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lessons that flow with ease from nature

“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”   William Wordsworth

This is a guest post from Krissy Pozatek, LCSW, author, therapist and parent coach. I found it today on the Kindful Kids website.  It SO resonates with our Scholars Together philosophy and experiences with children learning from and in nature. I invite you to read it through and see what it may spark for you. Here are her gleanings and article:

Eco-psychologist Bill Plotkin says that the best template for human maturation from birth through old age is equal parts nature and culture.

Culture is learning from family, elders, religion, teachers, and now media. Nature is learning to be in and with the limits imposed by the natural world. Indigenous cultures struck a balance  between the two as a result of living in the natural world in tribes, clans or villages. Today, however, kids learn almost 100% from culture –  family, community and mainstream culture. This dramatic shift away from nature has reduced our ability to be adaptable and emotionally resilient.

As a wilderness therapist for many years, I observed kids resume their emotional development as a result of  outdoor learning skills and living in the natural world.

Why is nature so important for emotional maturation?

1) Not Being in Control: The inherent limits in nature foster maturation because we have to be adaptable to the challenges of the natural world. Whether it is bugs, or humidity, cold, ice, rain, snow storms, blisters, sun, wind, we have to yield to nature and accept the changing conditions. We cannot make it the way we want it, we have to just experience it and appreciate it for what it is. In fact our ancestors were resilient because they never had the option of control, for example: living in temperature controlled houses or eating the same foods all year round. These comforts of modernity come at a cost of being adaptable.

2) Struggling without Blame: When we encounter obstacles in natural settings, it does not make sense to ask someone else to fix or change it or blame them. Challenges need to be endured, navigated and mastered. For example, if rain moves in on hiker or wind changes on a sailor, or the sun sets before camp is ready, we can’t blame nature for these things. Even if it is 3 snow-storms in a row. The forces of nature are stronger than us, so we have to let go.

3) Delayed Gratification: When kids are in nature, it is a great departure from our world of instant gratification, and this is essential for maturing. Whether it is hiking up a hill to sled, collecting wood for a fire or waiting for the fish to bite, everything is a process. Nothing comes easily in the woods, but that is what makes all the sweet moments worth it.

4) Being in the moment: The natural world has a way of slowing us down and taking our attention outside of ourselves. Mental health struggles or emotional disturbances correlate to a degree of self-absorption – whereas being in nature has a way of pulling our attention into the present moment and noticing life all around us. Whether it is a shriek of a crow, the rustle of leaves underfoot or a cold breeze on our face, being in nature is a full-bodied experience. This is critical for children who are so fixed to digital technology where there is a lack of sensorial-awareness of the world around us.

5) Sensorial Awareness: Being in nature increases kid’s sensorial awareness because the natural world is a full-sensory environment. With sights, sounds, feelings on the skin, smells and sometimes tastes all around. Responding to natural sounds, like walking on crackling ice, or tasting snow on your tongue, this is soothing to our nervous systems, as opposed to man-made sounds like cell-phones or cars. This full-sensory environment naturally grabs kid’s attention, whether a child has attentional issues or not.6.) Connection with Others: One of the things most apparent that happens when in the woods with kids (or any group), is lots of connection. There is no door to shut or bedroom to escape to, there is just being together. This lends to new ways to connect, and share and open up. Simply sitting around a camp fire at night leads to a feeling of togetherness that is hard to recreate in a home environment. Or even getting snowed in can bring a feeling of connection by everyone sharing the same experience.

7) Impermanence: Of course impermanence is the only constant in our world, but this is not as noticeable in “indoor environments.” Kids tend to think things are the way they will always be. We tend to think the world is more fixed than it really is. In nature, movement and change is constant – whether it is the weather, seasons, time of day, life is constantly shifting and each moment is alive and new. This is refreshing.

8) Processing Emotions: Emotions are fluid and transient. They simply give us information about a moment we are in. However we tend to create storylines on our heads about emotions and over-analyze them which actually keeps them stuck and static. When we are outside with the hum and movement of the natural world, we tend to be more fully in our bodies and aware of our senses, so emotions are processed in a more fluid way. In fact Richard Louv (who coined the term nature deficit disorder) cites a Cornell Study revealing that stressful events are less disturbing to kids who live in high-nature conditions.

Takeaway: So get outside with your child this spring! Remember he or she isn’t just benefiting from fresh air and physical exercise, but an emotional response that’s helping them grow and mature. Try to up your family’s percentage of nature influence verses culture in your child’s development.

Krissy Pozatek, LCSW, is an Author, Therapist and Parent Coach. After a decade as a wilderness therapist, Krissy has identified the concepts and skills kids gain in the wilderness and integrated them into everyday parenting so kids can be more adaptable and resilient. She is the author of Brave Parenting: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Raising Emotionally Resilient Children (Wisdom Pub) and The Parallel Process: Growing Alongside Your Adolescent or Young Adult Child in Treatment (Lantern Books).

ahhh, while walking and sauntering

At Scholars Together we enjoy the benefits of walking or hiking in the woods often and always come back revitalized, awed and more akin to and aware of the relationship between the wonders of nature and the woods and our own True Nature. It is humbling, beautiful and potent. Even more so are the times we go off alone to one of our favorite places in the woods and stroll, pace, notice and become a vital part of those “moments” in the tree community. We come back quiet, touched and full of life, potential and belonging.

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking. Friedrich Nietzsche

Over one hundred years ago, Scottish writer Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, penned an essay entitled, “The Fellow that Goes Alone” about the simplest of activities that can yield the most creative thoughts: walking.

In the following ode to ambulating, Maria Popova weaves together quotes and excerpts from literature’s big proponents of the timeless exercise, creating a piece that celebrates a walk’s ability to awaken mind and spirit: “Here and now, the mind has shaken off its harness, is snorting and kicking up heels like a colt in a meadow.” Imagination comes alive while walking alone. With no one to talk to, no one to share, it can run wild in the “country of the mind.” Enjoy this tribute to a simple pastime with many benefits that most people can enjoy.

Walking as Creative Fuel

–by Maria Popova, syndicated from  Jan 27, 2018

“Every walk is a sort of crusade,” Thoreau wrote in his manifesto for the spirit of sauntering. And who hasn’t walked — in the silence of a winter forest, amid the orchestra of birds and insects in a summer field, across the urban jungle of a bustling city — to conquer some territory of their interior world? Artist Maira Kalman sees walking as indispensable inspiration: “I walk everywhere in the city. Any city. You see everything you need to see for a lifetime. Every emotion. Every condition. Every fashion. Every glory.” For Rebecca Solnit, walking “wanders so readily into religion philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.”

Perched midway in time between Thoreau and Solnit is a timeless celebration of the psychological, creative, and spiritual rewards of walking by the Scottish writer Kenneth Grahame (March 8, 1859–July 6, 1932), best known for the 1908 children’s novel The Wind in the Willows — a book beloved by pioneering conservationist and marine biologist Rachel Carson, whose own splendid prose about nature  shares a kindred sensibility with Grahame’s.

Kenneth Grahame

Five years after publishing The Wind in the Willows, Grahame penned a beautiful short essay for a commemorative issue of his old boarding school magazine. Titled “The Fellow that Goes Alone” and only ever published in Peter Green’s 1959 biography Kenneth Grahame public library), it serenades “the country of the mind” we visit whenever we take long solitary walks in nature.

With an eye to “all those who of set purpose choose to walk alone, who know the special grace attaching to it,” Grahame writes:

Nature’s particular gift to the walker, through the semi-mechanical act of walking — a gift no other form of exercise seems to transmit in the same high degree — is to set the mind jogging, to make it garrulous, exalted, a little mad maybe — certainly creative and suprasensitive, until at last it really seems to be outside of you and as if it were talking to you whilst you are talking back to it. Then everything gradually seems to join in, sun and the wind, the white road and the dusty hedges, the spirit of the season, whichever that may be, the friendly old earth that is pushing life firth of every sort under your feet or spell-bound in a death-like winter trance, till you walk in the midst of a blessed company, immersed in a dream-talk far transcending any possible human conversation. Time enough, later, for that…; here and now, the mind has shaken off its harness, is snorting and kicking up heels like a colt in a meadow.

In a sentiment which, today, radiates a gentle admonition against the self-defeating impulse to evacuate the moment in order to capture it — in a status update, in an Instagram photo — Grahame observes:

Not a fiftieth part of all your happy imaginings will you ever, later, recapture, note down, reduce to dull inadequate words; but meantime the mind has stretched itself and had its holiday.

Art from What Color Is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts

Nearly a century before Wendell Berry’s poetic insistence that in true solitude “ones inner voices become audible” and modern psychology’s finding that a capacity for “fertile solitude” is a seat of the imagination, Grahame writes:

This emancipation is only attained in solitude, the solitude which the unseen companions demand before they will come out and talk to you; for, be he who may, if there is another fellow present, your mind has to trot between shafts.

