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Pre-marital sex and the Catholic Church's model of abstinence Login/Join 
<w.c.>
posted
Somewhere back in graduate school, more than ten years ago, it became apparent to me that the Pro-Choice position was indeed a selfish notion, at least the proclamation by women that their unborn children were simply a tissue-extension of their own bodies. I became aware of the absurdity of this about the same time I realized most of the school faculty turned a jaundice-eye toward any student willing to contest their mostly leftist-oriented political views.

I'm participating in an RCIA class, and feel increasingly at home in the Catholic Church's teachings, so far as I know them; its moral theology seems sound to me, although I take exception re: the use of contraception within marriage. Probably the vast majority of practicing Catholics dissent in this area without feeling they are violating anything really essential about their faith. As for abortion, this clearly seems the killing of a human being.

But as for abstinence before marriage, I find the conversation to lack realism, with a weak model of adolescent psychology presented. The church seems to prop-up an abstraction for its campaign to increase teen-abstinence, as though limiting sexual behavior will automatically translate into increased self-esteem; it may, of course, work that way among teens whose self-esteem is relatively high. But for teens whose self-esteem is already in serious question, the teaching of abstinence may inadverdently provoke more shame, which can easily lead to more shame-based behaviors, not excluding pre-marital sex in response to peer pressure.

IMO, the Catholic Church, and other Christian denomimations sharing its vision, would have a much better chance of making its message attractive if it focused on building networks of peer-counseling shown throughout the country to be affective for this age group; this would be a way of gaining trust beyond the message of adults which teens are likely to find disingenious, especially since so few of their adult leaders and parents were able to maintain abstinence themselves.

Along with this peer counseling model, there must be opportunities for teens to develop creative projects that sublimate erotic energy, since currently public school agendas have driven art and music programs almost into extinction in the half-witted attempt to salvage failing academic performance.

Sexuality can be experienced as an energy in the heart, which is self-nourishing and not desperately needing an object, although it is, at the same time, condescending and harsh to assume that teen sex always gravitates around merely carnal, impulsive satisfaction. The worst thing to happen is not teens having sex out of love, and if the Church's message suggests otherwise, it is setting itself and its youth up for failure.

But there is only so much access the adult can have in the life of a teen, and the area of sex is probably the most taboo of all. Which leads us back to how important it is to address the earlier developmental needs of children so that sex will be less likely used during adolescense as a means for compensation. Toward this end the Church must incorporate developmental models that work to insure children are prepared internally for the turmoil of puberty and beyond.
 
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Let me compliment you, WC, on such a respectful, knowledgeable, and thoughtful treatment of this subject. You�ve left very little room for any kind of back-of-the-room snickering or sophomoric tittering. Umm, let me rephrase that.

Here�s one view of the problem:

quote:
Until Americans get over their hysteria about giving young people access to birth control, we will continue to have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the western world. It's really that simple.
Teen Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion

quote:
Pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates among teenagers in the United States have declined over the past decade but still remain an endemic public health issue.

Reasons for the decline include increased motivation of youth to achieve higher levels of education, the availability of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, leading to young people's knowledge about contraception, more effective contraceptive use, and improved ability to negotiate contraceptive practice; and greater social support for services related to both pregnancy and disease prevention among adolescents.1
Where Do Kids Learn About Sex?

quote:
June 11, 2001 -- Which factors matter most to teens deciding whether to become sexually active? Peer pressure? Media images? Education? Religious background? All play a role, but new research suggests parents may have the most influence of all.

You may think they're tuning you out when the talk turns to birds and bees, but they're not, according to two studies released in April by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP) that reinforce the role of parental advice and role-modeling in determining the sexual behavior of teens. In those studies, more teens, 38%, pointed to their parents as the biggest influence on their sexual behavior -- more than friends, the media, educators, siblings, or religious organizations.
quote:
So is the drop in teen pregnancies due to fewer adolescents having sex or to better contraception use among those who are sexually active?

The answer depends on whom you ask. Groups promoting abstinence until marriage say their message is finally getting through, and statistics do suggest fewer teens are having sex than a decade ago. High-profile celebrities who have gone public with their virginity, such as pop singer Jessica Simpson and NBA star A.C. Green, have helped to give the abstinence movement a certain cachet among the young.

"I go to a private school, and the majority of my peers are abstinent," 18-year-old high school junior Nick Reid tells WebMD. "I don't know if you can say that at most public schools, but that may be a gross generalization." Reid, who lives in Nashville, serves on the NCPTP's youth leadership team.

A report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the nation's largest nonprofit organization studying reproductive health, suggests three-fourths of the recent decline in pregnancies among teens is due to better contraceptive use and only one-fourth is due to abstinence.
First off, I think teaching abstinence simply has to be a major part of the message or else we are simply punting on this issue as a society. Hey, it may give some Planned Parenthood zealots a kick if kids are having sex early and often and if all religious sensibilities are offended in the process, but I think we should try to steer clear of using children to boost our agenda.

