Family Matters - A Spiritual Portrait - Part 1

Wherever you go in America, there are varying degrees of emphasis on family. Debates also abound as to whether or not the changing family structure is responsible for the current, chaotic state of our Society. Instead of focusing on external factors, let's consider the altering family composition as a dynamic metaphor depicting a spiritual yearning for wholeness that transcends religion, culture and social policies alike. Entertain for a moment as well this spiritual longing as the underlying impulse for familial acceptance and belonging in both individual and cultural consciousness. In this context, rather than the shifting family structure causing the current social and cultural upheavals, this unrest becomes an inevitable phase of spiritual growth and social reform driven by the pervasive though often unconscious thirst for individual wholeness, or holiness.

This metaphorical interplay reveals itself in various philosophies and traditions with phrases like, "as above, so below," and "as within, so without." Equipped with this basic premise, consider the desire for physical family then as a symbolic projection, an urging for the reunion of personal identity with our original spiritual heritage. Thus, rather than defined by archetypes, role players or biological relations, the visible family unit structure transforms into a metaphor for an individually self-contained, holistic entity. As such, this spiritual or holistic family unit comprises the human self and personal identity, sometimes called the inner child, with its parents, heavenly father and earthly mother.

The symbolically -rich structure of the chakra system, a widely accepted energy model used in healing disciplines as well as certain spiritual philosophies, reveals this spiritual family motif. These disciplines recognize seven primary energy centers called "chakras" whose locations range from the crown of the head down through the tailbone in the individual consciousness structure. In the first or Root Chakra resides correspondences with the earth, goddess, and the material or tangible environment. Within the seventh or Crown Chakra resides correspondences with heaven, god, and the infinite or intangible forces. The fourth or Heart Chakra is the center of the seven chakra system and the environment where heaven and earth, or spirit and matter, synthesize as Love. These chakra correlations provide universal metaphors illustrating heaven (father god, spirit) blending with earth (mother goddess, matter), or spirit (invisible) blending with tangible (visible), to produce the inner child, or human personality (personal identity).

The mother or feminine, receptive element consolidates consciousness into a tangible form contained with the enveloping omnipresence of the father or masculine element. It is the goddess who provides the ordered structure, or matrix, upon and within which god pours forth his legacy, i.e., qualities and characteristics, to manifest in the visible world. Life in the human body and tangible reality flourishes by the on-going, dynamic interplay between the god/goddess polarity and gives birth to the holistic family. The inner child's perceptual reality, sense of divine association and belonging reflects the quality relationship of this father-mother dynamic and hence, family stability. The idea of parents "staying together for the sake of the children" rather than divorcing is a metaphor illustrating the critical importance of this holistic, interdependent structure to individual well-being. As a metaphor, our culture's high divorce rate suggests the rational, linear mind's perceptual separation between holistic family members, a condition which also gives rise to the current state of social, health and environmental challenges.

There are religions and philosophies emphasizing god or goddess as well as both divine facets; however, in actuality it is impossible to exclude one from the other since it is essentially a single vertical flow generating the polarity principle. While acknowledging our dualistic aspects, the idea of a "mother/father" god ignores, and inadvertently splits, the distinction existing within a whole already supporting a mother/goddess facet. Single parents will readily testify to the challenges inherent in fulfilling both mother and father roles. Reality as a dualistic paradigm is plainly evident with male/female gender metaphors in addition to psychologically catalogued masculine/feminine qualities. In addition to its association with balance, I understand the yin/yang symbol accurately represents this polarity-based marriage by illustrating each aspect present within the other, i.e., each facet is contained within the other and neither exists exclusive of the other.

Holistic awareness reveals the heritage of the mysterious, unseen god usually reserved for religious philosophies with its complimentary pole, the physical world as goddess, divine by relationship. The marriage tradition of a woman taking the last name of her husband is a metaphorical correlation between the sacred divinities of the material world, i.e., earth, and the intangible god. In many traditions, the intangible god is often considered exclusively divine though by reason of their polarity relationship or partnership, the material world must also, therefore, be divine. The current mainstream "mind-body connection" focus is a growing awareness of these interplays in an individual, personal context and summarizes the interactive consciousness network forming the holistic family structure. A communication breakdown within the unit brings challenges, just as it does in the human family, and contributes to disease, insecurity and the unrest prevalent today. While distinctions between spiritual family members are natural, examples of the long-range, damaging implications of their on-going, perceptual divorce are historically traceable. For example, in the early 1900s, this culture began its move away from the pure, whole foods of previous centuries as refined sugar and flour moved into prominence in the American diet. This movement coincides with a dramatic increase in the incidence of disease and illness as well as a growing reliance on prescription chemicals in an effort to restore the resulting distress.

