Welcome to the first installment of a twelve week series on Rudolf Steiner’s model of the twelve senses.  Interestingly, the skills children need to succeed in school are formed by the four lower senses – the sense of life, the sense of touch, the sense of movement and the sense of balance.  The focus of development of these four senses is between 0 – 7 years old.  This week’s sense:

The Sense of Life or The Sense of Well-Being 

On the most basic level, the sense of life lets you know if you feel okay or not.  It is that part of you that lets you know if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  It is also that place inside of yourself that has the ability to know “time”  – like experiencing when it is time for lunch.  It is that sense of pain that young children experience when they are hungry or thristy that teaches them what their bodies need.

Typically, people are aware of their sense of life when they are not feeling well.  It is that inner sense that our well-being is “off.”  It is the inner radar that forewarns you that you are getting sick.

One of the things that I found so powerful in my Waldorf Training was that we can impact a child’s sense of life.  In fact, a child’s sense of life can be measured by their habit body – the daily rhythms and routines such as bedtime, waking, eating, etc.  If you are a parent or teacher – you can probably relate to having known a child that has no daily rhythm (thus no habit body) and the impact on their vitality and sense of well-being. If you have a child at home or in class that has great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues, their own need for rest or sleep – a rhythm can be a great therapeutic help.

Here are some of the keys to building a strong and vital sense of life in a child:

  • The best way to boost this sense is to provide a daily rhythm while the child is developing their sense of life.
  • Sleeping and waking have a great impact on the sense of life.   It is the fundamental rhythm of life. When you put your child to bed at the same general time every night – your child will begin to feel drowsy as you get them ready for bed.  The way in which a child is put to bed is important.  I had nightly little tasks that we did as I prepared the children for bed.  For example – just think of how powerful the gesture of tucking a child into bed is or saying prayers!   The amount of sleep one has impacts the sense of life.  There is a kind of “digestion” of the day, if you will, in sleep.
  • There is a rhythm to the digestive system.  Giving children meals three times a day at regular times builds the sense of life.  If lunch is at a regular time each day, your child’s digestive juices will begin to flow as lunchtime approaches!  We are not nourished by food alone but also by the rhythms.  Children who have family meals together on regular basis become more socially capable and interesting adults.   It is not unusual in children with stress-related disorders and problems with social interactions that they are connected to irregular or solitary meals.
  • The little things in the day that have their regular place are important:  getting-up, washing, brushing teeth, brushing hair, sitting down to eat, and so forth.   These are small but powerful rhythms. Individuals who do not have this rhythm suffer at some level psychologically – think about the homeless.
  • Many times the ADHD child has not been able to develop the sense of life fully.  These children can not step into the rhythm of our days.  Often this makes them difficult children to teach.   Children with nervous anxiety can have this undeveloped sense of life.  Look and see the sense of life in children with behavior issues – what does their daily rhythms look like?  How does their sleeping/waking occur?

We are working with the sense of life in the kindergarten.  Most of the work in the kindergarten is the cultivation of the life of habit.  We support this by having a rhythmic repetition of certain activities.   In terms of the sense of life – it is at the most basic level – food, sleep and nurturance of the physical body.  And it is the rhythms that hold life – rising and setting of the sun, seven days a week, the cycle of the moon, the twelve months in a year – that we build our rhythms upon.  Children require rhythm and actually long for it!  The more rhythmical the life of a child, the healthier that child.

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