Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Spirit in Practice: An Adult Program for Developing A Regular Practice of the Spirit

Activity 2: The Story Of Understanding The Elephant

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Copies of Story 1: Understanding the Elephant (one copy for leader, plus several copies for participants who may wish to read along)
  • Optional: Microphone
  • Optional: Pulpit or lectern
  • Optional: Bell

Preparation for Activity

  • Review the story in advance so that you can present it effectively.

Description of Activity

Read the story "Understanding the Elephant" aloud. Provide copies of the story to people who prefer to read along.

After sharing the story, invite participants to take a moment to quietly center themselves, to let go of any tension or emotions that are not needed for the next hour, and to breathe deeply. You may ring a bell at the beginning and end of this silent time, or simply invite people into the silence and then gently bring them out.

After the silence, invite participants to discuss their responses to the story. Keep the discussion brief and focused, allowing time for your own concluding remarks. Ask:

  • Personal, direct experience of the elephant played a large role in this story, as did the group's more objective assessment of the elephant at the end. What roles do objectivity and direct experience play in your understanding of Unitarian Universalist spirituality?
  • The story concludes, "It was only when they combined their descriptions that they began to understand the elephant." What parallels can you draw between this story and your spiritual understandings?
  • Is a spiritual practice valuable to you even if you can't always see the big picture?

Conclude by emphasizing the value of spiritual practice as a way to understand the "elephant" of the sacred, whether we get to know just the tail or the tusk, or the whole creature.

Including All Participants

Be sure that all participants can hear the story, or have the story interpreted for them. Using a microphone for this activity helps more people hear the story. You may wish to print out a copy of the story in advance for participants who are hard of hearing or who prefer to read along.