A certain amount of “shafts,” indeed, is helpful, as setting the mind more free; and so the high road, while it should always give way to the field path when choice offers, still has this particular virtue, that it takes charge of you — your body, that is to say. Its hedges hold you in friendly steering-reins, its milestones and finger-posts are always on hand, with information succinct and free from frills; and it always gets somewhere, sooner or later. So you are nursed along your way, and the mind may soar in cloudland and never need to be pulled earthwards by any string. But this is as much company as you ought to require, the comradeship of the road you walk on, the road which will look after you and attend to such facts as must not be overlooked. Of course the best sort of walk is the one on which it doesn’t matter twopence whether you get anywhere at all at any time or not; and the second best is the one on which the hard facts of routes, times, or trains give you nothing to worry about.

In consonance with artist Agnes Martin’s quiet conviction that “the best things in life happen to you when you’re alone.” Grahame writes:

As for adventures, if they are the game you hunt, everyone’s experience will remind him that the best adventures of his life were pursued and achieved, or came suddenly to him unsought, when he was alone. For company too often means compromise, discretion, the choice of the sweetly reasonable. It is difficult to be mad in company; yet but a touch of lunacy in action will open magic doors to rare and unforgettable experiences.

But all these are only the by-products, the casual gains, of walking alone. The high converse, the high adventures, will be in the country of the mind.

Listening and learning from the trees

I came across this blog today that shares some new ideas  and also encompasses much of what we glean and love about our forest retreats Wednesday through Friday each week at STLC. We are learning to be better listeners of the ways of the trees and our river, and we see those benefits come alive in the flourishing of our own true natures at the same time. Once again, it is about community building and figuring out how we all belong…to each other.

We look at trees every day. What if we paused long enough to “listen“? Could you hear a song if you put your ear to the bark? If one tree can sing a solo; what kind of symphony would come forth from a forest of trees? Dive into these questions on a long cold day with a warm cup and Maria Popova’s review of the book The Songs of Trees by David George Haskell. Give yourself the gift of lingering slowly over Maria’s collage of beautiful words and images. Savor Haskell’s unique approach of scientific study explained with lyrical vocabulary. Envision “the masterful, magical way in which nature weaves the warp thread of individual organisms and the weft thread of relationships into the fabric of life”.

This was really worth the read for me — hoping it is for you, too. Tien

The Songs of Trees 

by Maria Popova, syndicated from, Jan 04, 2018

“Trees speak to the mind, and tell us many things, and teach us many good lessons,” an English gardener wrote in the seventeenth century.  “When we have learned how to listen to trees,” Hermann Hesse rhapsodized two centuries later in hi lyrical love letter to our arboreal companions, “then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”

For biologist David George Haskell, the notion of listening to trees is neither metaphysical abstraction nor mere metaphor.

In The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors, Haskell proves himself to be the rare kind of scientist Rachel Carson was when long ago she pioneered a new cultural aesthetic of poetic prose about science, governed by her conviction that “there can be no separate literature of science” because “the aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth,” which is also the aim of literature.

It is in such lyrical prose and with an almost spiritual reverence for trees that Haskell illuminates his subject — the masterful, magical way in which nature weaves the warp thread of individual organisms and the weft thread of relationships into the fabric of life.

Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1917 edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

Haskell writes: For the Homeric Greeks, kleos, fame, was made of song. Vibrations in air contained the measure and memory of a person’s life. To listen was therefore to learn what endures.

I turned my ear to trees, seeking ecological kleos. I found no heroes, no individuals around whom history pivots. Instead, living memories of trees, manifest in their songs, tell of life’s community, a net of relations. We humans belong within this conversation, as blood kin and incarnate members. To listen is therefore to hear our voices and those of our family. To listen is therefore to touch a stethoscope to the skin of a landscape, to hear what stirs below.

Photographs from Cedric Pollet’s project Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees.

Haskell visits a dozen gloriously different trees from around the world — from the hazel of Scotland to the maples of Tennessee to the white pines of Japan’s Miyajima Island — to wrest from them wisdom on what he calls “ecological aesthetics,” a view of beauty not as an individual property but as a relational feature of the web of life, belonging to us as we to it. (Little wonder that trees are our mightiest metaphor for the cycle of life.) From this recognition of delicate mutuality arises a larger belonging, which cannot but inspire a profound sense of ecological responsibility.

Haskell writes: We’re all — trees, humans, insects, birds, bacteria — pluralities. Life is embodied network. These living networks are not places of omnibenevolent Oneness. Instead, they are where ecological and evolutionary tensions between cooperation and conflict are negotiated and resolved. These struggles often result not in the evolution of stronger, more disconnected selves but in the dissolution of the self into relationship.

Because life is network, there is no “nature” or “environment,” separate and apart from humans. We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others,” so the human/nature duality that lives near the heart of many philosophies is, from a biological perspective, illusory. We are not, in the words of the folk hymn, wayfaring strangers traveling through this world. Nor are we the estranged creatures of Wordsworth’s lyrical ballads, fallen out of Nature into a “stagnant pool” of artifice where we misshape “the beauteous forms of things.” Our bodies and minds, our “Science and Art,” are as natural and wild as they ever were.

We cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature.

Our ethic must therefore be one of belonging, an imperative made all the more urgent by the many ways that human actions are fraying, rewiring, and severing biological networks worldwide. To listen to trees, nature’s great connectors, is therefore to learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance, and beauty.

Art by Cécile Gambini from Strange Trees by Bernadette Pourquié, an illustrated atlas of the world’s arboreal wonders.

Haskell follows the thread of relationship to the lushest arboreal habitat in the world — a symphonic sixteen-thousand-square-kilometer expanse of Amazonian rainforest in a wildlife and ethnic reserve in Ecuador, where a single hectare contains more tree species than the whole of North America. He limns this otherworldly wonderland, transliterating its peculiar language:

Amazonian rain differs not just in the volume of what it has to tell — three and a half meters dropped every year, six times gray London’s count — but in its vocabulary and syntax. Invisible spores and plant chemicals mist the air above the forest canopy. These aerosols are the seeds onto which water vapor coalesces, then swells. Every teaspoon of air here has a thousand or more of these particles, a haze ten times less dense than air away from the Amazon. Wherever people aggregate in significant numbers, we loose to the sky billions of particles from engines and chimneys.

Like birds in a dust bath, the vigorous flapping of our industrial lives raises a fog. Each fleck of pollution, dusty mote of soil, or spore from a woodland is a potential raindrop. The Amazon forest is vast, and over much of its extent the air is mostly a product of the forest, not the activities of industrious birds. Winds sometimes bring pulses of dust from Africa or smog from a city, but mostly the Amazon speaks its own tongue. With fewer seeds and abundant water vapor, raindrops bloat to exceptional sizes. The rain falls in big syllables, phonemes unlike the clipped rain speech of most other landmasses.

We hear the rain not through silent falling water but in the many translations delivered by objects that the rain encounters. Like any language, especially one with so much to pour out and so many waiting interpreters, the sky’s linguistic foundations are expressed in an exuberance of form: downpours turn tin roofs into sheets of screaming vibration; rain smatters onto the wings of hundreds of bats, each drop shattering, then falling into the river below the bats’ skimming flight; heavy-misted clouds sag into treetops and dampen leaves without a drop falling, their touch producing the sound of an inked brush on a page.

Art by Alessandro Sanna from Pinocchio: The Origin Story.

The tree itself stands as an acoustic microcosm of the rainforest: In the ceibo’s crown, botanical acoustic diversity is present, but it is more subtle. Drops are smaller and create a sound like river rapids in the leaves of the many surrounding trees, obscuring variations in the sounds of individual leaves. Because I’m standing high up in the branches of an emergent tree, a tree that arches over all others, the sound of the river rapids comes from beneath my feet. I feel inverted, like an image in a teardrop, disoriented by hearing forest rain under my soles. My ascent, up a forty-meter series of metal ladders, has carried me through the rain layers: The sounds of rain on litter and understory plants fade a meter or two above the ground, replaced by the spare, irregular spat of drops on sparse leaves, stems reaching up to the light, and roots drilling down. At twenty meters up, the foliage thickens and the rapids begin. As I climb higher, the sounds of individual trees push forward, then recede, first a speed-typist’s clatter from a strangler fig, then rasping drops glancing across hirsute vine leaves. I top the rapids’ surface and the roar moves below me, unveiling patters on fleshy orchid leaves, greasy impacts on bromeliads, and low clacks on the elephant ears of Philodendron. Every tree surface is crowded with greenery; hundreds of plant species inhabit the ceibo’s crown.

In the ceibo Haskell finds a living testament to the nonexistence of the self, to which we humans so habitually cling. A century after young Jorge Luis Borges contemplated how the self dissolves in time and relationship, Haskell writes:

This dissolution of individuality into relationship is how the ceibo and all its community survive the rigors of the forest. Where the art of war is so supremely well developed, survival paradoxically involves surrender, giving up the self in a union with allies.

