From the Minister, Thu Oct 18

Christian writer Carroll Saussy has some wise word about anger:
"Befriend your anger. Then can you hear the deeper truth that anger is revealing. Sometimes anger tiptoes, a gentle wake-up call slipping into consciousness and building, building, building. 'I think I’m getting angry about this...'

Sometimes anger’s ring is musical – a clock radio with a snooze alarm to let you slowly rise to the brightness of its day. 'Maybe I am angry. Maybe I’m just tired.' Sometimes the sound’s a deafening clang – a jolt that throws you out of bed.

Befriend your anger. Only then can you decide the what and when and how of your reply.

Befriend your anger. Learn to stay with it, to play with it, to leap back to its roots. There you’ll find a child in fear and pain – and return, an adult with compassion.

Befriend your anger. When you feel the sting of others’ hurt, welcome the anger of hope: holy energy stirring in your soul, the work of Jesus in a hostile world – atonement.

Befriend your godlike anger, and be at peace." (The Gift of Anger: A Call to Faithful Action)
May it be so.

Yours in faith,

The Liberal Pulpit /New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Trust In Yourself /Others can see things about you that you don’t see, and their perspective can be a big help. There are holes in your self-perception. But even with these holes, you see more of yourself than any other person can see of you. In the final analysis, only you can evaluate and understand your own practice. It's your own sense of your life that makes your life. If you give over that responsibility, then you become a wobbly person, constantly looking to the right and to the left to see what you are supposed to be doing and thinking. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Vows /This is Gray Wolf's third appearance. She first appeared in #22, when she asked for an explanation of karma. She showed up again in #59, when she questioned whether bushes and grasses could be enlightened.

The four Bodhisattva vows:
  • Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.
  • Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
  • Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
  • Buddha's way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.
In the most literal sense, the vows can be kept, and must be kept. Someone making these vows can and must free every single being, end 100% of delusions, enter all of the infinite dharma gates, etc. A tall order!

In another sense, the vows are aspirational. You can't free all the beings, but try to free as many as you can. Continuously work on ending delusions, even though you'll never end them all. Always be watchful for dharma gates, and enter as many as you can. Try to embody parts of the Buddha way.

In a third sense, the vows cannot be kept, even partly. You can never free any beings, can never end a single delusion, or enter a dharma gate or embody any aspect of the Buddha way. Taking the vows is an exercise in humility, a liberating exercise in loosening the grip of the impulse to control.

In a fourth sense, the vows cannot be broken. No matter what you do, your every action in fact frees all the beings, ends all delusions, enters the infinite dharma gates (all of them at once), and embodies the Buddha way.

Raven's final remark in this segment echoes a haiku by Basho (1644-1694):
With awe I beheld
All the new green leaves of spring
Glittering in the sunshine
Gray Wolf seemed to attend meetings against her better judgment. One evening she came by anyway and said, "In every service I renew my vow to save the many beings, but, really, how can I do that?"
Raven said, "It's your precious keepsake."
Mallard asked, "How can a vow be a keepsake?"
Raven said, "It reminds you of a loved one."
Gray Wolf sat back and said nothing further.
Owl spoke up and said, "We also vow to waken to the countless gates of the Great Law. I always thought that vow meant I should study all the teachings, but now I'm not so sure."
Raven said, "See all the new green leaves glittering in the sunshine!"
The morning sun behind the branches of black leaves
Promises promises
Long since broken, long since fulfilled.
Nothing is more beautiful,
Nothing less.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 19-25

Trust In Yourself

Practice of the Week
Trust In Yourself

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.

Sometimes these “Slogans to Live By” can seem to contradict. This is because we are so likely to take a good thing too far, until it becomes a bad thing.

For example, this week’s slogan, “Trust in Yourself,” and a previous slogan, “It Comes Down To: Don’t Be Stuck on Yourself,” (HERE) point in opposite directions. The previous slogan told us not to insist on seeing everything from our own point of view, think of others, expand our lives. This one says that only you can determine what is happening in your life and what to do about it.

