From our Ministerial Intern, Thu, Nov 23

“Over the river and through the wood,” the well-known setting of “A New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving” by Unitarian Lydia Maria Child certainly captures a child’s excitement and anticipation en-route to the family feasts.  “Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!”

“Onto the highway and to the mall…” might be the start of an additional verse in a modern revision as Thanksgiving starts the countdown to winter’s gift-giving and party planning season. Already promotions for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday are dominating the airwaves and social media. And my mailbox has been overflowing with too many catalogs, sometimes addressed to my children! The time has come again to gather them up, log-on to the free service, Catalog Choice, and stop that flow. (Yes, it works!)

I'm not alone, I know, in resisting the push to commercialize our holidays. Efforts like Friday’s Buy Nothing Day and alternative gift fairs that benefit non-profits catch my attention. One online collection of resources I particularly like and recommend for folks and families that want to reduce their consumption, waste and stress is the Simplify the Holidays campaign at New There you’ll find tips for prioritizing connection with friends and family over consumption, including an online calendar feature, a short video to share to spark conversations, and a Simplify the Holidays Pledge.

For a longer, good read, check out one of my favorite reminders of what’s most important this season in this excerpt of an early work about putting joy back into the (Christmas) season by Bill McKibben, from his book Hundred Dollar Holiday.


RE News Nov 26

Lifespan Religious Education

As we learned from our Native American guest last week, George Stonefish, Thanksgiving history is filled with misconceptions and fraught with the horror of genocide that make an unsure footing for celebration. For many people, the personal celebration of the holiday is dampened by loneliness or family difficulties. Gratitude can be tinged with the sadness of loss and struggles that have yet to be overcome. We realize that thankfulness is not something to take for granted because we find it through a thicket of life's uncertainties. In this year's moment of Thanksgiving, I wish you warm connections that provide physical and spiritual nourishment. May you be blessed to receive whatever opens your heart to gratitude when it is most difficult to find.

1) This Sun Nov 26
K-9th grade are in Fellowship Hall for Deck the Hall Crafts Part 1. Come help create the decorations for the sanctuary. 

Youth Group will meet in the Youth Room to discuss Thanksgiving history and realities. 

2) Holiday Giving Opportunity - Gently Used Children’s Books and Toy Drive
Imagine the joy you can bring to parents who cannot afford holiday gifts when you enable them to give to their children. Please bring gently used children's books and toys for the
Ecumenical Food Pantry. New/like new stuffed animals are also needed. 

Please bring donations to the RE Lobby through Dec 3. On that Sunday children are asked to bring a book that was or is special to them to share during Children’s Worship before it is donated.

Contact Mary Cavallero for information or to help with this project.
3) Deck the Halls - Dec 3 after RE
Join us in the sanctuary after RE to create and hang decorations.

Fun for all ages and something families can do together!

4) Wisdom Reading & Study Group - Sun Dec 3 at 11:40

An opportunity for spiritual growth.

Join us to discuss Becoming Wise, by Krista Tippett, and related topics.

“...This is brilliant thinking, beautiful storytelling and practical insight.” - Brené Brown 

In Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett has created a master class in living for a fractured world. Fracture, she says is not the whole story of our time. The enduring question of what it means to be human has become inextricable from the challenge of who we are to one another.

Related podcast and other related materials, CLICK HERE. Bring a related reading of your own.
For questions or further information, please contact Sabrina Cleary at
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Music: Sun Nov 26

A belated musical Thanksgiving greeting from your Music Director this Sunday morning at CUUC, with seasonal favorites and works connected to the holiday and its spirit.

Adam Kent, piano

Centering Music:

A.D. 162
Edward MacDowell

Thanks, Op. 62, No. 2
Edvard Grieg

Variations on Yankee Doodle
Anonymous American Colonial

Opening Music:

Slow Dance
Aaron Copland

Autumn Song, Op. 37, No. 10
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


November, Op. 37, No. 11 "In the Troika"


From the Minister, Thu Nov 16

From the Minister

Please read! There are TWO important books for this year's UUA Common Read:
- Mitra Rahnema, Ed. Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry
- Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want

See HERE for more info and to order them both.

