This Great Idea is sparked by Traci Smith’s offering of two contemplative practices to soothe little ones in this time of tumult and anxiety.
Traci Smith, author of Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home (Chalice) has offered two free, downloadable pdfs of contemplative practices developed to calm and quiet anxious young ones: Snuggles under God’s Wings and After a Natural Disaster.
These are excellent resources to share with parents, use as a beginning or conclusion to Sunday school or other faith formation times, or in worship for the whole congregation to experience.
As anxious times continue, and adults are drawn to the tumult and rioting being shared on every news and social media platform, finding time for calm, tools to diminish anxiety, and ways to develop emotional awareness and resilience will be ever-more essential. Wendy Farley talks about this in greater length in Beguiled by Beauty: Cultivating a life of Contemplation and Compassion (WJK).
Let these next few weeks (prior to or through Lent) be a time to focus on contemplative practices. Kitty O’Meara’s beautiful poem – first posted as a blog in March, 2020, and now a beautifully illustrated children’s book – And the People Stayed Home (TRA), might be a great place to start. Read it through once, to become acquainted with it, then let each segment become a week’s practice:
Week 1: invite children, families, youth – everyone and anyone – to join in a practice of listening: listen to the poem being read, a piece of Scripture, the sounds of nature, God within…
Week 2: invite all to “dance with their shadows”: children might do this literally with a bright light and an empty wall; teens might consider their shadow side; adults might dig more deeply to look at systems and personal flaws that create brokenness. Consider ways to “dance with shadows” as a tool for learning from them…
Week 3: invite participants to notice how the earth is healing: use study times to discover/uncover “data” through online searches, outdoor walks, observing local bodies of water, etc. Once the data is collected, “sit” with it in prayer: what is God’s hopeful message to humans through nature’s renewal as we become less busy and lower our consumption?
Week 4: invite participants to name and lament their loss and grief – anything and everything that will be forever changed or may no longer be; and then invite folks to notice what is being healed, how and where healing is happening, and ways they can participate and embrace the healing going on within and around them.
Watch for specific resources for these practices here, in the days ahead.