Bringing it Home
Children are naturally full of wonder and are able to see magic in the world, in both the extraordinary and the ordinary. Creating family rituals help them connect to the world, their family, and themselves. These rituals help them get connected and stay connected as they grow and mature. Rituals impart a sense of family identity (who are we and what’s important to us), provide comfort and security, help us to navigate change and solve problems when needed, pass on our family’s history, help us heal from loss or trauma, and help us to create wonderful new memories.
In Unitarian Universalism, there is enormous freedom in how we choose to practice our faith and at times we need help figuring out how to bring our values and beliefs to life in the everyday. Family traditions are wonderful; we know the joy of re-creating special moments and traditions that were passed on to us from parents or grandparents. And in our lives today, we need to invent new rituals and traditions for our families that will inspire and instruct, rituals that are simple yet profound, practical and fun. Anything you do together deliberately can become a ritual, with a little flourish and excitement to lift it out of the routine. Ritual is for special occasions and it is also for the everyday. This month’s Bringing it Home is full of ideas to bring ritual into the life of your family. Give some a try and let me know how it goes.
Breathing Meditation Invite everyone to sit comfortably and quietly with eyes closed and then offer these words to guide the meditation. Be aware of your breathing. Focus on the way the air enters your nose and then how it feels when you breathe out. What does it feel like? If other thoughts come, let them pass gently away like clouds moving across the sky. Now count silently as you breathe in and out. One. Two. Three. When you get to ten, start counting again. Then sit in silence. This should just last a few minutes. You can extend the time as your family gets used to sitting in silence together.
The Sabbath Box Consider finding Sabbath time as a family. It can be an hour, morning, afternoon or evening, or a day. This is time where you step away from the busy-ness of everyday life for some simple time to be together, to rest, nurture your relationships, be still, restore our souls and come back to center. Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath, suggests making a Sabbath Box. As you begin your Sabbath time (your time set aside from the world), put things in the Sabbath Box that you want to leave behind. The box can hold a cell phone, car keys, and other small items. For larger items (like TV or video games) write the name of the item on an index card and put it in the box. Adults may want to put in all the lists we have of things to do. As you enter Sabbath time, share what you are each putting into the box and why. You can come up with questions you would like to talk about as a family, or maybe a book to read together, or spend time in nature, anything that brings you peace and calm and feels restorative to your family.
Morning Rituals There are many ways you can begin your day together. You can create your own yoga sequence to wake up your body and your mind and get yourself ready to greet the day. You can begin with a chalice lighting, a word of gratitude for another day to be alive, and a setting of an intention for the day. Something along the lines of “Today, I am going to…” or Today, I will…”. It can be something very simple. Older children can keep a morning journal where you write down any thoughts from the night and any hopes you have for the day.
Bedtime Rituals Taking time to express gratitude for the day and share hopes for tomorrow is a wonderful way to end the day. You can address prayers to a loving spirit, you can make a “thank you” list and an “I hope” list, you can simply have a bedtime conversation to share your joys and worries of the day. This can include soothing music, a moment to focus on your breathing, even a short story or two. Finding a way to re-connect with your family at the end of the day is a wonderful way to remind children of the connections between you that last throughout the night and always.
• The New Book of Family Traditions by Meg Cox
• A Child’s Book of Blessings and Prayers by Eliza Blanchard
• Sunday and Every Day: My Little Book of Unitarian Universalism by Patricia Frevert
• The Madison Unitarian, Kelly J. Crocker, Minister of Congregational Life