The forest is not a collection of entities… it is a place entirely made from strands of relationship.

The Songs of Trees is a resplendent read in its entirety, kindred to both Walt Whitman’s exultation of trees and bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer’s poetic celebration of moss. Complement it with the fascinating science of what trees feel and how they communicate,, then revisit my eulogy for a beloved tree and this illustrated atlas of the world’s most unusual trees.

Syndicated from BrainPickings. Maria Popova is a cultural curator and curious mind at large, who also writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and Design Observer, and is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings (which offers a free weekly newsletter).  

I am because we are…

Every once in a while I refresh some of our posts from the past because they rush back to thought or seem especially relevant again. What follows was published here a couple of years ago, and yet is still so close to my heart and to my own efforts to support others with love and authenticity. I find myself mentally picturing the image that follows as I work and live with others in community. Tien

I found this posted by “Mr. Finch” and it SO touched my heart. I feel such a kinship to this sentiment, to this way of being with one another. I am re-offering it here as something to read, consider, and chew on in hopes that we might partake of this innate community spirit more often. I love to discover new and old ways that people are loving each other—loving our neighbors AS our ourselves, finding that the dividing lines between us and them are not so defined, but pleasantly blurred…seeing that taking responsibility to be my best authentic self naturally includes grabbing the hands of those around me with joy. Looking for ways to be inclusive and loving naturally buoys all of us up— my community members and me, and vice versa. Love DOES make the world go ’round! Here is the post:

“An anthropologist proposed a game to children in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the children that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats.

When he asked them why they had run like that when one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said, ‘UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?’ (‘UBUNTU’ in the Xhosa culture means: ‘I am because we are.)”
Osani Circle Game – taken by Jean-Pierre Hallet

When kids want more…and what to do about it?

A topic that comes up often in our STLC Parent Forums and in our innate.FORWARD coaching is entitlementwanting more and more, thinking that it is owed to us… and the frustration that seems to partner with that theme for both parent and child.

We are all competing with the constant marketing through the media and with what other families have, while also yearning to teach our children to look for the deeper needs that would lead them to wanting more material things. In conjuction, our group has also discussed and experimented with the ins and outs of weekly allowances for the purpose of teaching and experiencing how to use money wisely and to understand its value.

We all want to raise kids who know how to work hard to create what they want in the world. Nobody wants to raise a child who thinks the world owes him/her, who feels like s/he is entitled to take whatever s/he wants. We also DO want to raise a child who feels deserving of the blessings of abundance — spiritual, emotional, and yes, physical, and the rich life that is the birthright of every child. How do we raise a child who feels deserving, but not entitled?

In this video (and in the article that follows)  Avital, from  the Parenting Junkie and Aha! Parenting, pretends to be a five year old who wants more trucks, and Dr. Laura Markam pretends to be the mom. They go into detail about how to talk with kids about money and things they want, in a way that empowers rather than shames. It is SO worthwhile and helpful from our STLC perspective.

Following is the accompanying article from Aha! Parenting. I took the liberty of adding some visuals along the way that were not in the original article. Tien

1. Don’t feed your child’s emotional hunger with possessions.

Material cravings are so often a salve for the deep need all humans share to be truly seen, accepted, and cherished. Often when we feel guilty that we aren’t spending enough time with our kids, we buy them things. When your child gets demanding, that’s a red flag to stop, drop your busy-ness, and get clear about your priorities. What can you do with your child today to simply enjoy her? How can you set up rituals in your week to spend more time connecting? As the old saying goes, children thrive when you give them half as many presents and twice as much of your presence.

2. Instead of shaming, empower kids to create their own abundance.

Too often, out of our own anxiety about money, we shame children when they “want” material things. But the opposite response of giving kids everything they ask for also teaches the wrong lessons. There is a better way—we can empower our child. Consider these three approaches to your child in the toy store when you’re buying a present for her cousin’s birthday.

  • “Don’t even start asking…you know better than that! Don’t you ever get enough? Do you think money grows on trees? You don’t even take care of the things you have!”

This approach teaches your child that he doesn’t deserve (of course he’s deserving), that he’s greedy for wanting things (all of us want things, all the time), that he is powerless to get what he wants in life (which makes him feel resentful and deprived; all those riches lined up on the shelves are for other people but not for him).

The result? Something that looks a lot like entitlement, or at least looking out for number one.

What about this approach?

  • “I hear you, I hear you—you really want it!… How much is it?….Well…..I guess so… Do you promise you’ll be a good girl all week and really listen?”

This is bribing your child to cooperate, which always digs you into a hole. But what’s worse is that if we just hand our kids everything they want on a material level, it creates the expectation that they’ll be handed whatever they want in life, especially if they make a fuss, and promises they can’t necessarily keep. She’ll feel great for the moment, since our brains give us a hit of dopamine every time we chase, conquer, acquire. But that purchase will quickly lose its luster and she’ll be craving the next thing. That addicts her to purchasing things (or manipulating others to purchase things for her) as a way to feel good, and it gets her into the habit of acquiring more, more, more without feeling gratitude for what she has, both material and non-material.

Here’s the sweet spot:

  • “You really want that, I hear you…Wow, that is cool, isn’t it?…It’s not in our plan for today“ (In other words, this is not about a poverty mentality. It’s about priorities) … “I’m sorry that’s hard for you…. No, we aren’t getting that today…. I see how much you like it… Do you want me to put it on your birthday list?… You’re right, your birthday is a long way off…. But if it is still what you want most, then maybe you can have it then…. And you know, if you really want it sooner, you can earn the money… Sure, I can think of some odd jobs that aren’t part of your normal chores… And you’re getting old enough that you could walk the dog for Mrs. Turner, or shovel the snow this winter around the neighborhood.”

This child feels empowered. If she really wants this item, she can get it, eventually. She’s learned that anything she wants is possible, with enough hard work.

3. Empower your child by giving her the chance to learn the value of hard work.

Remember the days when kids did odd jobs all summer to earn money for a bike? Those kids knew the worth of a nickel, took care of their bikes, and felt enormously empowered. They knew they could realize their dreams by working hard. I’m not saying you can’t buy a new bike just because your child outgrew her old one, but all children need to learn that if they work hard at things, they can make their dreams come true. They learn more from earning than from just being handed things. And the pursuit of a goal is rewarding in itself.

4. Help your child learn how to hold a job.

Earning money at home is one thing, but there’s nothing as educational as working for someone outside the family for pay, which teaches real responsibility in the real world. Start when your eight year old wants something badly and her birthday’s still far off, by paying her to do tasks you wouldn’t normally expect of her (washing the car, weeding the garden). But over time, be sure this expands to odd jobs in the neighborhood (walk the neighbor’s dog or offer snow shoveling service in the winter), then to mother’s helper/babysitting jobs when it’s age appropriate, and finally to after-school or summer jobs. Even if your family has plenty and never needs your teenager to work, every teen should learn by experience what it takes to earn a dollar.

5. Role Model.

Children won’t always do what you say, but they’ll always, eventually, do what you do. If you shop for relaxation or fun, so will your child. If you “must have” the latest tech toy, your child will follow in your footsteps. If you “give back” your child will see sharing with others as a regular part of life. If you express gratitude for everything you have, so will your child.

6. Help your child learn to be accountable for damaged goods.

If kids help pay from their own savings for lost library books and cell phones, windows broken by their baseball or a jacket they lose, they learn a valuable lesson about valuing what they have, rather than assuming someone else will simply “buy another.” Of course, you stay clear about priorities — your child is always more important than that thing he broke, you might help him with the money, and you never have to be mean about it. But you expect your child to step up and take responsibility to help make things right.

7. Counteract the message that happiness can be bought.

As parents, we need to remember that we aren’t the only ones teaching our children about life. TV is a very effective teacher, and if it has your child’s ear, it has a direct line to her brain. Studies show that most adults say they’re not affected by TV ads, but in fact those ads influence them deeply. Imagine how much more true that is for children, who get the constant media message that the goal of life is more money and more things. Ultimately, what we model and what we tell our children will matter more, but we need to confront those destructive messages directly, and when possible keep them from reaching our kids.

8. Help your child wire his brain for a different kind of reward.

Recognize that buying is an addiction, given that dopamine is released when we get what we pursue. It isn’t wanting that gets us into trouble, it’s WHAT we want and pursue. Material things don’t satisfy our hunting urge for more than a day or so before we crave more. So notice what you pursue, and help your child discover the emotional rewards of other kinds of chases besides shopping and acquisition. No, he can’t hunt a mastodon, but how about the pursuit of mastery, with something he’s passionate about? A child who loves playing basketball, cooking, writing, music—any passion—practices it, builds resilience, and along the way wires his brain to find fulfillment in a different kind of chase. This is the kind of reward that lasts.

