voice that says 'sure they are academically strong, good humans, and creative beings' but what about community and friendships, do they belong?

We did not realize that was the question we were trying to answer, with our cooperative learning days and classes, but there it is right out in the open. How can we help our children feel a part of a community?

Next fall will be our third homeschooling year and fourth grade for our sons. I remember being a teacher and looking forward to that last day of school, but as a homeschooling parent, I am looking for guidance as the boys change and so do their educational needs for the coming year. I am also looking for a place for our family to belong.

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.
— Simone Weil

It gave me peace of mind to look forward to planning another homeschool year. School as a Journey, An Eight-Year Odyssey of a Waldorf Teacher by Torin M. Finser is a well-loved book by many Waldorf teachers, but as a parent directing our children’s education, I find that it answers many questions. We get a rare look from a Waldorf class teacher as the author shares his innermost thoughts as he too contemplates teaching from year to year. As a parent and a teacher, it inspires me into another year of watching my children grow and learn.

He talks about playing games with the children, and memories of long games of kick the can with neighborhood kids ran through my mind. That one friend at the end of my street was my first and lasting friend. All of these years later, we still check in from time to time by phone and meet for coffee when I visit my family.

In School as a Journey, Torin Finser walks you through his journey as a Waldorf class teacher, but more importantly for me, I start to see how being a Waldorf parent is a place to belong for me and my children. It allows you to see education as a meaningful path of development for your family rather than a list of things to learn. It is a community where you belong.

This first-hand account is part practical advice and inspiration from one educator to another, while he worked to provide teaching that would help children grow intellectually but also grow their inner life through creative teaching. The practice that Waldorf teacher’s stay with their class for eight years is a way to witness the inner and outer changes in human development. It also provides children with a sense of belonging.

They entered the room with greater certainty and confidence, assured of a place in the world.
— Torin M. Finser, School as a Journey

The book provides actionable suggestions with a chapter on each grade level that gives the reader an overview of the goals and content of each year. It also shares the why of the content that is missing in so many books about teaching. This book helped me dive into another season of planning while I watch the two people in the world that my husband and I love most deeply bloom, change, and discover who they are and that yes, they do belong.

School as a Journey, an Eight Year Odyssey, by Torin M. Finser, is available from Steiner Books. It is a book, you will go back to from year to year in your Waldorf homeschool journey, to find your common ground and inspire you into another year of discovery. Get your copy from Steiner Books today.