Tree of Life – Pattern for Friendship

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.

Walking

Walking

Submitted by board member The Rev. Philip Hardwick

Walking is, apparently, the new running. I do not know if you all have heard this as well, and it may be news that comes as a surprise to those of you who are avid runners. But lately there has been an influx of information comparing the benefits of walking and running on a person’s overall health and, as it turns out, walking has far more physical rewards than we initially realized.

It also benefits our minds by increasing productivity and creativity. In studies of older adults, those who walked regularly were able to significantly increase the volume of their hippocampus, the portion of the brain involved with memory. And Harvard Medical School published a report stating that the positive effects of the endorphins released when walking last longer than those of the anti-depressants that now one in ten Americans regularly take.

Walking is also good for the soul, as so many of the world’s religions will attest. One of the five pillars of Islam is the hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, in which pilgrims walk seven times around the ancient Ka’ba in the center courtyard of the Great Mosque. Buddhist pilgrims walk their own their sacred journey to Bodh Gaya in India or Mount Kailash in Tibet. Jesus walked practically everywhere he went, but the most notable were the steps he took during the last hours of his life, when he walked from Pilate’s headquarters to the hill at Golgotha, along a street located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Today Christians walk this same route known as the Via Dolorosa—some of them walking while carrying crosses, while others walk it on their knees.

Body, mind, spirit. For whatever ails us, whatever it is we seek, it seems as though the first step is to literally take a step and begin to walk. Try it.