"God and Me - A Journey To Holy Ground" Retreat
Humanity's Team and School of the New Spirituality
Children's Spiritual Retreat concurrently run with
Neale Donald Walsch's
"God and Me - A Journey To Holy Ground" Retreat
Victoria, British Columbia
March 7-11, 2007
CHILDREN'S PROGRAM - Integrating New Spirituality into LIFE!
HT Kids is an initiative of Humanity's Team Canada to create a spiritual program for children. In May 2006, in Canmore, Alberta, HT's Wilma Lagerwerf and Lynne Cox delivered the 1st Children's Retreat program which ran concurrently with Neale's Faith in the Rockies Retreat. This year Mary Ann Swan joined the team in Wilma's absence to work with Lynne and three facilitators from The School of the New Spirituality, Linda Lee Ratto, (SNS Executive Director), and facilitators Eileen Kostolni and Rita Siems. We were also joined by a wonderful team of volunteers from the Victoria and surrounding areas who came in shifts over the 4 days sharing their time and talents with the children and who were such a helpful and wonderful support to us.
SNS's Eileen, Rita, Linda, and Mary Ann HT's Lynne and Mary Ann
SNS is a world-wide non-profit organization, created by Neale Donald Walsch and formerly named Heart Light Education. HT Kids and SNS are sister organizations in that both are leading new spirituality "Civil Rights for the Soul" programs. SNS specifically co-develops programs for youth and their adult leaders. For more information on The School of the New Spirituality and how you can get involved, please visit www.schoolofthenewspirituality.com.
Lynne Cox is the creator/author of "The Shining Light" program which includes stories both in print and on CD and a wonderfully comprehensive manual for parents and teachers just full of self-discovery activities that can be done with children of all ages. During our program, Lynne presented several activities and stories from her work. More information can be found about "The Shining Light" program by visiting www.shininglight.ca. Linda Lee Ratto, Ed.M. is the author of ten books and a worldwide education consultant and keynote speaker. The SNS-HT Retreat Team utilized "Dream-making" techniques and tools from Linda's books, CDs, and SNS's HeartLight Learning Model in each retreat circle with the children. For additional information visit: www.LindaLeeRatto.com
Overall Theme: Love of Self and You Can Lead Your Life!
Sub Themes: The focus was on the introduction of the concepts of spirituality as outlined in the CWG book series in a fun, practical and interactive way. Body, mind and spirit (tri-part being) was addressed directly (or indirectly, depending on the age and level of the children in attendance) with the incorporation of principles such as chosen lifetimes, soul/light within and finding one's inner voice, communication and listening, equal voice and sharing/caring activities, developing intuition skills, interconnectedness of all life, creative power of imagination, visualization. The underlying theme was: Love of Self and You Can Lead Your Life. We brought new spirituality into LIFE through practical activities that apply to everyday living.
Outline of Program: We brought together a variety of activities, stories, art, music and film with the emphasis on getting to know the children in attendance with a set of "getting to know you" activities chosen on the Wednesday evening. We then choose from a range of material listed below to represent each sub-theme that seemed most suited for this group. Cues on how to introduce, discuss or explore a theme were taken from the children as their interests became known to us. Having the children's thoughts and input was encouraged and supported at all times, and varied presentation styles were taken as a normal part of the agenda.
Modalities encouraged: Life-Purpose / Dream-making / Hands-on/Experiential Learning / Leader-focused environment / Dahn Hak Yoga / Games / Arts and Crafts / Swimming and outdoor play / Chanting and Drumming.
Activity Themes: We went in with the following outline and ended up choosing suitable activities from this list:
- Circle times began each day/session, initially to help introduce each other in a fun and interactive way, afterwards to simply create the space to express and connect with each child each time we came together, and set the tone for activities to follow
- Meditation was introduced though circle/nature/music or simply quiet time with guided visualization(s)
- Introduction of Soul/Light and God through selected stories that emphasized chosen lifetimes, the complete spirits/souls that all of us are, that God is all Loving, Everywhere and in All Things
- Explored "We are all One" and what it meant, in many ways throughout the program
- Loving Your Self - in as many ways as possible, not just through the program material, but also through the nurturing support of guides, with children and each other
- The power of caring, what you give is what you receive (life mirroring back) - Laws of Attraction
- Communication skills
- Intuition as a skill and tool to develop in each of us. To know without knowing how you know - and trusting it
- Intention and Focus - what we place our attention on grows
- Diversity and differences in people - acceptance of self and others
- Dreams and wishes
- Creativity - what it is and how each of us show this individually
- Feeling and Emotions, and recognizing their importance in self
- Modeling the importance and value of service to others
- Laughter Yoga as a tool to altering emotional state and perceptions thereafter
- Imagery and Power of Visualization to heal and create
- Awareness, honesty and responsibility
- Importance of the "Now" or present moment in our lives
- The power of story and mythology in imparting key spiritual messages
Program Format: Wednesday beginning with dinner at 5:30pm, program introduction at 7-10pm. Thursday/Friday/Saturday all day (9am until 9pm - minus breakfast and dinner with parents), Sunday 9am until 6pm.
