I teach a wonderful 6th grade class at our UU church. It's the "Growing Up Year," where we visit different houses of worship and learn about many religions, including our own. I think it is a way not only to build tolerance of others by finding common ground and dispelling mysteries, it is also a way to pin down and put into words what it is that we believe. Quite an accomplishment for 11-12 year old kids.
Today we did a follow up class to several different field trips, and we had the kids write down what beliefs they remembered from their visits. We put signs up on the wall -- Totally, firmly agree; agree; unsure corner; hm... disagree; and totally, firmly disagree. Then we read the beliefs out loud, and we all had to move around the room to stand under the sign that matches our feeling about a belief.
Sometimes the wording of these beliefs can change where I stand. There's "I believe that prayer works," versus "Meditation gives me peace of mind." Is there a difference between prayer and meditation? One seems to be TO a deity, while the other is turned inward. However, if you believe that god, or a holy spirit, or the great life force is within all of us, then meditation can be considered prayer TO the deity within. These are some of the tricky questions the 6th graders wrestle with -- as do I.
I tend to ask the universe for a lot. It's kind of like throwing spaghetti up on the wall -- at some point something will stick. I don't know what's out there in the universe, but perhaps something holy is listening. (Not last week, though. We didn't get that snow day). And yet, when I'm talking to the "universe," I feel like I'm actually sinking deep inside of myself. That's more like a description of meditation.
There's also that whole "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" way of prayer/meditation. If you want something in your life, imagine it is already there. So I spend lots of time imagining (in a background sort of way, while I'm getting on with daily life) that diabetes has been cured. That scientists have found the key to autoimmune diseases. That life got a little easier. It calms me down. Is it "working?" I don't know. Maybe it will, but I won't know in my lifetime. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to see this part of my imagination come to life. Then I'll *really* have a great lesson to bring to class! How I'd love to stand under that "Firmly, Totally Agree" sign when it comes to the power of prayer!
These kids I teach -- they are wonderful. So expressive, full of wonder, and so very intelligent. They made me think about all this STUFF (as they say) today, as they do each week. So today, in addition to asking the universe for so many things, I'd like to thank it for sending me this particular group of wonderful kids. Thanks for my co-teacher, who makes me laugh. Thanks for this wonderful UU community, which feels like home.