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Jun 7 - 13:  e-Communitarian   ☙   Minister   ☙   RE   ☙   Music   ☙   Adult RE   ☙   Practice: Once-a-Month Retreat Days (Worth a try/Occasional)

2019-06-15

From the Minister, Sat Jun 15

The Buddha comes to town, and a farmer comes to see him and starts complaining about his problems. His wife this, his children that. The ox is sick; the soil is poor; there hasn’t been enough rain and, if there were, the roof would leak. The people to whom he sells his rice are cheating him.

The Buddha stops him and says, "You have 83 problems."

The farmer says, "That sounds about right. How do I fix them?"

Buddha says, "I can't help you. You’ll always have 83 problems. Maybe you solve one, or it goes away on its own, but another pops up to take its place. Always 83 problems."

The farmer says: "Well, what good are you?"

Buddha says, "I can help with the 84th problem."

The farmer says: "What’s the 84th problem?"

Buddha says, "You think you should have no problems."

For the person with good boundaries, problems don’t bother them. Problems arise. One responds to them as well as one can. This is life. Whether you call them problems or challenges, there’s always the next one to meet.

Having good boundaries doesn’t keep out your 83 problems, but it does keep out the 84th problem. With good boundaries, your problems don’t define you; you aren’t consumed with the thought that you shouldn’t be having this problem.

The 84th problem is the extra. Your problems (or challenges) are enough by themselves; you don't need to add anything extra. But we often do add extra problem to our problems. Whenever we're annoyed by the problem, when we think it's wrong that the problem exists, when we let the problem trigger our reactivity and upset our equanimity, we are adding extra problem to our problem. Good boundaries keep out the extra.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Come Back to Basics Keep commitments, don't be outrageous, and be patient and fair. On the spiritual path, over and over again it is a good idea to keep coming back to a few basic principles. By doing so, you can bound your actions with discipline. You can keep your practice on track. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen: Are You Ready? In #87, Raven said, "Things just come in. Do you listen, or do you hear? When you listen, you are paying attention to something out there, but when you hear, the sounds just come in. You are sitting there with your ears open, and the dove calls out. That sound defines you. Once you are defined like that, the cedars can define you, the faraway skunk can define you."

The whole universe continually defines you.

Case
After Raven's response to Mole [see PREVIOUS], the community fell silent.
Finally, Woodpecker spoke up: "A while back you said that the call of the dove defines us, and now you say that when Owl hoots, the whole forest hoots. I'm confused. Do the two sounds have different functions?"
Raven said, "When Owl hoots, the whole forest hoots. Are you ready to be defined?
Verse
"Ready or not, here I come," says Definition,
And I, having not found a satisfactory hiding place,
Dive behind a near and inadequate concealment.

Pretending otherwise, I have long since been found.
Pretending otherwise, I relish re-discovery.
Pretending otherwise, Definition is neither ready
Nor not.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven Index   ☙   Zen Practice at CUUC

2019-06-14

Come Back to Basics

Practice of the Week
Come Back to Basics

Keep Commitments, Don't be Outrageous, Be Patient and Fair

Category: Slogans to Live By: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.


As soon as we are embroiled in a problem with someone else, our good spiritual intentions tend to dissolve. Nothing is so apt to pull us away from the basics of spiritual awareness as relationship with others. When our lives get powerfully drawn into the lives of others, and those others awaken our desire, our rage, our shame, or our fear, we immediately lose track of what we are doing. There's no distraction like a human relationship.

To turn the distraction of relationship into the discipline, the spiritual practice, of relationship, we come back to basics.

Come back to basics comprises three points.

First: Renew and keep to your commitments. Nothing is more common than the person who does spiritual practice for a long time with great commitment and intensity but completely forgets about it as soon as he or she gets singed by the heat relationship. When you keep in mind that your human life and the lives of others are rare and precious, that you and everyone else has to die someday, that no one escapes suffering, and that all of your words and deeds, and even thoughts and feelings, have big impacts on the world – when that is part of what you are aware of when you are aware of conflict with others, things change somewhat. These reflections may take the edge off your hurt or aggression and reframe for you what you are dealing with. Recall your original intention to take up mind training. Recall the firmness of your decision to do so.

