Category Archives: Spirituality

Why can’t you stay still!

Not sure I’ve ever heard a child say this, but this is a question I often ask mine and I think I could nonetheless learn something from it myself – and learning from our children is a large part of the theme of my blog so…… please indulge me.

 

Why can’t they stay still?

I don’t know where other Mums learnt to do fancy hair styles on their girls, but I obviously didn’t go there. And if she moves, that’s it…..forget the plaits, it’s bunches time.

Children do not stay still. That’s part of what makes them exciting to be around. It’s also why, despite my most sanctimonious thoughts prior to having kids, I cherished CBeebies when they were toddlers: it could stop them in their tracks long enough for me not be on red alert for 5 seconds!1

Busy people crave stillness, but we assume it’s totally unfeasible; we laugh when people suggest it and we see it as sheer indulgence. Yet, I think there are ways we can incorporate stillness into our daily lives however busy they are, and I think we’ll feel stronger for it.

I’m not about to give a potted history of Lent, which of course starts tomorrow (while we’re still scrubbing the pancake batter off our kitchen cupboards)! But to help us find stillness, let’s just think what the Christian period of Lent is supposed to point to.  Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness fasting and bracing himself for the challenges ahead of him. I’m really not suggesting we can take that sort of time!

But to consciously – and not by accident – take ourselves away from the things and people and circumstances that distracts us, even if only for 5 minutes a day and actively be still and consider ourselves as individuals and not as a cog in a whole sequence of wheels, can uplift us and strengthen us.

2And I know that while considering my future and searching my soul would be useful, I don’t often feel emotionally up to it. But to light a candle and watch the flame flicker, see the mini tornado of black smoke spiral out of its tip and almost hear the wax drops hit the pristine smooth white candle – that I can do. As I do it I may not think of anything, but not thinking of anything is sometimes the point of stillness: our busy minds and hearts need a rest. Then perhaps we can look deeper into ourselves and it can be helpful, rather than feel like your heart’s in a brace.

So, whatever you’re faith or background – whether you’re an agnostic, atheist, humanist, pagan – allow a bit of stillness into your life. This can be a time of restoration. Why can’t you just stay still?

We may think we can’t aspire to having times of stillness, and that it is a sheer indulgence. I think it really is possible and necessary; necessary all the more for those of us who feel it’s an indulgence.

And partly with that in mind I’m going on a little blog-cation, as I believe the pros call it. Sometimes we can just try and fit too much in can’t we?  But I’ll be back.

In the meantime, please do let me know questions your children have asked you, because Big Questions from Little Minds can teach us “bigger”minds so much.

 

 

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Why don’t we celebrate Halloween?

Halloween has lost its way.  It WAS all about light repelling darkness. Druids carved out frightening pumpkin faces and lit them in their windows to ward off evil spirits; they were seeking to reassert control of good over evil and to protect their homes from malign powers, on the night the dead were thought to visit the living. 1

Today, it’s children who are decked out in gory wigs and skulls, pretending to be those visiting ghouls. I totally appreciate that many Mums I know choose to tightly control how Halloween is marked in their homes. Wearing an old sheet in a bid to get some chocolates from the neighbours hardly means inculcating a sense of the manipulative power of evil in your children. However, the question I’m left with is this: why are we – on one level – somehow fascinated by evil and how does it affect us?

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I understand how going into Poundland and seeing a mass of green witch wigs, orange spiders and plastic blood-stained fingers, gets many children excited. That’s the crux of the matter for me.

Hardly a night goes by without some documentary on television detailing horrific crimes. The Sunday Papers give break-downs of exactly how a hostage has been tortured in minute detail. It sells. Under the cover of current affairs, it’s permitted by society. I believe there’s a streak within us all  – and it surfaces with different prompts – that gets excited by evil. This is complicated and I don’t profess to understand it, but it’s why the most docile of people can be gripped by a thriller about an axe murderer, or the grimmest of crime dramas.

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I think it’s important to recognise this proclivity, but it’s vital not to indulge it. When we indulge it, we let go of a bit more humanity and we also tell our children that’s ok, or possibly worse still, that it’s a joke.

I remember reading a grisly book. It was well written, by a highly regarded novelist, but it detailed dreadful crimes. I couldn’t give it to the charity shop, so I put it in the bin. I didn’t want anyone else carrying the burden of having read what I’d read and feeling guilty for keeping going too long. Choosing to read another chapter was wrong and I lost a bit of humanity in the process.

Today, whatever you believe about the tangible presence of evil, we can all recognise darkness in our society. If only we were able to remodel Halloween and encourage our children to see this as a time of celebrating light overcoming darkness, in how we engage with poverty, homelessness and vulnerability in our communities.

We often feel overwhelmed by suffering we see around us. This Halloween our children will be putting up lanterns (still pumpkins) and remembering people who need light in the darkness of their lives. We’ll be dressing up as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and going to one of the many Light parties churches and other organisations put on around this time – children can still do the apple-bobbing and pumpkin carving, but with a positive message to take home.  And, because we don’t just want to be merely spinning the story, we aim to try and shine some light, however small, in a practical way, buying some hats to be taken by a friend of ours helping refugees in Calais.

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The days in the Church calendar of All Hallows and then All Souls (both following Halloween) are about remembering those who’ve died. Their lives may have shone a powerful light on our own.  Maybe we can start using Halloween as a way to lighten the lives of others and bring hope rather than fear?

So how do you mark Halloween? Should I just take a chill pill and have fun? Or do you think there’s a sinister side we need to keep in check? And if we want to, how can we be light overcoming darkness? Please do join in the debate.