Slogans must be applied with delicacy. What's good medicine for one person is poison for another; what's right in one situation is wrong in another; what works today may not work tomorrow. Life is full of nuance and indeterminacy. To assess what is going on and know what to do, you must constantly adjust and refine. If you seem to be knocking your head against a wall, then it is time to take a breath and ask yourself what is going on.

In this process of creatively training your mind, where does your feedback come from? Who or what do you trust to keep you on track? This slogan tells you to trust yourself.

Others can see things about you that you don’t see, and their perspective can be a big help. There are holes in your self-perception. But even with these holes, you see more of yourself than any other person can see of you. In the final analysis, only you can evaluate and understand your own practice. It's your own sense of your life that makes your life. If you give over that responsibility, then you become a wobbly person, constantly looking to the right and to the left to see what you are supposed to be doing and thinking.

If other people's opinions of you feel diminishing or elevating, it's only because you have vacated your own opinions. No one likes to be criticized, disrespected, or judged by others in an uncomplimentary light. But when it comes to basic self-worth, only you are the judge. But judgment is a tricky thing. “Trust In Yourself” doesn't mean allowing self-judgment. Self-judgment, as we usually experience it, is corrosive and unhelpful.

What is self-judgment anyway? If you study it, you will see that most of the time it involves comparison: one's self is unworthy compared with others, who seem to be perfectly fine. We feel our inadequacy in relation to others—we imagine how others would judge us, and we internalize those judgments. Self-judgment is a sneakily internalized function of outside forces. The self to trust in is the self that is not self-condemnatory, that loves itself and is absolutely trustworthy. It may have a negative assessment of this or that, but this is a useful, not a crushing, assessment. However negative it may be, it helps the process of learning. If you detect self-judgmentalism, ask yourself, "Who is judging whom?" Ask this question again and again until you have found a bit of ease. This slogan is not, as it might seem on the surface, promoting conventional self-reliance. It is not opening the door to self-judgment. It is gently urging us to a profound sense of inner balance, to a deeper connection with the intimacy of mind.

There's a Zen adage: "When alone, practice as if you were with others, and when with others, practice as if you were alone.” When you're with others, try not to be an actor playing the part of yourself. We use the persona we take to be our social self as an unconscious way of distancing ourselves from our truer and more intimate selves. “Trust In Yourself” means that instead of doing that, we should try to imagine that other people are not other people, not outside our mind, not scary, and that they therefore do not require our performance. Imagine that others are actually parts of your own mind, not outside entities who need to be impressed or appeased. They are actually as intimate with you as you are with yourself. If you can situate yourself with others imaginatively in this way, you can be very relaxed and easygoing, you can be trusting and unafraid, because being with others feels like being with yourself. There's no need to be special or distinguished in any way. If your feeling is that others are you and you are they, your impulses will be socially acceptable and even kind. It is a great relief to practice like this. Social anxiety nearly disappears.

On the other hand, when you are alone, try not to sink into the usual dull subjectivity that comes when you imagine that no one is around, no one can see you, you're hiding, invisible, and so can safely be a dim-witted idiot, with the radio and television simultaneously playing as you whack mindlessly away at the keyboard of your computer or mobile device. Instead, imagine you're in the middle of a crowd, a crowd of good, kind, serious people who like you and inspire you to comport yourself with the same degree of dignity that they do. Surrounded by such people, naturally you feel at your best. You pay attention to what you are doing and you take care of things with appreciation as soon as they arise. Imagine feeling this way when you are alone, inspired and elevated by your own company!

In many ways, contemporary culture teaches us to be ashamed, embarrassed, and uncomfortable with ourselves: confused and self-clinging. It is a great achievement of consciousness, this feeling we have of being a person. Practicing this slogan may be tricky, and we can't expect it to suddenly change the long habit of how we have been feeling about ourselves, but it is a start. It will shake things up a bit. It will show us where we are stuck and how to go forward.

* * *

See also: Judith Lief, Lojong Slogan #20, "Of the Two Witnesses, Hold the Principal One" -- HERE


Pay attention to the loneliness of experience. Notice the difference between seeking for confirmation and direct witnessing. What makes you trust or distrust your own experience?

