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Update on rituals, traditions, and spiritual disciplines

Those participating in our discussion of pages 19 - 64 of "Tending the Flame" by Michelle Richards, had a great time reminiscing about family rituals and traditions from our childhoods. Many of our initial remembrances has to do with holidays. It was interesting that many of the remembrances had to do with how and when things were done. Things like how you put tinsel on the tree or when you opened gifts. These specific details often marked how one family was distinct and different from others who shared the same general traditions. As we pushed a little further into the idea of rituals and traditions we began looking at times other than holidays. People shared about saying grace before meals wherever they happened to be eating, about bed time rituals, and traditional camping trips or vacations. Even though we are now the parents, these events from our childhood are strong in our memories. It reminded us of the impact that these things have on our children and how our intentionality in what we do can help shape our children's religious and spiritual growth.

Our conversation moved on to talking about what traditions and rituals we wanted to have in our homes. We discussed the values we wished to pass on to our children and how we might do that. Our group represented an age span of children from five to sixteen. We talked about how different it is to try to begin something new with a young child versus an older child or teen. We discussed involving the older ones in helping to decide not only how to do something, but also in deciding what type of rituals they might want to develop. We also talked about how we might take a ritual based on our cultural heritage, and also in a previous faith tradition transform it in such a way as to reflect our Unitarian Universalist beliefs and still honor our past.

Our conversation about spiritual disciplines began predictably with conversations about traditional religious practices such as meditation. Few people in the group felt they really had a spiritual discipline. I asked if anyone ran or exercised regularly, or has some other activity they engaged in regularly. I then asked them how they felt after they engaged in that activity and what they felt like when they did not do it for a period of time. We talked about many of the activities that Scott Alexander highlighted in his book "Everyday Spiritual Practice." Some members of the group walked, backpacked, or rode bicycles regularly and found peace and wholeness in the process that was for them a spiritual discipline.

I passed out detailed questions prepared by Michelle Richards. If anyone else is interested in having a copy of those questions, please contact me. Our next gathering will be August 1st. Our reading assignment will be pages 65 - 99. I will post the discussion questions next week.

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