Second: Don't act outrageously. In ancient India and Tibet, this meant things like don't chop down trees where spirits dwell, don't pee in rivers, don't hug lepers. That is, refrain from dangerous, anti-social, or attention-grabbing activities, outrageous things that would draw attention to you. This may seem an odd thing to bring up in this context, but maybe not. Possibly up to now we have been tempted a time or two to be a bit precious or overearnest about our spiritual endeavors. We may have felt a bit holier-than-thou more than once. This is no good in any case, but perhaps not so bad in the privacy of your own mind. But now that we are about to embark on the practice of interacting with others, it becomes really bad to come off as though we were holy and spiritual. As if somehow because of the virtue of our commitments and spiritual efforts, we are conducting ourselves differently from the general run of humanity. Clearly this would be a huge problem for our relationships. Nothing makes people feel criticized and even a little hostile like someone else's pretentious efforts to be good. So, Don't act outrageously. Keep your efforts to practice the discipline of human relationship within the bounds of ordinary human interaction. Don't appear to be different from anyone else. One way or another, we're all in this game together.

Third: Don't be one-sided. This one is very important in human relations, and it runs exactly counter to the usual way we approach things. Usually we are exactly one-sided: there's our side and the other person's side, and it's our side that is important, correct, or right, so much so that we may not even notice that there is another side. But there's always another side. This may be so, but that also may be so. This may be so today, but tomorrow it may not be so. If there's a side, there's always another side. Don't be one-sided has another sense too: Don't favor people you like over people you don't like. Try not to be one-sided in that way. This seems impossible and inadvisable. Are we really supposed to regard an acquaintance or an enemy the same way we regard our close friends, our spouse, and our children? Realistically, no. But that's not the point. The point is to notice how much in almost all of our encounters we are subtly prejudiced by our one-sidedness, constantly upholding ourselves and those we like and running down (in however small a way) those we don't like. These prejudices, which we take for granted and affirm, actually cause us more trouble than we realize. They create a subtle climate of preference, for and against, that gives rise to more of our interpersonal rough spots than we realize. So even though we may not be able to have equal feelings toward all, this slogan puts us on notice that we better take our one-sidedness into account and do what we can to deemphasize it.

* * *


On the spiritual path, over and over again it is a good idea to keep coming back to a few basic principles. By doing so, you can bound your actions with discipline. You can keep your practice on track. The three basic principles to always abide by are: honor your commitments, refrain from outrageous actions, and develop patience.

Honor your commitments. When you make a commitment to train your mind, do not back down but stick with it. Keep the two basic vows of mind training: the refuge vow (to work with yourself and to develop mindfulness and awareness) and the bodhisattva vow (to work with others and to develop wisdom and compassion). When you first take such vows, they are highly inspiring and a bit intimidating, but it is easy to drift away and forget what you have vowed to do. So it is important to refresh those commitments daily.

Refrain from outrageous actions. Be steady and modest. Don't be overly dramatic and don't draw attention to yourself. Recognize the desire to be seen as special, to be noticed as “advanced” or “spiritual” as a stumbling block, and do not give in to its seduction.

Develop patience. Mind training is not something you zoom through and then move on to something else. It is a lifelong occupation. Be patient and without bias as you go about it, both with yourself and with others. Know yourself and do not think more or less of yourself, but be straightforward, steady and realistic.

Practice

In your journal, reflect on these questions: What does it mean to make a commitment? What helps you to maintain the commitments you have made, and what throws you off track?

* * *

Religious Education: Sun Jun 16

The last few weeks have flown by with the flurry of activities, emails, scheduling, rehearsals, etc., always associated with the closing of the RE school year. With RE Sunday still unfolding in preparation and waiting in the wings, last Sunday culminated in the much loved Affirmation Ceremony for our 2nd–3rd grade class. In spite of the frantic pace of assuring everything was in place, notwithstanding a “crunch” rehearsal of their skit only 15 minutes before service, the teaching team and children worked together like a hand in glove and seamlessly rose to the occasion. The skit focused around the story, “The Wise Sailimai,” which focuses on the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism. There was no stage fright to be sure as every one of our 9 students had a line or more to read, with their teachers serving as stage moms and dads. At the completion of the skit, the highlight of the ceremony was the awarding of certificates to each student. One only had to look around to witness the excitement on their faces and the pride and joy exhibited by their parents and families. Rather than repeat my intro about affirmation and the children’s new life journey, you can read it HERE while I take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you. The service and ceremony last Sunday, June 9, certainly spoke to me on many levels. It became crystal clear that all of us gathered together with the teachers and children bore witness to much more than the affirmation of these young children. Providing love, support, and encouragement to them in RE affirmed our belief in their potential and curiosity. The teachers in their incredible unwavering dedication and commitment to our curriculum, along with talent, ingenuity, and enthusiasm, affirmed their place as role models for our young children. We as a congregation or family affirmed success in how our children are raised, we affirmed our hope for their future by gathering to honor them, we affirmed that the children are the product of faith and conviction that goodness and purity of soul transcends any negativity. That Sunday was the affirmation of a undivided community that loves, a community that lives as a role model for our children and youth, and sets that standard or bar so very high for truth and honesty that it reaches the sky. Not so far that it is out of reach, but instead always held firmly in our hearts and hands. I would be remiss in not expressing my great admiration and gratitude to the 2nd–3rd grade teaching team for their very own exceptional performance. On behalf of the children, thank you Norm Handelman, Doreen Rossi, Deb Margoluis, Karen Leahy, Jason Stoff, and Aaron Norris!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, Jun 16 - RE Sunday Service
Our multigen worship celebration of the year in Religious Education that includes:

