November 19th – Choosing
Kaleidoscope has been running for many months now and there are often favourite activities that children would like to revisit or a few bits and pieces left from our crafts. We created a theme around this – the theme of CHOOSING. We are choosing not to waste resources but to use things up and take care of what we make. We are also choosing to re-engage with things that we enjoy. What we like, our favourite things and favourite experiences, tells others something about us and who we are. It is good to share ourselves with others and be open about who and what we love.
Each gathering we create beautiful candle mats for our meditation time. Children love doing this and make wonderful designs, such as these:
We always take a moment to acknowledge the Aboriginal people who were here before us. Today we particularly acknowledged, with gratitude, the way Aboriginal people chose to care for our land, the beautiful natural world, with such attention and love.
We further explored this goodness by listening to the story ‘Father Sky and Mother Earth’ (by Oodgeroo). As we listened to this traditional story about creation, destruction and recreation of our beautiful earth, we drew or coloured scenes about our natural world.
Another aspect of CHOOSING that we talked about what was daily life choices and some of the ways we make choices. Some parts of our lives aren’t ours to choose, especially for children. Where you live or who you live with, what school you attend or the people you meet aren’t always things you choose when young– they are more often the situations we find ourselves in.
But there are things we CAN choose – like what we do with our spare time, what our favourite things are, who we like to spend time with and very importantly how we relate to each other and the world.
When we remember the things that we have the power and freedom to choose, we can feel stronger and more hopeful about the shape of our lives.
Each of us held 5 tiny pebbles in our hand and thought about the things that we are able to choose. Around the circle, we shared one at a time:
Something each of us chooses to do for the earth…
(Children shared ideas about loving the trees and hugging the grass, caring for pets and liking many animals, as well as picking up rubbish and recycling things).
Something each of us chooses to do for others…
(Children shared that they include friends at school, play each others’ games, help friends sort our arguments, and show many other such kindnesses).
Something each of us chooses to do to care for ourselves…
(Some of us climb trees or have slow cups of tea, sleep in on weekends or sing favourite songs, play with pets or friends and explore our imaginations, as well as eating healthy food and doing exercise).
Something each of us chooses to do for fun, as a hobby…
(There were many varied hobbies such as writing, sleeping, swimming, sport, making things, reading and playing with toys and friends.
Something we would choose to do if we had a whole free day…
(Such delightful ideas and heartfelt responses! Children would like to do art or baking, go bush-walking or to the beach or the river, help a charity or visit the RSPCA, play imaginary games and curl up in cosy places).
We made a circle of the pebbles around our candles. As we lit the candles, we remembered that we can be thankful for the choices we are free to make in our day and thus how we can shape our lives.
Our art and craft experiences today reflected a delightful variety of choices, as children used odds and ends creatively or revisited previous activities that they had enjoyed.
As a final reflection we talked about the most important choice we make in our lives – the choice to LOVE.
We each had a gold heart sticker on our hand to symbolise love. We thought about all the ways that we love – who we share our heart with and how we open our hearts to others. Some people speak of loving God because God is part of us and very close to our hearts. We also have family and friends we love and people we care about. Many of us love the earth, animals, and care for all living things.
We lay down on our backs and rested our hands on our hearts. In our minds, we pictured all the special ways our heart loves.
Some children shared their tender thoughts – about loving their families and appreciating their friends, about all the love they had felt in the week past, about how love is the only way to make friends and care for each other. We reflected on the gift of love in creating community and enabling us to have many special relationships in our lives.
October 29th – Light Within and Beyond
Today our theme was about Light – the light that is within us and the light that is beyond us and all around us. Spring is a lovely time to think about light – we are noticing the brightness of the sun, the longer days for being outside and the colours of new green leaves and flowers. Spring is also a time when we start to feel lighter ourselves – we take off heavy layers of winter clothing and feel happier within because of all the sunshine.
In our Gathering Circle we shared our experiences of light, what we have noticed lately and what we have enjoyed and appreciated. Responses included a love of light at different times of the day such as summer evenings or morning light, a love of light when reflected on water, an appreciation for how sunlight makes everything grow, enjoyment of looking at the moon or lying on the grass in the sunshine, the way light enables us to see details of things around us.
Our shared experiences today invited children to engage in some activities that helped us reflect on how we can feel light within, remember the light of God and enjoy the way light from the sun is essential to living things.
A labyrinth is an ancient meditation tool that fosters contemplation and quietness as we walk a path to the centre and back out. We used the labyrinth outside to do a ‘Feather and Pebble’ walk.
