"If I could have changed anything about my life, I would have stopped being so scared. There was absolutely nothing to be scared of, life is perfect."
In this unique, fun & joyful entry we hear from Lehla & Anthony and their three children; 11 year old twin girls Olive and Amari, and 8 year old son Jahli. Originating from UK/South Africa but currently residing in Italy's scenic Umbria, this family are writing their own rules when it comes to education. Their initiative (and soon to be released book) 'Unschooling The Kids' discusses a unique approach to learning, anchored in curiosity, creativity, community and playfulness. Courageously treading the path less travelled, we are grateful to share their story and hear their thoughts on vulnerability and courage...
“Creativity is inspiration coupled with initiative. Acting on our creativity is an act of faith.” How much do you rely on ‘divine intervention’ to create? Do you feel you control your creativity or does your creativity control you? Jahli (aged 8): Both. I control it because I am doing it but it controls me because it tells me what to do, so... both yeah!
When you breathe into fear it becomes adventure.” What was one of your most terrifying/rewarding experiences? Olive (aged 11): Physically for me it was jumping off a high waterfall, I think it was about 12 feet, I really wanted to do it but there was a risk of hitting a rock, once I did it I enjoyed it so much and I was glad I did it. I did it again and again. Mentally, I was scared when I did a circus show because I was worried that I would look like an absolute fool but I did it and I did it loud and I wanted to do it. I felt proud of myself.
‘Creativity is not reserved for a select few. It's available for anyone who has the courage to take it.’ Why is leaning towards creative outlets often met with fear? Amari (aged 11): Because you are worried you are not good enough. A fear of not being good enough I think. I say to myself, well it is different, the only time I feel I am not good enough is when I compare myself to Olive as she is my twin, so I don't know what it feels to like to not be good enough other than that. Well I do sometimes, I say to myself I might not be as good as someone who has studied what I am doing for 58 years or something but the things I do to me are good enough, as long as I like them it is fine, it doesn't really matter what other people think.
"Vulnerability is often interpreted as a state of waiting to be hurt - I believe the opposite. The real pain and suffering in life for me has come from retreating into isolation through fear and shame."
"Only when we're brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light." How much of your creative process is a battle with power? Do you always find the end result empowering? Lehla: This question reminds me of that song by Leonard Cohen that says 'There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in’ - so maybe the crack for me is vulnerability and fear. Yes, I do agree that when we are brave enough to discover our own darkness at the other end of it, the light does come through. I often find myself scared and vulnerable at the beginning, or even throughout a project. I have a host of characters in my head telling me how it won't work and how I will look silly, in fact these characters come up with great disastrous scenarios, which have never actually happened!
But then there is the deeper stronger part of me that says to do nothing and to ignore my projects/dreams/creations is the more dangerous part of my psyche, it is the part that if left undone I would live to regret. It is the part that reminds me how short life is and how to live a life unlived and untrue to myself would be a huge regret. So in answer to the question, no there is not a battle of power within me but more a battle of my own fears of failing.
I have tricks to get through these fears, which are actually hearing the wise words of a friend who died a few years ago. She said to me ‘If I could have changed anything about my life, I would have stopped being so scared. There was absolutely nothing to be scared of, life is perfect’. So I find, even though I do feel vulnerable or uncomfortable when doing projects, I do them because getting in to action is everything and life is so scarily short. Even the huge failures that I have had in my life have been worth it! And yes I always find the end results empowering for the sheer fact that I have done something from the heart and taken the risk.
Worthlessness, lack of self-belief, perfectionism – there are many blocks that prevent us from leaning into vulnerability. How do you move past them? What do those blocks & blurts look like for you? What do you think we can do to make them less controlling/dominant? Anthony: There is little point in trying to push things away. Awareness and acceptance are the keys. We are not just a sum total of our beliefs. We are a multitude of things. Awareness brings us the ability and perception to know ourselves better. In the knowing we see more of what is there and see the vibrant and beautiful parts of us.
We all once were children, babies. We all once were compelled to curiosity, to learn, to connect with others. No matter what we experienced at the hands of others we still carry that human curiosity inside us. Babies and children are so seemingly vulnerable and yet they are astonishing survivors. I know this through personal lived experience. I survived what should have crushed me. And despite being a deeply fragile and unhappy young adult I found my way to where I am now. If I look back the one key ingredient that was always present was a desire to understand what this life was all about. How I fitted in and what was possible. You could say I am still a child. I am not of course now but being consciously and deliberately child-like as an adult brings great joy and learning. Acceptance is to forgive and be at peace with it all. Paradoxically when I accept myself I cease to be vulnerable in a closed way but become vulnerable in a joyful sense of openness to feeling and life and love.
Vulnerability is often interpreted as a state of waiting to being hurt and the common belief is that if we make ourselves vulnerable then we will be hurt. I believe the opposite. The real pain and suffering in life for me has come from closing myself away, of retreating into isolation through fear and shame. In that place that no one could ever enter I felt safe but was in an agony. There is a blessed relief of being aware. Accepting what is there. Seeing it all and just putting it out into the world. Here I am. Love is known through its actions. I have never been hurt when I have embraced my vulnerability for to me to be vulnerable is to be what we are. Human.
Lehla: I am a mother, writer and illustrator. I have written and illustrated 'The South African Illustrated Cookbook', 'The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women' and have also illustrated 'Excuse Me I'm trying to Read' written by Mary Jo Amani. ( which won The N.A:E:S:P award for Best Illustrated picture book 2011 in America ) I trained as an actress and worked in theatre for over 8 years. I now illustrate, write and juggle the kids and myself on our collective journey towards learning.
Anthony: I am a social entrepreneur, Recovery and Wellness coach and coach trainer. I run an international organisation to train and develop recovery and wellness coaches working with people facing healthcare challenges from Diabetes type 2 to Substance Misuse. I have trained over 300 coaches and we hope to train many more when we launch our online training portal very soon.