Gathered Here

silhouette-of-people-illustration-thumbnailThis past Sunday we had a whole congregation service based on being present together.  For the Time for All Ages we read Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean.  Following the Time for All Ages we read an excerpt from Thich Naht Hanh’s  You Are Here.  The point of both?  Be present, be aware of your breathing.  Be calm and focused on the here and now.

Can you guess what we did next?

We breathed in and out.

A minute seems like a very long time when you are focused on your breath.

And yet we did and we did it together.  Several times.  You could feel the energy in the room.  And in the quiet, there was the sound of us gathering in.  That sound is very special.  I suspect it is that sound of gathering that is what keeps people coming back every Sunday whether they know it or not.

Then we tried a walking meditation while singing the The Plum Village song I have Arrived which you can hear here.  I say we tried because so many people got up to walk that it was actually hard to move!  What a good problem.  Next time we will move in two circles to help us get going.

Thanks to all.

 

 

 

Setting Intentions – Happy New Year!

It is a new year.  A time when people often set goals and resolutions.  Last Sunday in RE, Lesley Smith helped our UU children do two mindfulness exercises.  The first was to imagine themselves in the future.  What would they be?  Who would be with them?  What would they be doing?  The children’s answers varied between the magical and the real.  A writer for fairies, a hovercraft driver, a princes in a castle with a unicorn, a historian.  The second activity focused on what it would feel like to be this you.  What would it smell, taste, look and sound like?

The third activity was an art project that involved embossing on tinfoil with sharpie pens.  Very satisfying.  The designs were supposed to represent their intentions for the year to come.  The results were beautiful.

Loving Kindness

Sunday, December 8th we began upstairs and during the Time for All Ages Rev. Rachael told us a story centered around the third principle.

3rd Principle: We believe that we should accept one another and keep on learning together.

Downstairs Lesley Smith worked with the children on learning a mantra that sends kindness to ourselves, to those we know and out into the world.

As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, imagine what you wish for your life. We practiced saying four phrases out loud and then silently:

May I/you be safe.

May I/you be healthy and strong.

May I/you be happy.

May I/you be peaceful and at ease.

We repeated these wishes, directing them first to ourselves and then towards different people in our lives as follows:

  • Start by directing the phrases to yourself.
  • Next, direct the thought towards someone you feel thankful for or who has helped you.
  • Now visualize someone you feel neutral about—people you neither like nor dislike. Direct the thoughts to that person.
  • Next, direct the thoughts to someone you don’t like or who you are having a difficult time dealing with.
  • Finally, direct the thoughts towards everyone universally: May all beings everywhere be happy.

IMG_1535Following the good wishes we dropped different sized and weighted objects into a large bowl to watch the ripple effect.  Big kind acts = lots of ripples and splashes of kindness!  Little kind acts still make ripples.

We took a moment to acknowledge Jesus and his messages of inherent worth  and loving kindness.  Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas Jesus!

Green Slime and Gratitude

This past Sunday I knew UUSA member Janis Gray was giving the sermon and in it she was going to talk about a green slimy dessert that was a traditional part of her family Thanksgiving dinner.  Can you guess what I decided to do during RE?

Before I answer, I’ll let you know that during Joys and Sorrows we talked about how Thanksgiving is both a time of joy and a time of sorrow.  Many Native Americans call Thanksgiving the Day of Mourning and it is important that we acknowledge how terrible the Pilgrims were to the native people who lived on this continent before they arrived from Europe.  It is also important to remember that not everyone has enough food to eat or a warm place to sleep.  So, while we take the time to share a meal and family, let us not forget our past or our neighbors and friends who may not have enough.

Janis’s funny story about her family’s green dessert gave me the perfect excuse for us to make non-edible green slime!  It turns out green slime is easy to make and not surprisingly, a big hit with the children.  Here is the recipe:  two Tablespoons Corn Starch, one and a half Tablespoons dish soap and a few drops of green food coloring – mix, mix, add more soap, add more starch, keep mixing and kneading until you get the consistency you want.  The more you mix and knead, the better the slime becomes!

Once we got to the point where we could pull our slime and not have it stick to our fingers we took turns reading poems about gratitude in a book called Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes.  The book has beautiful messages and pictures.

Between the slime and the gratitude poems I think the children are set for Thanksgiving!  Parents, you’ll be happy to know that this version of slime dries pretty quickly so you probably won’t be finding it all over your house.

Enjoy the time off school and work and remember, if you need help or support in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

 

Tasting Grief and Gratitude

This past Sunday we had a Whole Congregation service led by Rev. Rachael.  It was good to see the children looking interested, sleepy some of the time, alert most of the time, participating in the taste meditation focused on grief and gratitude.  Listen – ding – chew bread – listen – ding – chew bread (repeat 10 times!).  The challenge was to chew slowly and make the bread last.  Many many people lined up to drop a glass stone in the Joys and Sorrows vase.

I believe that children need to learn to sit through worship and ritual that isn’t all about them.  As a teacher I told my elementary school students that one of THE MOST important skills in life is to be able to sit still and look interested even when you are not.  It is my hope that in learning how to sit through worship children will learn to appreciate more and more of the service until one day they too are taken through the arc of emotions the Sunday worship leaders strive for when planning the service.