• Banner parade for all classes to start the service
• Participation by all ages
• Special music from the children and youth
• Bridging ceremony for graduating senior youth

Grades 4-7 meet in Fellowship Hall at 9:15. All others start in the sanctuary at 9:30 sharp!.

Faith Development Friday, Fri Jun 14, CUUC
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include “Faith Like a River” Adult RE and Family Journey Group. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by Fri 12:00 noon so we know how much pizza to order. And please stay after to help us clean up - many hands make light work!

RE Party for Michele Rinaldi & Perry Montrose, Sun Jun 16, 11:30am, Fellowship Hall
After our Religious Education Sunday service, join us at a party to thank Perry and Michele for all their hard work on our RE program this year and to bid them a fond farewell. We wish them both all good things in the future!

“Breakfast” Run, Sun Jun 30, 2019, 7:00am, First Unitarian Society, Hastings
Families welcome! Breakfast Runs are the perfect time to introduce kids to the practice of service to others. Join us as we prepare food, pack clothes, and distribute and interact with people who are homeless in NYC. Donations appreciated. Contact: Art Lowenstein (arthur.lowenstein@gmail.com, 914-844-4189).

NYC Pride March, Sun Jun 30, New York City
UUCHV, the UU congregation in Croton, will be leading the contingent of Westchester UUs in the Pride March. They invite us to join them! Meet up is at 31st St between Mad and Park by 12:30pm.

$500 Voucher toward UU Camp
Sophia Fahs RE Summer Camp, Sun Aug 18 - Sat Aug 24, Camp Echo, Burlingham, NY
After 38 years on Shelter Island, the Sophia Fahs Camp has moved to Camp Echo in Burlingham, NY. Thanks to a special grant, a limited number of $500 VOUCHERS are available to NEW CAMPERS. Vouchers are first come/first served. Deadline Jul 1 2019. To request a voucher, email ​sophiafahs@gmail.com or contact the CUUC office.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:

Music: Sun Jun 9

Scenes of Childhood through the eyes of the German composer Robert Schumann and the Brazilian Octavio Pinto are featured in Sunday morning's Centering Music. Another Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, furnishes the Offertory music, in the form of his piano suite A prole do bebe (Baby's Family). The collection is meant to depict different sorts of dolls children might play with, each representing a distinct ethnic group as part of the country's diverse cultural heritage. "O Polichinelo" is a portrait of the rambunctious "Punch n' Judy" dolls from the Commedia dell'arte tradition.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano

From Kinderszenen, Op. 15
          Happy Enough
          Important Event
          Knight of the Hobby-horse
                    Robert Schumann

Scenas Infantis
          Run, Run!
          Ring-around-the-Rosy
          March, Little Soldier!
          Sleepy Time
          The Hobby-horse
                    Octavio Pinto

Processional:
"When the Kids Go Marching In"

Special Music: R.E. Students directed by Lyra Harada
"It's a Small World"
          Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, words and music

Offertory:
From A prole do bebe (Baby's Family)
          "O Polichinelo"
                    Heitor Villa-Lobos

2019-06-11

Adult RE, Jun 10-16

Adult RE
at
Community UU

All are welcome. No registration, and you need not have attended previous sessions. Drop-ins welcome!

Thu Jun 13 at 11:30-1:00, Fireplace Area: Science and Spirituality. We'll be discussing Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics -- in particular, the first half of this short book (i.e., pp. 1-38; "Preface" through "Fourth Lesson."
With shared luncheon. Bring something to share if you can easily do so.

* * *

Fri Jun 14, Faith Development Friday. 6:15p: Pizza & Salad Community Dinner
7:00p - 8:30p Programs.
Programs include: Parents Journey Group (facilitated by Alex Sehdeva)
Kids Journey Group
"Faith Like a River" Class (facilitated by Rev. Garmon)

The June "Faith Like a River" class is titled "Global UU." In this session, we'll explore:
  • ways Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists have been influenced and enriched by encounters with cultures and heritages outside North America and Western Europe;
  • past and present Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist faith communities located outside the United States;
  • the dynamics of partnering with Unitarian Universalists across cultures.
See the readings for this session HERE.


