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

2019-08-16

Don't Judge

Practice of the Week
Don't Judge

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.

Adapted from Judith Lief, "Don't Talk About Injured Limbs," and
"Don't Ponder Others;" and Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion,
"Don't Talk About Faults," and "Don't Figure Others Out."

Most of us avoid talking about someone's obvious physical limitations: being wheel-chair bound, on crutches, or missing an arm, say. What about the metaphorical "injured limbs" -- others' limitations of cognitive, emotional, or psychological functioning?

Judith Lief: Don't talk about injured limbs.
Rather than dwelling on what is wrong with people, which only exaggerates and perpetuates their weaknesses, remember that they are doing the best they can. Accept them as they are.

This slogan does not imply that you should not notice the problems or deformities people have, or that you should pretend everything is okay. The point is to examine how you react to such things.

Judging people distances ourselves from them. It’s a subtle rejection of them. Yet we tend to dwell on faults because we are both fascinated and repulsed by other people’s faults, weaknesses, abnormalities.

Combine awareness with acceptance. Take people as they are, no matter what condition they are in. When you see people in this straightforward way, you are not embarrassed by their ugliness, weakness, or infirmity. Instead, you simply meet them where they are.
Norman Fischer: Don't talk about faults.
Suppose for one week you didn’t, under any circumstances, discuss the faults of others. You would probably discover with some shock how much of what you say (and hear) involves in one way or another discussing the faults of others.

Although we all indulge this sort of seemingly innocent judgmentalism, it also makes us nervous. What are the others saying about us when we are not around? Someone who refrained from any complaint about any other person and was consistently supportive and forgiving, would stand out. People would be unusually drawn to such a person.

When someone is being nasty, obnoxious, corrupt, cruel, stupid, or incompetent, speaking of that person's faults in a harsh or critical way doesn't help. It generally makes a bad situation worse. Such criticism makes the person upset, feel attacked, which inspires zir to continue in the same vein.

Everyone who acts or speaks destructively, foolishly, or incompetently is like a person with an injured limb. We don't criticize someone for having an obvious physical injury. Likewise, let us not be critical of the person with an inner injury that is the ultimate cause of zir poor conduct. We can recognize the injury and the limitations that it engenders and respect the person.

Speaking with kindness and warmth to and about a person who has been conditioned by almost all of zir relationships to expect the opposite may cause surprising transformation. Maybe you can’t imagine what the injury would be. But remember: whether you can imagine it or not, there's an injury behind every fault. So condition yourself, little by little, to speak differently. If you need to correct someone, speak with sympathy. Such people need to figure out how to heal their wounds someday, and harsh words will not inspire them, you, or other listeners.
Accept that there is an injury behind every fault. Don't even try to figure out what it is!

Judith Lief: Don't ponder others.
It is easy, entertaining, and totally distracting to muse about what is wrong with everybody else. The habit of faultfinding is part of a larger pattern of insecurity in which we always feel the need to compare ourselves to other people. It is as though we need to convince ourselves that we are okay, which we can only do indirectly, in comparison to people who are less okay.

Strangely, when you are not afraid to uncover your own limitations, and you are not constantly comparing yourself to others, it is a great relief. You no longer have to convince yourself of anything and you have nothing to hide. And when you look at other people, you are not doing so with the ulterior motive of using what you see to prop up your own feeling of superiority and virtue.
Norman Fischer: Don't figure others out.
Think of all the time you spend analyzing and discussing acquaintances, as if you could know what was going on with them, as if you had a real line on them and their problems. Who could ever understand another person? We don’t understand ourselves! There is so much going on in our mind -- all sorts of contradictory and underappreciated phenomena – so how could we possibly fathom what makes another person tick?

Jack Himmelstein (Center for Understanding in Conflict), notes:
"We judge ourselves by our intentions; we judge others by the effects of their actions on us."
This is one reason we so often come out on the righteous side of our conflicts: we think we know our own inmost intentions (and we are often wrong); we assume the intentions of others based on our understanding of their outward acts (and we are usually wrong).

Instead, when you find yourself thinking about someone else's motives, needs, or feelings, catch yourself and remember that you don't really know what someone else is thinking or feeling, so you are better off assuming ze is doing zir best and that everyone is on the same human journey you are on. Maybe at the moment zir journey is leading zir down some nasty dark alley ways. Practicing this slogan, repeating it to ourselves frequently, even in the midst of controversy with others, trains the mind to recall that we know little of what is in our own heart, let alone someone else’s.

