I just finished reading a beautiful article on depression and strength of soul written by a surprisingly young woman. I was in awe of the author’s youth and inner strength. This piece had allowed me an intimate glimpse into an evolving human soul. It made me see depression in a real sense, and gave me hope for the human being’s ability to embark on a journey of true healing.
The young woman wrote about how two years before, she was camping in “breathtakingly beautiful Lake George” waking up early in the morning for an exhilarating swim, running barefoot through the forests and feeling a kind of freedom she had never felt before. “I felt released from my body and yet more incarnated than I had been in years,” she wrote. “It was wondrous, an exhilarating soulful experience.”
I thought it was going to be a feel-good piece about being at one with nature until the next paragraph took a surprisingly different turn. “I only mention it because the very day I returned home from that vacation I started bingeing and purging,” she continued. “The sudden onset of my disorder was shocking and significant. I am certain that some spiritual shift happened in me at Lake George which subsequently made it impossible to fall into the same life patterns as before. The trip had been an immeasurable gift, one that allowed me to remember what life pulsing through my body felt like, a sensation that often fell dead in my disturbed childhood. After that it was as if I rejected anything less than life, and was starving for something I couldn’t obtain.”
Her brand of self-possession, depth of perspective, core strength, sense of soul and awareness of spirit amazed me. This woman is only 18! She went on to talk about how she had an epiphany that made her give-up the 80 mgs of Prozac her doctor had described, stopped therapy and, consequently the bingeing and the purging. “ I was released to lead my own inquisition into my sickness and soul, to search to heal without shame, without the coercive methods “to get me better,” which unquestionably clouded all my previous efforts.”
The rest of the article was full of insight wrapped in a kind of lyrical clarity that I found particularly healing, even for someone like me who is not prone to such deep depression. At the end of the article, I found out that she had been a Waldorf student. Double wow. I had yet another moment of confidence in my choice of school for my son.
So many people ask me about my son’s school and sometimes shake their heads, thinking I’ve sacrificed intellectual challenge and advancement for something intangible, nebulous or worse, “new agey” as soul and spirit unfolding. Others think I’ve turned into a crusading tree-hugger with too many rigid rules about my son’s diet, the quality of his toys, restrictions about the amount of technology I let into his life, and the general environment I try to create for him. It seems strange sometimes, I admit, but most of the time it makes pretty good sense.
I just read that a Harvard University Study of the Global Burden of Disease predicts that by 2020, depression will rank second among the leading causes of disease worldwide. One-sided intellectualisation is partly to blame, so is the increasing amount of technology we have let rule our lives, the food we have tampered with so that the natural essence of our nourishment is no longer alive but a denatured, depleting mix of chemical sludge. All these (and more seemingly subtle yet powerful transgressions against the human being) have separated us from our humanity. All these have left us with souls fragmented, mourning losses we cannot even identify.
When I read articles such as the one written by that young woman, I feel supported in my choice. The Waldorf education will not shield my children from the assaults of the modern world, most of which seem to be aimed directly at the soul. No, I don’t think anything can protect my children from that, but the Waldorf education, in its dedication to bringing to life and honouring that side of the human child that makes him whole, will definitely give them the kind of fortitude and perspective that will help them stand strong and whole despite the chaos around them. If they, like the young woman who wrote the article, carry in them a full sense of what makes them human, I know they will never feel hopeless, desolate and frightened beyond feeling.
This young woman began her final paragraph with a quote from Kahlil Gibran. “ ‘The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.’ Since that first real self-discovery, that first search-dive into the darkest depths for the soul’s treasure (and coming up with some!), my inner life has seen such a succession of transformations that, although painful, confusing and terrifying, have made my being all the more profound, and receptive to my own spirit. My elements have changed. I’m less fire, more water and air. The flood of sorrow calms, the wind moves silently over the surface and I guess I’m waiting to wash up on land, and finally get my footing. And in this watery silence and time of reflection I hear the whispers clearer than ever, like heartbeats in the womb, foretelling emergence.”
The author continues her struggle but somehow I feel she has everything she needs to get across that turbulent river. I cannot say that it was solely the Waldorf education that contributed to her character but given their curriculum, overall program and respect for the human being, I am positive it had a lot to do with it.
More than ever, we have to pay attention to the kind of education our children are getting. It is not about having them read at 6 months or making sure they are computer-literate at age 2. It is about allowing them to unfold so that their capacity to look inward and take stock of their lives is kept alive. It is about giving them full possession of the very things that keep them human and on solid ground, no matter what.