9. Give back as a family.

Children need a context to appreciate what they have, which means they need to see that while they may not have everything they want, they have more than enough. When they see that others have less, children usually feel moved to share, and become more appreciative of what they have and less focused on getting more. Give your child the opportunity to discover how good it feels to help others.  What can kids do? Bake pies to donate. Sort food at a food bank. Help you deliver Meals on Wheels. Organize a book drive and ship the books off to Reader to Reader. Sponsor a not-so-lucky child, so your child gets a birds-eye-view of what life is like for children who might not have his or her blessings. You’ll find lots more suggestions online.

10. Educate yourself.

You aren’t raising your child in a vacuum. Our culture is centered around consumption — accumulating more and more stuff. You and your kids are surrounded by messages that buying stuff will make your life better, and it’s so hard not to respond to that drumbeat. I highly recommend the short video The Story of Stuff which will make you laugh, change the way you look at things, and maybe change the way your family lives.

11. Live the values you want to pass on to your child.

What matters most to you? The people you love? Doing good in the world? Following your passions and contributing them to the world? I’m betting you didn’t say “Stuff.” Kids need to hear explicitly, and to see you demonstrate, what matters most, so they learn that life holds huge abundance beyond achievement and accumulating material possessions.

Notice a thread here? If kids today feel entitled, it’s not because they’re “bad.” It’s because we’re raising them in a culture of entitlement, one that values acquiring having stuff over developing our unique gifts to contribute to the world, and even over being a good human being. It’s because when they want connection and validation, we give them stuff. To help kids change, we have to examine our own lives and assumptions.

The good news is that these practices do work to raise kids who aren’t “entitled.” What’s more, they make your life better. Because when we take the emphasis off stuff, we shift it to where it belongs: Connecting and contributing, which create lasting, rather than momentary, happiness.

It would be great to share our thoughts and experiences on this topic in an on-going conversation via our comments and threads here on our STLC site. You can use the “Leave a Reply” box below.

…looking deeply into the effects of our actions

What can the simplicity of a small home garden teach us about the complexities of the world? Perhaps that life is about finding harmony within ever-changing conditions. Recognizing how balance can be created, and when to act (or not act) according to the needs of the environment. In witnessing the dance of snakes and strawberries in her garden, the author of this piece arrives at the quiet insight that when we attempt to improve situations without looking deeper into the effects of our actions, our deeds can lead to more imbalance. Perhaps earth balance, conservation and peace is less about forcing change, and more about finding the harmony in all life. Finding the sweet spot where snakes and strawberries can both find their home on this earth.

The following article arrived in my inbox today and it merits sharing. No other comments needed, other than — a lot is wrapped up in the very last paragraph, where I took the liberty to bold the text. Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community

Lessons from the Garden: Snakes and Strawberries

–by Alanda Greene, syndicated from, Oct 15, 2017

ALANDA GREENE experiences the effect a change makes to the dynamics in her garden, and considers how much more aware we need to be of the decisions we make, and their effect on the Earth.

Creatures had been eating the strawberries. Not only nibbling the bright red juicy fruit but also chewing at the roots, causing stress to the plant, killing several of them. Root-chewed plants were scattered through the bed.

I suspected voles since, when I lifted the straw mulch around the bed, I saw telltale holes dug into the soft black earth. Chipmunks were the next suspects, with several regularly bounding between the beds as they nibbled beans, raspberries and young cauliflower. They get away with a lot by being so cute; cuteness might be an evolutionary advantage.

Something had disrupted the balance and my hunch was that the garden snakes had been disturbed. I cringed with the realization that the something might be me.

The snakes have maintained themselves in a steady population in the garden for decades. They dwell mainly along the stone wall where the herbs grow.  They eat slugs, voles, mice and probably those adorable chipmunks. But in doing so, they keep the numbers of these garden creatures at a reasonable level. Since the snake population doesn’t change much over the years, something is also keeping them in balance.

A couple of years ago, in an effort to contain herb growth, and even more so, the weed growth among the herbs, I moved the plants into large pots. I then took away the top layer of soil and surrounded the pots with sawdust. But in so doing, I unwittingly disturbed the homes and pathways of the snakes.  Without the snakes, there are more of those creatures that eat strawberries and destroy the entire plant.

I don’t know where the snakes have gone and I miss them. Even though, no matter how prepared I was to meet one of them lying on the warm stone at the day’s end, when the air was getting cool, I invariably started in surprise when I encountered one. A quick recovery followed and delight in seeing them. Knowing that snakes are sensitive to vibration, I regularly talked to them aloud and began to sing to them. Where they had once quickly slithered out of sight, into the foliage of the Echinacea or the sage, they began to move away more slowly, then to stop when I hummed or sang.

Often a snake lifted its head, red tongue flicking, as it tried to find more details about what was making the sound. Maybe it was singing along. When I remembered to anticipate a snake in that area of the garden and approach slowly, humming or singing, the snake would continue to rest on the rock wall, soothed by both sun and song.

The snakes are sometimes challenging, not always met with appreciation and song. They like to go to the pond on hot days to swim and cool themselves. They also like to eat the goldfish they find there.  Still, I’m feeling badly for upsetting their home and maybe in so doing making them vulnerable to a predator not earlier encountered.

I did not have the intention to disturb the snakes, in spite of their behavior towards the fish. But I failed to consider the consequences of my actions and anticipate the impact of my desire to have easier management of the herb area.

The disruption of balance happened because I lacked foresight. This gives me insight about the ecological problems on our planet that result from human activity. The aims have not been to cause harm but to bring about improvement.

I have heard that the Iroquois Nations, before making decisions and taking action, contemplated what the impact of a decision could be as far ahead as seven generations.  To even be able to think how an action could impact so far into the future suggests a considerable awareness of their world, an understanding of relationships and interdependency. A natural garden is a mini-world of interactions and balances.

With my herb garden plans, it would have been thoughtful to imagine more than one level of the garden. I was attending to what grows above ground, what is visible. Bill Devall, Professor of Sociology at Humboldt University, writes: “But nature is not just a collection of scenery … Nature is a process of interacting events.”It is an interaction of the visible and invisible. Too often, only the visible is included. The snakes have dens and tunnels under the surface. In fact, 80% of the plant biomass of the planet is actually underground.

There’s not much argument that our world is facing an ecological crisis that is the result of human activity. The crisis was not, however, intended, planned or imagined. People haven’t been deliberately going about with a scheme to destroy the earth’s environmental sustainability. They haven’t been aiming to wipe out legions of songbirds or golden toads or red gazelles. But they have done it. I wasn’t aiming to disrupt the snakes. It doesn’t mean I’m not responsible.

I see here the value and potential of daily reflection – to look back on the actions of the day and assess their effectiveness, their possible good or harm. This is not done to engage in metaphorical self-flagellation. It is to bring care and consideration into what I do, and develop more subtle awareness as a result. It is to recognize where errors have happened, and where behavior or speech was less than my ideal response. Then, it is to assert the preferred action, see it in my mind’s eye, so that the next time a similar situation arises I have a better chance of remembering my ideal and acting in accordance.

Another balance in the garden will emerge. The one I interrupted will not return and I can’t undo the results of my lack of thought, my actions based on what I wanted, without giving time to think broader and deeper. I can try to redress the harm through willingness to learn and then put the learning into practice.

The garden is not my own territory; I am part of the system. My efforts are that of a steward for the well-being of all members of the community. Therefore I must consider the impact of actions before acting, like the Iroquois. I must understand relationships, observe what is occurring both visibly and in the unseen, and expand my viewpoint beyond the obvious. I too have to grow with the garden.

This article is syndicated from Heartfulness magazine. Heartfulness is an approach to life, the world around us, and to our Self. Learn to Meditate. How to Meditate. Heartfulness Meditation. Mindfulness. Yoga. Author Alanda Greene lives in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Having a deep connection with nature, she and her husband built their house of stone and timber and a terraced garden, and integrated their life into this rural community. Alanda’s primary focus is the conscious integration of spirit with all aspects of life.  

What nature tells me about me…and you

As I sit on the shore of a beautiful lake in northern Michigan framed with with huge oak, maple and beech trees swaying in a hefty wind, I realize once again that one of the sweetest, and often most profound, things to me about our learning community, Scholars Together, is our setting three days and two nights each and every week in the woods. So many of our life-serving gleanings, discussions, and metaphors have come from our quiet moments and observations on the paths in the forest and along the winding and ever-flowing Huron River.

Ahhh, such important lessons we have learned together here about who we really are!

I just happened upon some notes that came from an exercise we did a few years ago, each in our own journals, about some of the truths we had pondered and taken in from our times in the woods. I hope to stumble upon the notes from the students’ journals, as well, but these were the ones from mine. They make me even more eager to start our year together amongst the whisperings of nature and feel that kinship with the forest that brings us close.