It�s probably not in the best interests of high school age kids (and younger) to have sex. It�s certainly not in their interest to have children of their own or to catch a deadly disease. If this is true then it seems somewhat irresponsible to fall back on they idea "they�re going to have sex anyway, so we had better have contraceptive devices dangling from the rafters." Conversely, there�s no denying that we now live in a highly sexed-up culture. Noting this fact, it would probably be irresponsible to place the burden completely on teenagers to stem this tide and thus to offer no guidance concerning contraception. But I think to put condom dispensers in schools and stuff like that is just asking for trouble.

I know this doesn�t all specifically address the Catholic side of things, WC, but I think many of the issues outside of Catholicism are going to be much the same.
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Good post and good suggestions, w.c. And good links, Brad.

It often happens that a Church teaching is presented in terms of principles, with the means for supporting practice left to be developed by parishes, dioceses, schools, and, of course, families, where explanation for the reasons the principles are taught are also given. There's certainly a need for more peer support efforts in this particular area.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
After reading your posts, I'm left feeling how important sex is as a symbol for what teenagers are yearning for that makes their volatile and awkward passions so irresistable: Not simply its natural drawing power, but within erotic desire the need to be cherished, seen, heard, understood, i.e, to live in the heart and the mind of a trusted adult, as well as peers, which generates an ability to befriend one's own passions. Little wonder that parents, the primary attachment relationships in the teenager's life, are so powerful. But my guess is that the parent's advice is only as good, or openly received, as the parent is trusted, which is built over many years of the child's life.

And, it would be important to remember that children are sexual beings prior to puberty, a fact which is either mis-characterized or dismissed as too delicate to talk about. The child's body awareness appears to be rich in sensuality and heart-centered in such a way that sexual feeling isn't objectified as we experience in adult life, although moms and dads can probably recall moments when their children wanted to be seen and cherished in all their nakedness. This is a time ripe for deep affirmation of the child's inviolable personhood, or a time in which the child can experience a crippling shame if the parent is too uncomfortable in his or her own skin, leading to withdrawal or exploitation.
 
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WC said: After reading your posts, I'm left feeling how important sex is as a symbol for what teenagers are yearning for that makes their volatile and awkward passions so irresistable: Not simply its natural drawing power, but within erotic desire the need to be cherished, seen, heard, understood, i.e, to live in the heart and the mind of a trusted adult, as well as peers, which generates an ability to befriend one's own passions.

Well, sex surely can feel better than a handshake or a back rub. There's no denying that. And there's a powerful need for anyone to be ratified as a person, especially by the opposite sex. And to be fair about it, sexual desire can take hold and produce a state of mind that is the most wonderful form of madness, but madness all the same. Hormones are powerful drugs and there's only so much even the goodiest of two-shoe kids can do to restrain themselves�especially in such a sexually charged culture. (And I can tell ya it ain't doin' me a lot of good neither.)

Teenagers need to be able to talk about this stuff with their parents. And sometimes that's not easy or even possible. Some parents are just nuts. Smiler But the truly odd thing about sex is that you can have your private parts actually inside another person and yet be a million miles away. Sex doesn't necessarily solve self-esteem problems. It doesn't necessarily solve loneliness problems. It doesn't necessarily solve acceptance problems. Sex should be thought of as an extension of one's emotional and mental makeup and not the creator of it. There are sex-a-holics galore that are getting more sex than you or I could shake a stick at, but they are likely a million miles away from the women in terms of intimacy.

Sex can certainly be little more than a callisthenic for some, and some indeed do seem to have the emotional makeup to be okay with that. But I think for most people there is a highly spiritual aspect to sex that is denied only at great cost. (And that's not to deny the "down and dirty, need it now" of certain moods of sex, if I may be so graphic.) But to focus on the implements of sex (condoms, etc.) is to betray the souls of teenagers and to help them turn sex into a dysfunctional act. Those who think they are doing teenagers some kind of big favor by freeing them from the supposed tyranny of Protestant (or Catholic!) prudes need to deepen their understanding of the entire sexual act. Maybe they're projecting their own dysfunction onto teenagers. Kids deserve better than that.
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
Brad:

I'd mostly agree with you, in the sense that for those whom sexual contact has become rather numb, the impairment or disconnection in the psyche is already underway; yet this only worsens with habit, based upon the connection sexual feeling has with emotional awareness. When we objectify others, not even in a harsh way, we are mostly projecting our own internal state of affairs.

And so what I'm wondering about on this thread is how the Catholic Church could utilize its notions of theological anthropology, as in the work of Adrian Van Kaam and George Maloney, or even JP II's teaching on the body, toward the end of creating programs that enhance the resilience of the true self, which is always about embodiment of the soul.

