Emerson’s Transparent Eyeball Coloring Page

In a recent service at First Parish in Concord, I shared this image with the children.  I asked my husband Peter Bowden to draw it after the classic illustration by Christopher Cranch.  “What do you think this drawing is?” I asked the children.  They laughed and cried out, “An alien!” “A monster!”  “A mutant!”

I explained that it is actually an illustration of a spiritual experience.  When we become a “Transparent Eyeball” as Ralph Waldo Emerson described in his famous essay “Nature”, we have a sense of oneness with everything that surrounds us.  When we open our senses to the natural world, we can experience connection with all of creation of which we are a part.

As Emerson wrote in 1836, “Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

This coloring page is free for you to use as an educational tool or just for fun!

Download:  Transparent Eyeball Coloring Page (PDF)

The idea of the transparent eyeball first appeared in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, Nature, published in 1836. This illustration by Peter Bowden is based on a drawing by Christopher Pearse Cranch, ca. 1836-1838.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transparent Eyeball coloring page




Mind Jar for Centering with Kids


Our minds are busy! Even when we are perfectly still and feeling relatively calm, we find that our thoughts continue to chatter. This is what Buddhists call “Monkey Mind”. One of the reasons that meditation is a spiritual practice is that it can help us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings.

All ages benefit from taking a deep breath and being “mindful” even if it is only for a moment in a busy day. In this way we train ourselves to be able to find a place of calm even in the midst of challenges or overwhelming feelings.

A Mind Jar is a simple spiritual tool. While watching the glitter swirl, sparkle and settle, your mind, body and spirit will feel calmer. As a parent or caregiver of children, making a Mind Jar together is a way to introduce spiritual practice at home.  Download the “Mind Jar Instructions” for what you’ll need, what to do and how to use a Mind Jar.   Enjoy!

Mind Jar Instructions (PDF)

What you’ll need:

  • Mason Jar or Jelly Jar with a top
  • Water
  • Corn Syrup
  • Glitter—size and color of your choice! (Fine glitter stays suspended longer.)
  • Strong holding glue or duct tape.

What to do:

  • Clean the jar and remove any labels
  • For this recipe you will need one part water and one part corn syrup.
  • Before you start, measure the amount of liquid that fills your jar.
  • Heat the water on the stove—do not boil!
  • Once it is hot, stir in the corn syrup.
  • Let it cool.
  • Put the cooled liquid in the jar.
  • Add glitter—at least 2 Tablespoons but as much as you wish.
  • Secure the jar top with glue or duct tape.

How to use:

  • Shake the Mind Jar!
  • Put it down on a flat surface like a table or the floor.
  • Watch as the glitter settles to the bottom.
  • A Mind Jar can be enjoyed any time! You can use it alone, with others or at bedtime for a centering moment.

Special thanks to Kristin Stiles-Hall for sharing her recipe with us (she tried six kinds!) and for teaching Mindfulness in our RE program.   Kristin is a member of First Parish in Concord and is a Holistic Integrative Counselor/Healer.

Living with Superpowers

Everyday Superheroes

This winter, our children at First Church Boston have been exploring the theme, “Every Day Super Heroes-Putting Our Values into Action!”  In our WOW Kids (World of Wonder) program children have been learning about their own powers to overcome obstacles, to stand up for good, and to make a difference in the world.

This is not just “kid’s stuff”! Superheroes have an enduring appeal in our culture. The entertainment industry has created a whole pantheon of characters that can swoop in to tackle problems that are too big for us to handle. It is satisfying to watch or read stories where the battle between good and evil is clear.

In a world that is morally complicated, how do we put our values into action? My liberal religious faith includes a belief in the power of the individual and communities to create positive change. Instead of waiting to be saved or rescued, it is essential that our religion inspire us to take action.

Listen to my talk,  Living with Super Powers (mp3).