Program location and set up: A large dedicated room with natural lighting, and washroom was requested for the program. We were very fortunate to have two suites on the top floor of the Harbour Towers Hotel located in beautiful downtown Victoria. Both rooms had wall-to-wall windows in their main rooms with spectacular views of the harbour, distant mountains and the ocean. Each suite had two levels, two washrooms in each and one had a kitchenette. Healthy snacks were provided mid- morning and mid-afternoon. Over the course of the program we were able to acquire a CD player, DVD/Video player and TV, pillows, blankets, tables, chairs, a whiteboard and some chart-paper. Several of us brought art/craft supplies which we used as needed. We also brought a myriad of self-directed activity support material. We were within walking distance of a small outdoor play area, as well as the ocean front.
Show and Tell -- some of our materials
What Happened: We were working throughout the weekend with thirteen amazing children registered -- siblings from five fabulous families. We had a 3-year old, a 5-year old, two 7-year olds, four 8-year olds, a 9-year old, three 11-year olds and a soon to be 12 year old. There were four girls and nine boys. After the introductory games designed to get to know each other on the Wed. evening, we spent the time having the children make life-size outlines of their bodies by tracing around them onto large pieces of chart-paper. The children then decorated them. We used them later in the program as a form of expressing how each was feeling that day. They would create a new face expression and attach it to their picture-body which hung on the windows of one of the rooms we were using.
Bodies - "just hangin around"
Rather than give a formal litany of each day, what follows are some of the specific activities chosen for this particular group.
Each day began with a "Trickle-in Time" (which became shorter and shorter as the weekend progressed and participants wanted the time to sleep in). As the children arrived they could finish their activities from the previous evening or read a book, do a craft, while waiting for the Circle Time at 9am once everyone had arrived. Linda began Thursday morning by asking the children the "BIG" questions: What do you love? Why are you here on the planet? What are your dreams? Responses were recorded for each child and remained posted throughout the weekend. Insights and new dreams were added to these posters as the weekend progressed and Linda spent one-on-one time with each child on Sat. and Sun. helping them to clarify a plan for manifesting the dreams and wishes that were being revealed throughout this weekend process.
After snack and a story from Lynne, we were joined by Master Young Hee, who travels with Neale's group and gives yoga sessions for the adult participants during Neale's workshops. For us she gave a wonderful Dahn Hak yoga session which really got our bodies moving and energized. In fact, Young Hee joined us again at this time on Saturday and Sunday for more invigorating Yoga sessions.
Master Young Hee "I Love My Toes"
Yoga was followed this day by a workshop from Lynne, titled "I Can Bee" which emphasized belief in oneself and belief in the seemingly impossible based on the life of bees. The children created their own reminder "Bee" from various materials. Each "Bee" became a vessel for them to place their own wishes and dreams into.
After lunch, Mary Ann lead the children in a "Cosmic Zoom" meditation which was designed to encourage relaxation and unleash their creative imaginations as they "traveled" out into space to the sounds of the music "Tocatta Wood" from Mannheim Steamroller's Fresh Aire III CD. This was followed by having the children draw a depiction of their meditation which became a springboard for sharing stories. Several times during the rest of the weekend they requested the "Cosmic Zoom" meditation to continue their travels.
Eileen then took over, to direct the children in creating Heart Boxes, which were lovingly decorated and filled with "touchstones" representing their dreams and wishes. Later, gratitude rocks collected on a walk were added to the boxes.
Eileen explains and then we create Heart Boxes
Next, In preparation for a visit Neale made to the group on the Friday, Rita lead the children through a workshop entitled "I Am" which began with the reading of Neale's book, "The Little Soul and the Earth" and focused on helping the children think about their true nature, their personality traits and talents and abilities they each possessed. This was followed with having each one create a small poster identifying "I Am" statements for themselves.
Rita directs the "I Am" workshop
Each day the children spent time expending their energy at the hotel pool between 4pm and 5pm. We had several volunteer lifeguards who supervised during this time. Unfortunately, none of us brought our cameras to the pool!
