Living with Purpose #2: Glitter bottles and meditation

Last year in the school chapel, we created a prayer space for our students to learn about different ways of praying. There were many different stations that required students to use videos, mirrors, water, post-it notes and jenga blocks to pray. One of the stations required students to use glitter bottles and it was intriguing to watch them engage with this.

The bottles were filled with water and I then put a small packet of glitter into the bottle. The top was glued on because, well, we are dealing with teenagers here!! I could see someone taking a gulp for the fun of it!! The station required students to take the glitter bottle and shake it. They were then requested to think of all their worries and concerns that were in their heads (symbolised by the rapidly circling glitter in the bottle) and to ask God to help calm these so they could feel more at peace (symbolised by allowing the glitter to settle back down to the bottom of the bottle).

What was really intriguing about this activity was that, nine times out of ten, the students couldn’t let the glitter settle to the bottom. As it was beginning to settle, the students would take up the bottle and shake it again. This told me something important that applies not only to our students but also to our society in general and maybe even you reading this.

The inability of the students to let the glitter settle was because it reflected the state of their minds – they are on the go from the moment they wake up until the moment they close their eyes. If they are not occupied by school, they are occupied by their phones and social media. Social media is not giving them an opportunity to stop. To take a break. They cannot get away from the rat race of life. In every moment of their day, they are doing something. And what is one of the modern characteristics of our young people? A greater increase in stress and anxiety. Never before have we seen such a need among young people for support with their mental health.

But this applies to us as a society. Think about this. When we meet someone, after we introduce ourselves with our names, the next question we often ask is: “So what do you do?” Notice – what do you do? We define ourselves by what we do, what we achieve, what we have, what we buy, what we earn, what our job role is, what accolades we get and so on. We are stuck on doing.

One of the most popular ways of dealing with stress and anxiety in our modern world has been the practice of meditation. Why is it so effective against stress and anxiety? One reason is because it involves doing nothing. Meditation teaches a person to simply be. And this is really hard to do as the mind does not like to be stilled. So it is very common for a person in meditation to encounter distractions – I should have switched of that light; I need to ring my Dad; I forgot to put on the oven; I should have sent that text; this is boring and so on. Our addiction to doing comes to the surface when we say to ourselves: “nothing is happening!” or “this isn’t working!”. Again, we desperately need to see results because that proves we are doing it right! There is that word “doing” again!

For many of us, these weeks are possibly affording us the opportunity to have more time on our hands. For some, you may be coming from a busy shift in the hospital or in the delivery van. As a student, you might be finding there is simply nothing left to browse on Snapchat. Try to take some time to explore meditation. Tell the others in the house you need 10 minutes. Go to your room and begin. Practiced each day, it will make a difference to your life.

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are quite popular at the moment – you can explore these further in the link below:

As a person of faith, I believe that I am loved by God not because of how good I am or what I can achieve in my life. I am loved because I am – I am loved for my being and not my doing. For me, I meditate purposefully in the presence of God, allowing myself to be immersed in the presence of love and acceptance itself. This radically changes me – my meditation is not simply relying on experiencing emptiness or a sense of nothingness. Instead, I experience something beyond myself that is a greater power than anything else I could ever depend on. And this deeply enriches my life with meaning and purpose.

To explore how you can meditate within the Christian tradition, see the link below:

Tomorrow, we will explore how the practice of looking back on our day can help us to live with purpose.

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