What Does It Mean to Be a People of . . . ATTENTION
In the month of November we’ll explore together the theme of attention. Theme-based ministry connects worship, religious education and small group experiences so that we are having a shared conversation across the generations.
Reflections on Attention:
“The world is full of magic things, waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
“At a certain point you say
to the woods, to the sea,
to the mountains, the world,
Now I am ready.
Now I will stop and be wholly attentive.
You empty yourself and wait, listening. . .”
The practice of reshaping our lives by shifting where we look
The practice of listening to what life is trying to say
Make Attention Count
Most of the time, it’s a bird or a cricket that causes it. Their sharp chirp jolts us into the awareness that we are surrounded by sound – sounds that fade into the background most of the time but can easily come to the forefront with a bit of attention.
So for this exercise, take a morning or evening, go sit on the porch or stand in the middle of your favorite field or woods, and then try to notice the many sounds that surround you. And here’s the catch:
Actually, count them!
That’s right. Take a pen and paper while you’re standing or sitting there and list all the sounds you can detect.
There’s power in doing this alone, but it’s also wonderful to do with your partner or child.
After your list is as full as you can make it, take another 10 minutes and think about the message of it all. What are those sounds trying to tell you? “You’re not alone.”? “There’s more to life.”? “This world is wilder than let yourself imagine.”? “Listen up.”?
Taking It Home: Ideas for All Ages
Radish Revelations and Potato Chip Meditations
Well-known Buddhist author and chef Edward Espe Brown wrote in 1997 about a potato chip meditation, a guided activity where participants attuned to the experience of eating one, single potato chip. It was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek activity for him initially, but people responded well to it, describing new insights into the sensory experience of eating simply by paying exquisite attention.
This month, we’ll playfully recreate something similar, but as a guessing game. Acquire a few seasonal but uncommon fresh food, or prepared foods in brands or flavors you don’t normally buy. (Chestnuts? A new kind of radish? What’s unusual for your family’s food culture?) Make up a plate for each member of the family with three to five of these new foods, and taste them one at a time, together, describing your experience as you go. Linger! Pay attention! Savor! Then, the person who can guess the most foods or ingredients wins!
Stories Used In Worship and Classes This Month
#1009 Meditation on Breathing
By Sarah Dan Jones
It is the kernel of a larger solo work “When I Breathe In.” Sarah Dan Jones wrote it in response to the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. By taking a moment for ourselves. By finding peace for ourselves through song we may hold others in deep hospitality and ask the questions: What do you need? How may I help?” Commentary: https://www.uuberks.org/breathing-sing-out-love
Theme Connection: We turn our attention to our breath to find our center. We turn our attention to our breath to find freedom from worry so that we may turn our attention to other people’s pain.
Soul Matters Spotify Music Playlists:
Discover musical inspiration on each of our themes through monthly playlists: https://www.soulmatterssharingcircle.com/spotify-lists.html
Join us to deepen our faith together:
- Explore resources related to the monthly theme (links above)
- Attend Sunday worship
- Sign up for small group ministry (Soul Matters Sharing Circles and Chalice Circles)
- Request a copy of Soulful Home (thematic resources for families)
- Join our Parent Group (to discuss the themes in relation to parenting)
Resources on this page adapted from Soul Matters November 2019.