CUUC

CUUC

2017-11-16

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,
Meredith

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 (victoriavanwert@gmail.com)

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 marycava4@gmail.com 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 lilrhodie@gmail.com.

Sincerely,  
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Mindfulness

Practice of the Week
Mindfulness

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.

Pain

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.

Boredom

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

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?

2017-11-12

2017-18 Common Reads: Centering; Daring Democracy

In 2010, the Unitarian Universalist Association began selecting an annual Common Read. "A Common Read invites participants to read and discuss the same book in a given period of time. A Common Read can build community in our congregations and our movement by giving diverse people a shared experience, shared language, and a basis for deep, meaningful conversations."

For 2017-18, two Common Read books have been selected:

1. Mitra Rahnema, Ed. Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry. CLICK HERE.

This anthology, a joint project of the UU Ministers Association's Committee for Antiracism, Anti-oppression, and Multiculturalism (UUMA-CARAOMC) and Skinner House Books, is the first book to center the stories, analysis, and insight of Unitarian Universalist religious leaders of color as they explore how racial identity is made both visible and invisible in Unitarian Universalist communities.

In October 2015, a group of distinguished UU religious professionals of color gathered together in Chicago, sponsored by UUMA-CARAOMC, to embark on a radical project. The conference worked from the premise that discussions of race in Unitarian Universalism have too often presupposed a White audience and prioritized the needs, education, and emotions of the White majority. The goal was to reframe UU anti-oppression work by putting the voices, experiences and learnings of people of color at the center of the conversation. The resulting book captures the papers that were presented and the rich dialogue from the conference to share personal stories and address the challenges that religious leaders of color face in exercising power, agency, and authority in a culturally White denomination.

The editor, Rev. Mitra Rahnema, is a biracial Iranian American lifelong Unitarian Universalist. She is currently offering her ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach, California. Prior to Long Beach she served communities in Grosse Point, Michigan; Mission Viejo, California; and Kansas City, Kansas. She is currently a member of the UUMA-CARAOMC. She has dedicated her life toward building vibrant and engaged anti-oppressive communities.

STUDY GUIDE (28 pp.)

2. Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. CLICK HERE.

This optimistic book on the importance of democracy itself examines the anti-democracy movement that led to the Trump presidency, then offers a vision and call to action to save the democracy we thought we had and to take our civic life to a place it has never been. What do we do now?
Organize and fight to protect and expand our democracy.

With our democracy in crisis, many Americans are frightened and uncertain. So, the legendary activist Frances Moore Lappé, and organizer-scholar Adam Eichen teamed up to tell the underreported story of a "movement of movements" arising to tackle the roots of the crisis. The authors view the Trump presidency as a symptom of a shocking anti-democracy movement and expose the events that drove us to this crisis. But their focus is on solutions: how people from all backgrounds, committed to an array of social-justice causes, are creating a canopy of hope, what Lappé and Eichen call the "democracy movement." The arising democracy movement's innovative and inspiring strategies are enabling millions of Americans to feel part of something big, historic, and positive.

Democracy is not only possible but essential to meet the most basic human needs for power, meaning, and connection; joining the democracy movement is thus a daring and noble undertaking calling each of us.

STUDY GUIDE (31 pp.)

For past Common Reads, 2010-11 through 2016-17: CLICK HERE

2017-11-09

From the Minister, Thu Nov 9

From the Minister

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.

Where: Maryknoll Center, 55 Ryder Rd, Ossining, NY (24 min from CUUC, says Google Maps).

I'm excited about this chance to bring all the UUs in the county together for a worship service. Discussion sessions over the last almost-three years have brought together members, leaders, RE professionals, and/or ministers of the five Westchester congregations. We've talked about ways our respective congregations might collaborate on projects to advance liberal religion and social justice. This All-Westchester worship service is one step toward enriching our UU connections and empowering our collective voice.

For many CUUCers, this will be a little extra drive. Carpooling from CUUC to Ossining will be available. Perry, Tracy Breneman (DRE for out Hastings and Mt. Kisco congregations), and Jane Podell (DRE for our Croton congregation) will be planning RE for the kids and youth at Ossining.