We took a moment to reflect and then the walk was introduced in this way:
In Spring, the last of the dead leaves are pushed off the trees by the new growth, some trees shed their old bark, new flowers push through the dark earth. We too can shed something and make way for new growth. Our labyrinth walk today is an opportunity to do this. Use the pebble to represent something you could let go – some old frustration or worry (examples) and walk with it into the centre. Pause in the centre and put your pebble down. This is a symbol of letting go of anything that makes you feel heavy. Then pick up a feather to represent lightness. As you walk back out trust that you will begin to feel lighter within and that in time you will have let go and become free.
Painting to music is a peaceful experience and children enjoyed doing so this afternoon. Inspired by Bronwyn Bancroft’s beautifully illustrated book, ‘Shapes of Australia’, children chose favourite shapes and patterns and created their own series of small canvases depicting light and colour.
‘The Tiny Seed’ (by Eric Carle) tells the story of a small seed and its journey to become a beautiful sunflower. We planted a sunflower seed and also a marigold seedling – both flowers that are colourful celebrations of our bright, golden sun, essential to life on earth. We also made paper sunflowers by which we can measure our seed’s growth – and to help us remember to water what seems like a cup of soil! The seed (especially) and the seedling require patient tending and waiting as they grow and flower.
Sometimes we use the phrase ‘seen the light’ to describe a moment when we realise something new or important. The story ‘Tidy’ (by Emily Gravett) shows a moment such as this when the main character – Pete the badger – realises the beauty and importance of nature, even when it is messy. This is true in so many ways – none of us is ever perfect, nothing around us is ever perfect – but there is always beauty to be discovered, and beauty in how we are and how we grow and change. We concluded our time together with our comments about this story and our experiences of seeing the light.
September 10th – Forgiveness Makes Peace
We all know that our world needs peace…and peace begins with each of us in small ways. Forgiveness makes peace and when we choose to forgive, peace spreads outwards like the ripples in a pond. To symbolise this, we each collected a white pebble, and a picture of ripples on a pond. The invitation is to throw the pebble into a lake or pond, next time we are near one. Watching the ripples will remind us of the power of forgiveness to spread outwards and bring goodness to those around us.
In our Gathering Circle we talked about what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness means excusing someone else’s mistake or unkindness. It means being compassionate and trying to understand that people hurt each other when they are hurting inside themselves. It means letting go of the anger and grudge inside us, to make space for peace. It means remembering that we too can hurt others and need to say sorry and seek forgiveness. If we don’t forgive people, the hurt stays inside us and can make us feel heavy and sad for longer. When we choose to be forgiving, slowly the hurt can fade away and we can feel more peaceful and spacious inside.
We acknowledged that forgiveness is not an easy thing. When we feel hurt we don’t feel like being forgiving. When someone upsets us, we don’t feel like being kind, especially if they don’t actually say sorry to us. That’s why forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. We also acknowledged that there are sometimes very big or difficult hurts in our lives that we need to talk to someone about and that may take a very long time to forgive.
Children shared some of their experiences of everyday acts of forgiveness – the need to forgive siblings was a common theme! There were also some thoughtful comments about forgiving peers at school or needing to say sorry to others.
‘Blue Sky, Yellow Kite’ (by Janet A Holmes & Jonathan Bentley) beautifully illustrates the gift of forgiveness. One child is so forgiving of another that when the stolen kite is returned, he shows forgiveness by making another new kite for his friend, and they happily fly them together.
We made colourful kites to help us remember this story and the gift of happiness and friendship that forgiveness and kindness can create.
After exploring the meaning of peace through the book ‘What is Peace?’ (by Wallace Edwards) children were invited to create another page for the book. They looked closely at the illustrations and then created their own idea about peace using a combination of collage, painting and drawing.
Our people chains show that when we are able to say sorry, choose to forgive and offer peace to others, then the bonds of friendship stay strong, they do not break apart.
We concluded our time together with a guided meditation using the Fist-Hand-Heart practice. In our hands we held the white pebbles. We named to ourselves anything we felt we needed to forgive and an intention to be a forgiving person. When we uncurled our fists we let go of the white pebble and invited the warmth of peaceful feelings into our hearts.
August 13th – Going Slowly
Going slowly is a way of life and a way of being in life. It’s about having spaces in our days and our weeks that are gently paced and it is about having ways to be slow within, even when we may have to hurry. Today we thought about this and what it might mean. One child suggested that she liked to eat her breakfast really slowly but her mum always said to hurry up! So we talked about how Going Slowly doesn’t mean that we will never be in a rush or have to be quick to get ready for something. Rather, Going Slowly means that we try to have spaces in our day that are unhurried and that we know how to go inside to find a quiet, slow space within us. Living more slowly means that we will have times in our week when we can do nothing, times when we can be quiet and notice things. Going Slowly means that we have learnt how to pause – and then to hear our own heartbeat and feel our own breath, calming us even when we might have to rush somewhere.