Although individuals once relied on developing personal craftsmanship for such daily care items as cloth and food staples like butter and bread, basic survival goods are now readily available in stores, provided by lifeless machinery and impersonal production lines. In addition to diminishing the vital force in food, the mass-production of finished food products jeopardizes holistic family solidarity by dividing individual, personal seasons from the cycles of nature with her instinctively familiar, maternal rhythms. The effect is a compromised connection with our Mother Nature through the loss of natural, intimate, daily interactive communion. As technology and industry gain popularity, surface engagement with life has grown so that "doing" fills a "being" void, conformity masquerades as loving acceptance, intellect substitutes as intelligence and value finds itself defined by the numbers game -- communion within the spiritual family network, i.e., genuine quality family time, succumbs to overscheduling as compensation for an instinctive lack and growing hunger.

Continued -- Part 1 of 2

Is Your Family Active Enough? 10 Ways to Become More Active and More Healthy Together

We know that our diet and activity levels affect our weight and health. However, very few of us are as active as we should be, and many of our young people are virtually sedentary. The 'Obesity Epidemic' has been much in the news this week, mainly focusing on the Children's food industry and nutritional legislation. Yes, we do need to watch what our kids and young people are eating, but we also need to get them up and moving around as well. Modern life with so much car use, emphasis on academic success, and concerns about safety has led to children's activity levels plummeting. Inactive children could be heading for an adulthood plagued by health problems.

High activity levels reduce the risk of obesity, keep bones strong, condition and strengthen the heart and lungs, boost the immune system, induce healthy tiredness, release stress and frustration, and a myriad of other beneficial effects. Our children should spend an hour minimum each day in constant motion, but often this is not the case. We take the kids to ballet or swimming, as 'extra' activities, but spend the rest of the week doing very little. We need to get them more generally active every day, and give a good example by being more active ourselves.

Activity needs to be integrated into all aspects of family life to ensure that the child doesn't see it just as a hobby or worse a chore. Your child needs to make lasting habits that continue into adulthood. Active children usually grow into active adults, with greater bone density to protect against osteoporosis, lower resting heart rates, promoting good coronary health, less risk of certain cancers such as bowel cancer, and greater control of blood sugar levels; reducing the risk of diabetes. Physically these children will grow into healthier adults, but they also will benefit mentally, with better motor skills and co-ordination, increased body awareness, and greater self confidence.

The strongest threats to our children's activity levels are TV, Computers and computer games. These things all have their place, but must not become the main focus of your child's free time. Television watching has been overwhelmingly linked with obesity; delivering the double whammy of inactivity teamed with hours of advertising must-have snacks which offer high levels of fat, salt and sugar. Your child can relax, release the stresses of school and enjoy themselves outside in the garden or park or at a fitness class or sports group far more profitably.
Here are 10 ways to become more active together;

o Walk/cycle/scooter to school (I know it is obvious).

o Get a dog and walk it together, borrow one if necessary!

o Build a vegetable patch, get an allotment, or do some gardening together- put on the wellies and get muddy!

o Visit the local Pool.

o Watch out in the school holidays for events at local sports and community centers; many provide cheap activity days with a large range of sports and activities offered.

o Go for a family bike ride and arrange a fun place to stop for picnic or at a café/pub for a drink. Contact Sustrans for cycle routes and ideas.

o Go on outings that involve walking; nature or Sculpture Trails, visit National Trust Houses, go to the zoo, or wander around historic sites. Plan active family holidays; skiing, biking, beach holidays with body boarding, kite flying, surfing lessons, volley ball etc. You don't need to go far or spend a fortune; many small UK resorts offer reasonably-priced lessons to older kids and teens.

o Choose presents for children which encourage activity; bikes, scooters, pogo sticks, footballs, netball rings, roller skates, skate boards, skipping ropes, table tennis kits, badminton rackets, Hula Hoops.

o Encourage older children to develop an interest in street dance, martial arts, snowboarding, surfing or power kite flying; show them the alternative culture of activity which is fashionable as well as challenging.

o Visit local parks and open spaces with a picnic, cricket Bat, kite or Frisbee Hold a family and friends sports day in the park, with rounders, hula hoop competitions, egg and spoon and sack races, French Cricket, Kite Flying. No end of fun for everyone, and grown-ups could sneak a bottle of something nice into the picnic basket!

There are so many ways that we can become more active, even if we do not want to engage in formal sporting pursuits. Every bit of activity that we do is another step towards improved health, so get out there with family, children or friends and do something active together!

Stay healthy,


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