Here were my journal scribblings from that day:

  • I can stand tall and firmly rooted like a tree — what others do and say doesn’t have to hurt me, change my stance, or make me sway
  • I can be flexible like the trees, too, bending and curving when it feels right to do so in order to meld with others or to see new perspectives — or to go in new, wiser directions
  • I constantly ebb and flow like a river…sometimes with power and other times gently
  • I can be tough and strong like the path that gets walked upon each day, supporting journeying footsteps
  • I can let things go like the trees let go of their leaves
  • I can let my true colors show like the leaves do in the fall
  • I can find hiding spots when I need them, like the rabbits do when they sense danger
  • I can let my beautiful self, the pure expression of my light, shine like the gorgeous pink and purple sunrise
  • I can find my own important place to stand and BE in this world like the cattails do in their crowded patch near the river
  • I can let my qualities grow and branch out like the branches on a tree that spread out far and wide
  • It is natural for me to reach for the Light, just like the trees do in a forest
  • I can melt and be soft when it is time, like the snow melts when it is time
  • I can know that it is okay to be different, just like the pine trees that keep their leaves when the other trees lose theirs
  • The soft moss growing on a big strong tree is like me…vibrant, soft, humble, warm
  • I have a current moving inside of me like the river does that doesn’t stop — it just shows more sometimes than in other times
  • I need to be nurtured, to have light and space to grow, just like the trees
  • In order for things to grow they need the decomposed materials to create the soil and make it rich…just like I need my past mis-takes and experiences to help me grow and bloom
  • Sometimes there needs to be boundaries in our lives, like the fence, the river bank, the bark on a tree, the edge of the path
  • When I see the water in the river so gracefully and matter-of-factly glide around the large rocks and logs stationed in its path, it reminds me that I can go around, up, and over many of the obstacles that come my way, too
  • I can know that the sun is always there, even during the times I can’t see it…that there is a Power that guides me and sustains me every day, even when I can’t see it clearly
  • The light WILL come every day.  I can know this on the days that seem dark… and that I welcome those experiences that turn me towards the light, to search for it

…..oh, there are SO many more that can be added to this list! This is just a spattering — won’t you share YOUR nature lessons with us?

Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community

photos by B. Jay Langlois

Finding common ground in order to come together

Greetings fellow thinkers, Truth seekers and lovers of our world,

I came across this blog this morning, as I was doing more pondering about new and effective tools that might help us come together in deeper ways as a community in Scholars Together, and in other communities to which I belong, as well as in our world community. I love the author’s focus on mindfulness, forgiveness, giftism, and truly listening to one another with an openness that fosters seeing other perspectives without so much judgment…with the motive of understanding and loving one another. It was posted today, July 2nd by Shari Swanson. The photos are part of her blog, as well. Be sure to click on the blue links for stories of others who have found common ground amidst some major challenges. This is a longer article, but for me, it was well worth the extra moments. Thank you, Shari!

I have taken the liberty to italicize or highlight some of my favorite parts or ideas, ones that give me pause to ponder and incorporate them more into my own life. Feel free to do the same and share your thoughts in our reply section. What follows is Shari’s blog from….Tien

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a little common ground, and then building a relationship on it.”        Susan Gale

Spotlight on Finding Common Ground

Tensions run high. Sides are polarized. Even attempts at neutral, innocuous conversations seem stymied and fraught. How can we reestablish connection in our fractured communities? How can we reengage in conversation? How can we move forward together into our shared future? In this Daily Good Spotlight on Finding Common Ground, we take a look back into past features offering advice on how to come together and consider some stunning examples of people who have been able to overcome seemingly insurmountable differences to find common ground. Key to establishing connections among people and within communities are improving communication, focusing on common passions, and forgiving each other.


To find common ground with another person, we need to truly listen to each other, to lay our weapons down, and to actively try to see things from another point of view.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan thinks mindfulness can help:  “It’s hard to be nice to somebody if you’re stressed out of your mind – when I’m short with someone or I’m not listening to them the chances are that my stress levels are higher than they should be. So to be able to calm yourself down a little allows you to listen to what the other person is saying, as opposed to preparing what you’re going to say next while they are still talking.” He believes mindfulness “would start to change the way we look at the world and how we interact in our personal and political relationships. We might listen to each-other a bit more, and become a bit more creative and open to different solutions. Maybe this could even be the beginning of creating an alternative vision for what the country could look like, what our schools could look like if they really emphasized social and emotional learning, feeling safe, and managing our emotions as the first step to being a successful student…. Bringing a touch of mindfulness to turn down the heat a little can open up conversations where we actually sit down and think instead of just yelling at each other. A lot of people don’t understand mindfulness, but when you talk about slowing down and being in the present moment they get enthusiastic, across partisan lines. It’s about participating in your own health care, in education, in politics, and becoming more resilient, and there’s no reason why people should rule this out because it doesn’t fit into their political philosophy. As the Rev Jim Wallis says, we don’t have to go further to the left or right, we just have to go deeper, deeper into the water where we are connected rather than staying in the waves or the surface of our differences.”

And we have to be unafraid to ask questions and to learn more from people with whom we are unfamiliar.  Mansoor Shams is a 34 year old U.S. Marine. He’s also a Muslim whose family immigrated to America when he was just 6-years-old. In “Ask Him Anything: This Muslim Marine Wants to Bust Myths About His Faith” from PBS News Hour, Shams travels to 4 western U.S. cities to combat prejudice and open up a dialogue about the fears and prejudices people may have about Muslims and immigrants, often finding common ground with those who stop to talk to him.

The more we view each other as people, rather than stereotypes, the more the channels of communication open and fear dissipates.  To truly understand another person, we must try to walk in their shoes, to see life from their perspective.  On this quest, we can look to some remarkable empathy role models from the past: St. Francis of Assisi, the son of a wealthy merchant, exchanged clothes with a beggar to truly feel what it was like to be poor. Beatrice Webb “stepped out of her comfortable bourgeois life and dressed up in a bedraggled skirt and buttonless boots to work in an East London textile factory.” Her experience opened her eyes to the workers’ side of the story. John Howard Griffin crossed the racial divide, eventually writing Black Like Me, a book that helped millions understand what it was like to be a person of color. He said: “If only we could put ourselves in the shoes of others to see how we would react, then we might become aware of the injustices of discrimination and the tragic inhumanity of every kind of prejudice.” Others have crossed cultural and age divides to experience for themselves what other people experience in their lives, transforming their own lives in the process into becoming advocates and agents of social change.

Common Interests

Sometimes we spend so much time focussing on our differences with someone else that we lose sight of what we have in common–a love for great literature, for example. A high-powered attorney might not have much in common to talk about at length with a homeless man, but the common element of a good book can bridge that divide: “So I gave Robert a copy of a book I really loved called ‘Water for Elephants’ and we would talk about that,” Peter said. When they realized how well the book group opened communication and helped them get to know each other, together they started the Homeless Book Club: “They meet every Tuesday in a church conference room. Peter buys the books. In the beginning he offered to bring in lunch too, but the members said “no thanks.” They wanted this to be about more than just another free lunch.”

Sharing a community and a desire to see it flourish is another place to look for common ground. In fact, a sense of community is vital to our health.  Feeling like we belong and can contribute our gifts to a greater good gives us a sense of purpose. “To forge community then, we must do more than simply get people together…. Community is woven from gifts.” And that shared sense of community builds on itself: “On a less tangible level, any gifts we give contribute to another kind of common wealth – a reservoir of gratitude that will see us through times of turmoil, when the conventions and stories that hold civic society together fall apart. Gifts inspire gratitude and generosity is infectious. Increasingly, I read and hear stories of generosity, selflessness, even magnanimity that take my breath away. When I witness generosity, I want to be generous too. In the coming times, we will need the generosity, the selflessness, and the magnanimity of many people. If everyone seeks merely their own survival, then there is no hope for a new kind of civilization. We need each others’ gifts as we need each others’ generosity to invite us into the realm of the gift ourselves. In contrast to the age of money where we can pay for anything and need no gifts, soon it will be abundantly clear: we need each other.”

John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” That mindset shift fosters patriotism. Indeed, moving from a sense of what we can get to what we can give, “giftism“, builds community and is generative and transformative for all touched.

Of course, engagement, generosity, and community-building are not the norms of today and may even buck the status quo that tells us relationships and services can be monetized, that we don’t need each other. But many people share this common fire to bring about a more productive cooperative: “There are millions of citizens who refuse to succumb to what their more cynical neighbors call “reality,” who insist with their lives that there has to be a better way – and who day by day go about bringing it into being. What makes them tick? What enables them to see beneath the surface and work for the common good rather than simply for their own private welfare? What inspires people to act from their own sense of a larger integrity even when it means going contrary to the status quo? And how can these circles of compassion widen?”

One commonality among these change makers is that they recognize that someone was there to help them in the past in life-changing ways: “Sometimes this made the vital difference between a life shattered and one healed.” They “were characterized by a particular capacity for connection, an ability to draw others around them into communities of comfort and challenge.” They are open to compassion: “The key lies not in our suffering, but in our ability to use it to connect with the pain of others. Held poorly, our torment seals us off from others or disables us; held well, awareness of our own pain enables us to resonate with that of others and work toward the healing of the whole community.” These leaders refuse to separate into us/them thinking, but instead find common bonds between all people and recognize that the community is a construct of the whole rather than a vision of any one leader.


Desmond Tutu  believes that by letting go of past hurts, we can heal, not only ourselves, but also our families, communities, and world. Forgiveness is “an invitation to be courageous and to go against the grain of the sense of radical separation that makes violence possible. Forgiveness is more than a concept; it’s an experiential recognition of our common humanity, which has the power to heal both the victim and the perpetrator.”

Forgiveness has the power to breach seemingly insurmountable divides. Mary Johnson‘s son was murdered. Forgiving her son’s killer was no easy task: She told him, “After you left the room, I began to say, ‘I just hugged the man that murdered my son.’ And I instantly knew that all that anger and the animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you — I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you.” She went on to found From Death To Life: Two Mothers Coming Together for Heal­ing, a support group for mothers who have lost their children to violence and has formed an unlikely bond with her son’s killer. That act of forgiveness has been transformative for both of them.

Similarly, Julio Diaz reached out to the young mugger who robbed him, first offering him his coat as well, and then sharing dinner together. This forgiving response changed the whole dynamic between the two. Diaz says, “If you treat people right, you can only hope they will treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

vision and the doors of perception

I was graciously greeted this morning via my email with this short video by Karmatube and this quote by William Blake: If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

It felt like a friend was visiting me as I watched the video clip and pondered the quote that reminded me so much of a childhood story we would read and talk about often as a family. It was about a house with a window of multicolored panes that portrayed different and beautiful views of the scene outdoors, but unrealistic views, because of the different colors of the glass. There was just one pane that had clear glass in it, but even the view from that pane was distorted when the pane was dirty. There were so many ways my mom used that story with us as metaphors for things going on in our lives and how taking the time to “clean” our view was so important. Thanks mom, I use that so often.

I love how Blake’s quote reminds me to take the moments to get silent and think about how I am seeing, perceiving and processing the views around me. Do my windows, my perceptions, need some cleaning? Is the view distorted by a tightly held opinion or standpoint, or even a world trend? Is the pane (or pain) I am looking through clouding my thinking or ability to hear new ideas, clearer direction, to see reality…even spiritual reality? Is there a bubble or misrepresentation in my looking glass? ah…I love this type of questioning within myself and to be able to see how clearer, cleaner, unobstructed views will help my day unfold with more realistic views about myself, others and my world…and where those wiped-clean “out-looks” will lead my footsteps today.

And then…how inspired I am to watch and think about the short video clip mentioned above. It fits so well with the quote and committing to a  moment, or as you see the video – a moment turned to many moments, to ongoing mindfulness moments, to kindness challenges, to community outreach, etc. in a previously-thought-unlikely workplace. I LOVE it!

From time to time we do mindfulness, gratitude, and kindness challenges at Scholars Together that always lead us so easily to more moments of reflection, self-examination and improvement, more thinking of others and our world, and being better stewards of our community. We are currently involved in a 21-day eco footprint challenge that is fun, eye-opening and causing us all to think and re-think our daily habits and purchases that affect our mother Earth. Feel free to join us here if you would like. There are 2088 members so far from around the globe.

And yet, I know that I/we can do more. The financial company in the video did SUCH evolving from their first simple commitment to begin their team meetings with a simple minute of silence. That minute took on a life of its own, a vital life, an inner and expanding life and view that has led this company, not only to go further financially than it thought possible, but to give new and clearer views to its team members that has spread to their families, new clients and communities.

So… I thought we all might use this as part of our inspiration to find ways to add more thoughtful or reflective moments to our days, to our family meals or meetings, to our team meetings at work and school, to a variety of group openers, etc. and see where it can lead us. Are you in?

Please share your thoughts, ideas and ways that YOU will and are integrating this commitment to a quiet moment into your lives, families, work and communities. Let’s look forward together to clean and clear views along our paths.

Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community 

The way of water…the flow of the river

I just love this and wanted to share it. It came to me at such a serendipitous time, just hours after a weekend spent in mindful meditation and contemplation with others as we were together appreciating the flow of the river. Our collective goal became to flow as a river in community, to feel that, to BE that.

The following selection is borrowed with consent from a recent blog by Ursula LeGuin, which  is well worth the read in its entirety. It is  excerpted from the post  The Election, Lao Tsu, and a Cup of Water.

The Way of the Water
by Ursula LeGuin

[Listen to Audio!]

We have glamorized the way of the warrior for millennia. We have identified it as the supreme test and example of courage, strength, duty, generosity, and manhood. If I turn from the way of the warrior, where am I to seek those qualities? What way have I to go?
Lao Tzu says: the way of water.

The weakest, most yielding thing in the world, as he calls it, water chooses the lowest path, not the high road. It gives way to anything harder than itself, offers no resistance, flows around obstacles, accepts whatever comes to it, lets itself be used and divided and defiled, yet continues to be itself and to go always in the direction it must go. The tides of the oceans obey the Moon while the great currents of the open sea keep on their ways beneath. Water deeply at rest is yet always in motion; the stillest lake is constantly, invisibly transformed into vapor, rising in the air. A river can be dammed and diverted, yet its water is incompressible: it will not go where there is not room for it. A river can be so drained for human uses that it never reaches the sea, yet in all those bypaths and usages its water remains itself and pursues its course, flowing down and on, above ground or underground, breathing itself out into the air in evaporation, rising in mist, fog, cloud, returning to earth as rain, refilling the sea.

Water doesn’t have only one way. It has infinite ways, it takes whatever way it can, it is utterly opportunistic, and all life on Earth depends on this passive, yielding, uncertain, adaptable, changeable element.

The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.

A Meditation

The river that runs in the valley
makes the valley that holds it.

This is the doorway:
the valley of the river.

What wears away the hard stone,
the high mountain?

The wind. The dust on the wind.
The rain. The rain on the wind.

What wears the hardness of hate away?
Breath, tears.

Courage, compassion, patience
holding to their way:
the path to the doorway.


Would you like to join me in this meditation and” flow as the river” as we each weave through our days and journey… staying pure and free, staying authentic, yet yielding, continually transformed, adaptable and rising? Add a comment below if you would like to part of our community flow and share what this will look like for you.

shared by Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community

prepping our children for life …with love

As many of us probably did yesterday on Valentine’s Day, I thought about love…for my family, for friends, members past and present of our STLC community, and for the world. And I also thought again about what love means…is it strong? permissive? Does it ebb and flow? Is it hard to do? etc. and etc. I read recently that love is an action, not just a feeling or emotion. I like that.

I got to thinking about the real love (often what some call tough love) it takes to really prepare our children for life in this world, to help them to feel confident and eager to participate in this world with vigor and with all the practical know-how it takes to care for themselves and their world, …and the love, patience, and stick-to-it-ness it takes to show our kids through OUR actions what it means to be in a relationship that actually works and is nurturing for all parties involved! I really like to think on these things and practice them.

It was cool because during my ponderings I came across this article about things kids should do on their own before they are 13 years old. It seemed so in line with what I was thinking about and what we believe and practice at Scholars Together. It is yet another list of some practical things that we can do as parents and teachers (we all are teachers if we have any interaction with kids). For those of you who are Duct Tape Parenting fans, it will sound, oh, so familiar.

Click here for the article that contains the content mentioned above. It is from Red Tricycle.

It would be great to hear your thoughts, ideas, and experiences on this topic.  Perhaps we can start a community chat?

Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Leaning Community

communication with a magnet

I was browsing last night in a vintage store, which I always enjoy. I came upon several U-shaped magnets, the old fashioned kind that we used in school long ago. My grandfather gave me several of different sizes when I was about 6 years old and I enjoyed many, many hours seeing what they would attract and repel and which ones were the strongest. Sometimes I had to use both hands to pull them apart because the attraction was so strong. These memories brought a smile to my face and innards and I found myself experimenting once again with the magnets in the store. Fun!

Then on the way home, quite serendipitously, I was listening to an article about attraction, which nudged me to think about that word “attraction” in some new ways. I thought about those magnets and the different things that they were and were not attracted to, and also how strong the pull seemed to be with certain materials.

This got me to thinking about things that I am attracted to and how strong the pull seems to be at times. Some of those things have been good or interesting or brought needed learning or beauty…like the pull of the ocean, mountains, trees, music, deep conversation, bright colors, whimsical furniture, new technology, etc. Other attractions have not been so good and have also been harder to resist, to pull myself from. I found myself deciding that I wanted to be more aware of what attracted my attention, thoughts and actions and make choices…to know that I have choices and not let so-called human nature or non-thinking lead me.

