Cultivating Spiritual Resilience Through Mindfulness and Meditation
From October 18, 2020 through May 2021 we are offering lifespan faith development opportunities for preschool through adults.
- Preschool – 6th Grades – Weekly Zoom Sessions and video lessons (Register here)
- Preschool: Sundays 9:15-9:40 am
- Elementary: Sundays 9:45-10:30 am
- 7-12th Grades – Weekly Zoom Sessions (Register here)
- Sundays 8:00-9:00 pm
- A Still Quiet Place for Teens: A Mindfulness Workbook to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions by Amy Saltzman, MD
- The Mindfulness Journal for Teens: Prompts and Practice to Help You Stay Cool, Calm, and Present by Jennie Marie Battisttim, MI, LMFT
- Adults – Weekly Zoom Sessions
- Sundays 1:00-2:30 pm
- Sitting Together A Family-Centered Curriculum on Mindfulness, Meditation, and Buddhist Teachings by Sumi Loundon Kim – Study Guide Sessions for adults
Have you ever wondered why some folks who endure difficulties become embittered or broken while others grow more courage and inner strength? One of the reasons may be the perspective with which they regard challenges as well as the skills they have developed to cope with them. In the midst of these unusual and challenging times, having resilience is especially important.
The religious growth and learning opportunities we are offering this year can help people from ages three to 103 cultivate spiritual resilience. Learning to practice meditation and mindfulness can lower stress and anxiety levels as well as increasing calmness and deepening understanding and compassion. By gaining new perspectives on how to approach difficult circumstances, we can more readily accept the opportunities to stretch and grow rather than feel defeated by them.
This year’s curriculum offerings are tri-fold; the Sitting Together curriculum is designed for children from 3-13 and there is an adult study guide with complementary weekly activities and discussion questions to deepen understanding and support the practice for adults. The parent sessions are an important companion to the children’s lessons.
A Child’s Path (Preschool – 6th Grade)
Our children arrive into this world with an innate spirituality in which expansive connection, wonder, and awe come naturally. Spirituality is the feeling of being interconnected to that which is larger than oneself. It is often expressed in wonder and awe. This is especially apparent in younger children. Without care and tending, childhood spirituality can wither as they grow. This curriculum aims to draw and expand children’s spiritual capacities.
The purpose is to provide children with the ways of beginning to find:
- Meaning and purpose in life
- Freedom from greed, ill will, hatred, ignorance, delusion and entitlement
- Authentic love for oneself and others
- Values and priorities that lead to happiness, peace and contentment
The children’s program is based on the idea that children experience spirituality through their senses. Connection, mystery, awe, love, contentment, inner peace – these arise through hearing stories and singing together, smells of incense or the sidewalk after it rains, sharing food, visuals in art and candlelight, and in moving the body in ceremony or dance. Thus, all of the lessons center on activities that connect to the senses. Since we will be leading the activities virtually on Zoom and videos, it will be important for families to bring many of the sensory experiences alive for the children in your homes.
By exploring the themes of mindfulness, kindness, ethics and character, the ideas and practices presented offer a spiritual foundation for more skillfully navigating difficulties in life. As we are living in the midst of the COVID pandemic, so many of our habitual ways of functioning are different. The perspectives and practices presented here can help us take advantage of some of these changes, with curiosity and compassion, to learn new coping skills and to model them in our families. As we practice, learn and grow together over this year, may spiritual resilience flourish in our hearts and our lives. May each of us take the opportunities presented to open our tender hearts and grow in wisdom, courage, inner strength and fortitude.
Zoom sessions take place on Sundays. If you haven’t received the Zoom link, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request the link and the videos.
- Preschool – 9:15-9:40 am
- Elementary – 9:45-10:30 am
To ensure we have your current contact information, please register here.
Videos of Weekly RE Lessons
In addition to the weekly Zoom classes for elementary aged children, we also have videos of the weekly RE lessons.
The materials are the same lessons from the Zoom class but in video format for your convenience. You can engage with these videos as a family or individually. Kids can click on the images to engage with different aspects of the lesson. Click on the chalice for the chalice lighting words. Click on the teacher for the introduction to the lesson and discussion questions. Click on the bookshelf for a video of the story and click on Diane for the meditation. Click on the guitar for the song and the art supplies for the activity. We hope these resources provide opportunities for children and families to engage with our religious education lessons each week.
Middle and High School Youth
Stay calm and cool no matter what―a mindfulness journal
Navigating the world as a teenager can be stressful: juggling friends, family, schoolwork, and a pandemic is no easy task. This year, our youth will be using A Still Quiet Place for Teens, a curriculum that builds a place to be calm, unwind, and be yourself. Using mindfulness techniques, teachers will encourage teens to be in the moment, cultivate relationships with kindness and empathy, and deal with pressure in constructive ways.
We will be offering weekly Zoom meetings for middle and high school youth to connect, learn, and grow together with this curriculum. Using mindfulness as the tool, these youth will have the opportunity to notice their own stresses and worries while navigating adolescence in these COVID times. By learning to recognize and acknowledge their thoughts and feelings as they arise, our goal is to help them more skillfully move through them and respond in effective ways.
Each participating youth will also receive a copy of The Mindfulness Journal for Teens. Full of meditation techniques, breathing exercises, inspirational quotes, and writing prompts, this journal will help make life calmer and a little easier to handle. We encourage youth to fill this out at their own pace; just a few minutes a day can make a difference!