Prayer Lifting Up MLK’s Principles of Nonviolence

In this place made holy by many generations who gathered before us,
We turn our attention to that which is Sacred.
In this religious community made holy
by the dedication of the spiritual ancestors who came before us,
the trust of the children among us,
and the promise of generations who will follow us,
we give thanks–
for the leaders, musicians, teachers, preachers, artists, and change agents
who helped shape our world today.
We lift up our hearts in gratitude for the ministry
of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Even though 47 years have past, we mourn his life violently cut short.
We wish he were alive to continue his prophetic ministry,
To organize non-violent direct action,
To speak truth to power,
To expose the triple evils of Poverty, Racism, and War
that exist today in a vicious cycle
and stand as barriers to our living the Beloved Community.
In the Spirit of Dr. King, who we honor with a national holiday,
Let us not only celebrate his message one day or one weekend a year,
Instead, may we recommit ourselves to the Freedom Movement.
May we recognize that “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people”.
In our own times, may we “seek to win friendship and understanding;”
May we “seek to defeat injustice, not people;”
“Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.”
Let us “choose Love instead of hate”
And be steadfast in our belief that “the universe is on the side of justice”.
Today we join our prayers with people of every color and creed,
May our religion, our faith, be a source of strength and vulnerability,
So that we may continue the long march toward Freedom.

–Rev. Amy Freedman

[This prayer was inspired by “Six Principles of Nonviolence” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.]

A Prayer for the New Year

Dear 2014, thank you.
I am grateful for all that I experienced in the past year.
To be sure, not everything went as planned.
There were many times when I thought I knew
how my life was going to unfold only to be surprised by the unexpected.
This past year, I had to say goodbye to people
who I envisioned would be with me here in the New Year.
Whether they are separated from me now by distance or by death,
I pray for peace and healing.
This past year, I faced obstacles that I did not anticipate.
Whether I found resolution or remain in the midst of struggle,
I pray that I may have strength for the journey.
This past year, my heart was broken, yet again,
By the suffering and violence of our world.
2014, I am grateful that you are behind us.
Now, as I face a New Year, a fresh start,
I pray for the resolve to truly live my values,
To open my mind to different perspectives,
in order to create new partnerships.
Dear 2015, thank you,
For the gift of life,
For the opportunity to be of service,
And for the embrace of Love.

Don’t Forget the Sabbath Spice!

A sermon preached at First Church in Boston, December 7, 2014

I am grateful to Neil McGarry for bringing “A Christmas Carol” to life for us this morning. The dialogue between Ebeneezer Scrooge and his nephew Fred captures so much about this season and the struggle within our own hearts.

After all, as Scrooge says, what is Christmas but a time for finding yourself a year older and not a penny richer! When my young daughter asks me “Please, Mommy, don’t skip the commercials” for all kinds of sparkly flashy plastic over-priced toys, it takes incredible restraint for me NOT to say, “Bah! Humbug!”

Don’t tell her that, okay? You see we are trying to teach her critical thinking and moral values. I want her to understand how to be intentional and responsible with money. She is a child privileged enough to have all her basic needs met with additional resources for fun and giving. Continue reading

7 Ways to Savor the Holidays especially for families with children


1. Enjoy Traditional Foods

Cooking together is a great way to connect with children. Enjoying special recipes or buying traditional holiday foods is also a fun and delicious way to pass on your family history and culture!

2. Share Stories

The holidays are filled with wonderful stories to share. Take time to tell stories about past celebrations, snuggle up with treasured picture books, and ask children which stories they would like to revisit. Stories give holidays meaning.

3. Practice Rituals

Whether it is saying grace at dinnertime, sharing what you are grateful for at bedtime or lighting a candle with special words, having a centering practice as a family will make this season more spiritually renewing.

4. Spend Time Outdoors

Make sure you take time each day to go outdoors! Children need time to run around and play. Also, going out together in the darkness to see Christmas lights is a magical and memorable way to experience the wonder of this season.

5. Create Quiet Moments

Holidays can be noisy and overwhelming for all ages! Bring peace and comfort into your home by creating “quiet time” to read, draw, write, or simply sit together and share.

6. Give from the Heart

Encourage children to make or purchase thoughtful presents. Instead of spending lots of money, older family members will appreciate original artwork, photographs, homemade treats or experiences to be shared together next year.

7. Service to Others

Generosity is the true spirit of this season. There are many opportunities to be of service including gift drives, caroling in Senior Centers, doing errands for an elderly friend or relative, or decorating a tree with edible treats for the birds. Making service a priority during the holidays models for children the value of helping others.

Above all, do not let the commercialism and busyness of this season crowd out what matters most: Gratitude, Wonder & Love.