Coming Sun Apr 22: An All-Westchester UU Worship service! The congregations of First Unitarian Society of Westchester (Hastings), The UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester (Mt. Kisco), The UU Congregation of the Hudson Valley (Croton), Fourth Unitarian Society of Westchester (Mohegan Lake), and Community UU Congregation (that's us!) are planning to hold shared worship together -- at Maryknoll Center, 55 Ryder Rd, Ossining, NY (24 min from CUUC, says Google Maps). Mark your calendars!

Yours in the faith we share,

The November issue of On the Journey explores Mindfulness. Get it at CUUC or HERE.

Let's Chat

On Tuesdays, 3-5pm, I'm going to be at an area coffee shop for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • November: Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains
  • December: Starbucks in Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 684 White Plains Rd, Scarsdale
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

This Week on The Liberal Pulpit

This week parts 1 and 2 of "The Mindfulness Fad" went up:
Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a kind of remembering, remembering to be here, to be present to pay attention to this moment of life. When w bring awareness to this moment we know what we are doing and we know we are alive. It’s not so much that our fantasies, daydreams, and desires are not a natural part of life, rather it’s that we are so unaware of how much time we spend preoccupied with these thoughts. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Mythology. Bodhidharma was the semi-legendary human (470? - 532) who supposedly came from India to China and took up residence at Shaolin Temple and Monastery. His practice and teaching blended elements of Indian Buddhism and Chinese Daoism into what is now known as Zen. He is credited as not only the founder of Zen, but also of kung fu. Historically, this is highly unlikely -- hence Porcupine's question. ("Traditionally Bodhidharma is credited as founder of the martial arts at the Shaolin Temple. However, martial arts historians have shown this legend stems from a 17th-century qigong manual known as the Yijin Jing." -Wikipedia) How does mythology collapse into practice?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Raven took her students to see Stag Sensei, who taught kung fu at Bentpine. Stag gave a little talk and showed them some of the exercises.
Then in the Founder's Glade they bowed before a large stone in the form of Bunnydharma.
Back home that evening, Porcupine asked, "Was Bunnydharma really the founder of kung fu?"
Raven said, "That depends on your mythology.
Porcupine asked, "What is your mythology, Raven?"
Raven said, "I bow."
Hotetsu's Verse
"Everybody needs to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer." (Fear)

The believing's in the doing. The holy
Emerges from the worship. Trees
From sylvics, dendrology, forestry, timbering, carpentry.
On the question of what is really,
The steadfast practice needs not opine.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Nov 19
RE News
Music News
From Ministerial Intern
This Week's e-Communitarian

RE News: Sun Nov 19

Lifespan Religious Education

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." - Melody Beattie

In our spiritual home, may you turn one stranger into a friend this weekend, whether at the CUUC Auction or the Thanksgiving Service.

Please see the following five (5) announcements:

1) This Sun Nov 19
Multigen Thanksgiving Service
  • Stories and drumming with a Native American guest
  • Cornbread and Cider Ritual
  • Children's Choir singing
There will be a children's song rehearsal at 9:30 a.m. in the sanctuary. 
Children can practice the chorus to the song by CLICKING HERE.

Please have children dress nicely (no jeans and casual t-shirts) to perform their song.

To view the Religious Education Google calendar, CLICK HERE.
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

2) Food Collection This Sun
Please bring non-perishable items for the Ecumenical Food Pantry to the Thanksgiving service this Sunday.

Bring your items into the sanctuary and we will have a moment in the service to gather the items.

Especially needed: spaghetti, tomato sauce, cold cereal, tuna fish, peanut butter, canned veggies & fruit, mac and cheese.

Cash/check donations are needed at this time of year. We will be collecting those as well, or send checks to Ecumenical Food Pantry, PO Box 2037, White Plains, NY 10602.

