SiLent: Looking

This Lent we are practising and reflecting on silence in solidarity with those young people who are voiceless. Lori Passmore from Mountain Pilgrims offers an experiment and reflection to alter our lens’.

Have you looked today? Really looked? Have you seen beyond the obvious? Have your surroundings become so familiar that you’ve stopped seeing? This activity helps you view familiar spaces in a new light, or see new places from a different perspective.

To prepare cut shapes into the middle of a square or rectangle of card – black card works well (see pictures). Cut different shapes in a variety of sizes e.g. heart shaped, square, circle, window, cloud etc. Ask the young people to choose a card and to spend a few minutes in silence looking through the shape at their surroundings. You could do this activity in a space that the young people hang out in, or you could plan a walk, though it’s best to stand still to do the actual looking.

As you enter your time of silent looking you can either: ask the young people to look at one spot and study it for a duration of time, or pose a question to instruct their looking, such as ‘what stands out for you?’, ‘Find something that you love’, ‘find something that is hard to spot.’

At the end of the period of silent looking ask the young people to discuss in pairs, small groups or as a whole group their experience of looking – what did they see? How did looking through the shapes in the card alter their perspective? Did they notice anything new or surprising?

You could repeat the activity swapping cards, or keep the same card but move to a different location.

We ran this activity with our Mountain Pilgrims group during a walk with a mixture of adults and children. At several points along the walk we stopped to engage in some ‘looking’, the first time was more interactive as we tried to fit trees into the card with the tree shaped cutout, or to see if we could get a person to fill the person shaped cut out. We then spent some time in the middle of the walk silently looking through the cards after which we discussed how we had found the experience. Some of the comments we had about the process were: it helped them focus on a single element in the surroundings, looking in one place for a longer time meant that they could see more and further, and that it made something unassuming in the landscape become the focal point. The group really enjoyed the activity as it worked well for all ages, it was a good discussion starter and helped us view the surroundings from a different perspective.

Lori works for the God for All Team in Cumbria and is a Trustee of Frontier Youth Trust. She is involved with a Fresh Expression called Mountain Pilgrims, a community of people exploring spirituality and the outdoors. To find out more about Mountain Pilgrims go to