We were also able to do two walks outside, when the weather cooperated, which gave the children time to play at a nearby park or to take in the beautiful ocean view while looking for gratitude stones to place in their Heart Boxes.
Following swimming, children were picked up to enjoy dinner with their parents and the program resumed around 7pm each evening for a couple of hours. One night they were shown a lovely short DVD film; "Dance Lexie Dance" from the Spiritual Cinema Circle collection which reinforced ideas around making one's dreams happen. This was followed by the feature film "Brother Bear" which was about reincarnation, learning to love and understand an "enemy" and the concept that all living creatures are one family on this earth.
On the Friday evening, the children were entertained by the wonderful volunteer Shannon who brought a collection of drums and percussion instruments to share, including a demonstration of her dijeri-doo. The children spent a wonderful time dancing and drumming the evening away. By Saturday evening we had been able to manifest a VCR and the children were entertained by the feature "A Bug's Life" with its themes of self-acceptance and using one's talents for the good of all, despite social pressures and perceived limitations.
Shannon and her dijeree-doo
Another highlight on Friday was a visit from Neale Donald Walsch. He came to talk about his work, in particular as it related to his two children's books: "The Little Soul and the Sun" and "The Little Soul and the Earth". This was very well received by the children who asked many wonderful questions about the writing process and who were able to have their own books and artwork signed by Neale. Aeron was pleased to be able to share his own writing talent with Neale when he read a poem he had written for the occasion.
Our Visit With Neale
While Thursday and Friday were more facilitator-lead and structured to accommodate various visitors, Saturday and Sunday were more free-flowing once we became aware of the interests of the group. As well, in order to incorporate more themes and address the age range, we decided on a centered approach to our morning programs on the Saturday and Sunday. The children were introduced to centers run by each of us and which ranged from story writing, energy work, arts and crafts, reading, sensory exploration, and games. This format also allowed Linda the opportunity to pull individuals for the one-on-one time needed to assist them with a plan for fulfilling the dreams set out on the first day. We also used some of the time Saturday to put the finishing touches on a little presentation that the children made to the parents just before the evening program of Saturday night got underway.
Saturday Night Presentation to the Parents
We were entertained on Saturday afternoon by another musical guest. Seventeen year-old Taylor Ashton (son of HT's Tanya Dixon) joined us with his guitar. We certainly enjoyed this talented young man and Taylor's volunteer efforts were recognized as part of SNS's Young Leaders Program and will count toward the requirement for his high school volunteer hours.
Taylor serenades the group
On our final day, Sunday, the morning was spent finishing up the center activities and completing dream making plans. Dan - another awesome volunteer - joined us after lunch to create a massive tent under which the children enjoyed their afternoon snack - they wished for and we manifested ICE CREAM for all!!
After the daily swim, we reconvened to have a closing ceremony which included telling each other what we had enjoyed about each individual over the course of the program and giving out participation and appreciation certificates to each child. The appreciation certificates were created from an activity presented to them the day before where, in a circle a person's name was called and the group then called out positive attributes and things they loved about the other. These were scribed onto a separate sheet for each child. The sheets were then left out for the rest of the morning and children could go and add any additional comments and encouragements as they wished. Later these were transcribed on to a more formal template by one of the facilitators to be given out at the closing ceremony. We asked each child for some "feed forward" which was recorded on videotape where they answered each of the following questions: What was awesome about your time this weekend? What did you manifest? What has changed about you? What would you like to see if you came to another children's retreat?
As lengthy as this summary seems to be, I feel my words do not do justice to the amazing experience that this children's program was. The atmosphere was full of loving, healing energy. I was proud of the "safe container" we created to allow the participants - both children and adults - to express their divine loving natures so easily. It really didn't take long for each child to feel close to each other and to us and for all to demonstrate their talents and share their wisdoms. There were many breakthrough moments for each person and many opportunities to connect with each other in deep and meaningful ways. The fact that the children's parents were jointly going through a similar process with Neale's team, makes it all the more powerful. Once back into their everyday routines, what a powerful creative force these families will be for each other and their communities, and even on the world stage if they so desire.
In making loving acceptance of self and each other a priority and focusing our thoughts on only seeing love and beauty in each other, we were witness on an intense level to moment-by-moment manifestation of divine purpose in action. It is no accident that we all brought ourselves together from varied places and walks of life for these four days in March. There is no doubt in my mind that our world is going to be just fine if these young people are representative of the type of child coming into the world today.
Thank you to The School of the New Spirituality and Humanity's Team Canada for such a joyous opportunity.
In Perfect Love With All That Is,
Mary Ann Swan