* * *


RE News: Sun Oct 21

Our second Faith Development Friday, facilitated by Perry and Barbara Montrose and Rev. Garmon, segued into a busy Sunday, October 14 . The day’s agenda began with a productive RE Council meeting. The council members reviewed September RE activities, discussed plans for Social Justice Sundays and Veterans Day, organized OWL classes, and assigned tasks for Thanksgiving Sunday. Future efforts will include updating registration data and providing outreach to families. Perry was here presenting the Wonder Box Story during the service. It was an original, delightful story using colored crayons to better understand diversity. I had the opportunity to be part of classroom activities, and was especially impressed by the wonderful “mirror” exercise done by Laura Goodspeed and Lex Suvanto with K-1 students. What I observed in 8-9 grade OWL was intriguing, especially the responses the students gave to very probing questions. The weather was so pleasant that the 2-3 class went outdoors to enjoy the yard and sang together “This Little Light of Mine.” Truly, our RE students, Perry, and teachers are collectively the light of CUUC!

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

RE This Sunday, Oct 21
Grades K-7 K-5 start in Fellowship Hall for children’s worship and music with Lyra. Grades 6-12 start in classes

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group

To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

Halloween Costume Parade & Fun, Sun Oct 28 - Wear your costume to CUUC!
At 11:10 all classes will join the Halloween parade into the sanctuary. Then Youth Group will lead the children to the Halloween fun area in the red pod after the service.

Music: Sun Oct 21

CUUC Choir Accompanist Georgianna Pappas offers arrangements of hit show tunes with a political “edge” for the morning’s Prelude. Her Offertory selections include two of Rev. Martin Luther King’s favorite Spirituals. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with statements of hope and consolation. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
“I Am Easily Assimilated” from Candide
                                                Leonard Bernstein
“Send In The Clowns” from A Little Night Music
                                                            Stephen Sondheim
“You've Got to Be Carefully Taught”/“Children Will Listen” from South Pacific and Into The Woods
                        Rodgers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer
 Leonard Cohen, arr. by Roger Emerson   
Mary Lane Cobb, soloist

“There Is A Balm in Gilead/Precious Lord, Take My Hand”
Traditional and George Allen Nelson and Thomas Andrew Dorsey

“Nine Hundred Miles”   
American Folk Song, arr. by Douglas E. Wagner


From the Minister, Thu Oct 11

Sociologist Milton Bennett has developed a framework of different ways that people react to cultural differences. In which of these stages would you say you are? (Here's a kicker, though: most people imagine themselves at one stage higher than they actually are.)

Stage 1. Denial of difference. One experiences one's own culture as the only “real” one. Other cultures are either not noticed at all or are understood in an undifferentiated, simplistic manner. One is uninterested in cultural difference, but when confronted with difference, seemingly benign acceptance may change to aggressive attempts to avoid or eliminate it. Most of the time, this is a result of physical or social isolation, where one's views are never challenged and are at the center of their reality.

Stage 2. Polarization provides defense against difference. One has dualistic us/them thinking, frequently accompanied by overt negative stereotyping. In Version A, one’s own culture is experienced as the most “evolved” or best way to live. One will openly belittle the differences between their culture and another, denigrating race, gender or any other indicator of difference. One is openly threatened by cultural difference and likely to act aggressively against it. In Version B, this is reversed. One’s own culture is devalued and another culture is romanticized as superior.

Stage 3. Minimization of difference. The experience of similarity outweighs the experience of difference. One recognizes superficial cultural differences in food, customs, etc, but emphasizes human similarity in physical structure, psychological needs, and/or assumed adherence to universal values. One overestimates one's tolerance while underestimating the effect (e.g. “privilege”) of one's own culture. One approaches intercultural situations with the assurance that a simple awareness of the fundamental patterns of human interaction will assure success of communication.

Stage 4. Acceptance of difference. One’s own culture is experienced as one of a number of equally complex worldviews. One accepts the existence of culturally different ways of organizing human existence, although one does not necessarily like or agree with every way. One can identify how culture affects a wide range of human experience, and one has a framework for organizing observations of cultural difference. One will eagerly question others, reflecting a real desire to be informed, and not to confirm prejudices. The key words of this stage are “getting to know” or “learning.”

