March/April 2002 Spirituality
It was an overcast day and snowing slightly as I was rode up the ski lift with Chip, a small thirteen-year-old. It was only his second ski trip ever. We were chatting and enjoying the beautiful view of Lake Tahoe as we went uphill. As we climbed, we noticed the wind becoming stronger, so strong that we buttoned our coats and wrapped our scarves tighter.
Suddenly a strong gust caught the car and swung us side-to-side; the ski lift slowed because of the danger. Enjoying the adventure for the most part, I did glance below to be sure we were over soft snow, not sharp trees!
Again a gust of wind blew and the car rocked. Chip groaned as the ski lift ground to a halt. Noticing his white knuckles gripping the safety bar, I turned to look at his face. He was paralyzed with fear, eyes wide and skin pale. Its okay, I said, suddenly feeling a wave of fear myself as the cars rocked and some people ahead of us screamed. I took a long slow breath to calm down and put my hand on his arm.
Then I heard him muttering, his eyes shut tight. I leaned closer, to hear him reciting, I can do everything when so I think; I can do everything when so I think.
This was a line of an affirmation I knew his class had been learning! Was he ever applying it at the right time! Watching him muster up his will not to look and not to give in to fear, but rather to affirm his power, was amazing. The color began to come back into his face. As we sat there not moving, he was finally able to open his eyes, and by avoiding looking down, chat a little and laugh at my feeble jokes.
Finally, the lift moved again, very slowly. The car rocked and rolled and after all the passengers disembarked for a last run down into the piercing wind, the lift closed for the day. Conditions were too unsafe!
Seeing this boy petrified one moment, and using the tool of affirmation to take control the next, was a thrill for me. The best part of this story, and this is true; Chip went on to conquer his fear of heights and in high school got a job at a ski resort in order to get in as much skiing as he could!
An essential tool in achieving our goals
In the Education for Life system of education, there are four aspects of each individual that are developed: body, feeling, will, and intellect. While some other systems of education address three of these (Waldorf, or example), the conscious guidance in using ones will-power is neglected in most schools.
The term will has a negative connotation because we often think of it only as the exerting of will-power over another; however, will-power when used for self-mastery, is an essential tool for overcoming obstacles and achieving our goals.
As everyone whos lived with a teen-ager knows: The child in puberty is going to put lots of energy into expressing her will! That process can either be one of positive growth or one of turmoil. One reason sports can be so positive for children, pre-teens and teens is that sports engage not only the body, but the powerful will of the teen. Many other activities can do the same thing: practicing music, or working to achieve some goal such as Eagle Scout or the right to drive the car, for example.
If a child has been taught the use of affirmations at an earlier age (say at ten years), he can utilize them to help achieve his goals and overcome obstacles, just as Chip did. A teacher at a California Living Wisdom School had her fifth and sixth-graders each choose an area they wanted to improve in and write their own affirmations. Later they put a few of them to music and recorded them. My favorite was one I wish every pre-teen could internalize:
Courage to take the first new step;
New faces and new places I can accept.
Brave and exciting. Have the courage to be strong.
I KNOW I CAN.
Susan Dermond is the contributing editor of I Came from Joy, a spiritual activity book for children, and the Director of the Living Wisdom School, Pre-school-Gr. 7. Yoga for children is offered at the school on Saturdays. Call 503 671-9112 for more information on the school or Saturday classes.