The more embodied the soul, or the more actualized the true self, the more resilient and awake is the heart space for the experience of Eros (beyond but including the sexual passions in their more explicit expression). This is the wonder of the child's growth, and the foundation for the adolescent's integration during and beyond puberty: seeing the soul appear in a vast array of forms, which is why creative arts programs, along with the more nurturing/emotionally supportive kind of attention often given by adults in those settings, are so essential in keeping the head and the heart and the passions in a meaningful, morally sustained communion.

The reason that emotional abuse and neglect have such a profound effect on one's sexuality is that the true self and the kundalini govern both the energy of emotion and the erotic passions. And so sexual abuse not only impairs emotional growth, but emotional abuse and neglect distort the heart-centered capacity of Eros, obscuring one's conscious/visceral sense of the true self.
 
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<w.c.>
posted
IOW, if the church wants teens and young adults to abstain from sex prior to marriage, it better be devoted to what is needed to generate increasing access to Eros as a heart-centered reality, not just via theological speculation, but in actual support programs in its schools that address psychosocial-creative needs, and not just with higher octane academic programs.

Unless there is a conscious space within a person that is alive and rich and capable of integrating the sexual aspect of Eros, then sexual engagement will more likely be the default match for those intensities.

And so the more the soul can see itself embodied in the world, the more its conscience is extended as well, providing an internal basis for moral behavior, rather than merely trying to put the moral harness on the teen in hopes he or she will make those connections without our having to address the more sensitive, developmental issues.
 
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And so what I'm wondering about on this thread is how the Catholic Church could utilize its notions of theological anthropology, as in the work of Adrian Van Kaam and George Maloney, or even JP II's teaching on the body, toward the end of creating programs that enhance the resilience of the true self, which is always about embodiment of the soul.

If you think I�m going to run out and become Catholic just to answer that question, you got another thing comin�. Wink

Maybe you could summarize the older programs. Would they be something akin to "Don�t do it or you�ll got to hell"? Is that too simplistic? If so, well, certainly there was a time when people thought the only way to stop young people from having sex was to put the fear of God into them, literally or figuratively. Because the left (and I�ll distinguish that term from "liberal" for the moment) sort of has a running argument with religion (that is, they don�t like it), a lot of the influences, especially in public schools, that one runs into are not "progressive" programs, per se, but naked and blind reaction to the boogey man of perceived religious Puritanism.

And so what I think you are attempting, quite rightly in my opinion, to do on this thread, WC, is to find something better than the old-style practices which were not much more complicated than the heavy use of stigma and shame (and there�s certainly something to be said for stigma, don�t get me wrong) and the left-style ones which are so reactive against religious and moral sensibilities as to treat teenagers no better than test subjects.
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The more embodied the soul, or the more actualized the true self, the more resilient and awake is the heart space for the experience of Eros (beyond but including the sexual passions in their more explicit expression). This is the wonder of the child's growth, and the foundation for the adolescent's integration during and beyond puberty: seeing the soul appear in a vast array of forms, which is why creative arts programs, along with the more nurturing/emotionally supportive kind of attention often given by adults in those settings, are so essential in keeping the head and the heart and the passions in a meaningful, morally sustained communion.

We can barely get adults, who have much worldly experience under their belts, to act responsibly. Your (and mine as well) idealized version of the sexual relationship is probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Just an ideal. The left has tried to make sex as natural and normal as a handshake. And indeed, it is as natural and normal as a handshake but handshakes rarely lead to nine month pregnancies, life-long commitments to children, and/or possible death due to sexually transmitted diseases.

And so the thrust (no double entendre intended) of the whole philosophy behind this, at least as far as I�m concerned, is that we�re dealing with a "controlled substance" in terms of sex, especially among highly-charged teenagers. People have tried for thousands of years to moderate it and we dabble in such things only with the greatest of care or else we could very easily repeat the mistakes of the left who think they can counter-program anything nature has programmed and/or do not believe there is any programming in the first place and thus people can be considered blank slates to be programmed with supposedly socially-desirably behavior.

There is great mystery, power and danger in sex. Yes, it also feels good too. But sex ought to be treated with the same respect that one would have for a loaded gun. We don�t just toss loaded guns to kids and say "Here, kids. Don�t let those anal-retentive Catholics and Protestants keep you from having fun." We don�t hand out bullets at schools either.

Somewhere in all this is a middle ground that is neither squeamish about sex (thinking it inherently dirty and sinful) and those who think, like abortion, that you�re somehow letting down the rest of progressive humanity if you�re not having sex early and often.
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
Brad:

I'll get back to your points later today, but just for now, the issue of teen self-esteem related to emerging sexual identity is probably more neglected within the classroom these days than outright abused. Most of what passes as "progressive" is merely intensified academic programs, which left to themselves, and combined with poor parenting, creates its own troubles. Moreover, when teenagers are not having their psychosocial needs supported for 8 + hours a day, there is an increased tendency to act out shame toward each other, since increasing sexual awareness without emotional support tends to provoke more shame all by itself. This increased shame-based awareness would make sexuality a more insecure experience, and the ensuing behaviors between teen peers more harsh.