Stage 5. Adaptation to difference. One's worldviews expand to accurately understand other cultures and behave in a variety of culturally appropriate ways. One effectively uses empathy and frame-of-reference shifting to understand and be understood across cultural boundaries. One has the skills to act properly outside of one’s own culture and is able to “walk the talk.” As facility at smoothly shifting among cultural worldviews increases (sometimes called "Stage 6, Integration"), one's sense of identity expands and one sees oneself as “marginal” (not central) to any particular culture.

Yours in faith,

The Liberal Pulpit / New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Start a Joy Collection / 1. The day-end review. Your joy collection begins by reinforcing the collection in your memory. Lying in bed at night, instead of stewing about mistakes committed or rudenesses endured, make an intentional practice of reviewing moments of joy experienced that day. 2. Artifact collection. Start deliberately collecting movies, videos, books, music, art, photos, or writings that express joy. 3. Sharing. With technology we can have a further communal practice of sharing these artifacts. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: She Doesn't Know / Lines from the Heart Sutra:
"Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness no other than form.
Form is exactly emptiness; emptiness exactly form.
Sensation, perception, mental reaction, and consciousness are also like this.
All things are essentially empty -- not born, not destroyed; not stained, not pure; without loss, without gain."
Our brains are so full of biases -- confirmation bias, correspondence bias, self-serving bias, belief bias, hindsight bias, etc. Yet this is what allows us to be the social creatures that we are, bonding with and caring about each other. We love our tribe and would be lost without them. But our brains our built to pay a cost in true understanding for the blessings of tribal bonding.

Brown Bear and Raven seem to suggest that we say what we need to say to affirm our vital connections -- but don't believe it. We really don't know. We don't know anything. We are beings built for love, not knowledge -- so don't believe anything you think. "Only don't know" is the way.

Raven took her perch one evening and told the story that a visitor had once come to Brown Bear and asked, "What is the meaning of 'form is no other than emptiness'?"
Brown Bear had replied, "I don't know. It's a line in an old sutra."
When Raven had said this, Owl asked, "Brown Bear knows the sutras very well. How could she say she didn't know?"
Raven said, "She doesn't know."
Owl said, "But she's a great teacher. She's our grandmother in the Great Law."
Raven said, "She really doesn't know."
What is the meaning of your
"What is the meaning of...?"?
Say more of what is biting you.
I have various potions in my apothecary;
Tell me about your bug, and I'll select
A bottle for you.
They are all placebos, still
The telling is treatment,
And the rituals of care.

It is a brave physician
Who withholds these ministrations,
Avers there is no cure,
And casts the patient out to
Live with the terrifying condition
Of having no disease.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 12-18

Music: Sun Oct 14

Diversity finds rich expression in music. Sunday morning’s selections include works from Spanish, Norweigian, Rumanian, and African-American traditions, all part of the U.S.’s richly varied ethnic fabric. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Evocación and El puerto from Iberia, Book I
                                                Isaac Albéniz

Opening Music:
Norwegian Melody, Op. 12, No. 6
                                                          Edvard Grieg

Rumanian Dances
Dance with Sticks; Waistband Dance; On the Spot; Hornpipe; Rumanian Polka; Quick Dance
Béla Barték

The Entertainer
   Scott Joplin


Build Your Joy Collection

Practice of the Week
Build Your Joy Collection

Category: Might Be Your Thing. The practices here are not for everyone -- but one of them may be just the thing for you! Any of these might also be, for you, in the "Occasional" category, but are listed here because they are good candidates for regular, central practices.

from Ann Richards, "Collecting Joy as a Spiritual Practice," in E. W. Wikstrom, editor, Faithful Practices: Everyday Ways to Feed Your Spirit, abridged and adapted.

I have struggled to recognize joy my whole adult life. I have always veered toward the pessimistic and skeptical. Then one day, when I was working for Rev. Ginger Luke, she encouraged me to leave my computer and come out with her to the front lawn. I was feeling overwhelmed with work and didn't want to stop typing, but grumbling to myself, I followed her.