Yes, there are times when it may be a good idea to try to imagine what someone else is feeling, thinking, needing, or wanting. Doing that in the light of this slogan means doing it with humility, knowing that we may be mistaken.
Practice

As you go about your day, with the people you encounter, pay attention to what comes up in your mind. Pay particular attention to the qualities of comparison mind and faultfinding mind. What is the difference between simply seeing a flaw and dwelling on it or using it to prop yourself up?

* * *

2019-08-09

Try Hard, Not Too Hard

Practice of the Week
Try Hard, Not Too Hard

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.

Adapted from Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion, "Don't Be a Phony," and "Don't Be Tricky," and Judith Lief, "Change Your Attitude, but Remain Natural," and "Don't Act with a Twist."

Click the picture for a video that
humorously illustrates the egoism
of trying too hard.

Try hard, not too hard. In other words, don't make too many rules for yourself, don't take yourself or your practice too seriously, and be attentive to ways that the ego hijacks the spiritual project.

A commitment to spiritual training often, at first, makes a person very kind but maybe a little stiff, a little too deliberate about everything one does, very mindful about everything If you go to a monastery, you'll notice that the newer monastics are like this: very careful with the forms, very precise, very polite, perfect, and stiff. They are clearly trying hard, which is appropriate. It takes time to learn how to try hard without trying too hard.

One way trying too hard may manifest is having lots of rules for yourself. If you're going to revolutionize your life, please do. But don't impose a rigid, artificial regimen on yourself. Don't be a phony. In fact, as you go on, you begin to see that the spiritual process is exactly the opposite of this: that you've been imposing a regimen on yourself all of your life, you took it to be yourself-and now finally you can stop, you can relax, you don't have to impress anyone, especially yourself.

So when you notice you're imposing something on yourself and your efforts to be good feel like a straitjacket, then try this slogan: "Lighten up, relax, maybe go to a movie, have a glass of wine, don't try so hard, maybe there's something good on TV."

Trying too hard also manifests as an exaggerated sense of the seriousness and importance of ourselves and our practice. Most of us have the attitude that we are more important than others. This is our default position, and deeply ingrained, although it’s embarrassing and we don’t like to admit it. Mind training is all about changing that fundamental stance. It takes effort to radically shift our attitude so that our concern for the welfare of others pops up first, rather than a distant second.

This kind of attitude adjustment seems like a pretty big deal, but it is important not to get caught up in the big-dealness. Spiritual practice has an odd way of combining radical challenges with the encouragement to just relax. Taking your spiritual growth seriously might prompt exhibitionism or spiritual posturing. Don’t let that happen! Get over yourself and just relax. Meet the challenge humbly -- through small but consistent moves in the direction of awareness and loving kindness.

Trying too hard results from ulterior motives sneaking in. We try hard to cultivate altruism deeply and seriously -- not for ulterior purposes such as to win friends and influence people (though it is wonderful to have friends, and if we can influence people for the good, this is worthwhile). Rather, spiritual practice comes from a conviction, based on long reflection, that the cultivation of altruism is simply the best, truest, and most satisfying way to live. Yet egoistic motives are not easily eradicated. Look closely at yourself and see whether, in fact, in some subtle way you are trying to gain all sorts of advantages and points by being a nice person others will admire. Probably you do have this motivation, at least in part. We all do.

Others may think it's wonderful and admirable to seriously take up a spiritual path. They may express the wish they had the time and the discipline to do it, people who will admire you if you meditate, do yoga, if you are wise and healthy and a vegetarian. So in certain circles we can be quite proud of our spiritual efforts, and we can get a lot of credit for them (though many other people view meditation and spiritual practice as a bunch of hooey, the province of the pious or naïve).

We may seek to develop compassion – but maybe we are only doing so as a tool for our own benefit. We keep track of our acts of kindness and our moments of awareness as demonstrations of how we ourselves are progressing. Instead of genuinely opening our heart, we go through the motions. Then we look around to make sure that our benevolence is properly noticed and admired. Other people are props for our self-development project.

When we peek through our self-satisfaction and self-deception and notice the pride we have been generating in ourselves for our fine spiritual efforts, we should simply admit it, and be able to laugh at, and forgive, ourselves. Selfish motivation is perfectly normal, and we will always be dealing with it. Notice this and be real about it. There’s no need to be bothered by it. Don’t be fooled by it either.

Trying hard means that when egoistic motives arise in your heart, take an honest and lighthearted look at yourself and be ready to forgive yourself for your natural foibles. Trying too hard, however, can give rise to regret and self-blame for having those natural egoistic motives.

