So often we hear the term spirituality in today’s conversations. A “new age” word that is bantered around and yet there are still many of us who do not understand exactly how the term is defined and its greater meaning. Even more so, when we speak of children’s spirituality we seem to be at a complete loss. Spirituality has been defined and framed in many ways.
But quite simply it is who we are. It is a state of being that lies within us as our core essence or source, connected to a greater universal source called by many names. It is our true identity as opposed to our humanness, which you can picture as a temporary costume we put on to experience a specific lifetime.
As children, we are aware of this inherent knowledge. We do not need to learn it. We often see children behaving spontaneously, impulsively, with freedom and without self-consciousness. This is because they know who they “are” and they have not yet forgotten. As we move into adulthood and become more immersed in the material human world with its many distractions this knowing begins to fade into the background. However, this memory, of our true identity, is never completely erased. It’s only a matter of how far away we have traveled from it.
All of us are born into a certain ethnicity we identify with. I was born into a Greek family, which has a very strong sense of identity – the ethnic Greek identity that is. It is instilled as a cultural, moral, religious, specific way of life that mostly all Greeks adopt and adhere to. But it is merely a temporary human identity taken on for this specific lifetime. I was never taught I am a spiritual being having a temporary physical existence of my choosing and my creation, for the purpose of remembering who I am and thus expanding my own consciousness; that of those around me while simultaneously being a vital element of the collective human consciousness. Being born into a specific ethnicity is the vehicle we use to come to our own understanding of who we are.
When I gave birth to my son, I chose to raise him with a sense of his true spiritual identity alongside his human ethnic identity. I instinctively knew this would be the most important gift I could give him. The gift of allowing his inherent spiritual identity to remain not only intact but to flourish would serve to guide him throughout his life. It would alter the direction of his life. It would shift the perspective from which he operated as an adult; affect every decision, harness his ever-expanding consciousness, his compassion and empathy, his sense of equanimity and harmony. It would always allow him to speak his truth and stay in peace. But most importantly it would allow him to move in this world without fear.
In giving him a sense of himself I was able to reclaim my own sense of self. As a parent, it was the silver lining I did not expect. As a single mom I faced many challenges, but this was my greatest. As my son moved into his teenage years, I saw so many of his friends and fellow students seeking for answers to help them cope and navigate the world they were moving in, trying to establish their sense of self, that for many seemed elusive. They had forgotten what they inherently knew to be true about their identity. It was being knocked out of them with each passing year.
What if we had a set of teachings or a curriculum that was offered to us as young children, pre-adolescents, teenagers and young adults that kept us in line with that knowledge? That identity? What if that teaching became the foundation from which to build their lives? How would that affect the adults they would choose to become? In every moment we are making choices that define who we are. Our behaviors stem from these choices and these choices stem from our beliefs. What are we choosing to believe? What are we taught to believe? I knew we had to return to the beginning, to the point where we begin to forget, and re-instill that education alongside our human experience–a spiritual guide and teaching that allows students to reinforce their sense of self. It exists and this is how we change the world, one child at a time.
Leda Anagnostopoulos, CHHC is an educator and founder of the “Identity Consciousness Education…I-CE (pronounced “I See”)”™ program/ curriculum for students. She has her own practice, certified in Mindfulness Education, a BA from NYU, an MA in School Health Education with additional certification from Columbia Teachers College and the Teachings of the Pathwork of Personal Transformation. Her I-CE program is currently implemented at Gathering of Light, an Interspiritual Fellowship, (gatheringoflight.org).