As always, in our Gathering Circle, we acknowledged the Aboriginal people who have lived here for many years. Today we remembered again the special word they used for a way of being slower and noticing things – their word is Dadirri. People who live on land notice the changing seasons, the flow of the river, the way of things in nature. They have time to pay attention.
We too had some time doing this. We went outside into the glorious sunshine and stood still in one spot. At the sound of the gong, we took ten steps and paused again. We did this many times and then made a circle together. We shared words about what we could see, hear and feel: blue sky, birds, bees, lavender, tall trees, soft grass, tiny flowers, breeze on skin, distant traffic, each other’s steps…
We stayed outside for the slow, meditative craft of weaving God’s Eyes. These are an ancient, traditional handcraft. They were made as a symbol, to place in homes and on pathways, that God watches over us in our days and in our travels.
‘Slow Down, World’ (by Tai Snaith) and ‘Perfect’ (by Danny Parker & Freya Blackwood) are the stories that inspired our artwork. Both stories depict peaceful scenes and the joy of simple experiences – like picnics, drawing, moments in the sunshine, bare feet on grass, time with beloved pets, meeting friends. ‘Slow Down, World’ expressed the sheer delight of going slower because of what we can notice and how we can feel differently about our experiences when we have time to take things in gently, time to reflect on things. The illustrations were photographs of mixed media scenes that used clay, paper and other materials – the perfect inspiration for our dioramas. Children made a scene that would remind them of happy moments and slow experiences:
We ended our afternoon with a guided meditation about silence. We lay on our mats, peacefully listening to the words of the story ‘Silence’ (by Lemniscates)… and to our breath… and to the sounds around us.
We sat in our Gathering Circle and shared our experience of the afternoon and our thoughts about going slowly in our everyday lives.
July 23rd – Thankfulness
In the story ‘The Secret of Saying Thanks’ (by Douglas Wood & Greg Shed) we are reminded that giving thanks helps our hearts feel lighter and calmer. We are reminded that we don’t give thanks only when we are happy, but that giving thanks helps us to feel happier. The beautiful text and illustrations in the story led us through places in nature we are thankful for – like the stillness of stones to sit upon, the shade of trees to lie under, the reflections in water and the delight of flowers and creatures. We remembered that there are often moments we are thankful for with family like gathering around the dinner table or having a hug.
In our Gathering Circle we talked about the importance of remembering the simple kindnesses around us, the beauty around us and the presence of Love within us. We talked about how it mattered to remember these things, especially when we have had upsetting experiences or feel worried or angry or sad. Remembering things for which we are thankful helps us to balance all the feelings we have inside us; it helps us stay hopeful and connected to what is deep and good. Thankfulness can help us find a way through when life is hard, because we remember to pay attention to what is life-giving and joyful.
We shared ideas about being thankful for the sunrise and the songs of birds, for friends and family, for people who have died but stay in our hearts, for acts of kindness and moments of laughter. Children made ‘Thankfulness Mats’ to depict some of the things for which they are thankful.
Making these mats also connected us with the child in the story ‘My Two Blankets’ (by Irena Kobald & Freya Blackwood). This story is acclaimed for its sensitive portrayal of a young girl’s journey to feel truly herself and connected with others, when in a new country. The image of a blanket is used as a metaphor for sounds, words and feelings that make her feel safe and comfortable. All of us can hold close to us, the experiences that make us feel surrounded, encircled with care, just as we can feel wrapped in a blanket.
We also expressed thankfulness by sharing stories of people for whom we are thankful, as well as people who may have thanked us. This reminded us that we are all part of each other’s lives, givers and receivers of kindness and care. We appreciate others and others appreciate us.
Lots of cards were created to give to people that children wanted to thank.
As gifts for ourselves or others, we made brooches out of small things – things that often go unnoticed but that remind us of the beauty around us and the delight of our natural world.
We finished our time together by gathering in our circle for the ‘Fist-hand-heart ‘ meditation (see end of blog post ‘Shared Experiences 2016-Part 1’).
This meditation practice reminds us that we all experience many different feelings which all have a place, but that letting go of difficult feelings can make space for easier, more peaceful feelings. We are reminded to bring goodness and hope into our hearts.
It was a special afternoon of gentle conversations and creative experiences.