Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Hindsight, Humor, and Hope: An Adult Program

Activity 3: Beauty and a Mandala

Activity time: 20 minutes

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome and other imaginative designs, was called the last Transcendentalist philosopher of the twentieth century because he saw human beings as a part of life and nature and not the master of it. His roots were in Unitarianism, and for a spiritual exercise he would rewrite the Lord’s Prayer each year. In his later years, “Bucky” (as he was known) was asked about his future. He answered, “I came to pass, not to stay.” He continued to live his life creatively. When we let go of the fear of death, we regain our positive energy and all the time taken up by fearful thinking.

This is not to discount the reality of emerging physical problems. Everything wears out with time. Not just us, but vegetation, birds, animals, and the things that are created and manufactured, such as cars, toasters, socks, lightbulbs, buildings, and the pyramids. No cellular thing exists forever; therefore a vital part of one’s coping skills is to maintain inner strength. [You might remind the group of the slogan mentioned in Workshop 1, “Aging Is the Ultimate Extreme Sport.”]

We better understand now the need for daily exercise and healthy food. But another essential is to nurture the soul with beauty. Where do we find real beauty, the kind that often catches us by surprise and is felt in our depths? Go walking in a park or by the shore of a lake, a wooded stream, a river, or an ocean. Get outside into the darkness of night to experience a starry sky and the night sounds around you. Visit an art museum. Be transported by beautiful music. Experience the freshness and color of plants in a greenhouse or conservatory in midwinter. Create and tend an outside or window garden or a terrarium or aquarium. Or find it in connection, one person to another, through activities such as tutoring, volunteering with those who are confined to home due to illness, weather, or limited mobility, or children or animals at a shelter, or helping at a nonprofit. Beauty that nourishes the soul is found everywhere. It is found when we realize we are being touched by the mysterious, by the spirit of life connection, and we respond with awe.

Elders carry a treasure trove of wisdom that can help connect them to others. Offering bits of wisdom when asked is prudent, instead of imposing ourselves on folks as they figure out life for themselves. It can be the difference between being appreciated and being turned off. Being an elder is somewhat like being an omnibus that travels along carrying its load of passengers (experiences and understanding), stopping to let them debark and help where needed—all the while gathering more passengers (more understanding) along the way. The holy cargo was earned by dealing with positive and negative experiences and then reflecting on them, discerning their significance. This is why self-nurturing is vital for human life. It balances the difficult things. We move along, carrying our wisdom load of experience, creativity, love, appreciation, reverence, forgiveness, compassion—and our sense of humor. The reward is to discover new ways to use this treasure.

Distribute the blank circle pages and ask participants to take out their art tools. Invite them to use color and design in a mandala to express one of their experiences with deep beauty. Allow 15 minutes for mandala creation. Suggest that participants date their mandalas and finish them at home, including them with their journals.