As for the role of religion in pedagogy, I believe it must inspire a deeper, more secure connectedness with the person's soul, and if the more formal church curriculum in these educational environments is shown to impede that, then such programs need to shift to a more pastoral-oriented agenda.
 
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<w.c.>
posted
"Somewhere in all this is a middle ground that is neither squeamish about sex (thinking it inherently dirty and sinful) and those who think, like abortion, that you�re somehow letting down the rest of progressive humanity if you�re not having sex early and often."


Yes, and IMO, it really hinges on respecting the natural law and the psychosocial-spiritual environments required to cultivate it in awareness. And so directly addressing the issue of sexuality, which schools have identified as a crisis, is mostly just a symptom of other neglects.
 
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Yes, and IMO, it really hinges on respecting the natural law and the psychosocial-spiritual environments required to cultivate it in awareness.

So�if you were giving a lecture before a bunch of skulls full of mush (aka "teenagers") what would you say? What might the outline or bullet points of your lecture look like, which I assume would sort of be put into a language that teenagers could relate to?
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
Brad:

It wouldn't be a lecture, which would fall flat for sure with teenagers. What engages them, at least in my experience as a teacher, is when they feel taken seriously, are seen and heard in a meaningful, supportive relationship, and allowed to control some of their own environment, making contributions so that consequences can be owned. You'd want to let them come up with much of their own notions while facilitating the dialogue so they can have the experience of resolving conflicts individually and as a group. When they get to teach, they naturally become more responsible and motivated.
 
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Are you guys aware of what's actually being done in the schools and churches? Some good ideas are being expressed, here, but many of these were already being implemented in the mid-80s, when I was part of a team writing curriculum for health ed. in Louisiana. We were looking over resources from other states and private schools and they were doing quite a lot as well. I know that Catholic schools have good teaching -- much more than just a moralistic approach.

From what I've read lately, teen pregnancy rates are down, and many more are remaining abstinent than 10 years ago.
- http://foxnews.webmd.com/conte....htm?src=rss_foxnews

w.c., I'm curious about what was said in your RCIA group that got you going on this topic. (Glad to hear that's going well, btw. Smiler )
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
Phil:

That particular topic hasn't been directly taken up in RCIA, but my impression is that the public schools are cutting back on arts and music, and tend to resist any time being taken up with courses that can't be measured on tests that in turn provide funding for the districts, which are being stream-lined around mostly math and science. Time alloted for peer counseling, and all the training and supervision it entails, would be given even less consideration.

As for the church schools, I wouldn't find it suprising that their emphasis would also be mostly academic, since an increasing percentage of parents yearn for voucher programs allowing them to place their children outside the public school system. Smaller classes, better paid teachers, and more supportive principles all contribute to more students making better grades, but this only indirectly addresses the stress and turmoil of adolescence. And so my point is that while adults tend to demand time for leisure and consideration re: stress on the job place, adolescents, and even children, are expected to pull their eight hour day, do their homework, excel in some extra-curricular activity to cope with peer pressure, and then somehow magically find time for just being a kid. Now, some families are a refuge that takes the edge off, but many are not, given the two parent income required to send Johnny to the premier schools.

What is disheartening is that making a difference in terms of psychosocial development wouldn't take any major overhauls of the public school systems. Simply taking one class per week for peer counseling would turn out significant changes in behavior, and help spot the more troubled children earlier. This is being done around the country, but is still comparitively uncommon. Hence the crisis of urban public schools, with parents fleeing to the suburbs. I used to sub. teach in these, and have a friend who is doing so now, and these environments actually resemble mininum security prisons.
 
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My closest freinds are either in stable relationships or are sexually "sober" from a Christian perspective. I'm kind of neurotic about it
though, and have a great deal to learn. I'm hanging around with some younger folks and attempting to learn something while remaining objective.

I saw the 1994 film "Disclosure" with Demi Moore and Michael Douglas yesterday, and it seems that sex can be a big power trip for some people. That's probably wrong usage of the gift. Wish I could say I've never done that. Frowner Being a Christian would mean very little to me if it cost me nothing in the way of sacrifice. I think it must grieve the Holy Spirit terribly when people are hurt and when we hurt ourselves.

Hope and healing for all of the broken hearts...