2019-06-07

Religious Education: Sun Jun 9

Well, the weather gets better and better and the RE school year is rapidly coming to a close. It goes without saying that the pace of activities and events has multiplied exponentially. Nor am I surprised that this past Sunday RE was running on high octane and yet all was accomplished in fine order! The morning began with a very fun and happy event, which was the breakfast for Special Friends. The excited, anonymous pen pals came to Fellowship Hall resplendent in their colorful pink, blue, purple, and yellow top hats. Some had Mardi Gras eye masks. There was Sunday Sailor, Ninja Princess, Salamander Street, and Cool Kid 77 to list a few pen names. Special Friends resulted in about 18 co-correspondents and all appeared to be engaged in animated conversations, not one face without a big smile! Many, many thanks to Laura Goodspeed who orchestrated this entire friend fest right down to a delicious breakfast of muffins, bagels, juice, and coffee. What a feat well done! Lyra Harada was definitely pumped up as were the students as they continued rehearsing their performance of “It’s a Small World.” The kids were totally relaxed with their percussion instruments and started to really tailor their dance moves, pretending they were marching down the sanctuary aisles. I know Disneyworld has a market on their recording of this song during the ride, but I must confess they have nothing on our singing troupe. As we moved along at breakneck speed last Sunday morning, Laura Goodspeed worked with the 4th–5th and 6th–7th grade students and teachers to create ideas for a skit centered around our Social Justice Sunday programs that were presented over the past few weeks ago. Completion of the skit will be on this Sunday and it will be performed on June 16. I, in turn, had the pleasure of visiting 2nd–3rd grade class to rehearse their skit, which they will perform this Sunday during the Affirmation Ceremony. It did not take a New York minute for the students to voice their choices for roles. One young lady said she wanted to be the narrator, as she is a great actress. Well, I guess she showed me, and to my delight as well as the teachers', there were many rising stars discovered that morning! A second rehearsal is planned right before the service this Sunday, when the class will be honored at their Affirmation Ceremony. So as they say in show biz, “break a leg” or at the very least, simply show us why we are so proud of you! Our two very special Sunday services, on June 9 and 16, are so very exciting, with the Affirmation Ceremony and skit for 2nd–3rd grade class and the barbeque, then our RE Sunday is jam packed with the Bridging Ceremony, procession of classes with banners, special songs, 4th–5th and 6th–7th classes skit, and so much more! What joy and pride is in store for families, teachers, students, and the congregation in witnessing the completion of another RE year. All of the children and youth will receive our affirmation that they are the future ambassadors of Unitarian Universalism, and they exemplify our principles with maturity, kindness, and goodwill far beyond their years.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, Jun 9
Grades 2-3 start in Fellowship Hall to practice the Affirmation ceremony. Grades 4-7 start in the sanctuary. Grades 8-12 start in class.

Faith Development Friday, Fri Jun 14, CUUC
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include “Faith Like a River” Adult RE and Family Journey Group. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by Fri 12:00 noon so we know how much pizza to order.

RE Party for Michele Rinaldi & Perry Montrose, Sun Jun 16, 11:30am, Fellowship Hall
After our Religious Education Sunday service, join us at a party to thank Perry and Michele for all their hard work on our RE program this year and to bid them a fond farewell. We wish them both all good things in the future!

$500 Voucher toward UU Camp
Sophia Fahs RE Summer Camp, Sun Aug 18 - Sat Aug 24, Camp Echo, Burlingham, NY
After 38 years on Shelter Island, the Sophia Fahs Camp has moved to Camp Echo in Burlingham, NY. Thanks to a special grant, a limited number of $500 VOUCHERS are available to NEW CAMPERS. Vouchers are first come/first served. Deadline Jul 1 2019. To request a voucher, email ​sophiafahs@gmail.com or contact the CUUC office.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:

Once-a-Month Retreat Days

Practice of the Week
Once-a-Month Retreat Days

Category: WORTH A TRY, or OCCASIONAL, or MIGHT BE YOUR THING: These practices are "worth a try" at least once, or, say, for one week. Beyond that, different people will relate in different ways to the practices in this category. Some of these practices you will find great for "every once in a while" -- either because they are responses to a particular need that may arise or because they are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. Among these practices you may find the one particular practice that becomes your main and central spiritual practice -- or a Key Supporting Practice.


