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2014-12-30

CUC Music: Sun Jan 4


In keeping with the monthly theme of Justice, Sunday morning music for January at CUC features works by composers affected by struggles for social, political or professional equality. The music performed on January 4 is all by gay composers, who contended with personal discrimination and professional challenges because of their sexual orientation. Come at 10am for Music for All Ages, where we will discuss connections between personal identity and artistic creation.
Read on for programming details.

Prelude:
Music for All Ages: Can You Tell Who I Am from My Music?
Mouvements perpétuels                        Francis Poulenc
            I. Assez modéré
            III. Alerte
Adam Kent , piano
Opening Music:
Threshing Song from Murcia                        Joaquin Nin-Culmell

Interlude:
Four Anniversaries                                    Leonard Bernstein
I.               For Felicia Montealegre

Offertory:
January: Fireside Fantasy, Op. 37, No. 1                        Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

2014-12-25

Fill the Hole in Your Heart

Practice of the Week
Fill the Hole in Your Heart
“It is said that there are two ways to deal with pain. One is to shut your heart off so it won’t be hurt; the other is to open it bigger to allow more love to find it.” (Stewart Snyder)
* * *

Rick Hanson on filling the hole in your heart:


Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE]:

As we grow up and then move through adulthood, we all have normal needs for safety, fulfillment, and love. For example, children need to feel secure, adolescents need a growing sense of autonomy, and young adults need to feel attractive and worthy of romantic love. When these needs are met by various "supplies" -- such as the caring of a parent, the trust of a teacher, the love of a mate -- the positive experiences that result then sink in to implicit memory to become resources for well-being, self-regulation, resilience, self-worth, and skillful action. This is how healthy psychological development is supposed to work.

But it doesn't always go this way, doe it? In the lives of most people (me included) -- even without any kind of significant mistreatment, trauma, or abuse -- the incoming stream of supplies has sometimes been a thin soup: perhaps your parents were busy caring for a sick sibling or preoccupied with their own needs and conflicts, or you moved a lot as a kid and had a hard time connecting with peers, or high school was more than the usual social nightmare, or potential lovers were uninterested, or jobs have been frustrating and dispiriting, or . . . in other words, a typical life.

The shortages in a thin soup leave lacks, deficits, in key internal resources. For example, I was a year or two younger than my classmates, which led to a shortage of inclusion and valuing from them, which in turn led to a lack of confidence and sense of worth in groups that persisted into adulthood. The absence of good things naturally has consequences.

And so does the presence of bad ones. When blows land -- when there is loss, misreatement, rejection, abandonment, misfortune, or trauma -- they leave wounds. Sometimes these heal fully, usually due to a rich soup of supplies. But often they don't, leaving pockets of unresolved emotional pain like pus beneath a scab, while also affecting a person's functioning like a lifelong limp from a broken ankle that never fully mended.

A lack or a wound will leave "a hole in your heart" -- which gets even deeper when the two exacerbate each other. For example, I vividly recall the time a popular girl in high school really put me down; it was a minor blow in its own right, but my years of social isolation had left me with no shields or shock absorbers to buffer its impact, which was to make me feel awful about myself for a long time afterward.

So what can you do about your own lacks and wounds? You've got them; we all do. Life alone can be healing: time passes, you put more distance each year between yourself and the train wreck of your early childhood, seventh grade, first great love, last job, last marriage, or whatever, and you move on to a better place. But this essentially passive process of being carried by life is often not enough for a real healing: it's too slow, or it doesn't reach down deep enough, or key ingredients are missing.

Then you need to actively fill the hole in your heart.

How

It's fundamentally simple: you take in good experiences (see previous practice of the week, "Take in the Good" -- CLICK HERE) that are specifically aimed at your own lacks and wounds. It's like being a sailor with scurvy: you need vitamin C—not vitamin E—for what ails you. For example, I felt both protected and independent as a child, so experiences of safety and autonomy as an adult—while valuable in their own right—did not address my issue: I needed the particular healing balm of experiences of inclusion and respect in groups.

Consequently, it's important to know what your own vitamin C is (and sometimes a person needs more than one kind). Perhaps you already know, but if not, here are some questions to help you find out: When your lacks or wounds developed, what would have made all the difference in the world? What do you long for today? What conditions help you feel truly happy—and bring out the best in you? What sort of experiences feed and soothe a deep hunger inside?

