Sanctum – Calm Jar

When we first created Sanctum we had a zone where students could just be still on beanbags in a white draped area. Amazingly, some ‘got it’ and, understanding the point of the exercise, actually experienced a bit of peace. But to be honest we forever felt that without some sort of direction it would forever be simply a chill zone for a few and a slightly out of the way place to gather for a not so quiet chat for most.

Then we stumbled upon the simple idea of a ‘calm jar’, a way of focusing attention on something for a while to induce a sense of peace or calm. It’s just a jar with water and glitter in it. But early trials showed the glitter settles too quickly. What we needed was thicker water. Here’s our final recipe.

  • Calm jar ingredientsClear acrylic plastic container with a well fitting lid. The above are sports water bottles.
  • Bottle of Glycerin (from Boots or a pharmacy)
  • Glitter
  • Water
  • Food colouring
  • Washing up liquid

In order:
Nearly half-fill the jar with Glycerin and top it up with water to within 10mm of the top.
Add quite a lot of glitter, probably a bit more than you think. You can always add a bit, put the lid on and shake it to see, then add a bit more if you think it needs it.
Drop in a very small amount of food colouring. Try the smallest amount you can and add more if you need to. You don’t want the water to become too opaque.
Finally, add a small drip of washing up liquid. This is to break the surface tension as without it the glitter tends to stick to the surface of the water. Too much and it all get too frothy.

Now put the lid on and shake it. Does it work well enough? You can always add a bit more of any of the ingredients at this stage. Then top it up with water or more glycerin to leave about 5mm of space at the top.
Take the lid off and dry the top of the jar and the inside of the lid thoroughly
Screw the lid back on very tightly.
We originally used clean jam jars and superglued the lids on. This worked OK until someone shook it too vigorously, hit the base of it on the floor and the bottom shattered. The ideal, which took a little searching for, is a clear acrylic plastic water bottle with a good seal. We haven’t glued the tops on but do warn students not to attempt to open the jars.

We wrote a script for a narration, setting it to a piece of ambient music, that students listen to on an mp3 player. Obviously we can’t re-distribute the final audio track but you are welcome to use or adapt the script.

The ‘Calm’ activity has now more than fulfilled our expectations. Students often say it’s really helped them to understand the benefit of taking time out to be still. And when we ask them which activities feel most like they imagine prayer to be, the often point to the calm zone.

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