This is one of the things that brings people back to church, so that I should think might be a good thing. Smiler caritas, mm <*))))><
 
Posts: 2559 | Registered: 14 June 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
MM:

Yes, and as the church, or at least those denominations I'm familiar with, continue to open themselves to the helping professions, then the return of the wounded can be not such a shameful thing, as we are all really doing it all the time anyway. But teens are more likely to fall through the cracks, since they aren't the self-referring type, and usually don't get the services until a crisis occurs.
 
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Are you guys aware of what's actually being done in the schools and churches?

No. I�m still stuck in the 60�s like everyone else. Wink But I�m glad to hear you had a hand in bringing a little sanity to the discussion of ssss�.ssss�..sssssSSSEXXXX!

I played surrogate uncle on Halloween for a little girl whose family is breaking up due to sexual infidelity. I very nearly was involved in something like that myself, although it was my fear, not any sense of morality, that kept me from wandering too far. But, like Jimmy Carter, I sure did commit adultery in my heart.

So looking into that little girl�s eyes, I wonder if kids today have any sense of the dire consequences of sexual misconduct? Fine. Have sex. Have it early and often. Life�s tough. This is a little bit of pleasure that can be taken and should be taken. But I wonder if most people have any conception of the baggage that goes along with sex�and there is literally baggage galore.

They don�t, of course. Only after sticking your finger in the light socket can you really know. Perhaps it is useful to engage in these silly looking experiments where teenage guys carry around a baby doll, one that they have to care for regularly or else it screams its head off. Goodness knows that�s a great wake-up call for men who tend to think only with there�err�appendage. But what�s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It�s fashionable these days to cast men in the role of predator and women as victim (at least if there presents an opportunity to blame men for something otherwise the concept is that women don�t need men and are just as good, if not better, than them). But I think women�s role in teenage sex problems is WAY underrated. It�s too bad there is not some device women could carry around, or implant, that made them as horny as a tomcat twenty-four hours a day, where the sight of the shape of a curvy sand dune is enough to set off a cascade of sexual thoughts. Then they may know what it is like today for young teenage boys who, for all practical purposes, must walk the gauntlet of Madonna-dressed little prostitutes in costume. As one father I know, who shall remain nameless, said at a high school dance that he recently chaperoned: "Wow, when you look at the way those girls are dressed I was probably the one who should have been chaperoned."

If teenage pregnancy rates are down and many more are remaining abstinent, then that is truly remarkable.
 
Posts: 5413 | Location: Washington State | Registered: 21 September 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<w.c.>
posted
Here are some simple tools that could easily be incorporated into a peer counseling program. To access this information, one needs to register with the HeartMath website, which is free of cost. Here's their website:


http://www.heartmath.org/

And here are the meditative exercises adapted for various age groups which you can find at the website above:

_____________________________________

"Heart Genie"
Cut-Thru� Tool for Children (ages 2-5)

Note To Parents

You can help young children with emotional balance by guiding them through the simple steps of the "Heart Genie" tool. To begin introducing this version of the Cut-Thru tool for ages 2-5, pick a quiet time when distractions are at a minimum. For a younger child, this might be after the morning rush or after a nap when a child feels refreshed or the time just prior to bed. Establishing a regularly scheduled time will go a long way toward helping your child learn and use the tool with continuity.

It is also important to use the Cut-Thru tool yourself. In times of stress children do absorb their parents' intensified emotions and uncertainty and become more easily upset. As you develop your own emotional balance with the Cut-Thru tool, you will increase your ability to be a calming influence on your children.

How to introduce the tool:

Introduce the "Heart Genie" tool by reading it out loud and coaching children through the steps. It can take a few times depending upon their ages and how long they can sustain focus. To engage interest through stimulation, you can help reinforce and solidify their experience by using the "Heart Genie" pictures activity (see "Tool Boosters/ Heart Genie Pictures"). Repeat the steps of the "Heart Genie" tool daily. Practice with your child until he or she feels comfortable using the Heart Genie at any time.

Children will need to be guided towards finding the important value in feeling their hearts. Younger children by nature are physically active and emotional, so to engage them you will need to create some links to their own experiences. It's good to begin to verbalize your own perceptions of the heart in daily conversation. Over the dinner table or in the car, speak genuinely but casually with comments like, "You know, it feels good to love and be loved," or "I was a little confused today but I soaked with my Heart Genie and soon felt better." When putting your child to bed, consider taking your hand and placing it on your child's chest and saying, "Today was a busy day. Let's go to our Heart Genie and feel happy and thankful for all we have together." Model your sincerity by closing your eyes and holding your concentration in the heart for thirty seconds. Maybe you have had a hard day. Invite your child to join you in going to the heart for a minute and feeling some peace. This helps to activate a child's instinct to love and increase bonding with parents, guardians, teachers, and friends.