More specifically, here's a summary of some healing experiences—"vitamins"—targeted for particular lacks and wounds, organized in terms of the three motivational systems in your brain:



Lack or Wound
Vitamin
Avoiding Harms
Weakness, helplessness
Strength, efficacy


Alarm, anxiety
Safety, security


Resentment,
Compassion for

anger
oneself and others

Approaching
Frustration,
Satisfaction,
Rewards
disappointment
fulfillment


Sadness,
Gladness,

discontentment,
gratitude

"blues"


Attaching to "Us"
Not seen,
Attunement,

rejected, left out
inclusion


Inadequacy,
Recognition,

shame
acknowledgement


Abandonment,
Friendship, love

feeling unloved

Once you have some clarity about the psychological vitamins you need, the rest is straightforward:
  • Look for these vitamins in your life; also do what you can to create or increase them. For example, I keep my eyes open for opportunities to feel liked and appreciated in groups, plus I prod myself to join groups to create those opportunities.
  • The vitamin you need is an experience, not an event. The point of situations in which you are protected, successful, or appreciated is to feel safe, fulfilled, and worthy. This is hopeful, because it gives you many ways to evoke key experiences. For example, if feeling that you matter to others is what will fill the hole in your heart, you could: look for signs that others wish you well, whether it's the smile of someone making you a sandwich in a deli, the encouragement of a coworker, or a lover's hug; think about the many people in your life today or in your past who like and appreciate you; ask your partner to be affectionate (and be open to hearing what would help him or her to do this); try to develop more relationships with people who are by nature warm and supportive.
  • Be willing to get a slice of the pie if the alternative is no pie at all. For instance, if you finish a tough project at work, focus on the sense of accomplishment for everything you got done rather than on a few loose ends; if a friend is warm and loyal, open to feeling cared about even if what you really want is romantic love.
  • Then, using the second and third steps of taking in the good (CLICK HERE), really savor the positive experience for ten or more seconds in a row while sensing that it is sinking down into you, giving you what you've always needed. 
  • Have confidence that every time you do this, you'll be wiring resources into your brain. When I started this practice myself, in my early twen¬ties, the hole in my heart looked like the con¬struction site for a skyscraper. But I just kept tossing a few bricks—a few experiences of feeling included—into that hole every day. One brick alone will make little difference, but brick after brick, day after day, year after year, you really can fill even a very big hole in your heart!
For Journaling

What is the "vitamin" you need? Outline your strategy for supplying that "vitamin" to yourself.

* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Feel Safer"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2014-12-22

CUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Dec 21

The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment, comes the light. – Joseph Campbell

Today we reflected on light and dark given that it was the winter’s solstice. The birds must have known it was a holiday, for they were not going about their usual routines. The cloudy and dark day might also have influenced the avian activity. We only had 9 species this morning, and though it was a bit cold, 6 human birders. As we walked around the grounds we paused and shared what the shortest day of the year means to us (other than there having so few birds!).
We did have one another, and even with so few birds (did I mention there weren’t many birds?), we could find gratitude in the chance to see the light of our shared time together.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
– Albert Camus

Please join us for our next bird walk, Sunday, January 18th, 2015 – it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. Accordingly our theme will be justice in a multispecies world. The bird walk will go on regardless of the weather, for we have the Parsonage, a fire, and each other as we watch the birds at the feeder.

LoraKim

Today’s sightings:

11 Mourning doves
2 House Sparrow
3 Black-capped Chickadee
33 Canada Geese
1 White-breasted nuthatch
1 House finch
1 Hairy woodpecker
6 Cardinals
3 White-throated sparrows

2014-12-18

Feel Safer

Practice of the Week
Feel Safer
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” (Maya Angelou)
* * *
Rick Hanson on feeling safer:


Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE]:

Consider these two mistakes:
  1. You think there's a tiger in the bushes, but actually there isn't one.
  2. You think there's no tiger in the bushes, but actually one is about to pounce.
Most of us make the first mistake much more often than the second one, for several reasons:
  • Evolution has given us an anxious brain. In order to survive and pass on genes, it's better to make the first mistake a thousand times rather than make the second mistake even once; the cost of the first mistake is fear for no reason, but the cost of the second mistake could be death.
  • This general tendency in the human brain is exacerbated by temperament—some people are naturally more anxious than others—and by life experiences (e.g., growing up in a dangerous neighborhood, experiencing trauma).
  • Saturated with media, news about murders, disasters, economic turmoil, and horrible things happening to other people sifts into your mind—even though your own local situation is probably much less dangerous.
  • In ways that have been repeated throughout history, political groups try to gain or hold onto power by exaggerating apparent threats.
In effect, most of us have a kind of paper tiger paranoia.