When we aren't trying too hard, we do not "act with a twist" -- the "twist" being the egoism behind our efforts to appear to have compassion, kindness, wisdom, and spiritual insight. When we aren't trying too hard, our words and actions are not "sticky." They are straightforward, with no hidden schemes attached. When we practice meditation or otherwise develop compassion, we have no thought that we’re getting anything out of it. Instead, moment by moment, as each new situation arises, we work with it as best we can and then we let it go.

Ironically, moving from selfishness to concern for others starts with being honestly selfish. When such selfishness is hidden, that underground force colors everything you do, and you can’t help but "act with a twist." But each time you expose it, you are diminishing its power. Letting go of those selfish motives, we can stop trying too hard and relax.

Practice

Notice how often what you do is based on “What’s in it for me?” Rather than try to hide that, bring it into the open.

* * *

2019-08-03

Expand Your Reality

Practice of the Week
Expand Your Reality

Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.


The medium-sized world (of stuff we can see) makes sense to us. Parts fit together nicely into wholes, and we experience moments of clarity and understanding. On the micro-level, however, the logic that serves us well in the middle-sized world falls to pieces. Reality turns out to be far more bizarre than we had previously imagined -- and far more amazing too. Considering these ideas can be a journey into awe and wonder.

What are you made of? Mostly empty space. The atoms – that make molecules that make cells that make tissues that make you -- are mostly nothing. If the nucleus of an atom were a grain of rice lying in the middle of Times Square, the rest of Times Square represents the space in which the electrons of that atom exist.

Our perception of ourselves as solid discrete entities is an illusion. At the atomic level, there is no boundary, no division between you and the rest of the universe.

Physicists now believe that this open space isn't entirely empty. It's frothing with energy and virtual particles that flit into and out of existence constantly. This luminous void exists within each of us, all the time.

Moving out to the largest macro scale, outer space isn't quite so empty either. The possibilities of dark energy and dark matter are throwing monkey wrenches into our understanding of the universe.

The implications of our new understanding of reality both at the subatomic and intergalactic scales are overflowing with majesty and wonder. Some might call it Holy, Sacred Mystery. This Mystery transcends religious boundaries and human divisions, including the divide between those who call themselves religious and those who do not.

Mystery itself seems to be built into the fabric of the universe. Werner Heisenberg discovered it is impossible to know both the velocity and location of a particle with any precision. Knowing one changes the other. There is always an unknown. Even more bizarre is the fact that the observer affects the existence of the observed. If all this isn't enough for you, toss in the possibility of multiple universes, eleven (or more) dimensions on top of the four we experience, the curvature of space time, and a little relativity just for fun. Are you not boggled?

Practices

1. Unity Visualization. Sit comfortably in a place where you will be undisturbed for fifteen minutes or so. Start out looking at your hand. See the texture of your skin. Imagine that you are looking at it through a microscope, closer and closer, deeper into the layers. At this point, close your eyes. Visualize seeing your skin in close detail, and slowly increase the magnification of your imaginary microscope. Now you can see your cells. Going closer, you can see the nucleus and all the organelles working in harmony. Zooming in on the nucleus, you can see your chromosomes and then your DNA. Closer still, you see the twisted ladder of the double helix. Go closer. You see open space, and the tiny nucleus of an individual atom. Imagine this space filled with virtual particles flitting into and out of existence. Moving closer, you see the protons and neutrons of the nucleus. As you observe them, you notice them slowly changing, and a star takes their place. Backing out a bit, you now see a galaxy, then another. Stay here for a while. See the harmony of it all, the beauty. When you are ready, come back to the present, and slowly open your eyes. Reflect on your experience in your journal.

2. The Unknowable Path. First, do the “Many Paths and Possibilities" practice (HERE). Looking at what you wrote and reviewing the paths you didn't take, reflect on the idea that the outcomes you presume from any given path are unknowable. As you look back at your outcomes, imagine a different one. How else might it have gone? Try to picture several scenarios. It might have been better or worse than you envisioned, but it is an unknowable mystery. With a spirit of gentleness toward yourself, release all the possibilities, let go of any regrets, and spend some time writing about the unknowns in your own life.

3. Shape of the Unknown. Consider the mysterious virtual particles and mysterious energies that physicists believe exist in the open spaces within an atom. How do you imagine them? Do they hold any meaning for you? Using any media that you like—sculpture, painting, or even dance-create your vision of this unknown, yet oddly intimate aspect of your world. Call to mind the fact that all this Mystery resides within you at this very moment.

