The mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
IN TODAY’S SESSION… We considered a metaphor that there is a garden in our mind, full of seeds of the many traits of our character. We gave considered to ten statements about character, and made a model of a garden showing bad and good personal characteristics. We played a game where we imagined our bodies as seeds of character, growing up; and for Faith in Action, we brainstormed some tools to help ourselves and others to turn our character into action.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about…
The metaphor of garden of seeds inside of each of us. Does your family agree with the idea that we have both good and bad traits, and that some traits are both good and bad? Do your family members share some character traits? Do you think you share those traits because of the “soil” in which the seeds were planted, or the “gardeners” who nurtured the seeds?
Emotions. Families show their emotions in different ways. Some families seem to “wear their emotions on their sleeves.” Everybody in the family knows what everybody else is feeling just about all the time. When such families are having fun, they may laugh a lot. When they disagree, they may be loud about it. Other families are more “reserved.” People keep their feelings to themselves. What about your family? Is it one of these types or another kind?
Which seeds grow best? Is it harder to nurture our good character seeds than it is to nurture our bad character seeds? What character traits do you struggle with growing in yourself?
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try…
Training your brain! Most of the time when we talk about our character, we’re reflecting on our actions - how we react and respond to other people. But sometimes we’re reacting and responding to ourselves, and our brains are changed because of it. Create a time when each member of your family can engage in some positive self-talk. It will feel weird at first, but the more we practice creating strong positive pathways in the brain, the stronger our character becomes. Take 10 minutes to check out some research and the evidence that retraining our brains towards the positive can have big impacts, with this TEDxTalk by social psychologist Alison Legerwood.
Nurture your seeds for climate action. Talk about what you did for Faith in Action. Did you identify any climate-related actions you wanted to take to grow good character? How can you, as a family, try to undertake these actions together?
Name some terrific people you know. Most families know some really wonderful people who almost always do and say caring, helpful things and who are great to have around. Make a family list of those people. Do not start talking about the reasons some other people do not get on the list. Concentrate on the ones who do, and be glad they are in your lives.
MYSTERY AND ME
Think about your character. What parts do you like best? What parts would you like to build? Is part of your character a mystery, even to you? (If you ever say, “I don’t know why I did something,” that may be a clue about something you do not understand.) If you are journaling, write your ideas about that part. Say how you can figure out the mystery.
A FAMILY RITUAL
Talk each day about the right and wrong you have experienced. Did you each do something good you want to share? Is there somebody in the family you want to thank for a virtuous act? Is there something you wish you had not done that you need to talk about? How can you make tomorrow a better day?
A FAMILY GAME
Play emotional freeze. Someday, when you are having a really good time with your family, freeze a picture of it in your mind. Do not spoil the time by interrupting it and talking about it. But do talk about it later. Remember how the enjoyment started; this may help you repeat it at another time. Are there character seeds of openness, generosity, and fun that you can nurture?
Find out how to nurture each other’s positive seeds. How can you help one another to be the best people you can be? Find some ways to help one another do their best.
Plant some seeds in an indoor pot and share the work of nurturing the seeds into plants. What is the minimum care your seeds require to sprout and stay alive? What “extra” effort can improve growth and make a stronger plant?
What religious and spiritual practices do family members do? If participation in worship, or Amazing Grace workshops, is one of them, how does it feed your positive character traits? Does it feed any negative ones? How? For many Unitarian Universalists, political activism, volunteering to teach others, or attending a peace vigil can be a spiritual or religious practice. Are activities like these also character-building? Does worship make us more spiritual? Does volunteer service make us more compassionate?