For more information, contact: Vicky Van Wert (

3) Kids' Auction

4) Holiday Giving Opportunity - Gently Used Children’s Books and Toy Drive
Sun Nov 5 to Sun Dec 3 This year the Ecumenical Food Pantry in White Plains will be distributing gently used books and toys to their clients.

Imagine the joy you can bring to parents who cannot afford to give their children much during the holidays. We will also be collecting new/like new stuffed animals. Last year several of the senior citizens were thrilled to choose a stuffed animal for themselves.

Please bring donations to the RE Lobby starting on Sun Nov 5.

On Sun Dec 3, children are asked to bring a book that was or is special to them to share during Children’s Worship before it is donated.

Contact Mary Cavallero for information or to help with this project.

5)Room for One More This Thanksgiving?
Make a place for an international student! Our congregation is again partnering with One to World to find host families to welcome students to their Thanksgiving dinners. A wonderful experience for both students and hosts! Contact Jane Dixon at

Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development


Practice of the Week

Category: Supporting Practices: observances that support and expand developing spirituality.

Adapted from James Austin, "Mindfulness," in Everyday Spiritual Practice

The experience of being mindful is not new to any of us. We may not have used the word mindfulness to describe our experience, but each waking moment requires some degree of this quality of awareness. We could not function in the world without knowing our experience from moment to moment.

Mindfulness, in this sense, is allowing our experience to be accepted into consciousness, letting us know what we are doing, providing the feedback to permit taking an action, performing a skill, or learning something new. Of course we always know on some level what we are experiencing, where we are, and what we are doing at any given time. It is also true that the degree to which we are really present in our experience varies a great deal throughout the day. There are many moments when the mind seems to be somewhere else completely!

Imagine carrying a full cup of hot tea from one room to another. You would pay attention to the cup, being aware of whether or not the tea was about to spill. You might slow down your walking speed or use two hands. The feedback of knowing what you are doing and the effect on the tea in the cup can all happen because you are present and focused in that moment.

There are also some moments when we are usually not very mindful. These moments are likely to occur when we think that what we are doing is not very interesting, or seems automatic because we have done this a thousand times before. So we let the mid drift off while we wash the dishes. “I could have done that in my sleep,” we say – and sometimes we did.

Mindfulness is a kind of remembering, remembering to be here, to be present to pay attention to this moment of life. When w bring awareness to this moment we know what we are doing and we know we are alive. It’s not so much that our fantasies, daydreams, and desires are not a natural part of life, rather it’s that we are so unaware of how much time we spend preoccupied with these thoughts.

Our mind has a mind of its own and easily wanders off into some fantasy of the future or some evaluation, judgement, or remembrance of the past. All this time, we sacrifice what is right in front of us: this present moment. If we do this repeatedly, our minds become a very busy place to live, running back and forth from past to future, while our experience of the present moment becomes shallow and unfulfilling.

We are often compulsive thinkers, never giving ourselves a rest from a constant inner conversation. In addition to our internal chatter, we receive a stream of language, read or heard. It becomes very easy to unconsciously assume that experience begins when we begin verbally describing it.

When the quality of mindfulness is stronger, we are more likely to see the process of thinking itself. In our more mindful moments we see the train of thought and its power for pulling us away from present experience. We begin to value drinking in sensory experience in a nonverbal way.

When there is too much thinking going on, it is hard to remain open and accepting of our experience. Both the outer world and our inner landscape is more lush when we are more aware. We have a more spacious mind, one which is less dismissive of nonverbal experience.

Unpleasant Experiences

Some experiences are unpleasant: intense grief, for example. When we try to avoid being with an emotion, by distracting ourselves or blotting out the experience with alcohol, we only lengthen the time it takes to work through the difficult emotion. Anger and fear have the power to take us over, to consume us. Being more mindful in this situation means we are more able to know what we are doing. We are able to step back a bit and really know that we are angry. This knowing creates a bit of space that can protect us from acting unwisely. When we are able to be with anger or fear, to hold it with our awareness even though it is unpleasant, it has less power over us.


