Throughout history, prophets, poets, philosophers, and mystics from across all cultures and religions have accounted an unusual type of experience not easily attained or described. These experiences are usually life changing. Although there have been many names given to these experiences, they are usually described as an “altered or expanded state of consciousness.” Other terms used are a sense of “connectedness,” “unity,” or “oneness.”
Disciples of most religions have developed practices and behaviors that they believe, when followed, can lead others to such an experience. Based on the teachings and example of Jesus, we believe that practicing “radical egalitarianism” and deep compassion for everyone we come in contact with can, over time, lead to an experience of oneness and connectedness. Or, in traditional language, an experience of the realm of God. It is all part of his primary teaching of kenosis, or letting go. It is this path that can move us from an egoistic and dualistic perspective to a new consciousness and powerful sense of oneness.
Children don’t need philosophy discussions on expanding consciousness; they need opportunities to experience connection with others and to see examples of people reaching beyond small self identities to greater possibilities. This lesson focuses on how following the path of Jesus can transform our feelings of limitation and separation to an awareness of connection, wholeness, and perfection of spirit.
Please read all of the directions before you begin in order to familiarize yourself with the flow of the visualization. You may also find it helpful to write the affirmation below on a card so that you can easily refer to it.
• Close your eyes and breathe deeply, in and out several times, allowing your breath to slow down. Once you feel calm, begin the visualization, seeing the images in your mind’s eye:
• See the vast blue ocean stretching out in all directions. Watch as a wave crests and then merges back into the ocean, leaving bubbles of all shapes and sizes floating on the surface of the water. Eventually the bubbles dissolve back into the ocean.
• Now imagine that you are one of bubbles floating on the ocean. At first you feel separate, but then you dissolve into the ocean and once again realize that you are part of the vast blue water. You are one with the ocean. You are one with spirit.
• Repeat this affirmation:
I am the bubble, make me the sea.
Wave of the sea, dissolve in the sea.
• Continue the affirmation for several minutes, visualizing a calm ocean without any waves. Enjoy the expansive feeling of total oneness.
• When you’re finished, gently bring your awareness back to the room, open your eyes, and go about your day remembering your connection with spirit.
Source: Words of the affirmation are from Cosmic Chants by Yogananda.
A fish cannot drown in water,
A bird does not fall in air.
In the fire of creation,
God doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.
Each creature God made
must live in its own true nature;
How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?
―Mechthild of Magdeburg
God is center everywhere, circumference nowhere.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Be still and know…
Remind the children that the last two lessons were about the path of Jesus leading us to experience sacred community and our natural inner joy. This lesson helps us understand that following the path of Jesus can change us from feeling limited and separate to feeling connected and whole. Read the story, Part of the Stars, in this lesson. Use the discussion questions to explore the topic.
Clapping and Naming Game
Everyone sits in a circle and practices clapping in unison to a simple rhythm: Clap hands together one, two, then slap left hand on left thigh three, then slap right hand on right thigh four. When everyone has the rhythm, start the game by saying your name as you slap your left thigh, then say the name of another player as you slap your right thigh. For example: Clap—clap—Linda (slap)—John (slap). The player you named must then say his name while slapping his left thigh and add another name with the slap on his right thigh. Clap—clap—John (slap)—Henry (slap). Continue until everyone has a turn, or as long as you are having fun. If someone misses the beat, just keep clapping in rhythm until they are able to do it and the play continues.
This game has a nice cooperative feeling to it and the rhythm becomes a unifying force. No one gets left out or loses. If appropriate, point out that the game helps to reinforce the truth that we are all connected and part of one whole.
Fun variation: Give everyone a stuffed animal or doll to hold on their lap. Each stuffie needs to be different in some way that is easy to say (pink bear, blue bear). Instead of using people names, use the stuffies to identify the players.
Use dark blue or black paper. Pinch a small fold in the paper and cut on the fold with scissors, to create a small slit in the paper. These will be shooting stars. Do this several times, making the slits in the same direction. Then add some small holes for more stars, using the point of a pencil to puncture the paper. Do as many as you like to get the effect of a star-filled sky with shooting stars. Then smooth the dark paper out and glue onto a light colored backing so the stars shine through. Aluminum foil works well as a backing, but you can also use white or yellow construction or tissue paper.
