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Anthro-What?

July 2006

When I gave birth to my firstborn almost nine years ago, my life changed, not just because I became a mother but because everything I had wanted and expected went the other way. I wanted a natural, peaceful, anesthesia-free birth, but I had labored “too long” so the doctors induced it further. From there everything went downhill.  After hours of suffering through unpredictable contractions, doctors convinced me I wouldn’t be able to last if I went without an epidural and my baby would probably go into distress.  Being a first time mom, I went with everything they said.  But after my son was born and all the other made-up medical complications were finally pushed aside, a longing inside me grew. I knew that a human birth should have been different because it was a deeply spiritual event—not a medical one.  Something was wrong and my soul ached with it.  I wanted to do right by my son.

 I came home to Manila and became more and more disenchanted with the kind of medical care the pediatrician was giving us, even though she was known to be one of the best.  So my sister showed me the way to a homeopath, Jake Tan, who made so much sense. He was a promise of light in a long, dark tunnel.  He spoke about nutrition and how it related to the spiritual and physical development of my child. He spoke about the senses and the kind of surroundings that would support his healthy development.  I felt Jake saw my son—really tried to see who he was as an individual– a spiritual being with his own destiny, not just another baby whose bottom had to be lined up for a shot.  This experience so resonated that I decided to put my son into the school Jake had co-founded with his wife and a handful of other enlightened people.  That was the Waldorf/Steiner school.  Since then my life has been enriched by sister initiatives like biodynamic farming, anthroposophical medicine, art therapy, curative eurythmy and many others.  The substance behind all these and other initiatives is called Anthroposophy.

Anthroposophy, very simply put, is the science of human self-knowledge.  It was founded by Rudolf Steiner, a respected and well-published  scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar. The main point of view is that the human being is made of body, soul and spirit and an “I” or an ego that penetrates all three.  Steiner education is built around this principle. That is why children are not awakened in their intellect before the age of seven, because they are still busy building their physical bodies. In the next seven years, their intellect begins to awaken, so formal schooling begins, but all presented artistically and gently, in full recognition of the child’s soul and spirit.  He is not just a brain and a body.  Waldorf Education is structured around this picture of the human being and puts weight on giving the child only what he is developmentally ready for in thinking, feeling and willing, or head, heart and hands, or spirit, soul and body.  It is an education that recognizes and supports the development of the total human being, so that children grow-up to be balanced, not just highly intellectual adults who are emotionally, spiritually and will deficient.

This is the same with Anthroposophical medicine.  What does it mean for a doctor and patient when they work from the principle of the human being of body, soul, spirit and “I”.  For starters, it means that the first thing you do during a consultation is tackle the patient’s biography or life story, seen from the seven-year-cycles.  What were the significant events during the ages of 0-7, 7-14, 14-21, 21-28 and so on? From there the physician can see what may have triggered certain illnesses and what needs to come into balance.  If the patient’s intellect was burdened during the first seven years, the development of his will may have been stunted and this imbalance might be causing some metabolic or rhythmic issues manifesting in illness. Where is the patient in his biography today and how do we help him come into balance?  This is but an example of how medicine is approached through the framework of anthroposophy.  The remedies used are also homeopathic in nature. No toxic chemicals here, though it is complementary to all forms of healing, including mainstream medicine.

In farming, too, the nature of the human being is addressed.  What kind of food will support the human being’s life forces?  How must we plant it so that it is a living food?  Biodynamic farming heals the earth and enlivens it and the”fertilizers” are prepared in a very special way, according to the lunar cycle.  Harvests are also consistent with the rhythms of the earth — all this to bring us the best kind of living, healthy food in a way that also enriches the earth and maintains balance in the ecosystem.

These are all tip-of-the-iceberg examples of the living initiatives that have sprouted from Anthroposophy. There are many more life-sustaining and enhancing impulses borne of Anthroposophy but I don’t have the space nor the knowledge and expertise to give you the full depth and breadth of it.  It takes a lifetime of study and work, perhaps more.

This is not an easy path, but nothing worthwhile ever is. What little I know of Anthroposophy changed my life and I know that I have become a better person because of it.  One of the goals of Anthroposophy is to awaken in each of us the “thinking heart” or cognitive thinking infused with warmth of heart, and wake up to our own individual destinies.  We can begin this journey today.

4 Comments

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  1. Maria / Mar 11 2015 2:25 am

    Hello Panjee,
    I found your post when Googled the term conscious parenting, just to see what was out there, and your blog covers the spectrum of parenting the way I understand it and love it. Anthroposophy, Homeopathy, Nutrition, etc, and all the other good things you write about. here.
    For me it is refleshing to see younger mothers choosing this way to parent. It is a difficult choice especially if one is alone, with low financial means, family not supporting your method, etc, but it is not undo able, it is possible to do the whole thing, and I would strongly encourage parents to go through this blog, it has so much good suggestions and guidance.

    The children are more balanced when we parent this way, it does go against the grain of society, but they do see it later. (my children are now 32-19, four kids). It was not easy, believe me, but if I had to do it again, I would repeat the process, and even more determined to carry out my what use to be considered strange ways: good nutrition, good playing, no television, low stimulation, natural toys, waldorf principles, etc, etc. It is important to revisit your own values, especially when you feel tired or if you are told that “the children will not be ready for the real world if you continue in this way”.

    Good work, Panjee

    • panjeetapales / Mar 11 2015 7:22 am

      Thank you so much, Maria! You’re right, it’s not easy. It requires grit and determination. Hats off to you and may our tribe increase!

  2. Maria / Mar 11 2015 8:15 am

    Hi Panjee,
    are your children in a Waldorf school or do you home school?

    • panjeetapales / Mar 11 2015 7:37 pm

      Hi Maria, they’re in a Waldorf School, though my 17-year-old has transitioned to a more mainstream upper school.

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