It’s half-dark in the little room. The morning light still hasn’t won over the grey twilight outside. The only source of light comes from a lit candle on a tree stump in the middle of the room. From the stump extends a spiral of fragrant, green pine branches. It swings outwards until it touches the attending, clustered parents’ toes. They wait for what’s to come. In silence.
All is forgotten of the strife and stress of the morning. The stress of having forgotten the tasks of the tooth fairy and the tooth lying there, intact, when the little one awakes. All the ‘hurry up, we’ll be late for school’ is forgotten. ‘No, you don’t have time to change again. ‘You haven’t packed your bag yet?’ Forgotten is the usual pushing and arguing on the way to school. The nerves of if we will make it in time today, are left behind. It’s the Advent Spiral at the Steiner School.
The Advent Spiral is traditionally performed on the first Sunday of Advent, but in school it’s often done on the first week of December. The light in the middle symbolises the inner light we must draw strength from in the coming dark months. The spiral symbolises that you light this inner candle and spread it out into the world and community. We say that when you step into the spiral it’s ‘coming into oneself’ and stepping out is ‘coming out to others.’
The parents are still milling in, slightly stressed. A teacher gets up and approaches the closed door to the adjoining room and opens it slightly.
“It has to be open like this”, she says. Everything falls silent. There’s 15 empty, expectant tree stumps along one wall for the children to sit.
Suddenly, guitar music emanates from the adjoining room and through the open door. The folk tune “A Rose Has Sprung” is heard, live, with song and guitar. It’s quiet.
Parents are sat as expectantly as the stumps.
The door opens in the other end of the room, and the children come in one by one. They’ve dressed up, and sit quietly and nicely down on their stumps along the wall.
Then the ceremony begins. One after one, the children receive an apple with an unlit candle in. This they carry gently into the spiral, to the middle, where they light their own candle from the one on the stump. They then carry their light outwards in the spiral and puts it down in a given place. It becomes lighter and lighter, for each child entering the spiral and for each apple finding its place on the floor. For every candle lit, there’s more to look our for. No lit candles are upended or stepped on. No children set a foot wrong. All are as focused. Calm and balanced. Focused on their task. The only thing audible over the music, is one or two sniffs from the parents.
The Spiral lasts about half an hour. During this time, no children are uneasy. They wait their turn, patient and still. The teacher counts slowly the lights given between each apple. 1-2-3 and then to the next. No fighting for place. Just calm.
Stillness must be taught. The stillness required for learning, to take in new knowledge, that they get enough of. They learn being quiet when they watch TV or play games on the phone or tablet. But learning to be still to listen, to be present for others in context, that is often neglected. Imagine the importance of being listening and present for other people. This skill must be learnt too.
Is there enough room for this type of stillness in your life? The stillness making it possible for you to be present in the moment and experience life and those few moments of joy.