You also can help young children learn to shift out of upset feelings during the day. When you see your child feeling angry or sad or confused, suggest that it is a good time to heart-soak his or her feelings with the Heart Genie. Then talk about the experience together. Ask, "What happened to make you feel that way?" "How did you feel after you used your Heart Genie?" Help your child recognize and feel the difference. Praise children when they make an emotional shift. This will help create security, so that they will feel safer in exploring the world around them. This is especially important during times of challenge or crisis.

Heart Genie

You have a very magical part of yourself I would like you to meet. It is called your Heart Genie. Would you like to get to know your Heart Genie? Let's do it right now.

1. Stop and check how you are feeling inside. While breathing slowly, put a hand on your heart and feel. How are you feeling inside? Are you feeling happy? Are you feeling sad? Are you feeling mad? Are you feeling scared? Are you feeling hurt? Are you feeling stubborn? Your Heart Genie's magic can help you to feel better.

2. Shut your eyes and be very still and quiet. Soak your sad or mad or scared or hurt or stubborn feelings in your heart with your Genie. Soak and soak. Your Heart Genie has good feelings inside that can make your other feelings get better. Breathe slowly and soak a little more so the Heart Genie can give you the magic of feeling better.

3. How do you know Heart Genie is working? If you are feeling even a little better, your Heart Genie is working. The quicker you start to feel better, the happier your Heart Genie is. Your Heart Genie likes you to feel happy and really likes to see you smiling. Make the Heart Genie one of your secret best friends and it will teach you more magic as you get older.

Use the short steps after your child becomes very familiar with the "Heart Genie" tool.

Short Steps

1. Stop, see how you feel.
2. Soak, awaken the Genie.
3. Feel better.the Genie's magical gift.

*This is an adaptation of the Cut-Thru� Tool in Action called "Heart Soak" -- written especially for ages 2-5.

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� Copyright 2001
Institute of HeartMath
All rights reserved.
 
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<w.c.>
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"Accessing the Heart of Gold"
Cut-Thru� Tool for Children (ages 6-10)


Note to Parents

Children do not have the mature reasoning skills or the same resources for dealing with emotions as adults do. Children's emotional equilibrium can be disrupted by news on T.V., rumors at school, or tension and strain in the home. Parents play the most influential role in restoring a child's sense of security. Using the Cut-Thru tool is one of the most effective ways parents can bring emotional stability into the household. By finding more clarity and balance yourself, you can easily pass more security on to your child. An effective tool you can teach your child is "Accessing the Heart of Gold," a version of Cut-Thru written especially to help restore emotional security in children, ages 6-10. Use it together during those short but special moments of the day or night to provide the warm bonding that makes family life so rewarding.

How to introduce the tool:

� When you introduce your child to "Accessing the Heart of Gold," find a quiet place and time when interruptions are minimal. Explain to children that "accessing" means finding and using.

� Begin by talking about the importance of emotional well-being in the family. Mention the value of staying calm, loving, and supportive towards each other, especially during times of stress. Tell your child that you are going to introduce the "Accessing the Heart of Gold" tool as a short activity you can do together to help anchor your family's emotional health and strength. Share how the tool helps release feelings of worry, anxiety, insecurity, or fear and then makes clear thinking easier.

� If you, the parent, have already successfully used the Cut-Thru tool (from which "Accessing the Heart of Gold" was derived), share a success story with your child. Talk sincerely about any benefits you gained. This can provide your child with concrete examples and be a special moment of heart bonding.

� Read the steps to your child. After each step is read, discuss and then practice the instructions together. For instance, Step One asks you to be aware of any feelings you are having. Try to help your child identify any unsettled feelings, like fear or worry. Next, read Step Two, which asks you to shift your attention to the area around the heart and breathe through that area several times. Make sure your child understands that instruction and then do that step together with him or her. Do the same with Steps Three and Four. You can explain that in the context of this tool, gold represents the feeling of powerful liquid love, like rays of warmth from the sunshine.

� Praise and reaffirm a child when he or she has made progress with the tool or feels better. This builds enthusiasm, helping children more quickly learn to release their emotional stress.

� Many children will enjoy drawing "Accessing the Heart of Gold" Pictures (see "Tool Boosters/ Accessing the Heart of Gold Pictures").

Talking Afterwards
After practicing the tool, ask whether your child has felt a shift in feelings. Is she or he feeling more peaceful or happier? Try to help your child develop an increased awareness of different feeling states and a vocabulary for them. Also help your child notice the feelings of today, as well as feelings leftover from yesterday.

Steps of "Accessing the Heart of Gold"

1. Be aware of the feelings you are having. How do you feel? Do you feel sad or happy? Or angry? Or maybe nervous? See if you can name the feeling you are having.

2. Shift your attention to the area around your heart (the center of your chest). Placing your hand there can help you focus. Breathe slowly and deeply about four or five breaths, pretending you are breathing through the heart.

