Contributed by board member, Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath
Looking for a kinesthetic spiritual practice? How about this . . . create a Tree of Life pillow that can find a favorite spot in your home . . . or maybe in the home of someone whose life, whose spirits, need an uplift. Art and craft as spiritual practice.
In addition to the project as shown in the photo, you might create the pillow as a memory pillow by writing the names of various family members and friends on each of the leaves using various colors of permanent fabric pen/marker.
It could become a conversation starter as in “Oh, I didn’t know you had an Uncle Harry, too” or “How did you ever meet Lois Jackson? I didn’t know you were friends!” or “Lareesa – what a beautiful name!”.
One reason I appreciate this pattern is that it’s hard to “get it wrong” – a concern that often plagues people who enjoy using their hands to make something but are afraid that the end result won’t “measure up”.
Another reason I appreciate this pattern is that it lends itself to group work. Yes, it can be completed by one person, but with a group you can enjoy selecting the leaves, figuring out where to place them and how to annotate them.
There’ll probably be at least one person who can manage the assembly sewing. Everyone else can focus on just organizing the leaves. This project can foster conversation and also memory, along with the joy of sharing, both at the time of its creation and as it is displayed in someone’s home.
Another reason I appreciate this pattern is that it can be used to encourage the practice of gratitude. What if you were to make this pillow, by yourself or with others, and instead of writing names on the leaves, write a quality or action (brief couple of words) that the recipient brings to mind.
For example “1974 New Baby” might be just the phrase to trigger the thanks you want to express to the recipient about the weeks she helped you out when you could barely get out of bed to care for your new baby, let alone yourself and everything else being a mom and wife entails. If done by a group, then a grateful person’s name could be included “Susan: 1974 New Baby”
Any aspect of this work might be considered the “spiritual practice” . . . arranging with a group of friends to make it with you as a gift for someone OR finding that someone special who could use some one-on-one time with you while making it together for him/her OR quietly making it for yourself while keeping in your mind and heart and prayers those included as “leaves” on this Tree of Life both at the time of its construction and in the future as you gaze on the names.
Done with intention and focus, the creative joy – quiet or infectiously rambunctious – brings the Creator into our midst as the scraps of fabric, which for many might just have been tossed into the trash, become the means for our own creating.
Where might YOU find odds and ends, scraps, or bits and pieces that don’t seem to belong anywhere and craft them into an expression of love, affection, gratitude and friendship?
And, if we can search out the scraps and bits and pieces of material things for a project such as this, might we not remember, too, that there are people in our neighborhoods who feel like their lives are just scraps and bits? Can we not search them out as well, bringing them together and creating a stronger human community?
The Tree of Life awaits.
Click HERE for the full instructions from Cluck Cluck Sew.