Materials needed: dark paper, scissors, pencil, glue, light paper or foil
“Amazing Grace”is a song written over 200 years ago. It’s one of the most recognized pieces of music in the English speaking world, and is played and sung in both religious and secular settings.
The music is inspiring and has a quality of hope that can be felt by all who hear it. The words offer the possibility of change, from “wretchedness” to freedom. Play a recording of this song and ask the children how they feel afterwards.
Tip: It is best to use an instrumental version because the old language of the lyrics may be distracting and confusing for young children. If you want to play one with words, read the words to the children first and explain what they mean. Also, if the children are not familiar with bagpipes, it may be best to choose one played on familiar instruments to avoid getting sidetracked into how bagpipes work. If you use online sources, avoid showing video, which will draw them outward and diminish the inner experience of the music.
After playing the song, explain briefly the story behind the man who wrote it. The information included here is sufficient, but you may also want to do some research into this inspiring story.
John Newton Backstory
John Newton started working on ships with his father when he was only 11 years old. As he grew up he had many adventures and got into a lot of serious trouble. He was known for being rough, mean and wild. As an adult, he found work on a slave ship—a ship that took goods to Africa to trade for people who would be sold as slaves in England and other countries. John did this horrible work for years. He was captured and forced to be a slave himself for a while and that didn’t even change him. After he was rescued he still worked on slave ships.
But then came a big storm.With the ship in danger of sinking, John prayed for help. He had an inner experience that changed him. He felt connected to other people and to God in a new way. The ship did not sink and John knew he wanted to change. From then on, he began to become a different kind of man. It was a few more years before he stopped selling slaves, but he did stop. He eventually became a minister and spent the rest of his life acting with compassion and kindness, as Jesus taught. He worked hard to help change laws about slavery in England. He wrote many songs as a minister. “Amazing Grace” is his most famous.
Perfect Unity Meditation
Read the Bible passage Matthew 5:48. Suggest to the children that being perfect may sound hard; no one can do everything right all the time! But every day, we are offered the opportunity to aim for perfect unity with our spiritual selves, which are unhindered by ego and confusion. Then offer the possibility that Jesus may have meant that we need to remember we are perfect inside—our true spirit is perfect, whole and complete. We will not be perfect in the outward way; we will make mistakes and have to learn from them. Part of being human is to learn. We are always in the learning process. We can learn to change the things about ourselves that don’t serve us as spiritual beings and we can also learn to accept ourselves as we are. Other people are also still learning as they journey through life.
Teachers: some of you may feel uncomfortable with the words “perfect” or “true spirit.” These words and the experiences they describe are also used by saints of all religions, to try and convey the source of all that is and the relationship we have with that source. One phrase in Eastern tradition is “ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy.” This is one way of describing where we come from and who we are. Words are inadequate to convey the inner reality we experience that as we awaken to our real self, but the mystics have been trying through the ages to tell us.
There is also the issue of acceptance, which is valid and beautiful. Acceptance implies loving or enfolding despite some kind of wrong or flaw. While we certainly behave in ways that are less than perfectly loving, nothing can change the inner reality of who we are. Transcendent awareness brings us out of our fleeting egoic view to a unified view, and reveals to us the perfection of our spirit, which is one with all spirit/consciousness/source. In that consciousness of unity, there is no reason for apologies.
We are each unique expressions of that one reality, and the saints through the ages use different words to describe their experience. So we aren’t going to find the one and only way to say it. The Bible passages we chose speak to that experience.
Invite everyone to sit upright, close their eyes and focus on their breath. Guide the class in a short meditation using these words, or use your own:
As you breathe in, mentally say the word “perfect” and imagine yourself as a body of light, not just bones and muscle. As you breathe out, mentally say the word “unity.” Let go of any worries you may have about making mistakes, or not being good enough in some way. Those thoughts separate us from what is true. You are a child of light and you are connected to every part of creation. You are perfect and whole. Continue to repeat “perfect” as you breathe in and “unity” as you breathe out. Feel your physical body relax and your body of light grow strong and bright. Now breathe and stop saying the words. Just feel your connection to all that is. Float in this unity, like a drop of water in an ocean.
