The Calendar of the Soul

“The light from world-wide spaces
Works on within with living power;
Transformed to light of soul
It shines into the spirit depths
To bring to birth the fruits
Whereby out of the self of worlds
The human self in course of time shall ripen.” – Calendar of the Soul by Rudolf Steiner, Verse 22

Every morning, before the school day begins, a bell rings throughout the grade school hallway inviting faculty and staff into one of the classrooms for a reading from The Calendar of the Soul. This book of verses was written by Waldorf education’s founder, Rudolf Steiner, to mark the course of the year and the interplay between the outer world around us and the inner world of ourselves. As teachers, it is a reminder of the forces that are at work around us, out of our control, and the possible inner forces that we can awaken within us, that is what is within our control. Despite what Denver’s consistently high temperatures may indicate, summer is drawing to a close. The days shorten, the light descends, and cold creeps in. These things we cannot change. What the verse above does indicate is that we have an opportunity to take the strength of sun, its light, and ensoul it within us. If we transform from passive recipients of light, to active bearers of light we can develop new capacities even as the world grows dim and cold.

As teachers, we know that we cannot control another person, even a child, and nor should we. All we can control is ourselves. So when we prepare for the day, we are chiefly preparing ourselves. The students will bring with them all multitudes of unknowns, and we must be prepared to meet those unknowns–yes with outer preparedness of lessons, but also with inner preparedness of soul.

Parenting is much the same. Just when you think you know your child, they go ahead and change. They grow, they transform, they regress, they display new behaviors begging new questions. All of this is inevitable. Change is certain.

So how do we prepare ourselves to meet our burgeoning, changing children?

We can do so in the same way that the teacher prepares for a class of children.

Steiner shines a light on this situation more broadly, beyond the realm of teaching or parenting, into the realm of anything that is unknown:

“…feelings of fear and anxiety that gnaw at our soul-life in face of the unknown future:
Is there anything that can give the soul a sense of security in this situation? 
Yes, there is.
It is what we may call a feeling of humbleness towards anything that may come towards the soul out of the darkness of the future.
But this feeling will be effective only if it has the character of prayer. Let us avoid misunderstanding. We are not extolling something that might be called humbleness in one sense of another; we are describing a definite form of it: Humbleness towards whatever the future may bring.
Ideally, it would mean saying to oneself: Whatever the next hour or the next day may hold, I cannot change it through fear or anxiety, for it is not yet known. I will therefore wait for it with complete equanimity and peace of mind.
Anyone who can meet the future in this calm, relaxed way, without impairing his active strength and energy, will be able to develop the powers of his soul freely and intensively.”

If we develop this feeling of humbleness beforehand, by taking just a few quiet minutes in the morning, then we can respond with more freedom of thought and action in the moment. We can take a moment to really ask ourselves, “What is happening here? Why is this happening? What is this moment asking of me?” And then, without panic or worry, we can respond.

I would say that complementary to humbleness, a kind of bookend, is grace. Our lives are made of countless little moments, little actions. In the middle of it, each moment seems incredibly large, to where if we get really overwhelmed, we have a kind of tunnel vision. Nothing else exists in that moment: nothing to the left, right, up, down, behind me. All that there is is right in front of me and time stands still. Yet of course that is not true. Time rolls on, the world around me continues, and this moment itself is fleeting.

We can gain this kind of perspective by practicing a simple exercise, common among Waldorf teachers, of the daily review. Here is one way Steiner describes it:

“Being able to look at our experiences, joys, and sorrows as if they belonged to someone else is a good preparation for spiritual training. We can gradually gain this ability by taking time after work each day to allow images of the day’s experiences to pass before us in spirit. We should see ourselves in images within these experiences. In other words, we must look in on ourselves in our daily lives as if from outside. We can gain an aptitude for this kind of self-observation if we begin by visualizing small isolated portions of our daily lives. With practice, we become increasingly skillful in this retrospective view, and after considerable repetition, we can quickly form a complete picture.”

Doing this, we can gain perspective over events that happened in a more impersonal way. Perhaps we could have done something better, and now we know for next time. Perhaps that event had to unfold that way, no matter our actions. But similar to not getting anxious about the future, we strive to not dwell on the past. We accept the opportunity to learn, resolve for the future, and leave the past. In this way, we can continue striving to meet our students or our children in the present moment.

Written by Education Director, Vernon Dewey

You can also listen to our podcast episode discussing this topic on Spotify here.


Parenting the Digital World: A Middle School Toolkit

Child on phone representing lecture parenting in the digitial worldLooking for tips on handling digital media in alignment with the Waldorf way? You don't want to miss Parenting the Digital World: A Middle School Toolkit presented by Denver Waldorf's 7th Grade Teacher Vernon Dewey. This parent education lecture is a very practical, hands-on presentation on how we as parents can help our middle school students be safe and responsible citizens of the digital world.

Date: March 1, 2017 (Wednesday)
Time: 6-8pm
Location: DWS Music Room

Childcare Available: RSVP by Monday, February 27 with Carrie Tentori carrietentori@gmail.com

To provide background, Mr. Dewey will start the lecture with an introduction on the scientific findings of digital media's effects. However, the main intent is to focus on real strategies and tools to provide our students (and ourselves) with the guidance needed for effective digital participation. The intended audience is parents of 5th-8th graders, but all within and beyond the DWS community are welcome. Bring your smart phones!

About Vernon Dewey

3rd Grade Class1Mr. Dewey has been working at The Denver Waldorf School since 2008, assisting in the 1st and 2nd Grades before taking on the 1st Grade as class teacher in 2010. Aside from being our current 7th Grade teacher and the father of two DWS students, he also serves the school as a member of the College of Teachers, is a founding member and co-chair of the school’s Diversity Committee, and most recently led the month-long lecture series Initiating Change from the Inside Out last December. Learn more about Mr. Dewey on our Grade School Faculty page or reach out to him at vernondewey@denverwaldorf.org

Opening Photo Credit: silaaa Flickr via Compfight cc