I am hoping Rev. Rachael and I can work together to do these types of services more and more.  This service was all hers and I was grateful to participate in it and share it with the children.  It was a service that was truly good for all ages.

Our sanctuary had only three seats empty.  Amazing.  To be able to worship with so many is a joy.

 

Mindfulness of Emotions

When you wake up in the morning, what do you think of?  Are you grateful?  Annoyed?  Happy?  Sad?  Grumpy?  Silly?  Then during the day what happens to that emotion as you go about your business?  You probably start to feel more and more different emotions.  Two Sundays (yes, I am behind) ago we had our first Mindfulness lesson with Lesley and she led us through this wonderful demonstration.

  1. Each child got to say a kind of feeling they have when they wake up, they chose a glitter to represent that feeling and they put some of the glitter in a vase of water.   The vase represented our minds.
  2. When everyone had named an emotion, we each got to take a turn naming an emotion that we feel during the day and while we named the emotion we stirred the glitter.   The stirring represented all the things we do during the day.   As we passed the spoon around the glitter (emotions) swirled around the water.  We are all very busy!
  3. Then we put down the spoon and we all took some deep breathes and noticed that when we did, the glitter emotions began to slow down and come back to the top of the water.

So, take some deep breaths in order to see how you are feeling!  Don’t let your hectic day make you feel all mixed up inside.

 

Slowly… Slowly… Mindfulness Lesson

Children explored two different concepts in mindfulness, the striving brain and the experiencing brain. Children learned that every time they notice a thought or a feeling that they were practicing mindfulness!  We talked about striving thoughts and how they can grab on to each other like monkeys.  We played “Drop the Monkeys” while discussing the effects of busy thoughts on our bodies.  Next we read the book “Slowly Slowly” by Eric Carle and later noticed how slowing down can help to calm a busy mind.  We played close attention to our body and breath sensations while moving slowly.  Later we played games that used movement and music to practice slowing down and speeding up.

Mindfulness – Flame Gazing

This Sunday morning during the time for all ages Rev. Steve read Bagels From Benny which is a sweet story about a little boy who thinks he is thanking God by giving God bagels, but discovers that he is in fact feeding a homeless man.  Benny’s grandfather helps Benny see that by helping to make the world a kinder place he is in fact thanking God.  Rev. Steve connected the book to the UUSA Wednesday morning breakfast and urged families to come help during the holidays.

After the upstairs portion of the service the children had a mindfulness session with Lesley that was focused on a candle flame.  We are now half way through the year and the children are now much calmer and more focused in their mindfulness practice.  And they are so thoughtful when it comes to describing their experiences!  We gazed at the candle in the light and then with the lights off.

Following the quiet reflection time we talked about how this mindfulness practice connects with our UU Principles and then we just about had enough time to make lumenarie out of shiny red holiday paper.  The paper was hard to hole punch through, but the children persevered and each went home with a small electric candle.

Mindful Thankfulness and Shifting our Perspectives to Feel Better

This past Sunday Leslie came to share a mindfulness practice.   Most of our children have been practicing with Leslie for several years and they are now able to sit and listen with great attention and not only that, they have an incredible emotional awareness.

   

This Sunday we did two activities.  The first was to think of a person, place, pet or thing that we are thankful for.  We then walked between two lines (about 12 feet apart) and with each step we thought of our thankfulness for that person, place, pet or thing.  The children walked between the lines slowly and purposefully about three times.

Leslie called the next activity “Ice, Ice, Baby” and was centered around the feelings associated with thinking about and then holding an ice cube.  After imagining holding an ice cube those who wanted to could share how they felt – annoyed, scared, excited.  Then we each took a cube of ice and held it without talking.  Leslie talked quietly, guiding us through a series of questions.  She asked us to hold the ice cube in different ways – with our fingers, in our palms, on the back of our hands.  When we put what was left back in the ice bowls we talked about how we felt at first and then how our feelings changed as we continued to hold the cubes.  The kids realized that they were coping with the cold and wet in different ways.  Leslie finished the activity by talking with us about how we can purposefully change our perspectives and the children identified how they felt at the beginning and at the end of the exercise.

We ended with Leslie teaching us a sweet song in Arabic and Hebrew.

Have a good week!

Mindfulness- learning to live with mistakes and unknowns

This week children practiced paying attention to the present moment using a couple of simple tools for calming and focusing. We discussed ways that we can pause and reset our thoughts in response to a mistake or a disappointment. We will followed up with a painting and drawing activity that uses the idea of re framing and resetting as a creative inspiration.  Many Thanks to Lesley for joining us.

 

Step one – mindfulness using a very full glass of water.  Believe it or not, the glass made it around our circle with all of our eyes closed and very little spillage!

 

 

 

 

Step two – what happens when you can only draw one part of a drawing and you have no control over the rest.  Wonderful surprises!

 

 

Step three – what happens when you use salt on your water colors?  More wonderful and unplanned beauty.