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Building a Foundation for Compassionate Intelligence

Easy Steps to a Safer Pregnancy - View e-book or Download PDF - FREE!
An interactive resource for moms on easy steps they can take to reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.

Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy

These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.

by Diane Gordon

How important is it for children to be exposed to nature? "Essential," says Joann Lundgren, a long-time volunteer with the Foundation for Global
Community. "The earlier children connect with the natural world, the better for them and for society as a whole"

A parent, grandparent, former teacher and school principal, Lundgren heads a team from the Foundation which offers a course for parents and
teachers titled "Children and Nature." Explains Lundgren: "Allowing the young child to experience the natural world is not just a nice thing to do.
It is vital. Children have a basic need to establish a deep emotional connection to the natural world. Until our society recognizes and finds a way
to honor this need, the future of our culture-and indeed, the future of all life-is endangered. Children who are denied the opportunity to bond with
the Earth are also denied the opportunity to develop a moral compass.

"It is this kind of profound bonding, first with the family and then with the Earth, that ensures that the child by age fourteen will have established a
foundation for compassionate intelligence-an intelligence that has the well-being of all life as its guiding principle. It is our job as adults to ensure
that our children develop that bond."

One of Lundgren's inspirations to create the course came from the writings of Thomas Berry, whose thoughts have appeared often in Timeline.
Another was a matrix model of human maturation developed by Joseph Chilton Pearce and presented in his book The Magical Child. The word
"matrix" is the Latin word for womb or origins and is defined as "that within which something originates, forms, or develops." In Pearce's model
each matrix provides a safe secure environment, a source of learning. The first transition from the womb and into a new matrix happens at birth,
which is where the Children and Nature course begins.


Three month-old Tyler is playing quietly in his crib, wriggling his fingers in front of his face and watching the play of light and shadow. His mother
enters the room and his whole being changes. His body is on alert, his eyes follow her every move, and he coos, gurgles, and burbles to get her
attention. As she turns towards him, smiles, and calls his name, he breaks out into a huge smile, turning towards her and reaching out to her with
his whole body. As she picks him up, settles down in the rocking chair, and begins nursing, his eyes never leave her face. She is the center of his
universe, as he is hers.

When a child enters this world and all has gone well during pregnancy, a strong bond has already been established with the mother, and the task
for the next few months is both to reinforce this bond and to establish the same strong bond with the father and other prime care givers. It is
during the next few months that Tyler, like all babies, will learn whether his world is a safe and trustworthy place. Will his needs be met? Will he
be loved unconditionally? Is the family a safe base from which to explore the world, and a safe haven to return to if that big world becomes a little
overwhelming? Tyler's mother intuitively understands this. She is attuned to and responsive to his needs, aware of his body language, and makes
sure that his world is filled with others who will respond in the same caring fashion. At about seven or eight months, when Tyler begins to crawl,
then begins to make his first tentative steps away from his mother, he will do so with assurance. He already knows his world is a loving, caring
place and he will have no fears about exploring beyond the reach of his parents' arms. And should it all seem a little overwhelming and frightening,
he knows they are there to take care of him. The bond to the primary nurturer is secure. He has entered an exciting new stage which will carry
him through the next three years.

Daniel, 15 months old, and his mother Jenny are taking a walk. As Jenny pushes the stroller along the tree-lined street, dappled sun and shadows
pass over Daniel's face, making him alternately blink and smile as he tries to touch the shadows with his hands. As they round the corner, they
feel a strong breeze, and Daniel lifts up his bare feet and stretches out his toes to let the wind pass though them. He sees the shiny green leaves of
a star jasmine and he stretches out his hands to touch them. Then the stroller brushes against some lavender bushes, releasing a rush of perfume.
Daniel wrinkles up his nose, sneezes, and lets out a squeal of delight.

Wisely, Daniel's mother does not interfere with his exploration. She understands the child's drive to learn about the world, does not hurry him
along, or try to explain or make this walk into a "learning experience." She simply allows Daniel to make his own discoveries, providing
opportunities but letting him explore at his own pace. At this age, and until about four years old, the child does not need explanations. He is too
busy making his own discoveries and should not be burdened with the imposition of adult attitudes-four-legged furry creatures are cute but
six-legged ones are bad! Sand is fine to play in, but stay out of the mud! The ideal role for the adult at this stage is to provide the opportunities-a
trip to the beach, a walk in the rain, a creature hunt in the garden- then to step back, alert and ready to move in if invited, or to protect the child
from harm. It is important that at this stage parents select experiences that are safe and positive. There will be time later for the child to learn
Nature's challenges and respect for her laws.

Out of all the many experiences in those first four years, the child forms a personal world view-her world is either safe or threatening; the adults
who make up her life are either trustworthy or to be approached with reserve and caution; the wider world, especially the world of nature, is
either welcoming and exciting, or a place to be avoided or feared. Hopefully, while maintaining a sensible regard for the very real dangers that
exist in the world, the key adults in the child's life are ensuring that her world view is a positive one.

It is important to note that no matter what, the young child is programmed to move out and explore the world. The child who views the world as
a fearful place will move out cautiously, with a level of anxiety which will limit his experience, while the child who has developed a positive world
view will move out with confidence, whole-heartedly welcoming new experiences.

At four years old, and with an established personal world view, the child enters a new stage. The child who at two years old joyously burst the
soap bubbles that his father blew for him, now wants to blow them himself-the biggest bubbles possible. When she was two years old, my
granddaughter loved to walk through my herb garden and simply enjoy the mix of smells. At four she needed to sample each individual scent and
know the names of each individual plant, then take her father by the hand and share everything with him. By this age the child has learned a great
deal about the world and the way it works, is beginning to test that knowledge by asking "Why?" of her surroundings, and is using her imagination
in "playing with the world in ways it is not," as educator Bruno Bettleheim phrases it.

At the local park Emma, two years old, is playing happily by herself on the lower rungs of the climbing equipment, oblivious to what is happening
just above her head. Another little girl, about four years old, is on top of the climbing equipment, looking down and snarling ferociously at Emma.
Concerned, Emma's grandmother asks the older child, "Is something wrong, honey? Is Emma bothering you?" Oh no," said the little girl, "I'm a
hyena and she's my prey," and returned to her snarling, never once disturbing Emma.

This little girl, having formed a view of how the world works and obviously having learned about hyenas, was now able to use her imagination,
shift the rules a little, and in her own fantasy world turn herself into a hyena living a hyena's domain. I remember when my sister was this age and
how she, too, bent the rules. After trailing my father as he worked in the vegetable garden, and watching as he turned the compost heap and
disturbed a family of rats, she invented her own special rat family. They, too, lived under the compost heap, but safely in their own cozy little
house. They all wore matching black and yellow soccer shirts, they could talk, and they were her playmates for several months!

At this age, from four to seven, if all has gone well, the child's imagination is in full play, and she is developing a sense of delight and wonder as
well as the creative abilities that will stay with her for life. The four-year-old has the magical capacity to see the land as an animal does and to
experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee. She imagines that with a wave of her hand she can make the sun set behind the
hills, the stars appear in the sky, the moon to shine. She can be the center of her own created universe.

Imaginative play has a fluid quality, moving easily from one "let's pretend" scenario to another, never subject to the rules the adult world may seek
to impose. This "let's pretend" play can be pure fantasy-("I'm a hyena")-or imitative, as the child imitates the everyday activities of the adults
around him-(pretending to shave like Daddy, going to the store, playing mothers and fathers). By playing these different roles-grownups, or
hyenas, or rats in a yellow and black soccer shirt-and seeing the world through different eyes, the child is beginning to develop a sense of

As adults, we are inclined to dismiss the importance of such unstructured activity, and many preschool children have such structured lives-play
dates, dancing lessons, computer activities, watching TV-that there is no time for free play. And this is a great shame, for as most prominent
educators would agree, play is the child's work. It is play that prepares the child for adulthood, play that teaches him his place in the world, and
play that teaches him how to interact with the world. It is these first seven years that provide the preparation for the next significant transition in
the child's life-bonding with the Earth.


At seven years old the child experiences phenomenal neuron growth and enters a period of what might be called insatiable curiosity-he wants to
know the why of everything. His mode of thinking changes from magical thinking to the beginnings of logical thinking. And, according to child
psychologists, the child moves, ready or not, to bond with something outside the family.

It is a rainy afternoon and in the village school the children, ranging in age from four and a half to eight years old, are engrossed in a story. All
except seven-year-old Colin, who is gazing out of the window, watching the rain. Suddenly, he lets out a yell. "Hey everyone, did you know?
When it rains, rain comes down? Immediately everyone is at the window, checking out Colin's discovery. "Yes," some of them agree, "it does,
but can we go outside to check it out?" So everyone is bundled into raincoats and rain boots and out into the playground. The little ones, the four
and five year olds, are happy simply to splash in the puddles or catch the raindrops in their hands. But the older children are embarking on
serious scientific discovery. If the rain comes down in one part of the playground, does it still come down at the top of the hill? Or by the gate?
And what happens when the rain hits the grass or the concrete path? Is it different? And then what happens? And so these seven- and eight-year-olds are embarking on their own scientific discovery of the water cycle.

