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.