This past Saturday, the kindergartens, first and second grades enjoyed their Winter Spiral ceremony. One could breathe in the warmth of the room, thanks to the parents and teachers who spent the morning creating the atmosphere using fresh pine and bay leaves. The lanterns were lit and the room was filled with beautiful music from the harp, played by (one of two harp-playing) parents. Quietly, the rest of the parents filed into their seats; upstairs, the teachers skillfully brought the children from the busy outer, doing and thinking world into a reverent, joy-filled, feeling world.
Just like the warmth of the earth goes into the ground in winter, we must be able to bring the warmth of the spirit into our body this time of year. We know physiologically that we get “cooler”; our cortisol and vitamin D levels reach a low point around the winter solstice. We are more prone to catch a cold or to experience the winter “blues” during this time. By coming together as community, we increase our collective warmth and provide opportunity for our children to access their inherent health and to express the magic that is their nature. In Working with the Angels: The Young Child and the Spiritual World, Dr. Helmet von Kugelgen said, “When the adult is striving to find spiritual contact, this forms a bridge for children.”
We know warmth is vital to the child’s ability to come into his body. Anything that increases the warmth of a child’s environment, in a way that resonates with nature, helps every aspect of child development, from reading, to movement, to how they emotionally and physically connect with others. We see this warmth in the natural toys of the kindergarten and the feeling-filled hugs the children get at the start and end of each day. We see this in the way the first grade teacher greets the child with a handshake, an open heart, and a smile, and how the second grade teacher magically gets the children to come in without any obvious outwards signs.
The added benefit of warmth is the physical health of the child. Children that are warm out to their toes have better immunity. The immune system is much smarter when the body is fully warm rather than when the feet are cold. Think about it, if you were a virus and wanted to live longer, you would head for the less warm areas in the body. Here in the cooler areas, the blood moves more slowly, the immune cells aren’t as active, and the virus can have a place to set up shop. In addition, keeping the feet warm provides the greatest distance of vertical polarity of blood flow; the blood is enlivened by the full movement throughout the body, just as we are if we are allowed to move out to our limits. Slowing the blood flow down at the periphery devitalizes the blood, and can lead to illness.
We know that regular meals with family, with a few simple ingredients, and “eating happy” are warming gestures. Sometimes we intentionally intervene to let the body warm up. We give immune-boosting echinacea and elderberry, we back off sugars, we turn the lights out and spend the evening under candlelight. We allow “sensory breaks”, which is that unscheduled activity starting with a half hour of “I’m bored.” That warmth can also be given with a blanket thrown in the dryer for five minutes before bed, or the cup of dilute hot chamomile tea in their lunch instead of cold water.
The Winter Spiral ceremony was beautiful and full of warm magic. With each candle lit, the awe on each child’s face along with the light of the candle added to the amazing light-filled room at the conclusion of the ceremony. One of more palpable rhythms of the year, the winter solstice is when we can go deep into our feeling life, where the light shines brightly, in order to be able to bring that light out to warm ourselves, our family, and our community.
*** For a stressed child, a chamomile tea abdominal compress can be a lovely way to warm the child’s nervous system so they can relax into their body. It’s also a lovely opportunity for mom (or dad!) to add their own personal warmth to their child. For instructions, see www.sophiamich-aelremedies.com. You can find organic bath-grade tea leaves at Rosemary’s Garden or a biodynamic option is available through Weleda.