Scientific studies have shown many benefits of mindfulness. Here are a few:
- Decreasing stress
- Decreasing negative emotions
- Decreasing anger
- Decreasing anxiety
- Decreasing depression
- Increasing attention
- Increasing the ability to self soothe
- Increasing social skills
- Increasing sleep quality
- Increasing self-acceptance
- Increasing a sense of calmness and relaxation
Regularly practicing mindfulness and meditation strengthens the mind, just like lifting weights strengthens muscles in the body. A stronger, more disciplined mind is better able to deal with the stresses of daily life. Hopefully, though our time together on Zoom, youth will feel motivated to use the provided Mindfulness Journal for Teens designed to help them incorporate these practices and insightful perspectives into their daily lives. Even five to ten minutes per day can make a positive difference!
Zoom sessions take place on Sundays 8:00-9:00 pm. If you haven’t received the Zoom link, email email@example.com to request the link and the videos.
Please update your youth’s RE registration form here.
For Parents, Caregivers, and Adults of all Life Stages
Cultivating our children’s spirituality begins with developing our own. In these busy times, it is difficult to maintain our own spiritual practices. Yet, parents and guardians are the primary religious educators of their children. At an hour or so a week, any formal religious education experience can only supplement what children witness and learn at home. That’s why there is as much of a focus on adult spiritual development as there is for children in this program. Integrating the ideas and practices of this curriculum into family life can have a profound effect on the health and functioning of families daily interactions.
The aim for adults is to:
- Cultivate self-awareness, insight, and understanding
- Develop and maintain emotional balance
- Manage and reduce stress, particularly as a parent
- Help us become more attuned and responsive to our children and family members
- Strengthen our skills as parents
- Expand and deepen our own spiritual path
- Provide us with the language and skills to help our children develop their spiritual selves
This curriculum is not designed as parenting advice. The purpose is rather to encourage adults to practice meditation and reflect on the ideas presented to incorporate them with their direct experiences. It is personal insight that leads to real growth and we can increase the frequency and depth of our insights with regular meditation practice.
The value of having a community of others with whom to share this journey cannot be underestimated. Though there is no substitute for in person connections, the nature of living in the midst of this pandemic means we must gather virtually to learn, practice, share and grow together. The benefits for both our families and ourselves have unlimited potential by consistent participation in these sessions.
One of the hopes is for parents and caregivers to understand that parenting can be a spiritual practice in and of itself. When we compare our ideals of the kind of parents and caregivers we aspire to be and then compare that with the reality of having all of our emotional buttons pushed on any given day, that gap provides an opportunity for growth. Through mindfulness of our reactions and choices, we can aspire, inch by inch, to align our aspirations and our daily interactions. By remembering to cultivate as much compassion as we can for both our children and ourselves, opportunities arise to deepen understanding and increase skillful responses. Simply noticing and acknowledging what is true for you, without judgement, can make a big difference as we shift our perspectives with loving kindness.
Author Sandy Eastoak indicates that, “Being present without children and modeling stillness and simplicity is our real work. We can’t lock them in the closet so we can meditate or send them to boarding school so we can go clean the ocean. We can’t tell them all the beautiful things about the Buddha while we rush frantically from peace meetings to sesshins to ballet lessons.”
We model our spiritual life through how we live in the day to day, by how we cope with challenges and by how we engage the mundane. Though this year’s study and practice we aim to increase the skill with which we can do these things thoughtfully and mindfully.
We are all living through a fundamental time in history. The world is shifting in profound ways. The combination of the COVID pandemic, the effects of global climate change, economic challenges, political divisiveness, the layers of white supremacy culture apparent in the increased Black Lives Matter social uprisings and the insidious nature of living in this dysfunctional heteronormative capitalist patriarchy permeate our daily lives.
As we try to navigate these tumultuous times with as much wisdom as we can to be our best selves, raise our families, and work toward a just and sustainable world, we need each other. We need to prioritize our spiritual practices to ground us in what is most important. We can serve others best when we remember to care for ourselves regardless of our age or situation.
We are not living in ordinary times. Self care and spiritual practice become even more important to skillfully navigate these especially challenging times. In the introduction to Dharma Family Treasures: Sharing Buddhism with Children, editor Sandy Eastoak writes, “The connection between mindfulness and the fate of the earth is immediate and total.” She describes the challenge she feels between the importance of daily spiritual practice and the urgency to “go stand in front of the bulldozers, never use the car again…”
For parents and caregivers she inquires, “Here’s a koan it may take several lifetimes to solve: How do we make loving our children, Buddhist (or spiritual) practice, and healing the earth coincide? Without rushing? Our children, our practice, our earth – each requires our full energy and lots of empty, goalless time. And each requires no separation whatsoever from the other two.”
While pondering that koan, we can only take it one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other, doing the best we can each day. I hope we can journey together this year in this exploration of mindfulness and meditation. Similar to learning a new skill or instrument, we start out slow and shaky and then over time we gradually increase in comfort and skill levels. The same with regular spiritual practice, the more consistently we engage in it, the better we become at it. We are literally changing the wiring in our brain every time we sit in meditation. With commitment for engaging in this together, may we all develop more spiritual resilience and abilities to better cope with difficult times.
Zoom sessions take place on Sundays 1:00-2:30 pm. To join click here.