3. Now remember a time when you felt good (when you felt love for your mom or dad, care for your pet, appreciation for your brother or sister, or fun with your friend). Continue breathing through your heart while soaking in those good feelings. For more powerful results, imagine that you are soaking those feelings in liquid gold. Soak until you feel better. (Gold represents powerful liquid love, like rays of warmth from the sunshine.)

4. After feeling better, you'll know what to do if upset feelings come up again. Just get quiet inside, start remembering some of your happiest feelings and flood yourself with liquid gold as you did before, while breathing through your heart. After soaking in the gold warmth, upset feelings start to fade, then problems are easier to understand and make better. When breathing gold, you don't even have to see it, just pretending to works very well. Also, helping your friends or parents get over upset feelings increases the power of your golden treasure in your heart.

*This is an adaptation of the original Cut-Thru� technique, for use by children ages 6-10 during times of crisis, challenge, or unexpected change.

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� Copyright 2001
Institute of HeartMath
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Cut-Thru� Tool for Youth (Ages 10-18)

You can use this tool to "cut-thru" the hold that emotions have on you and to find new insights and understanding. You can also use it to clear out lingering feelings that you just can't seem to get rid of. Clearing out the rest of those feelings is important. And you might find new insights you weren't expecting - even when you thought you had it all figured out.

If you are in your teenage years (or close to them) and haven't yet visited the section called "How Teens Can Help" - please take a look. You'll find more reasons why you'd want to use these tools.

To understand the Cut-Thru tool, you will need to know the meanings of the following two words:

Compassion: When you have compassion it means you care about what another person may be going through. It means trying to be understanding, even if you don't like what the other person has done. Compassion means realizing that walking in that person's shoes may be tough. When you are learning to be compassionate for other people, don't forget to be compassionate towards yourself.

Significance: Significance is the importance you put into something or the special meaning that you give to something that happens or even something that belongs to you.

Steps of Cut-Thru� Tool for Youth*

1. Be aware of any disturbing feelings you are having. See if you can identify the feelings.

Disturbing feelings cover a wide range of emotions, such as hurt, anxiety, worry, sadness, confusion, overwhelm, anguish, fear, guilt, loss, feeling unappreciated, depression, in a fog, overload, peer pressure, etc.

2. Shift your attention to the area around your heart (the center of your chest). Placing your hand there can help you to focus. Pretend to breathe in and out through your chest area while sending sincere appreciation to someone or something easy to appreciate (firefighters, rescue workers, friends, pets, etc). The more you can feel the appreciation, the more effective this technique will be.

The reason you breathe through the chest area is because this pulls the energy from the head down to the heart area, slowing down the stressful, repeating mind thoughts. Feeling the appreciation deeply is important because this helps to cancel out the distressed feelings you are having.

3. Ok, sending deep appreciation builds up the power of your heart -- you've done that. While your heart is powered up, acknowledge your stressful emotions -- such as hurt, anger, worry, confusion, fear, etc. Now imagine putting them in your heart to soak for a while. Hold the attitude of compassion while you heart soak.

Important: Maintain a neutral and indifferent attitude towards your feelings while they soak, almost as if they were someone else's. Soak a few minutes or until you feel some release.

The reason for remaining neutral and impersonal to your feelings while soaking? It helps keep the feelings from drifting back to your head and re-amplifying the emotions you are trying to dissolve. If your mind starts to process the stressed feelings while you are soaking, then redo the appreciation step immediately. This will power up the heart again so you can continue with more ease.

4. From your heart, look to see if you have assigned too much significance to certain feelings. Some feelings deserve more significance while others just don't. Most often, feeling bad and drained is because of putting too much energy of significance into emotions that don't even count, or at least not as much as you think. Practice taking the significance out of the smaller problems as this will save energy, giving you more power to neutralize the more emotionally charged issues. When these stressed feelings stack and are left unmanaged, that's what usually brings us down.

Soaking takes the energy of significance out of emotional feeling, like soaking a shirt releases stains. It's important to ask your heart to help you identify runaway emotions that you can take the significance out of and simply cut-thru and take charge. Identify, breathe through the heart, and neutralize! Remember that your problems alone don't cause as much drain as the emotional significance you assign to them.

As you would know, some feelings will take longer to dissolve or make better as they involve deeper hurts and emotional pain. With deep compassion, I understand. Many issues have to be soaked out a little at a time. Assign the more disturbing feelings to your heart to be soaked for a few days if needed. This will be effective if you are sincere. Sincerity connects you with your heart, and heart intention makes it work, not the mind. The mind is not a bad guy; it just won't bail you when times are down.

5. After soaking, breathe through the heart a minute or so while applying the following affirmation. Affirm with feeling that your inner strength will build each day, increasing your power to take any stressful feeling the mind creates back to the heart. From there you can progressively stop payment on the power of stress to dampen your happiness and constrict your spirit.