When I needed someone to confide in, someone to talk with about my own spiritual growth and struggles, I was referred to Sister Barbara, a Catholic spiritual director. In my initial conversation with Sister Barbara, we explored our faith understandings, seeking to determine where we might overlap, or even whether we overlapped. While she believes in a personal god and the agency of Jesus, she also finds process theology and mysticism central to her faith understanding. I have Buddhist leanings and a mystical humanist sensibility. We found we could work together just fine. I began to meet with her monthly for spiritual direction.

Over the months, we connected best on the practical aspects of the spiritual life: disciplines of journaling, dream work, and meditation. She often suggested just the right small spiritual exercise that helped me go deeper with some experience -- "Why don't you play with sketching that dream?" or "You might try writing a letter to them, one that you will not send."

One day I asked Sister Barbara if I could expand my visit from an hour-long meeting to a full day so I could "make retreat” on the grounds of her spiritual community, She agreed, and since then I have tried to make every visit a retreat day.

Retreat Days

Once a month, I arrive at Villa Maria at 10am, for my retreat day and spiritual direction session. I head to the empty sanctuary for meditation. This 1970s-era building, with its great expanses of fluid, impressionistic stained-glass windows, is often flooded with color and radiance. A bubbling fountain helps set a meditative mood.

After sitting for a half-hour, I find an unused room where I read and write in my journal for the rest of the morning. I review my journal entries from the previous month (however few or many) and reflect on them as I write an entry for that morning. At lunch I find an empty table and eat in silence.

The afternoon might include a walk in the woods or a walk on the labyrinth on the grounds. On cold and rainy days, I might hole up in the small library, exploring some of the Catholic mystics and liberal writers: Thomas Merton, Teilhard de Chardin, Richard Rohr. Or I might sketch at the Art Barn, a converted farm structure.

My hour of spiritual direction with Sister Barbara is the center of the day. We might explore what I've realized about the past month or where I'm sitting spiritually at the moment. After my session, I sometimes write in my journal about my discussion, continue reading or sitting, or merely wander the grounds.

These retreats are sometimes the most satisfying day in the month. I try my best to attend to myself, to turn inward, to discern what is happening with my spirit.

Create Your Own Directed Mini-Retreats

I have become an impassioned supporter of spiritual direction as a tool for people seeking to advance their spiritual growth. We benefit from a pattern of regular sessions with someone who can be fully present with us as we sort out our current place in the world and the direction of our next steps on the path.

In the past, people typically found a spiritual director by asking their religious leaders for contacts. Several online resources now offer help in finding spiritual directors.

Some directors prefer terms such as spiritual guide or spiritual companion, but the older term is most widely used. Some spiritual directors are comfortable working only within a specific tradition or theological framework, while others are willing to work with a more diverse group of directees. An initial phone call or meeting will help you discern if your styles are compatible

Combining a retreat day with regular meetings with a director adds depth to the experience. I am very fortunate to be able to take a whole day each month for retreat. You might have to juggle your daily life commitments with your retreat time and spiritual direction. You might try taking less than a full day for retreat at first or make a retreat on a week end day.

To craft a retreat day of your own, explore what facilities are available. Friends of mine make retreat at art museums, finding their quiet and beauty the ideal frame for contemplation. Libraries, especially university libraries, can be other good spots for retreat, provided you are not overly distracted by the delights on the shelves. Perhaps a coffee shop or dining area can provide quiet refuge for writing and reading. Being outside and walking or sitting in a park, rangeland, even a cemetery can be restorative. Consider what you really, deeply need in your retreat space. Where will you go when you need to cry? Where will you go when you need to dance?

For most people, detachment is a challenging but important part of a retreat. Staying out of contact is a desirable but sometimes unattainable goal.

Being silent is a core part of my detachment. But it can be hard to be completely silent in a retreat space where other people are not maintaining silence. My approach is to be silent except when interacting with people is necessary -- for example, to obtain my food at lunch. At times, I may offer a quiet greeting but not idle chatter.

Retreat and spiritual direction helped me stay grounded as I faced new challenges; they have helped me find the direction of my own spiritual growth.

When I mention my retreat days, people are often curious and perplexed, unable to imagine that such a thing is even possible or desirable. As a longtime meditator, I'm amazed and gratified that meditation and mindfulness practices have recently become popular in schools, workplaces, gyms, and even churches. These trends fill me with hope. I'm optimistic that the formalized solitude of making retreat, and the one-on-one companionship of spiritual direction, may also become ordinary components of the practice of serious spiritual seekers.

* * *