Group Activities

Unity Visualization. Try the “Unity Visualization," described above, with a few enhancements for your group. Begin the session by playing some soft, relaxing music that can play through the entire session if desired. Allow participants to settle in, slowly breathe, and relax for several minutes before beginning. The leader should then slowly guide the group through the visualization, allowing time at each new level of imagining. Afterward, gently guide the group back to the present moment. Pause, and then allow participants to stretch and move a little before sharing their perceptions of the experience with each other.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • The subatomic and macroscopic worlds exist simultaneously. How do they differ? How does what we call reality depend on what world is being considered?
  • How does our middle-sized world relate to the others? Do the problems we perceive in the everyday world have any relevance or meaning at these other levels of reality?
  • How do the implications of modern physics fit together—or not--with religious traditions and ways of understanding the world? Do some traditions blend with these implications more easily than others? How so?
  • At the atomic level and beyond the division between you and what is not you falls away. Only a continuum of particles exists. Does this change how you perceive and relate to your world and others in it? How?
* * *

2019-06-19

Religious Education: Sun Jun 23

Am I at the Mardi Gras? I’m positive I heard a band playing “When the Saints Come Marching In.” There appears to be a parade filing in the hallway with banners and streamers. Maybe this is a celebration for Father’s Day, but of course it’s not. The Religious Education classes from nursery to 12th grade march into the sanctuary, led by the CUUC Multigen Band playing “When the Kids Go Marching In.” What was I thinking? It’s none other than the annual RE Sunday service! What a special moment, when the children and youth marched proudly in with the banners, I might add, made by them. So much was about to unfold that one wouldn’t know where to start. The scholarship award was most meaningful, with our youth and seniors honored in front of the congregation. Aine Hunt, a graduating senior, was presented with a $250 scholarship and validated that award with her reading about her faith as a UU and how much the RE program has meant to her as well as gave to her. Her words were eloquent and moving and served as a testimony of all she has accomplished and the covenant that she lives every day. Passing of the Peace was another exercise in tolerance, understanding, and kindness as the 4–5 and 6–7 grade students distributed name tag ribbons for our Preferred Pronoun Project. The classes also presented a skit about recycling that demonstrated what they had learned through our Social Justice Sunday programs. Surveys that were completed by students expressed what their favorite things were in RE. The answers were simple, truthful, funny, and ran the gamut from snacks, being with friends, not wanting to get up on Sundays, and well, you get the picture. Out of the mouths of babes, as the saying goes. The Bridging Ceremony was particularly impactful and our high school youth were well represented. Each student had the opportunity to express their gratitude and appreciation for being part of the CUUC RE program as they now move forward in life. This farewell was beautifully expressed in the reading of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go! The Reflection and Appreciation segment of the service provided both Perry and me with an opportunity to not only say goodbye but, more importantly, to publicly recognize and honor our teachers. Perry in five years and me in only one have been honored and privileged to support a team of exceptional individuals. On that note, I applaud Perry for executing this service without any detail overlooked, as he done so well all these years. His ability to assimilate so many crucial responsibilities – faith formation leader, RE director, youth liaison, pastoral counselor, trainer, and mentor – speaks volumes of his lifelong fervor and sensitivity. Living the life of a Unitarian Universalist in all he does, personally and professionally, is as natural as the air he breathes. Thank you doesn’t seem adequate enough for all you have accomplished. There are also special words of gratitude to the RE chairs, Laura Goodspeed and Christine Haran. They have time and time again extended themselves in this experimental year, if you will, assuring the continuation and ongoing success of the RE program. They are shining examples of those who put their beliefs and dedication above even their personal needs. What a pleasure it has been to work with you.
Well, now I come to the part of my monologue that sadly is my last weekly RE synopsis. Through this writing vehicle I have been given the liberty of recapping all the RE and CUUC events, celebrations, successes, and more. Moreover, I was able to speak to everyone as though I was speaking to each of you individually. Perhaps that is why my weekly discourses have felt so personal and intimate as I shared my feelings and thoughts.
As I mentioned at the service, my tenure here has been a remarkable journey. It would not have been such if not for the support, faith, and confidence you have so generously bequeathed me. For this I am most humbled and grateful. My sincerest thanks to the Board of Trustees, Rev. Garmon, Pam Parker, RE Council, teachers, and entire congregation.
I have always held dear the belief that in leaving any professional position or even contemplating leaving this planet, I would not wish people to remember me by what I said or did, but how I made them feel. You in turn, have done that for me. I am in possession of my very own wonder box and every time I open it, I will feel special. Thank you!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

Summer Services at CUUC
Summer Services start this Sun Jun 23. Families may attend worship together. Our nursery is staffed for young children. Regular services and religious education classes resume Sun Sep 8.

“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:

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?

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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: