Behold the Children
by Meria Heller
I have had the pleasure of working with children for the past two years, and want to let the whole world know that there is more than enough hope for the future of humankind. As you may know from my past contributions to The New Times, my work is always on the positive side, and I believe in and choose peace and perfection as the future of my world. My work with children proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I want to share this joy with you, and I want you to share it with everyone you know, every soul that is down, every being that is depressed, those without hope for the future. Tell them that the children are here, and their souls and their gifts are intact.
As the teacher and founder of the Universal Medicine Wheel, a tool for our generation and all races, I found myself volunteering at "The Desert Center" in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is a beautiful place in natural surroundings, where all the elementary school children in the valley come on a field trip to learn how to steward the desert.
They teach the children about the animals of the desert, the plants, the rocks, and the Natives that used to live here, primarily the Hohokam (approximately 1,000 years ago). The goal is to educate the children about the desert so they can acclimate themselves to it, but more so, for them to take care of it.
We are losing one acre an hour of the desert, and the key is educating the children. I am there teaching them about the "circle of life." This story is the children's story, and what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears. Some of it is truly amazing, as I'm sure you will agree.
Each week I get to work with approximately one hundred children, ranging from first- to fourth-graders. We each have our own area in nature to work with these children, and host four separate groups each week. To truly change the world, we need to do it one person at a time. Or one hundred little persons at a time!
The scene is set. We are sitting in a circle around a buffalo blanket on the Arizona desert. The plants, the saguaro, the cholla, and the prickly pear surround us. In the distance are bursage, mesquite, and palo verde. Flying overhead are doves, crows, hawks, and quail. Little bunnies occasionally skip by, to the delight of the children. We have a universal medicine wheel set up with 13 Hohokam stones. I tell the children we are going to "play." I will ask them to use their imagination and travel with me back in time to what the desert was like a thousand years ago. I ask them to pretend to be Hohokam children meeting in circle for the first time.
The children eagerly join in, sitting cross-legged on the ground. Their little fingers automatically start touching the earth and playing with the soft stone people around them. Some form circles in the ground. I ask the children why they are playing in the dirt, and they nervously move their hands away from the rocks. I tell them to continue playing but tell me why. They share: "It feels good," "it's fun," "they are so soft," and "they are so strong."
I explain to them that the earth is alive. The stone people have a language all their own. I teach them to learn the language of the rocks, by noticing the signs in their shape and the patterns or pictures on them, and by touching them. I ask them to think about the possibility that the rock people are happy to see them and want them to touch them. It feels good to the Mother Earth. The earth needs us to stay alive, as we need the earth to stay alive.
I start their experiential learning by asking them to close their eyes and listen to what their music would have sounded like back then. My good friend, Ken Lenke, sits in the background under a beautiful mesquite tree and plays his wood flute for them. The children intuitively place their little hands in their laps; some connect two fingers in a meditative pose. When I ask where they learned that, they tell me, "It's meditation; we do it all the time" matter-of-factly. I am amazed.
After the music, I ask them to tell me how they felt. Most say they felt relaxed; some say they felt real "Indian." One little second grader surprised me with "I feel protected." When I asked her to expand on that she said "like a spirit came down from heaven and is protecting me." I am awed. Ken nearly falls off his stool! Basic cellular memory stuff. These kids naturally have their gifts "out there" in full force. No embarrassment, just very matter-of-fact, in-your-face statements; I love it.
Next I explain the talking stick (see photograph) and pass it around the circle as they introduce themselves and share (the person holding the stick "has the floor" and others must listen to that person until she or he passes it to another, who then speaks). They giggle and laugh during the passing of the stick, but each honors the other by listening and waiting his or her turn. I teach them that the natives were the inventors of democracy. No one feels "that's not fair"; they each know they will get a turn. What surprises me is that some of them already know what a talking stick is how it is used.
I then ask them if they have seen Pocahontas, the movie. All raise their hands, bragging that they own it. I tell them that I do, too. I explain to them the part where the medicine man throws some magic stuff into the fire and the spirits come out and show them visions. I tell them that the sage I will now burn is the same stuff; they love it! I take out a prayer fan and fan the sacred smoke over myself, and then show them how they offered it to the six directions at the start and end of their day and during their ceremonies. I take the smudge around the circle of children, letting each one smell it and feel it.
I explain to them how Grandma Willow (the tree in the movie) tells Pocahontas how to learn the language of the wind. I explain that each creation has its own language and doesn't speak English, but does speak. I ask them if they have pets and rock collections. I ask them if they talk to them. Some children say they do, but that the rocks don't talk back. Some admit that their rocks do talk to them. When I ask how, they say in their imagination, in their "feel," and one child actually says, "telepathically." Amazing.
I encourage them to use their imagination and never lose it. I tell them that their imagination and their intelligence is one and the same. I explain to them the danger of watching too much television and how it dulls one's brain. I encourage them to continue working on their computers and their Nintendo games. This will stimulate them and open up the whole world to them. I ask them to stay outdoors and play until sundown. They will learn more in nature than anywhere else. The children agree and look forward to doing so.
I tell them to take their parents out for walks in the desert, in nature. This will open up a wonderful dialogue between parent and child and will help their parents relax after a hard day's work. It will feed the child's need to have quality time actually talking with their parents.
To conclude the circle, I ask the children to tell me why they think they are at the Center today (besides taking a day off from school). Some of their answers are absolutely awesome. "To learn about the desert so we won't be afraid of it" is a common answer. But one second-grader this week said, "We are destroying our environment. It's disgusting how many animals are losing their homes and how many plants are being destroyed. We need to learn so we can fix if'. Eureka! She knows. These children feel the responsibility for fixing the mistakes of generations before them. Do they know this intuitively, societally, or what? Surely they haven't learned so much about the environment or democracy yet in second grade, yet they know.
I explain to them that my generation was raised on television. We were not as smart as they are at their age. We are counting on them, the children, to fix it all, and we know they can do it. They are capable of so much more than we were, so much more aware than we were, so much more astute with modern technology than we can hope to be, and they are basically babies.
They are the ones who will know how to use the technology for more than entertainment, to actually solve the world's problems: little children, little warriors. They want their world, and they want to keep it beautiful for their children. How do I know? They tell me. Each week, they confide and share with me all their thoughts and intelligence. I feel truly blessed for the opportunity to work with these special little souls. I'm not sure our children need us as teachers, but I know they need us to listen to what they have to teach us.
Make no mistake about it: the human race is wonderful, and that is shown through our children. They have an inner knowing that defies logic, tradition, or upbringing. They stand on their own as far as their intelligence and thought processes. They know the job they were born to do and are eager to do it. They intuitively know that we are all connected and interrelated to all other living things, regardless of size, shape, or color. If you are looking for hope for the future, look a little lower; bring your eyes down to the level of a child's. Behold the children.
Meria Heller is the founder of The Universal Wheel©, Scottsdale, Arizona. It is a philosophy based on our interdependence on each other as humans first, and our interconnectedness to all living things. Meria makes herself available to children of all ages for workshops, classes, and private consultations toward a better and happier life. Call (602) 502-2385, or e-mail <Merswheel@aol.com>.