Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Songs at the Dinner Table

For those who do not follow religious traditions, the notion of prayer before dinner feels a bit strange.  However, dinner table traditions seem to be important for some reason, so we try to implement them.  Sometimes, we pray.  Sometimes, we don't.  Often, we share good and bad things that have happened during the day, offering empathy for one another.  Even our three-year-old daughter participates in this part.

This evening, we sang a song in lieu of a prayer.  Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer was known for her signature spiritual song, "This Little Light of Mine".  I had the urge to sing the first verse of the song, probably due to my recent research of her life.  I have a terrible singing voice, but I started us off, and my wife helped me out shortly thereafter.

This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Not every song needs to be tied to civil rights activism, but this one was.  There are so many short song verses that can be sung at the dinner table, ones that fit your background.  Feelings of connection and empathy can go hand-in-hand with a song.

Two minutes into dinner, my daughter quietly sang one line.

This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine...

May you always, beautiful daughter.

Photo at top by Daiga Ellaby on

If you'd like to listen to Fannie Lou Hamer leading others in "This Little Light of Mine", then here it is:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Mindfulness Playground Parenting

The playground is a good place to practice mindfulness or contemplative prayer, whatever the tradition.  Turn off the cell phone, watch the kids, and interact with them.  Try to be aware of the kids, their movements, and their voices.  Try to be aware of the sounds of the air, the birds, the cars, and the voices of other kids in the playground. 

When thoughts of the past or future come to the mind, just notice the thoughts, and be observant of them, but then look back to the kids, the environment, and the sounds within earshot.  Try to get back into observing the physical world with all senses.  If contemplative prayer is the practice, then refocus on that phrase or verse that brings the heart, mind, and senses back to the present, in order to focus on the kids and the environment.  Even focusing on attentive conversation with the kids, while they do their playing, can be a type of mindfulness.  Heck, playing with them can be a type of mindfulness.  Anything to keep focused on the present.  

If the kids play for thirty to sixty minutes, then that equals thirty to sixty minutes of mindfulness or contemplative prayer.  No doubt the temptation will be to turn the phone back on, cutting mindfulness or contemplative prayer short.  Be observant of that and see if you can get back into the present and let go of the phone.  Try to be okay with the discomfort of not looking at it.  

Connection with the kids, the environment, and maybe even the divine are physically felt through oxytocin and other types of reaffirming chemicals in our bodies.  It is like feeling a sense of peace, which is positive for both parents and children.  Self-condemnation is not needed.  Just keep trying.  

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash