Leading Contemplative Practices

Anyone comfortable reading aloud is encouraged to serve as a Leader.
For the flow of any particular practice, you may want only one or two people to share leadership.
Having an adult act as the “official” facilitator may help with pacing, especially at the outset. However, as tweens and teens become familiar with the practices, they will learn to appreciate the rhythm and will become capable facilitators in their own right.
We encourage shared leadership so that all can feel ownership and equally engaged in every practice.
Readings are meant to be read by young participants to help them feel comfortable engaging biblical texts.
Gauge the abilities and comfort-level of your readers: share each reading around the circle, or have a different reader each night. Less confident readers can read shorter passages, but every reader should be encouraged to participate in this role.

We recognize and honor that every family is unique.
We appreciate that participants will share a variety of relationships.
We try to avoid assuming a parent/child relationship, as adults in the family may be aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents, step-parents, etc.; and children may be step-, foster, grand-, or extended family.
And we appreciate and love the idea of teens and young adults being the main instigators in these practices; sometimes Leaders may be older siblings, cousins, babysitters, or friends.
Whatever your family make-up, we hope leadership is shared with joy and love by all who are interested.

Within the context of these practices, a Leader should be able to:
~read comfortably and confidently in relative dark
~feel comfortable leaving silent space for breath, reflection and contemplation
~be confident and able to unobtrusively manipulate the timer, if one is used
~know that italicized instructions are included to guide the Leader and are not meant 
to be read aloud
~know to read aloud only the regular-font readings, meant to be a verbal “script”

Some people, beginners and especially those who practice regularly, can sink very deeply into a contemplative Presence with God, even within only a few minutes.
This is the intent of the practice, so we do not want to interrupt or bring them out of that awareness in a jarring, abrupt way.
To this end, we include an invitation to gently wiggle toes and fingers or roll the shoulders or the head in slow circles as a way to bring the body-mind-spirit back into the present time/space. We then encourage a few moments of rest.
This does not have to be a long time, but it should be intentional.
Leaders will learn to “feel” the room to know when to gently introduce reflection questions, designed to gently engage the thinking brain.

Journaling is recording moments or insights that seemed interesting or significant - or not: simply recording the experience without highlighting any aspect can create a remarkable tool for long-term reflection when re-reading journal entries later on.
Journaling can take whatever form is best suited to each participant: prose, poetry or other verse, doodling or drawing.
No matter the form, journaling is an important part of this ritual. For some this will be an essential way to integrate the practice into conscious awareness.
Journaling is also a step toward verbal reflection: a lot of us appreciate the opportunity to collect our thoughts before we voice them. For many of us, this is a valuable skill to learn. Either way, journaling before sharing affords this opportunity and will help make verbal processing more concise.
This is an easy step to skip, especially when feeling rushed, but it is helpful to ensure that no one is jolted out of their presence with God too jarringly and to allow the practice to become more fully integrated into each person’s body-mind-spirit.

Some of us are verbal processors. Time and safe space for sharing experiences can be a rich way to reflect collectively: one person’s words may spark a memory or deepen an awareness of another person’s experience, or simply naming the experience out loud may help it sink in.
Comments are invited to be a response to the silence, the particular practice, something that was revealed during the practice or thoughts/feelings around the practice.
Reflection is intended only for those who feel called to share. Mary responded to the Incarnate Presence by “pondering in her heart”. The shepherds ran into the streets telling everyone what they had seen and heard. While shouting it to the world helps some of us make sense or make real, others need to hold an experience close for it to be truly ours.

Be mindful that spoken reflections are met with attentive listening and affirmations.
This is not a time for judgement - either from the person sharing, or of the person sharing. 
This is not a time for theological or psychological correction, nor is it a time for psycho-analysis. It is an excellent time to practice non-judgmental listening.
Reflection should not include critique of the practice other than a person’s experience of it. There is no “wrong” sharing, however.
Gentle reminders of a non-judgemental intention can help keep sharing on track.

Adults may need to be diligent that if anyone shares something of a sensitive nature it remains within the sanctity of Family Evening Devotion time and space: a child’s comments during prayer time should not be grist for punitive or demeaning commentary later on, by anyone.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation.

Having certain materials ready to hand will make each evening much easier.
To that end, we suggest a Family Evening Devotions Basket/Box/Bin.
At the outset, you will want to include:
~A journal, notebook or binder with paper for each participant
~Writing utensils for each participant
~Colored pencils, markers, crayons or pens sufficient to creativity of all participants (on 
night when they are needed, leaving these in a pool in the middle of the groups allows for contemplative sharing!)
~One or two manual pencil sharpeners (again, contemplative sharing when needed!)
~Candle and lighter or matches; or special electric light

We promise to post necessary materials for upcoming practices ahead of time so you aren’t taken by surprise. And we’ll keep materials to a bare minimum.

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