by Robin Gurse
It takes more that personal spirituality to build a spiritual family with your loved ones.
I remember that, as a young child, I used to love to water the flowers in our backyard. My mother would plant sweet peas, pansies, daisies, and geraniums. Intoxicated by the magical smells and contrasting colors, I would enter a dream state and commune with these wonderful designs of nature. Once, a few years later, when I was about 12, I went on a field trip to a large nursery. Seeing and smelling an “ocean” of greenery, color, shape, and texture, I felt almost overwhelmed by the beauty of it all; l remember saying to myself that I believed in God.
Spirituality Without a Spiritual Family
My transcendent moments were my own; they were not tied to a spiritual family. Though I was brought up Jewish, went to Sunday school, celebrated holidays, and participated in rituals-all of which sustained me, made me feel proud, safe, happy, and secure-I believe those experiences with nature were some of my first tastes with the sacred. However, while they were transcendent and meaningful to me, I don’t ever remember sharing them with anyone, as it didn’t feel safe to open myself up. I didn’t have a spiritual family. No one I knew talked about these kinds of things, and I hadn’t read any book that spoke to what I felt. So I kept it all to myself, grateful for these magical moments of life.
According to Rabbi Sandy Sasso, as told to Krista Tippett, host of “Speaking of Faith,” “…we know…, from research, that all children by the time they are age five have a conception of God, whether or not we’ve talked about God to them as parents….What children seem to lack is a language to give expression to that sense of something deeper.”
How do you nurture your child’s spiritual life? How do you give them that language? What do you say to your child when he/she asks: “Where does God live?” “Why don’t we believe in God?” “Why isn’t life fair?” I invite you to consider yourself (and your spouse/partner, if you have one) as a spiritual leader of your family.
How Do You Lead Your Spiritual Family?
Try on a few of the following ideas:
Begin with yourself. Whether or not you believe in a higher power, take time to reflect, to read, to take a walk….notice how spiritual or ethical matters come up for you in your everyday life. What do you feel, think, assume, and do when a stranger asks you for money? What is your attitude when you speak with your own parent(s)?
Practice transparency for your spiritual family. Once you have a sense of what really matters to you, share what you’ve learned with family members. Begin to introduce, acknowledge, and model your values; e.g., mercy, compassion, charitable acts, awe, and gratitude.
Invite them to contribute. Give your family members the opportunity to come up with, and follow through on, their own ideas, values, experiences, and actions to express their spiritual nature. For example, I once had a client spiritual family that identified “friendship” as one of their core values. At the beginning of the school year, the 12-year-old girl chose to express that value by making it a point of introducing herself to each new student in her classrooms.
Spiritual Family Prayer
Pray with your children. Again, from Rabbi Sasso: “I … feel that it’s very important to pray with children, mostly, because our children are so bombarded with noise and activity and there’s very little time for silence and reflection….in moments of quiet and silence, children give us a glimpse of their souls….ask children if they would tell you a prayer from their heart.” She goes on to say that if they don’t have one, ask if you may share one from yours, so that you provide an example of “what does it mean to say deep words….Name your hopes, name what you’re grateful for, name your fears. That’s a prayer.”
What if there are no wrong questions and no right answers? What if what really matters is listening to each other and feeling we’ve been heard? What if we were more comfortable with mystery, discovery, and being present to each other? What if you enriched your child’s journey by sharing your own, warts and all? Might there be just a bit more love and joy to spread around, even to the dirty, smelly person sitting on the sidewalk? Or to the dirty, smelly part of ourselves we wish we could ignore? Open yourself to your family, and they will open themselves in turn and help build a spiritual family.
Robin is a certified Family Coach committed to helping families work together and sort out differences. You can visit her website to find out more about building a strong and a spiritual family.