I have certainly thought about this topic before, as one of my favorite mindful precepts has to do with mindful consumption – what we take into our thoughts and our bodies. But these current thoughts about attraction and having played with these magnets were giving me a bit of a different perspective, a more hands on view. Thoughts were coming to me in a concrete way such as, …” What are the things I am attracted to AND what choices do I make about them? How often do I find myself doing something and then realize it isn’t something that will bring about goodness, freshness or peace? Or when I watch a TV show or am reading a magazine, is it because I have made a conscious choice to do so for reasons that I am feel content about? Is the activity or conversation taking my thought in a direction I want to go? Or is it leading me to think about things that are unimportant, divisive, violent, or uncomfortable?” I even thought about conversations I have had where I felt pulled without much awareness to talk about another in a way that was less than kind or in a tone that wasn’t how I wanted to portray myself or align with my true nature.

So my questions for today are: If I am magnet, do I realize that I am a magnet with choice? AND am I making choices that serve me well? How about you?

after thought: I imagine that most of us have these types of conversations and musings with ourselves often, and that they lead us on to big and better ways to live our lives. I realize just how much I love pondering ideas and looking for the many lessons this Universe continually has in front of me (all of us) of which to partake. I am so grateful that these magnets spoke to me tonight …and that I listened.

Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.

mindful moments in the woods

We each went to our own secret place in the woods near RiverHawk for moments of mindful awareness very early on Friday morning. These are some of the mental images and memories that came back with us… things that we saw, heard, and felt.dscn0353

  • thick blades of grass with dewy hairs
  • bird noises all around me
  • the smell of wet grass and soil
  • lost acorns scattered across the ground
  • the mist from my warm breath floating through the air
  • the small peep of sunlight through the trees
  • the feel of the moist air on my skin
  • the waddle of a ground hog as it scurried across the field
  • the shade of the trees slowly receding as the sun rises
  • soft brown leaves on the ground
  • soft moss on the tree stumps
  • the distant screeches of a jay
  • steam floating up from the riverdscn3001
  • the peaceful river
  • little and big spider webs
  • big and small trees
  • plants peacefully growing in the moist soildscn0348








  • a little toad sitting so still
  • squirrels looking around for food
  • the sunshine making things look happy
  • me, sitting still and feeling calm
  • the flowing river
  • so many types of birds and bird songs
  • the river’s terrain…trees and cattails surrounding it
  • bugs scooting around on the water
  • the feel of a smile starting on my face because I am alone in the woods
  • trees, more trees, all kinds of trees…tall
  • grasses of different colors_dsf0011
  • the smell of the air
  • cool breezes
  • chipmunks and birds doing their own rapping
  • perfect temperature
  • light blue sky
  • bird tweets, squaks, sandhill crane bellows
  • bird vines, repeating and repeating_dsf0011
  • serrated leaves, pointed leaves, dark and pale green leaves
  • rushing water sounds, water gliding over rocks
  • bubble colonies floating on the river
  • cool air on my face and in my in-breath
  • mist rising from the river_dsc5586
  • completely still lily pads
  • reeds and cattails all standing so still all crowded together
  • wispy clouds, one shaped like a crescent moon
  • ever so slightly moving clouds
  • a toppled over tree from long ago with its arm-like branches reaching up
  • a red winged blackbird perched on the the very tip top of a river weed, perfectly balanced



I am so grateful that we have this space (mentally and physically) each week to commune with nature, to feel the wonders of our Mother Earth and all she provides.

Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community

True Nature qualities got me up the mountain

I had an experience a week or so ago where I was able to use the True Nature qualities that we explore at Scholars Together (and the vibrant nature around me) to help me get up steep hills at high altitudes on my bike in Colorado.

IMG_5127So, I love riding my bike and love the mountains, and yet I have not had a lot of opportunity nor practice these days at riding hills and mountainous terrain. And yet I couldn’t resist a relatively short bike trip with my husband from our campsite at almost 9000 ft. elevation to check out another camp site near another part of “our” rushing river. So off we went. Our trip there was mostly downhill and it was great to feel the breeze as I glided down the hills with the enormous trees and jutting rock mountains on both sides of the winding road. I could hear the rushing river and smell the dry pine and sage all around me. Yes!

IMG_5132We got to our destination and enjoyed each moment of exploring this new site and the beauty and refreshment that the river running through it shared with all who were there, fly-casting fishermen, rock climbers, horse back riders, campers, bikers, etc…all drawn to the natural wonders, beauty and grace of this area.

As we headed back to our campsite I realized that our trip was practically all up hill, and for me it looked like all fairly steep inclines. I felt a sense of dread and actually fear and was already breathing hard after just a short time. My husband stopped and asked if he could help, but I told him to go on ahead, that I would work this out. I stopped and crossed the road where I could sit on a rock for some moments and hear and see the tremendous rushing power of the river as it carried the snow melt from up above. I could feel its surging power from where I sat, and my thought just went to the qualities I could see in action…power, thrust, energy, flow, harmony, etc.

IMG_5141I felt a bit more comfortable to get back on my bike and get going. It wasn’t long before I felt exhausted and kind of weepy, wondering why I had taken this trip. Thoughts came that said I was unprepared, out of shape, that this was just too hard, that I couldn’t do this, and that the altitude was making it hard for me, too. Then I heard that river again – powerful, flexible, beautiful, purposeful. And the mountains that were all around me seemed so much more than their jagged rocks and peaks – they were strength, foundation, steadfastness, permanence, and solid. I began to realize that I am those qualities, too…and more.

Our Scholars Together True Nature list, that tells us who we really are regardless of whether we see those qualities out loud in the moment, had all of those same qualities that I was seeing so clearly in nature around me. I began to claim those qualities for myself in that moment – I am brave, calm and competent and eager, energetic, optimistic and enthusiastic…I am full of potential, motivated, steadfast and trusting. Yes, I was biking up a hill that was out of my current practice experience, but I was also these qualities and could draw on them right now.

I felt mentally and physically buoyed up, and though I was not going at great speeds, I was going…up! And from time to time the wisdom that was also me, reminded me to get off my bike and walk for a bit. Other thoughts that came from time to time that I should hurry and catch up with my husband or try to look more like a real biker, soon subsided and I became more grateful to express yet another of our True Nature qualities – being in the here and the now. I felt grateful, unhurried, able and free from the thoughts that would try to hold me back.

IMG_5200I was reminded of what I have asked many of the Scholars students as we learn and practice our true nature: When it is a cloudy day and we don’t see the sun, where is it? What is it doing? And we always end up agreeing that it is where it always is, doing what it always does with all of its gusto, even though we do not see it…just like our True Nature qualities. And I was experiencing all of that right here, on this glorious bike ride in the mountains! The doubt, fear and no-way-can-I-do-this-ness (the clouds that try to hide the sun) had vanished and I, thanks to the Nature surrounding me and its amazing expression of itself, was all of a sudden back at our camp site feeling grateful, peaceful and nourished. Yay!

I see once again the many ways that we can cling to and affirm our True Nature and see it take us where we need or want to go. There are reminders all around us of this innate nature of ours and I will be looking for them. How about you?

Click here if you would like to view our current True Nature List. It is an ongoing list that we add to as we glean more of who we are.

by Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.

Are you tapping into your innate mental strength?

Yay, Steph!

steph mug shot       We have been blessed for several years at Scholars Together Learning Community to have Stephanie Ruopp work with all of us in many venues… all that focus on     supporting our community, students and staff. Her           efforts often revolve around her natural inclination and love of writing, editing, and creative expression while steering others towards that path, too. Besides coaching,   mentoring and editing with Scholars students, she does lots of writing on her own, including articles, blogs, and other tidbits, including her latest work. We are so happy that others are seeing more of her just-plain-talented self and thought we would share this link of her most recent published work and also her blog site.

Thanks, Steph, for these helpful reminders that are encouraging and show doable ways to continue on our path of nurturing our mental strength.

steph blog photo

Some snippets from this year at STLC

jack on waterI am struck in this moment by a sense of beauty, innocence and the zest of life I see in our students as I watch the slideshow I put together for our recent Family Sharing night. As parents and teachers I think we have such a sense of ahhhhhhh, gratitude and satisfaction when we see our children have opportunities to get certain needs met… curiosity – the need to know, freedom, creative expression, feeling needed and heard in a community, and to see the efforts of their research and learning pay off in ways that actually show.

As I watched and re-watched this slide show offering, I felt a deep sense of happiness for what I know lives in these students ALWAYS and how satisfying it must feel to them (even they might not appear to be outwardly aware of it) to be able to BE with others in real ways while discovering who they are, what their talents are, what works and doesn’t work, and that this life is not always easy, that we often need to work for what is really important and gratifying.

I invite you enjoy this slideshow for what it brings to YOU, and to also let it conjure up what you feel is REALLY important for your/our children…in this world that would try to carry us off to an incessant desire for more entertainment or an absorption in self. What is important enough to desire and cherish it SO much for our children that it becomes what WE live and model?

Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.

Thank you, Earth mother

IMG_0265Each Friday morning at STLC we take a mindful hike. It is a time of quiet and individual interaction with and appreciation for the nature around us in all its forms. We walk slower than usual, are more aware of our footsteps on the earth and we are especially awake with all of our senses to everything around us. There is a sweet solitude and a sense of spirituality that pervades this quiet journey on our own, though we are together. It is definitely a feast if one is attuned, especially after a rain or a snowfall or as the sun rises.IMG_0304 IMG_0303 IMG_0302 IMG_0300

This past Friday was Earth Day so we doubled the time of our morning walk and added even more gratitude to our goal of awareness…gratitude for all that our Mother Earth gives us each day and the constant lessons she provides about how to live together in freedom, beauty and harmony by being who we are and seeing how necessary that is in the scheme of things…letting our true colors show forth, feeling our rootedness, flowing around and over obstacles that come our way, turning and bending toward the Light, feeling our natural going forward-ness, etc.IMG_0296 IMG_0289 IMG_0288 IMG_0287

When we returned from our mindful hike, we each took five more minutes of quiet to jot down our immediate thoughts to this prompt — Thank you, Mother Earth… These were the responses:

Thank you, Mother Earth for the silence of the fog, the sudden chatter of a frightened bird, a chorus of peeper frogs through the morning mist, the honking of geese overhead, sandhill cranes rattling in the distance, the variety of green in moss, the brown lingering leaves from last fall, the harmony of morning songbirds, dew drops handing on spiderwebs, tree trunks supporting smaller life, fresh flowing water, the colors of a red-winged blackbird, the early spring arrival of buttercups…Jay IMG_0255IMG_0280 IMG_0278 IMG_0267

Thank you, Mother Earth for the clear and peaceful water, the moss that grows on trees, birds flying through the mist, swans sitting so peacefully on the water, the fresh, cool breeze, all the different sounds the birds make, the peaceful and interesting swamp, the trees who help us breathe…CarsonIMG_0256 IMG_0251 IMG_0250

Thank you for dew drops hanging off the trees, leaves that never fell in the fall, LOTS of new skunk cabbage, birds singing, moss stuck to trees, the foamy water at the dam, fish in the river, discolored bark on a dark tree, perfect spider webs, spider webs with thousands of little strands with no obvious pattern, trees with knots in them that look like eyes, knots in trees that are imperfect but still beautiful, mist rising on the river…David

IMG_0247IMG_0238IMG_0237 IMG_0235

Thank you, Mother Earth for air, trees, moss, skunk cabbage, rocks, leaves, grass, water, animals, birds, wood, bark…Jack

Thank you, Mother Earth for the beautiful green moss, the forests, the rivers that feed the Great Lakes, the trees that cover the land, the fish that swim in the rivers, the fallen trees to climb on, the sounds that relax us, the paths that guide us, the swamp that is home to animals…Tyler IMG_0227 DSCN3389_editIMG_0224 DSCN3406

Thank you, Mother Earth for fish, frogs, fog, water, new flowers, tall trees and climbing trees, leaves and branches, all the birds, and everything wonderful…Charlie

Thank you, Mother Earth for bright green, wet moss, grooves of unfolding skunk cabbage, bird calls and choruses of bird chants, sounds of distant flying geese, winter-worn walking paths, yellowed, bleached-by-winter leaves still hanging on some trees, stagnant swamp water perfect for water bug skating, drops of last night’s rain clinging to wispy branches, a distant woodpecker on his mission, bright waxy yellow flowers, reflections of shore trees ever-so perfectly played on the river water, a curvy-necked swan in the foggy distance, green moss bursting with several shades of bright green moss on tree stumps, scents of freshly composted earth that is wet and pungent, ready-to-burst-forth-and-show-their-beauty-and freedom buds on so many trees…Tien DSCN3398_edit


I know there was much more that we each could have written, but I wanted just the first impression as we returned, while we were still each in our own embrace of nature. These walks and their lingering after-thoughts always remind me of the importance of taking moments EACH day to commune with our surroundings, to see that we ARE a part, and to be grateful for sweet and beautiful things that are newly seen on our familiar paths.





Tien Stone Langlois, Facilitator, Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.


Where is your focus?

Below is a blog by Seth Godin. He writes a blog every day that shares a perspective worth looking at, no matter what your career. One can subscribe to his daily blog for free and enjoy the benefits of a new view and some good self-evaluation each morning. This one came today and I just love it …and thought that you might, too.

seths.headDepth of field

Focus is a choice.

The runner who is concentrating on how much his left toe hurts will be left in the dust by the runner who is focusing on winning.

Even if the winner’s toe hurts just as much.

Hurt, of course, is a matter of perception. Most of what we think about is.

We have a choice about where to aim the lens of our attention. We can relive past injustices, settle old grudges and nurse festering sores. We can imagine failure, build up its potential for destruction, calculate its odds. Or, we can imagine the generous outcomes we’re working on, feel gratitude for those that got us here and revel in the possibilities of what’s next.

The focus that comes automatically, our instinctual or cultural choice, that focus isn’t the only one that’s available. Of course it’s difficult to change it, which is why so few people manage to do so. But there’s no work that pays off better in the long run.

Your story is your story. But you don’t have to keep reminding yourself of your story, not if it doesn’t help you change it or the work you’re doing.

This reminds me of so much of what we do, ask ourselves, and practice at Scholars Together Learning Community. Questions like: Where am I headed? What am I looking for? Is what I am doing actually working effectively to get me where I want to go? How can I actually tell? What am I REALLY focusing upon? Am I willing to do the work that it takes? Am I hoping to enjoy the benefits of my work, or am I hoping someone else will do the work for me? Do I want to feel that indescribable joy of accomplishing something I set out to do?  Do I want to feel that sweet “rightness” in my heart that comes from changing paths because it is a better idea, even though I had started down another? Where is my focus — on the past and on mistakes OR on the lessons and my new sense of direction or goal?

Thanks, Seth, for these ideas and for your consistent work that helps us look more deeply at the simple and yet important things.

Tien Stone Langlois, Facilitator – Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.

standpoints and perspectives

They say a picture is worth 1000 words...11807218_982105915145151_8852565252900145452_oin these ponderings I will use only 500.

My daughter sent this photo to me yesterday. I really liked the image…it’s colors, depth and serenity. I let her know how much I appreciated it. She said that if I turned it upside down it looked like a bridge over the water. Ah ha, yes it does. And I remembered a sentence by Ursus Wehrli: “I like to turn things upside down, to watch pictures and situations from another perspective.” Yes, I like to do that, too!11807218_982105915145151_8852565252900145452_o
Then the thought came about how different all scenes and situations look and feel when we look at them from a different perspective, and mentioned to my daughter how interesting it is when we take a life situation and see it in reverse or from a different standpoint. As in her photo: a dock becomes a bridge, or a challenge becomes an important lesson, a closed door reveals another open door that leads us to something better, or a misunderstanding leads us to the truth.

That reminded me of a conversation I had with a young girl this week when I was explaining to her what we mean at Scholars Together when we talk about our True Nature. We talked about the qualities that are true about all of us, our innate nature regardless of whether we see these qualities expressed in the moment or not. They are the qualities that really embody who we are…grace, peace, wisdom, responsibility, gentleness, joy, wholeness, and so many more.

As an example, I shared with her that on that very day it was cloudy outside, that I couldn’t see the sun at all. And yet I KNEW it hadn’t disappeared. I knew it was right where it was supposed to be, doing exactly all the good and important things that the sun does, even though I couldn’t see it happening at that moment. All I had to do was to remind myself of that fact. We shared with each other that there may have been times when we did not feel happy or honest or calm, but that right there in the midst of that sense of not, joy, honesty and peace were really there and were who we really were and are.

We each chose some True Nature qualities from the list we use at STLC that we thought would be helpful to each of us for that day. We chose qualities that didn’t feel so evident right then and then affirmed them as our true nature. We agreed to acknowledge them several times in our day, which would be sort of like watering them and nurturing them…agreeing with that view of ourselves. We both felt happy to have this kind of view of ourselves, kind of like a fresh start.DSCN2378

Then that got me to thinking about another quote that I think of quite often: “Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.” Mary Baker Eddy

I am so grateful for all the ways that we share helpful thoughts and pictures with each other…thoughts that lead us to a new perspective and to the core of who we are. Thanks, Zoë!

by Tien Stone Langlois, Scholars Together Learning Community

photos by Zoë Stone-Hess Valentine and Jay Langlois

wondering and wandering

Not all who wander are lost.  

What will you wonder about and where will you wander this summer? Where will you explore? What new thoughts and ideas will you examine as they cross your path? What will you see, discover, and learn?   11 wooden path It can be such a sweet and satisfying adventure! We are eager to hear about your journey.