Eric wished he could just go home. He had looked forward to coming to camp all summer and now he wanted to leave. Nothing was going the way that he wanted and it was only the second day.
He wanted to be in the Eagle cabin, which was up the hill and had the newest bunks. But Eric was put in Gopher cabin at the bottom of the hill. The campers in Gopher cabin had the longest walk to the dining hall and to the bathrooms. He didn’t get a top bunk, either; he was stuck in a lower bunk in the corner. On top of that, none of the kids in his cabin were from his church or his school. They were all strangers.
The cabin leader seemed like a nice guy, but he was soft spoken and a bit older than the other counselors. His camp name was Silent Sam. Eric thought Silent Sam was kind of boring compared to the other leaders who had nicknames like Grizzly and Crazy Coyote.
Today Sam had led them on a long hike along the river. Eric had lost his whistle. When they got back, dinner turned out to be vegetable soup instead of the spaghetti he was looking forward to. As Eric sat on his bunk before going to bed, he really just wanted to go home.
When everyone was in their sleeping bag, Silent Sam made an announcement. “Tonight there is supposed to be a meteor shower, which would be really cool to see. But it won’t happen until about 2 am, so get some sleep and I’ll wake you up when it’s time. We will walk out to the meadow for the best view. Everyone dress warmly and leave your flashlights in the cabin. One more thing—we will all stay quiet during the whole thing. No talking.”
Eric thought a meteor shower might be a neat thing to see, but walking outside in the dark sounded scary, not fun. He fell asleep quickly, and the next thing he knew Sam was waking him up.
All the boys got dressed in the dark. Eric put on his thick socks, warm sweatshirt, and jeans. A couple of the boys began whispering and Sam silently reminded them about keeping quiet. Then he led them all outside. The other cabins were dark and there were no other kids around. Eric wondered if they were asleep or already outside watching the meteor shower. The kids from Gopher cabin followed Sam down the trail towards the meadow.
The meadow offered a clear view of the sky. Eric was surprised he could see so well in the dark without his flashlight. The half moon was shining down and there were millions of stars. Other kids and leaders were spread out over the big meadow, but everyone was keeping very quiet.
Sam motioned to the Gopher cabin group to lie down on the grass close to him. Eric could sense something different about Silent Sam. He seemed excited, but very calm, and his smile was kind.
The grass was cool, but Eric’s sweatshirt kept him warm. As he looked up at the sky full of stars he felt happy for the first time since camp started. He was glad they weren’t allowed to talk. Eric could feel all the kids who were sharing the night’s adventure and it seemed more friendly, somehow, to be silent together.
Suddenly, Eric noticed a quick flash across the sky. A shooting star! Scientists called them meteors, but Eric preferred the name shooting star. Then there were a couple more and then several more. Eric didn’t want to blink; he didn’t want to miss any. He heard several kids gasp, “wow,” but they quickly became quiet again.
It lasted a couple hours. The meteors just kept coming. They flashed a bright streak of light and then disappeared, only to have several more appear. Eric felt like he was flying through space with them. His body felt connected to the earth, but his heart felt like it was with the shooting stars. He wasn’t sleepy at all, in fact, he felt wide awake and energized.
Eric was aware of the awe and wonder of all the other kids and leaders there. It was as if all their bodies were connected through the earth and their hearts were all together in space with the stars, shining brilliant star shine. It didn’t matter who was in which cabin, or who was friends with whom. The busy activities of the day seemed like a dream, and the night and the stars were more important and more real.
The shooting stars gradually stopped and Silent Sam tapped Eric on the shoulder. He reluctantly got up with the other kids and walked toward the cabin behind Sam. He didn’t want to look down at the trail, he wanted to keep looking up to the stars forever. When they got back to the cabin, Sam silently directed them to get back into their bunks and Eric gazed out the window at the stars for a long time before he fell asleep, knowing tomorrow would be a better day.
1) Why do you think Silent Sam had that nickname?
2) Have you ever seen a shooting star?
3) Why did Eric think that tomorrow would be better? What was different?
4) Have you ever felt like Eric did when he watched the stars?
5) Would you like to share about when that happened?
6) When do you feel most connected to those around you?