Activity 3: Story Basket and Guided Meditation
Activity time: 5 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A large basket
- Objects related to the story "The Perfect Peace Harvest," such as pictures of peace signs, a pentacle (pagan symbol of the five elements: spirit, fire, water, air, and earth), a drum or cymbals
- A chime, rain stick or other calming sound instrument
- Optional: Box or small table and a decorative cloth cover to form a small altar
Preparation for Activity
- Read the guided meditation (Description of Activity). Prepare to read it slowly and smoothly to the group. NOTE: If you plan to do Alternate Activity 1, Meditation Paintings, skip the guided meditation here and use a chime and quick centering exercise instead.
- Place the story-related items and the sound instrument in the story basket.
- Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated.
- If you will make an altar as a focal point for story objects, set up the box or table you will use next to your storytelling area. Place the decorative cloth on the altar. It is not necessary to ritualize the altar as a sacred place. It can simply serve as a focal point where objects related to the story will be visible while you tell the story.
Description of Activity
Gather the children in a circle in your storytelling area. Show them the storytelling basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket today."
Tell the group the items in the story basket will be placed on the altar or table after the children have passed them around the circle. Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time, and pass them around. Objects that are fragile or should not be passed around for any reason can be held up for all to see and then placed directly on the altar.
Briefly name the various objects. As items come back to you, display them on the altar for children to look at as they listen to the story.
Explain that some Unitarian Universalists are pagans. You might say:
Pagan religious practices involve celebrating nature's rhythms and seasons. In our congregations, we celebrate this way sometimes, too.
If you can, give some examples from your congregation the children will recognize.
Explain that Lammas is a pagan holiday celebrated on August 1. It is a holiday to mark the harvest time - when the crops have grown and people are gathering the food that will feed them. Talk briefly about agricultural seasons that children know about in your local area. Ask the children to name crops that are harvested to eat in your area or elsewhere.
Remove the sound instrument from the story basket. Tell the children that every time you tell a story in Faithful Journeys, you will first use the instrument to help them get their ears, minds, and bodies ready to listen. Tell them that today you will use a new centering exercise that comes from the pagan tradition. Settle the children so they are sitting comfortably, not touching another child. Invite them to close their eyes (if they are comfortable doing so).
In a calm, slow voice, say:
Take a deep breath and imagine a fire starting down at the base of your spine [on your back.] It feels warm and soothing through your belly. It is like sitting, relaxed, in front of a bonfire, but the fire is you; it is your spirit. Keep breathing deeply as the fire begins to spread across your back and up through your chest, filling you with energy. Take another deep breath as the fire continues to move up through your neck and out through your head. Imagine this fire clearing your thoughts and allowing you to feel comfortable and sure of yourself and what you believe. You are able to listen and learn from others and share what you know with strength. As you continue to breathe, imagine this fire spreading down your arms and out your fingertips. Imagine doing the work you love most with your favorite people. Imagine all that you create and all that you touch becoming moved by your fiery spirit. Let yourself sigh. Imagine your fire moving down past your hips and through your feet. This is your spirit and the wise spirit of the Goddess. You are part of what is sacred in the world. This fire guides your feet and helps you know what path you are meant to walk. Still taking deep breaths, see yourself as glowing with this fire within. How will this fire move into the world? Where will it take you? Imagine yourself doing what matters most to you, something you feel will make a difference in the world. Let the picture form clearly in your mind. Watch what it looks like, who you are with, what you are doing, what you smell, what you hear, what you feel. This is you. You have this power within you. Breathe deeply. Allow the fire to move back up your legs, back through your arms, down from your head and chest, until it glows at the base of your spine again. Sigh out all the extra energy you don't need and imagine it sinking back into the Earth, which knows what to do with it. Breathe deeply and return to this room.
Now you are ready to listen. When I hit the chime (turn the rain stick over), listen as carefully as you can. See how long you can hear its sound. When you can no longer hear it, open your eyes and you will know it is time for the story to begin.
Sound the chime or other instrument. When the sound has gone, begin telling the story.
Including All Participants
If anyone in the group is unable to hold or pass items, or cannot see the items, make sure you or a child in the group offers the person a chance to see and touch each object, as needed.
Some people do not feel safe closing their eyes in a group. If any children resist, respect their resistance and suggest that they find a single point of focus to look at instead.
If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who may listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the fidget object basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the meditation part of this activity. For a full description of fidget objects and guidance on using them, see Session 2, Leader Resource 2.