Certainly, it's important to recognize the real tigers in life, which come in many shapes and sizes: perhaps an impending layoff at work, a cough that won't go away, a teenager growing pot in the attic, a friend or coworker who keeps letting you down, or the health risks of smoking cigarettes. Try to notice any tendencies to overlook or minimize tigers, and do what you can about the ones that are real.

Meanwhile, try to recognize the ways that you—like most people—routinely overestimate threats while underestimating the resources inside you and around you. In effect, most of us feel much less safe than we actually are. The unfortunate results include unpleasant feelings of worry and anxiety; not hunkering down and reaching as high and wide as one might; stress-related illnesses; less capacity to be patient or generous with others; and a greater tendency to be snappish or angry (the engine of most aggression is fear). It's not good to feel like it's always Threat Level Orange!

Instead, feel as safe as you reasonably can.

How?

Some people get understandably nervous about feeling safer—since that's when you lower your guard, and things can really smack you. If this applies to you, adapt the suggestions here to your own needs, go at your own pace, and perhaps talk with a friend or counselor.

Further, there is no perfect safety in this life. Each of us will face disease, old age, and death, as well as lesser but still painful experiences. And many of us must deal with unsafe conditions in the community, workplace, or home.

This said, consider in your heart of hearts whether you deserve to feel safer: whether you are more braced against life, more guarded, more cautious, more anxious, more frozen, more appeasing, more rigid, or more prickly than you truly need to be.

If the answer is yes, here are some ways to help yourself feel safer, so that a growing internal sense of calm and confidence will increasingly match the true reality of the people and settings around you:
  • Bring to mind the sense of being with someone who cares about you.
  • Recall a time you felt strong.
  • Recognize that you are in a protected setting.
  • Mentally list some of the resources inside and around you that you could draw on to deal with what life throws you.
  • Take a few breaths with l-o-n-g exhalations, and relax.
  • All the while, keep helping yourself feel more sheltered, more supported, more capable, and safer. And less vigilant, tense, or fearful.
  • Become more aware of what it's like to feel safer, and let those good feelings sink in, so you can remember them in your body and find your way back to them in the future.
You can practice with the methods above in general ways, such as in the morning plus several times a day if you tend to be fearful. Also try them in specific, unsettling situations, like before speaking up in a meeting, driving in traffic, getting on an airplane, or working through a sticky issue with your partner. Being on your own side, help yourself feel at least a little safer, and maybe a lot. Then see what happens. And take it in, again and again, if in fact, as they usually do, things turn out all right.

And there is really no tiger in the bushes after all.

For Journaling

Reflect on the suggested methods for feeling safer. Which ones do you think will probably work best for you? Why?

* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Don't Take It Personally"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2014-12-17

CUC Music: Sun Dec 21

This Sunday’s musical selections feature solo piano works, which capture traditional Christmas songs from different cultures. Spanish composer Joaquín Turina sprinkles the score of his Navidad: Milagro en dos cuadros, Op. 16 (Christmas: A Miracle in Two Pictures) with the following programmatic notes:
“A very narrow street onto which the doors of the Cathedral open. It is snowing heavily. A popular carol is heard. A group of drunkards enters, crossing the scene in song; in their midst walks a little child who falls to the ground. The heavenly retinue appears. The song of the drunkards is heard from afar. An angel stumbles upon the child; the group pauses. The child sits up and beholds the Virgin extending Her arms. He rubs his eyes….he beholds the Child Jesus. He arises as if in a trance. Two angels take the child and bring him with the heavenly retinue. The scene grows totally dark. The celestial choir appears, full of poor people and beggars. Behind them, a great illuminated city.”
Unitarian composer Béla Bartók furnishes a set of ten diminutive arrangements of Christmas carols from Rumania, known as Colinde, and traditional Christmas carols from other European traditions make their way into Franz Liszt’s The Christmas Tree, composed for his granddaughter. Also included are an arrangement of Catalonia’s ubiquitous Christmas carol El cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds), and a selection from Russian composer Vladimir Rebikov’s ballet The Christmas Tree.
Read on for more programming details:

“Christmas Around the World”
Piano Music by Adam Kent

Prelude:
Navidad: Milagro en dos cuadros, Op. 16
Segundo cuadro
Joaquín Turina

Rumanian Christmas Carols, First Series
Béla Bartók

Psallite! From The Christmas Tree
Franz Liszt

Opening Music:
The Song of the Birds
Traditional Catalan Christmas Carol, arr. by Joaquín Nin-Culmell

Interlude:
Waltz from The Christmas Tree
Vladimir Rebikov

Offertory:
Adeste Fideles From The Christmas Tree
Franz Liszt

2014-12-11

Don't Take It Personally

Practice of the Week
Don't Take It Personally
“Don't Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.” (Miguel Angel Ruiz)
* * *
Rick Hanson on not taking it personally:


Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE]:

Here's an updated parable from the ancient Taoist teacher Chuang-Tzu: Imagine that you are floating in a canoe on a slow-moving river, having a Sunday picnic with a friend. Suddenly there is a loud thump on the side of the canoe, and it rolls over. You come up sputtering, and what do you see? Somebody has snuck up on your canoe, flipped it over for a joke, and is laughing at you. How do you feel?

Okay. Now imagine the exact same situation again: the picnic in a canoe, loud thump, dumped into the river, com¬ing up sputtering, and what do you see? A large submerged log has drifted downstream and bumped into your canoe. This time, how do you feel?

The facts are the same in each case: cold and wet, picnic ruined. But when you think you've been targeted personally, you probably feel worse. The thing is, most of what bumps into us in life—including emotional reactions from others, traffic jams, illness, or mistreatment at work—is like an impersonal log put in motion by ten thousand causes upstream.

Say a friend is surprisingly critical toward you. It hurts, for sure, and you'll want to address the situation, from talking about it with the friend to disengaging from the relationship.

But also consider what may have caused that person to bump into you, such as misinterpretations of your actions; health problems, pain, worries or anger about things unrelated to you; temperament, personality, childhood experiences; the effects of culture, economy, or world events; and causes back upstream in time, like how his or her parents were raised.

Recognize the humbling yet wonderful truth: most of the time, we are bit players in other people's dramas.

When you look at things this way, you naturally get calmer, put situations in context, and don't get so caught up in me-myself-and-I. Then you feel better, plus more clearheaded about what to do.

How

To begin with, have compassion for yourself. Getting smacked by a log is a drag. Also take appropriate action. Keep an eye out for logs heading your way, try to reduce their impact, and repair your "boat"—relationship, health, finances, career—as best you can. And maybe think about
finding a new river!

Additionally:
  • Notice when you start to take something personally. Be mindful of what that feels like—and also what it feels like to relax the sense of being personally targeted.
  • Be careful about making assumptions about the intentions of others. Maybe they didn't do it "on purpose." Or maybe there was one not-so-good purpose aimed at you that was mixed up with a dozen other purposes.
  • Reflect on some of the ten thousand causes upstream. Ask yourself: What else could be in play here? What's going on inside the other person's mind and life? What's the bigger picture?
  • Beware getting caught up in your "case" about other people, driven by an inner prosecutor that keeps pounding on all the ways they're wrong, spoke badly, acted unfairly, picked on you, really really harmed you, made you suffer, etc., etc. It's good to see others clearly, and there's a place for moral judgment—but case-making is a kind of obsessing that makes you feel worse and more likely to overreact and create an even bigger problem.
  • Try to have compassion for the other people. They're probably not all that happy, either. Your compassion for them will not weaken you or let them off the moral hook; actually, it will make you feel better.
  •  If you like, explore relaxing the sense of self—of I and me and mine—in general. For example, notice the difference between "there are sounds" and "I am hearing," or between "there are thoughts" and "I am thinking." Observe how the sense of self ebbs and flows, typically increasing when there are problems to solve and decreasing as you experience calm and well-being. This fluidity of "me" in the mind correlates with dynamic and fleeting activations in the brain; self-related thoughts are constructed all over the brain, tumbling and jostling with other thoughts, unrelated to self, in the neural substrates of the stream of consciousness (Gilliham and Farah 2005; Legrand and Ruby 2009). Appreciate that "I" is more of a process than an ability: a "selfing." Enjoy the ease and openness that emerge as the sense of self recedes.
And—really soak up the sense of strength and peace¬fulness that comes from taking life less personally.

