Our family is a spiritual one, but not a very religious one at the moment. I was raised as a Congregationalist and Aaron as a Methodist, but as our own family now, we aren't regularly attending a church. We are trying to sort out exactly what beliefs we actually want to impart on our children. However, we both feel that being raised in families that practiced the ritual of going to church and making the time to contemplate our place in the universe was beneficial, and very formative in a moral sense. Last fall I was trying to think of a way to start introducing mindfulness to Rowan, to start talking about the greater world, and gratitude for all the good in our lives. Rowan had just started preschool and was learning a song about thanking the earth for giving us the things we need, and so we decided to carry that theme over to our meals at home. On most days, dinner is the first time of the day that we all actually come to the table and sit down together as a family, a time that I always cherish.
I had just read Amanda Blake Soule's wonderful book The Creative Family, and in it she talks about having a blessing jar to use at meal time. I set about making us one, using a pretty sugar bowl that was collecting dust. I wanted ours to be something that would hold up over time, so I used watercolor paper and painted multi-colored streaks and patterns all over the paper, and when it was dry I cut the paper into small pieces for our blessing cards. You can google blessings, or prayers, depending on how religious you want to be. I also found a book at the library on blessings from around the world. I copied my favorites onto the cards and now they sit happily in the sugar bowl that has been reincarnated as a blessing jar. Each night we sit down and one person gets to take a blessing from the jar and read it aloud. Then we hold hands and say, "Thank you earth!" It is a very simple but meaningful ritual, and I feel that it has been a great tool for teaching Rowan the importance of pausing to contemplate and show gratitude for the meal before her, the work that went into preparing the meal, and the family and love surrounding her. She has already memorized most of the blessings in the jar, and often offers to say a blessing when we eat at other people's houses!
Some of our favorites include:
- "May the love that is in my heart pass from my hands to yours." -traditional American blessing said while holding hands
- "May the longtime sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the sweet light within you guide you on your way." - Irish blessing
- "Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing, thank you earth for everything." -child's blessing
- "May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be well. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be happy."- ancient Tibetan Buddhist blessing
- Name three things that you are thankful for
- "Everyone join hands for a silent moment." -Quaker grace