6. When finished, quietly ask your heart to suggest new, effective attitudes to replace the old ones that tend to leave you unhappy and insecure. Also with deep sincerity, ask from within yourself for guidance and insight about the things that others wouldn't seem to understand. It can help.

Answers from your heart's voice don't usually come in like a fax or an e-mail. (Although they can at times. Would be nice, huh?) When listening to your heart, look for soft whisper feelings and thoughts that ease in and strengthen if you stay in your heart. Answers are slow at times because the mind sneaks in with resistance -- "knowing what it knows"-- and stifles the voice of the heart.

That's why sincerity is so important -- it's a feeling from the heart, not the mind. An attitude of sincerity will connect you with your heart. If you don't sincerely ask from the heart, then your mind will answer all the questions, and you're right back where you started.

You get answers from your heart indirectly oftentimes. For instance, someone shows up and, right out of the air, says just the right thing that sparks your answer. It could be something said in a book or on TV. That's the intuitive magic of the heart you often hear about.

At times a heart answer can be exactly what your mind doesn't want to hear. Even if the mind pouts about making a heart choice, it will get over it if you stick with what your heart feels and see it through. So often, when you don't listen to your heart in situations, you have to deal with the same issue later. Usually by then it's worse, and you can have a lot more feelings stacked up inside about it. Learn to listen to your heart's voice especially to prevent problems, not just to resolve them. With practice, all these suggestions become much easier to follow, especially when your heart becomes your secret best friend.

* An adaptation of the original Cut-Thru� technique especially for youth.

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� Copyright 2001
Institute of HeartMath
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Children will need to be guided towards finding the important value in feeling their hearts. Younger children by nature are physically active and emotional, so to engage them you will need to create some links to their own experiences. It's good to begin to verbalize your own perceptions of the heart in daily conversation. Over the dinner table or in the car, speak genuinely but casually with comments like, "You know, it feels good to love and be loved," or "I was a little confused today but I soaked with my Heart Genie and soon felt better." When putting your child to bed, consider taking your hand and placing it on your child's chest and saying, "Today was a busy day. Let's go to our Heart Genie and feel happy and thankful for all we have together." Model your sincerity by closing your eyes and holding your concentration in the heart for thirty seconds. Maybe you have had a hard day. Invite your child to join you in going to the heart for a minute and feeling some peace. This helps to activate a child's instinct to love and increase bonding with parents, guardians, teachers, and friends.
First let me say that my nephew has fantastic parents and he�s a great little kid. The parents provide him with a nurturing and loving environment. They�re not perfect but they�re "good enough". That said, children quickly, and I do mean, QUICKLY pick up the stress vibes from parents, and I think those stress vibes are particularly strong these days in all parents. We�re sort of cracking up. If MM keeps hammering the idea of paradigms it may only be because whatever one we�re living in now shows signs of cracking.

As dorky and dopey as the above instruction for the "Heart Genie" might sound, I can assure you that they are just what the doctored ordered. As it is right now, kids are already being programmed with a similar instrument and it�s called the video game. They�re being taught to love action and hate stillness, to be addicted to stimulation and to shun introspection as if it was the death of self. I can see it in my nephew�s eyes. That sweet, little kid is, like so many others, becoming a bit Borg-like in his addictions to stimulation and distraction. Not, I repeat, NOT that anyone should become an introspective head case like me, but surely there�s a happy medium and I don�t see any way to achieve it without at least something that resembles the techniques of the "Heart Genie".

If one wonders how it is that we do such inhumane things, well, it can only be because we so easily lose touch with our humanity.

quote:
When you see your child feeling angry or sad or confused, suggest that it is a good time to heart-soak his or her feelings with the Heart Genie. Then talk about the experience together. Ask, "What happened to make you feel that way?" "How did you feel after you used your Heart Genie?"
Of course, what that describes is much-needed therapy for the adult, not the child. It seems to me that the child is going to pick up the good or bad habits of the adult and is somewhat powerless to do anything else. But if one can sort of disguise this therapy for the adults and slip it through the back door then I�m all for it. All we ever really needed to do was to shut up once in a while and listen to our kids and perhaps re-learn from them the many things we have forgotten. Instead, however, it�s all too common to reject child-like love and their fresh view of things because many of us have become so alienated from ourselves that we feel comfortable only if the child mirrors our internal alienation.

I see now how easily we get on the human treadmill of "doing". And in this Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest world, I�m hardly going to say that doing is inferior to being. But it just seems that there is so little in our western culture to nourish the "being" parts of ourselves. We needn�t swing the pendulum abruptly the other way and completely remove ourselves from the culture by, say, joining a monastery or convent of whatever religious or philosophical persuasion. But I think it�s going to be darn difficult to introduce devices and techniques such as the "Heart Genie" into our culture. Does it spin? Does it blink? Doe is light up and make noises?
 
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