For Journaling

Recall an incident when you did take something personally. Write about what that felt like. Then imagine yourself relaxing the sense of being personally targeted. Further, imagine a scenario in which there were causes that made the other person's behavior perfectly understandable. Now what are you feeling?

* * *

Previous Practice of the Week: "Respond, Don't React"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2014-12-10

CUC Music: Sun Dec 14

This Sunday, CUC’s Choir will be on hand to perform “Hope” by Greg Gilpin and an aria from Giancarlo Menotti’s Christmas-miracle opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, a work they will perform in its entirety at our special holiday concert next Sunday, December 21 at 1pm.

Joaquin Turina (1882-1949)
In addition, Spanish composer Joaquín Turina’s Danzas fantásticas, originally composed for piano and later orchestrated, express December’s theme of Hope in their numerous outbursts of joy of excitement, which seem to well up from evocations of mystery and despair. The composer prefaced each dance with a quote from the Spanish novelist José Mas as follows:

Exaltación:
“It seemed as if the figures in that incomparable picture were moving within the calyx of a flower.”
Ensueño:
“The strings of the guitar sounded like the lamentation of a soul that could no longer bear the weight of bitterness.”
Orgía:
“The scent of flowers mixed with the aroma of Manzanilla, and from the bottom of the slender glasses, full of incomparable wine like an incense, joy arose.”
Click here to preview these piano works in a performance by CUC Music Director Adam Kent from Burgos, Spain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4d0a6aYJTQ. See below for more program details.



Prelude
Danzas fantásticas -- II. Ensueño and III. Orgía
Joaquín Turina
Played by Adam Kent, piano

Choral Anthem
Hope
music by Greg Gilpin, lyrics by Pamela Stewart
Sung by CUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas

Offertory
Danzas fantásticas -- I. Exaltación
Joaquín Turina
Played by Adam Kent, piano

Choral Anthem
“This is my box”
from Amahl and the Night Visitors
Gian Carlo Menotti
Sung by
Amahl, Carla Fisher
His Mother, Mary Lane Cobb
Kaspar , Ernie Kennedy
Balthazar, Boris Morocho
Melchior, Matt Haines

2014-12-09

Virunga : Movie and Discussion



3:00pm - 5:30pm

Sat Jan 10, 2015


One of our community ministers, Rev. LoraKim Joyner, will host this movie and discussion about the literal fight to save the mountain gorillas of the Congo.  The New York Times reports that the movie showcases, "the best and the worst in human nature."  Conservation indeed compels us to reflect upon what it means to be human in a multispecies world, for we are both the cause and cure for what threatens this earth and her beings.   How are we to engage in the complexity of change given the hardships and challenges for conserving other species, including ourselves?  Let us gather together and find a way, the Conservationist's Way, where we save ourselves and the world.  This movie guides us along the path, as does LoraKim as she brings to the discussion over 28 years of front line conservation work in Central America. Bring movie snacks and beverages to share.

2014-12-03

Music: Sun Dec 7

Join us on Sunday, December 7 at 10am for Music for All Ages, our monthly music appreciation forum including children from the Religious Education program. This week, “You’ve Got Rhythm!” will explore perceptions of time in music and in life. A performance of Ernesto Halffter’s “Dance of the Shepherdess” will be included (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4hq1Ps2GIM for a talk and performance of the piece by Adam Kent):



CUC’s Choir is on hand as well with two inspirational anthems, and the morning’s Offertory music includes solo piano selections evocative of the animal world. Read on for programming details.

Adam Kent, piano and speaker

Music for All Ages:
“You’ve Got Rhythm!”
"Danza de la pastora" (Dance of the Shepherdess)
Ernesto Halffter

Offertory:
"The Leader of the Golden Tortoises"
"The Little White Donkey"
Jacques Ibert

Choral Music by CUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"
John Rutter

"Down To The River To Pray"
Traditional American Hymn, arr. by Roger Emerson