In an ideal world this sense of excitement and discovery goes hand-in-hand with a compulsion to extend the ties of affection and loyalty beyond
the family to bonding with the Earth and its community of life. But our present culture has experienced a serious alienation from the natural world,
making it difficult for us to be in tune with Nature's natural rhythms and to help our children complete that bond. And because the child is
fundamentally programmed and developmentally ready to bond with something beyond the primary family, he or she will bond with the prevailing
culture-materialism and the consumer society, technology, the dominant peer group, or more tragically with the gang, the street, the drug culture.
In this environment, children gradually forget their earlier instincts that drew them to the Earth and lose their sense of belonging to something wild
and wonderful.

Fortunately there are signs of hope. Many schools, youth groups, and cities do provide opportunities for children to reawaken that sense of
wonder in the natural world. But we need to do so much more. And the most important first step is to reawaken and rediscover our own sense
of awe and wonder and learn together with our children.

In addition to making his experience of nature into an all-encompassing scientific experiment, the school age child needs to relate to the natural
world in other ways. This should be a time of secret hideouts, tree houses, a special rock or garden nook where he can sit and lose himself in a
book or dream the afternoon away-and all in a world free from adult interference. This is also a time to discover what can be done with the
Earth-planting a garden, swimming in a stream or the ocean, finding and keeping lizards and bugs, capturing fireflies, collecting rocks, watching
and naming the birds in the garden. By the time a child is ten or eleven years old and has been given these opportunities to explore and interact
with nature, he or she will have developed a love for the Earth, an empathy for living things, a respect for natural laws, and a sense of
competence in dealing with the world.

At about eleven years the child experiences another spurt of brain growth, which is accompanied by a passion for learning and a passion for
exploring new ideas. And he is ready for new challenges.

When Mike was twelve years old, his parents sold their home, bought a small ocean-worthy boat, made sure the whole family knew how to sail,
and set out on a round-the- world journey. Mike's job was to map out their route in advance and to learn something about each country they
were to visit. He was also expected to take his own turn at the wheel and to share night watch with his parents. Two years later Mike came
home with the knowledge that he could meet any challenge and others could depend on him. He had weathered ocean storms, steered the family
through 15-foot waves, and learned a new respect for Nature's challenges.

Not every young adolescent can take to the ocean as Mike did, but each can be encouraged to meet the challenges of camping, or rock
climbing, or back-packing in the mountains. It is important to emphasize again that at this age adolescents are programmed to seek challenges;
denied access to the natural world, many will seek their challenges in ways that can be unhealthy and destructive.

As the parent of any teenager knows, the other drive at this age is a compulsive one toward autonomy. This is not always an easy time for either
parent or child. But if the child's experiences though the formative years have been rooted in the natural world, that sense of autonomy will also
incorporate a profound reverence for all life and a desire to give back to the world. The child will have forged a positive foundation for a
compassionate intelligence.

Between 14 and approximately 21, the adolescent has a need to establish an identity-to know who he is and how he fits into the larger world. If
successful, the young person feels secure and comfortable within himself and is able to take a stand with peers.

From now on, the ages when transitions take place are less definite, but the progression stays the same. Pearce calls the next transition the
Mind-Brain Matrix-the time to learn to integrate the opposites in one's self. The ability to do this takes a great deal of discipline and knowledge.
A sense of wholeness and balance is the reward.

The final matrix is the Mind itself. The challenge now is to be in charge of the mind, to keep it focused on the present, to attain the still place
where I can know that I am one with all mystery and all of life. With this knowledge, one finds a place to give back to society. Life has meaning.
The capstone of the journey is a Compassionate Intelligence, the coming together of heart and mind for the benefit of all life.

Diane Gordon, who wrote this article, and Joann Lundgren, are co-presenters at the Children and Nature workshops and presentations.
Gordon's interest in discovering and sharing the wonders of nature goes back many years, as evidenced by the story that follows this article.
Together with other team members, Lundgren and Gordon have given the course to about 250 teachers, parents, and grandparents, as well as to
other groups who work with children.

The team has produced a packet of materials that form the basis of the course. It's available for $10 from Foundation for Global Community
Distribution Department, 222 High Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301.

©2000 Foundation for Global Community, reprinted with permission from Timeline E-mail Edition, March/April 2001 - No. 56, A Publication of the Foundation for Global Community.  Click here to send an e-mail request to subscribe to Timeline E-mail Edition

The latest web site on this topic is Children, Nature and You

This Web page is referenced from other pages containing related information about Breastfeeding/Nursing/Infant Nutrition


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