Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults
Main Content

Activity 4: The Transcendentalists

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Print out Leader Resource 4, The Transcendentalists and become familiar with its contents.
  • Arrange for two volunteer participants to read aloud the Emerson and Thoreau quotes in Leader Resource 4, The Transcendentalists. If possible, provide their assignments in advance.
  • If feasible, plan to go outdoors for this activity. Arrange for seating (chairs, blankets on the ground, etc.) to suit the needs of the group.

Description of Activity

Gather the group, outdoors if possible. Present the information contained in Leader Resource 4, The Transcendentalists. Then have the volunteers read the passages from Emerson and Thoreau.

Now explain that the group consider the first Source named in the Unitarian Universalist Association Principles and Sources-direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder-and how that Source relates to their personal beliefs. Ask everyone to find a comfortable position, ground themselves firmly on the earth (or the floor, if you are indoors), and enter a time of quiet meditation.

As the group settles, invite participants to become aware of the things they can sense around them. Ask them to silently identify four things that they can see at this time. Allow a few moments of silence.

Then, ask participants to be aware of their sense of sound and to identify four sounds they can hear around them. Allow a brief silence so participants have a chance to identify sounds. Reassure them that they might not identify four distinct things or they may not recognize them quickly.

Next, invite participants to silently identify four things they can feel against their skin, allowing time for them recognize the different sensations.

Next, invite them to identify four things they can smell. Reassure them that it may be more difficult to distinguish distinct odors and aromas, but invite them to stick with it and see how it goes.

Now invite participants to identify four things they can taste. Again, reassure them that it is fine if they think they cannot taste four flavors.

Finally, invite participants to consider how present they feel to the place and to the moment, how present they feel in their bodies. Does this feeling have any spiritual meaning for them? How might this feeling connect to the first named Source of our Unitarian Universalist tradition, "direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder?"

After about fifteen minutes of this guided meditation, invite participants to gently return to the group.

Invite volunteers to share about their experiences, reminding the group that everyone has the right to pass.