Mindfulness practice is used in stress reduction and chronic pain clinics around the world because it has been shown that people can often lessen their suffering dramatically by becoming aware of and letting go of their resistance to the unpleasant sensations in their bodies. The automatic response to discomfort is for muscles to tense up, to want to push away the painful sensations. But tension and resistance only create more suffering. If we then add to that a mental script that supports our personal sense of suffering (thoughts of self-pity, for example), we have moved even farther away from easing our situation, by adding mental tension.

By becoming aware of these automatic responses, people can learn to relax and let go of some physical and emotional resistance to their situation. Patients report that they are surprised at how much of their suffering was caused by their resistance. When all the extras that are added on to a painful situation are stripped away, so that only the actual physical sensations are left, there can be less suffering.


When we are patient enough to be even with our experience of boredom, we find it often transforms. We may find that the boredom was acting as a cover for some other more subtle unpleasant emotion that we did not want to experience. There may be something new to learn about ourselves if we choose not to immediately reach for a distraction, not to immediately run from the unpleasantness of boredom.


How do you get more mindful? See the Practices of the Week titled "Be Mindful"and "Cultivate Mindfulness."

There's also a helpful introduction to getting started with mindfulness practice: HERE.

* * *
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

From our Ministerial Intern: Thu Nov 16

Green Care, Veterans, Pine Mulch and Blueberries

I had the pleasure of spending time with children and youth in the RE program this past Sunday as part of a special program focused on honoring our veterans and learning about strategies and programs for healing visible and invisible wounds. With a nod to mindfulness, our monthly theme, we discussed how we often instinctively head to nature and the out-of-doors to cope with upsetting feelings and calm our nerves. I shared the basics of nature as a source for healing, from the immune-system bolstering and stress-reducing compounds we inhale when forest bathing to the good-for-you-bacteria that help reduce depression when we play - or work - in the dirt.
“Green Care” is the more user-friendly term of what is known as “horticultural therapy,” the practice of using gardens and plant-based activities for therapeutic purposes. Perhaps you have seen healing gardens incorporating a variety of scents, textures, plants and pathways on the grounds of hospitals or rehabilitation centers? Or, have experienced this directly by tending your own garden or being a Placekeeper at CUUC on occasions like Days in Place?

Beginning about seventy years ago, hospitals and programs for war veterans began including veterans as active gardeners in a variety of programs meant to support emotional and spiritual healing. As they connect to the meditative nature of gardening and become creators of peaceful places, veterans credit their observations of plant life with showing them ways that life can continue beyond their military experiences. Green Care programs like these can also help veterans cope with loneliness or isolation by connecting with them with one another, re-establishing a sense of trust, building community and fostering a sense of usefulness and purpose.

More recently, a variety of farming programs for veterans have sprung up across the country integrating vocational training and mental health support services.  Farming is a good career option for many veterans, and is a way to be physically active and re-capture the sense of being part of a group unit sharing the same experience. For veterans who chose to take on a family farm, the venture often plays a role in helping heal and strengthen the family.

In Sunday’s class, Perry shared selected portions (0-4:48 and 6:24-8:20) of a video of Veteran’s Farm in Jacksonville, FL where we heard first-hand testimony of the healing effects of Green Care from combat veterans farming blueberries and raising poultry. Check it out!

Bice Wilson shared a lesson about CUUC’s grounds, inviting everyone to become Placekeepers. With the help of other adults, the children and youth spent time tending to our inner courtyards, trimming shrubs and bamboo and raking up pine needles and leaves. Having just learned that “all waste is food,” they took the pine needles and leaves down the hillside and mulched the recently transplanted blueberry bushes near the firepit, seeding visions of a bountiful summertime harvest.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a detour and well-deserved “Place sitting” on the hillside. Do you know the pathway that leads to the Place where the stream emerges from the stone wall? Have you enjoyed the calming effect that comes from sitting out of doors there, listening mindfully and – a ha! -- hearing the sound of the water or the rustle of the leaves in the breeze?

How and where does Green Care enter into your practices of mindfulness? What peaceful Place awaits your discovery or creation?