I belong to two cults. Honestly, I probably belong to two hundred. The Cult of House (the TV show), the Local Organic Food cult, the Home Baking cult, the Cult of Being Outdoors in All weather, The 20 Minute Run Cult, The Gmail Chat with Friends While At Work Cult, the BBC Radio Sherlock Holmes Cult. I think my religion-less childhood has made me more susceptible. Out of all my obsessions, there are two I truly worship: Waldorf Schools and Nia.
I’m a WalDork. I resisted and resisted for months. I made jokes on the playground with my yet to be brain-washed friends. Jokes about sticks and rocks for toys. I made fun of the Waldorf school’s “playground.” No equipment, just an overgrown yard with some wooden planks and a tarp propped up on sticks. I giggled about my friend not fitting in because she wears mascara. I suggested we start dressing in wool and felt for our Parent-Child classes. In shame, I tried to hide my son’s plastic (though BPA free) sippy cup.
But underneath these jokes I felt admiration and astonishment. You see, the Waldorf peeps are more than nature loving hippies. They base their educational plans and their whole lifestyle on Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophy. I really don’t know much about it, but it has affected me. Enough to nearly stop my jokes about gnomes. (There is a gnome theme happening…magical little beings just like my kiddos. Cool with me.)
What I love about Waldorf is the earthiness. In every classroom there are branches hanging from the ceilings with natural fabrics draped over them. There are felt veggies, wool dolls, and wooden bowls and spoons. We sing songs about the seasons; apples in the fall, Little Jackie Frost in the winter. My daughter has brown rice for her snack during preschool. She thinks it smells like popcorn. Waldorf is also a gentle way of being with children. Everything about it is quiet, peaceful, and kind. When I am in the classrooms I want to curl up in the pillow corner and just be. It’s a fine escape from my cluttered home and cranky tone of voice.
Though I am obsessed with my new cult, perhaps even thinking of starting a Waldorf-esque daycare one day, we don’t quite fit in yet. I have now sworn for the fourteenth time to get rid of ALL our plastic toys after a seminar on the four lower senses: touch, life, self-movement, and balance. (I’m telling you, this philosophy is deep, dude.) I’d like to clear out most of the furniture in our living room so our kids can move freely, and cut out processed foods, but we don’t have it all together yet. Last week my daughter said to her teacher, “Mary, look! I’m Tinkerbell! See my nail polish?” A Disney reference AND nail polish could probably get us expelled. Either way, I continue in my devotion to this gang of peasant-skirt-wearing, beard-bearing tree huggers.
Sometimes I think that dancing and sleep deprivation don’t go well together, but as member of the Nia cult, it is better to be sleep deprived than dance deprived. Nia began in the hippie filled land of Portland, Oregon. There are even two guru like figures who run the show. Behind every move (there are 52) there is a philosophy of movement, just as in Waldorf every educational activity, even the tone of the teacher’s voice as she tells stories, is purposeful. When I first tried Nia I was with my best friend in Rochester, New York. We went home after the class where the participants, my best friend included, made up a dance moves for us all to follow. She did some sort of digging motion with her arms and elbows, and in our circle we all did her move. When we got back to her apartment we were giddy. My husband had to watch us try out all sorts of jabs, punches, chops, and twirls as we pretended to teach the class. (This is what a best friend is for.)
When I finally did my White Belt training my daughter had just turned one. It was the first thing I did for myself (besides a girlfriend date or two) since she was born. I am a skeptic about “life changing workshop.” I wondered what they could teach me about myself that therapy and marriage and mommyhood hadn’t already. Then the teacher introduced the first few principles of The Nagual. I still don’t know what that means, but they are as follows:
1. Practice impeccability of the word, meaning only speak the truth of your thoughts. NOT easy for an anxious people-person who knows a little bit about manipulation. (I come by it honestly. Don’t hate me.)
2. Don’t assume anything. Woah. You mean I can’t read people’s minds? What about all my empathic training, my psychic powers? Well damn.
3. Don’t take anything personally. I don’t find this one too hard, somehow. Maybe I should be taking things MORE personally, but I don’t have time. There are dishes to do.
4. Always do your best. Not great at this one. I prefer half-assed as it takes the pressure off, but I did read all the way down to number four of these principles, so that is a start.
These principles make the whole thing a bit more cult like, which suits my need for existential angst resolution. They are applicable to everything and when I can remember them they help.
The dance part is true love for me. When do I get to pretend I am painting rainbows across the sky, or do a chest block and shout “no!”? I get to be in my body, move my joints, muscles and bones, and wake up.
On Tuesday, at our Waldorf school, I got to teach Nia to Grades 5, 6, 7, 8. My two cults coincided into one beautiful jam session. By the third song, one fifth grade boy was up in the front with me, teaching. Lots of curly blonde hair bouncing around, stepping eight to the left, eight to the right, reaching up high, arms waving. He is my new cult leader, my dancing gnome, and I bowed to him when we finished.