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"Sleep On It" What Does That Mean In Waldorf Education?

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

I find much of my experience of modern life to be what I will call "the immediate". I find that others often expect me to be immediate in speaking my thoughts, in sharing my feelings, in reaching my decisions, determining my responses, and engaging in my actions or reactions. Of course, there are also many times that others do not want me to share any of these at all, because mine are different from theirs, but that is for another article.

I lived my years of youth before cell phones and even before answering machines were in people's homes, both of which began their growth in my early teens. The modes of communication were talking in person, talking on the phone, and writing letters and postcards. And you can be quite sure that we celebrated each new wave of technology, such as the answering machine, for we were convinced that these modern conveniences were happy steps toward the bright future.

I still believe in a bright future. However, my beliefs have evolved around what I believe are the happy steps toward it. Back then we hoped that new technologies would make life easier, particularly around communications, but also in areas such as healthcare, travel safety, work efficiency, etc. Now I know that new technologies always bring new benefits and new challenges. They are neither bad nor good in and of themselves, but rather in how we choose to use or engage with them.

So, with that in mind, I want to focus only on communications.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the numbers of communications you receive? By the time you add up emails, phone calls, voicemails, and texts, it can be a lot each day.

Here are a few texting stats from a website called "The Local Project".

33% of professionals say that cannot go more than 10 mins without answering a text.

50% of text users say that text communication is just as meaningful as actual conversation.

18-24 year-olds send and receive 128 texts/day

25-34 year-olds send and receive 75 texts/day

35-44 year-olds send and receive 52 texts/day

45-54 year-olds send and receive 33 texts/day

I find that when people do want a response from me, they want it as soon as possible. Because my professional life has brought me into engagement with lots of people over the years, I have done my best to reply expediently whenever possible. Sometimes this is a great thing. Other times not so much. There are times that I should not respond so quickly. Sometimes I need to deeply contemplate a question, or a disagreement, or a necessary decision. However, I can forget to take the requisite time because I have become more accustomed to the immediacy of modern life. Almost always, I regret responses I make too quickly.

Even worse, there are times that I respond too quickly because I have become upset about something. Whether you refer to these moments as "being triggered", or "ticked off", or "seeing red", etc, I think we can all relate as human beings to the moments we have either spoken or written too quickly because we feel upset and we want to reply quickly to make our points. In these moments, we are often more likely to be speaking "at" the other person, rather than trying to speak with them. In so doing, we usually exacerbate the problem rather than resolve it. And of course, we all know the simple solution. It helps to take a step back. It helps to sleep on it. It helps to consider things a bit longer, to cool down, to let it all settle more within ourselves. Even old Russian fairy tales encourage us with phrases such as "Mornings are wiser than evenings." Unfortunately, it is not enough to know what we should do. We need to do it, because our children are learning far more from who we are and what we do than anything that we say.

I bring this to you, on the adult level, in order to give you yet another way to understand a fundamental principle of Waldorf education. If you have ever consciously worked with the rhythm of introducing a subject and then working with it even more on subsequent days with a child, after they have slept on it, then you know that it is a very effective way of helping a child learn something deeply and on multiple levels. So, from the perspective of pedagogical efficacy, using the rhythm of sleep is quite valuable in education. However, there is another reason that it is valuable and this reason is even deeper than pedagogy.

When we create this way of engaging and learning as an ongoing process for our students and children, we create a life habit that will benefit them everywhere in their lives, not only in school. Imagine if it was a habit for you to naturally sense that you need to take more time with something, you need to consider it more deeply, you need to sleep on it. What conflicts we might avoid or at least de-escalate. What wisdom we might find deeper within ourselves. What insights and intuitions we might develop. What trust others might have in us and we have in ourselves.

Our children can grow up with a better chance of having this if we use this regularly with them--and if we practice it ourselves. This is becoming more and more important today as factions of our societies become more polarized. Finding the right words, reaching clarity and peace, striving to genuinely understand the other even when our ideas are not in natural alignment or agreement--these can be strengths for our children, skills that will help them have more harmonious relationships whether that is on a personal level, on a professional level, or even on a social level within the greater society.

So, I ask you to consider and contemplate this.

Rev Bowen

Simply Waldorf

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