Stay tuned for further information soon -- but note the date now. You won't want to miss this one.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

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 there's part 2 of 2 of "Environmental Racism," and Both parts of "Witches"

No More Disposability
Witches
Persecutions Sometimes End

Racism and the Environment

Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Put Out Fires. In your heart, right now, you know if there are any vital matters that you're not dealing with. These are real alarms, and you need to listen to them. They cast a shadow you can feel in your gut. And eventually their consequences always come home — sometimes during your last years, when you look back on your life and consider what you wish you'd done differently. When you come to grips with important things, even if they're not urgent, that unease in the belly goes away. You feel good about yourself, doing what you can and making your life better. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Delusion. Three things, then, to remember. The silence that is at the center of speech; the thunderous word that silence speaks; and the delusion of names. So who is reading this?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Another time Woodpecker asked, "What can you say about delusion?"
Raven said, "Juniper bush."
Woodpecker said, "How is the juniper bush a delusion?"
Raven said, "It shades me on a warm afternoon."
Woodpecker thought a moment and then asked, "Then naming things is delusion?"
Raven said, "Just so you know the risks."
Hotetsu's Verse
Names lie. A cup or tree: infinitely more than
Its cupness or treeness. And less.
Not merely of the falseness of categories I sing --
Proper names: no less liars.
To dress in such lies: a risk.
To step naked into the truth of presence:
Also a risk.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Nov 12
RE News
Music News
From Ministerial Intern
This Week's e-Communitarian

From our Ministerial Intern, Thu Nov 9


Native American Heritage Month


Since 1990, November has been recognized as Native American Heritage Month. It's a time when artifacts tucked away in museums and historical societies and cultural events related to the American Indian experience may catch our attention. It's also a time when it is difficult to escape the press coverage, editorials, and social media posts devoted to lifting up Native Americans and debunking difficult to erase stereotypes and myths. 

Lately, I've seen debates about the use of Indian imagery and language in mascots and logos for sports teams on the professional, college and high school circuits. When I was growing up, I never gave my hometown's "Big Reds" logo and cheers much of a second thought, but today I am more mindful of the way the graphics and implicit messages of this form of what author Philip J. Deloria calls "Playing Indian" are offensive to Native and non-native Americans. Likewise, today I can appreciate the column on why an Indian Princess costume for Halloween -- for a child or myself -- is a serious contender for "What Not to Wear." And, I notice the "flare-ups" of outrage followed by public apologies in the design and fashion worlds, where designers and run-way artists walk a fine line between claiming inspiration from Native American traditions and answering to charges of cultural misappropriation.... in textiles, clothing, hairstyles and make-up.

As the volume on these kinds of issues rises, I wonder.... Can we just stop long enough to put on our "liberty and justice for all" lenses and summon up some holy curiosity about our Indigenous kin? Can we embrace opportunities to meet in person, enter into beloved conversations, listen to history told from their perspective, and hear about current challenges? Only then can we honor our faith's call to mindfully dismantle paradigms, systems and practices of oppression and suffering. How else can we begin to become engaged in a process of truth and reconciliation for harms inflicted over the course of our nation's settler colonialist history?

CUUC’s Bice Wilson and I invite you to take such an opportunity on Friday evening, November 17, to hear the Voices of our Indigenous Neighbors, the Ramapough Lenape Nation. This film and speaker event features the 2015 documentary American Native and a talk with guest leader Two Clouds. Presented by the Westchester Indigenous Collaboration and hosted by Fourth Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Mohegan Lake, it takes place at 7:00pm at the John C. Hart Library in Shrub Oak, New York.

The Ramapough have a history of intermarriage among the Lenape, Dutch colonial settlers and African Americans dating back to the late 1800’s, and has fought hard to be recognized by the state of New Jersey, but has been denied federal tribal recognition. Their struggles for sovereignty continue and include defending treaty rights around water, land and freedom of religious practice. Although the tribe successfully mounted an environmental justice campaign against Ford Motor Company some time ago, I first learned of the tribe in 2012 as part of 350.org’s “Connect the Dots” climate campaign which highlighted the threat of proposed pipelines to waterways in the Ramapough Mountains. 

Last year, the tribe founded and now maintains the Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp in Mahwah, New Jersey, marked by a teepee erected in solidarity with the Sioux Standing Rock Prayer Camp and Keystone XL Pipeline resistance. The Ramapough’s camp is sited on land gifted to them in the late 1990’s by a local developer, which has long been used for tribal ceremonies and pow-wows. However, as Bice shares, “the tribe is currently under attack by the town of Mahwah, NJ which has sued them in the attempt to force them to stop their worship activities on the land. They need our support."  Bice is already engaged in advising them. What is your part, this congregation’s part, to play?


Let’s talk! We’ll carpool from CUUC, assembling by 6 pm. Join us by emailing me at intern@cucwp.org or signing up on the list at church.