Today I start a new curriculum as the summer Religious Education program gets under way. I thought I might re-post the column I wrote for last month's church newsletter.
I’ve just returned from a family vacation to Legoland in California, a vacation which involved my four and six year old, a week in a theme park, and a two-hour each way drive through L.A. traffic between the park and the friends we stayed with for most nights. This was not a peaceful vacation!
And yet this busy, fun, rollercoaster (literally) of a vacation held many moments of peaceful reflection and meditation. To their credit, the designers of Legoland have alternated busy areas full of rides and lots of “action” with zones holding the wonderful building blocks and a quiet place for children to create. As we moved through the park, we had the action, and then we had the reflection. This reminded me of the pace we held in the Evergreen Masters in Teaching program, where the professors alternated “cognitive” activity with “metacognitive” (thinking about your thinking) activities.
Taking the time to be reflective, to think about how you think, to talk to yourself, to journal, to pray, or to meditate – all of that can seem like “fluff” in our busy, busy lives full of noise, noise, noise. But, in the words of St. Francis de Sales: “Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.”
Personally, I try to begin each day with yoga and meditation. If I can get that done before the children are awake, it’s best for me, but if they are up I still try and we all just live with the mixed results. If it is too loud and busy for my yoga practice, I will substitute with a journaling time with headphones and my favorite music on. This has been my practice for the last year, as I’ve taken to heart the words of the Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill: “It is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.”
Parents and adults need to have a real inner life, but so do children. Children today do so much more scheduled, organized, or externally controlled “stuff” than was the norm in past years, and all this doing cuts into the time and ability to just be. This is why the Family Ministry Team and I have chosen to focus on meditation for our summer curriculum this year.
In the midst of the summer fun that I hope you and your children will be experiencing, we are going to hold a Sunday meditation session for children, using the book teaching meditation to children by David Fontana and Ingrid Slack. These meditation sessions will incorporate a large variety of meditation techniques and mental exercises – even some games and active times – so all children should feel comfortable participating, even the very young or very energetic. As the authors of the book write: “meditation gives even very young children power over their thinking and their emotions, not by a repressive self-control, but by enhanced self-understanding and self-acceptance.”
May we all find the time to Be and not just to Do.