There, alongside the walkway leading to the church was a small, lonely purple flower. I thought it sort of sad and underwhelming and was considering something polite to say when I looked up at Ginger. She brightened looking at it; her mouth became a dimple-punctuated smile. "Look! Look!” she exclaimed. Her joy was contagious. Walking back indoors, I didn't have a dowdy office; I had a shared space with my excellent friend Beth. I had good music on and was making progress with my projects. I felt joyful.

I began to conscientiously collect moments of joy that I could relive and treasure as a way to awaken joy in myself. Collecting moments of joy has become a spiritual practice for me.

1. The day-end review. Your joy collection begins by reinforcing the collection in your memory. Lying in bed at night, most of us think about events in our day. Instead of stewing about mistakes committed or rudenesses endured, make an intentional practice of reviewing moments of joy experienced that day.

2. Artifact collection. Start deliberately collecting movies, videos, books, music, art, photos, or writings that express joy. I now have a file on my computer marked "Joy" for email artifacts to review on days when I'm feeling blue and a collection of video artifacts on YouTube at home for the same purpose.

I have certain guidelines for selecting items for my joy collection:

I don't include mere happiness, peace, or serenity. It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but look for things that inspire unbridled, unbounded joy -- things that engross you with positive feeling, that you can focus on only a moment and everything else is shut out – things that leave you with a warm feeling and a smile, even when the experience is over. Look for enthusiasm, unmitigated élan: the wide-eyed, panting, bop, bang, boom of Animal the Muppet playing the drums. (There is an interview with Animal viewable online, and he says that the two things he loves the most in this world are drums and bunny rabbits. He's a fictional character, but I believe him! His drum playing gives the viewer a vicarious thrill. I’m no drummer, but watching Animal do what he loves gives me a new sense of what joy can be.)

Joy is infectious, so look for it in others. It’s infectious even if the other person is joyful about something that wouldn’t make you joyful. For example, the Edwin Hawkins Singers exude joy in their great gospel song, "Oh Happy Day." I'm not a born-again Christian, and I don't share the religious fervor that inspired Edwin Hawkins to write this song. It doesn't matter. I can hear their joy, and that lets me take it on for myself.

Byrd Baylor's beautiful picture book, I'm in Charge of Celebrations explains how she creates her own holidays based on the moments in her life she most wants to remember. I added this artifact to my joy collection the very first time I read it. I have also adopted the book’s approach. To be be in charge of my own celebrations, I don’t include in my collection memories or mementos of events where joy may have been a heavy expectation. I don’t include weddings or births, for example. The holiday season can feel like a tyranny of prescribed joy. I often do experience joy at weddings, births, and holiday celebrations, but I leave this joy out of my joy collection, which is reserved for items not freighted with expectation.

Another sort of joy I exclude from my collection are victories that came with someone else’s defeat. I have worked hard on political campaigns, for instance, and my candidates sometimes win. That kind of joy is worth remembering and savoring, but I don't include those moments in my spiritual practice collection because someone else was miserable.

3. Sharing. With technology we can have a further communal practice of sharing these artifacts. We are privileged to be able to hear live music -- every Sunday morning, even if at no other time. The joy is, in part, from experiencing it together. With the internet we can hear at any time Anna Maffo's version of Songs of the Auvergne, or Katrina and the Waves' “Walking on Sunshine.” But can we have it as a shared joy? Sure! We can share artifacts of joyful experiences with others.

The spiritual practice of collecting moments of joy has grown for me as I share them with the people I love. They may not feel the same sense of joy I do when listening, looking, and sharing, but they do get to know a little more about me, and I have the wonderful feeling of enjoying those moments again with those I care about.

Share links of your favorite music to friends you haven't seen in a while, share photos of your joyful moments in nature with homebound congregants, or read a poem over Skype to a friend. To keep the moments that bring you true joy to yourself is a lost opportunity. Here, I'll share one with you right now: if you haven't heard John Mayall's harmonica solo in “Room to Move," you must!

For Journaling

In your journal, reflect on these questions:
  • How do you define joy in your life? How do you know it when you experience it?
  • Do you tend to really take note of the moments of joy in your life, or are they overshadowed by more difficult things and times?
  • What is the difference between "joy” and “happiness"?
  • How might you integrate a practice like this into your own life?