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2015-12-30

Gratitude for the Sources of Your Resistance

Practice of the Week
Give Thanks to the Someone for Your Resistance

First, in your life, what have you resisted that you're now glad or proud you resisted?
  • bad advice about how you should live your life
  • social or peer pressures to do or be what wasn't right (at least not for you)
  • a stultifying pattern, job, or relationship
  • a social injustice
Second, recall some particular person or people who made resistance possible for you. Someone
  • stood beside you as you stood against the status quo
  • helped remind you that the arc really can be bent
  • invited you into a vision of an entirely new day
  • made you feel like a one of a kind rather than a misfit
  • helped you resist the pressures to follow the herd
  • picked you up for the protests
  • taught the class that opened your eyes
  • wrote the poem that inspired you
  • made a sacrifice that moved your heart
  • showed courage that rubbed off on you
  • told you that you were precious
  • made you feel like you weren’t in the fight alone
Thank them! That’s it. This week's practice is to find a way to thank them and tell them how they made your resistance possible. Let them know what a gift it was.

By expressing gratitude for the help we had in past resistance, we prepare the way for further resistance:
  • against new pressures that aren't right, 
  • against deadening patterns that remain or recur
  • at a higher level against social injustice.
  • to help others find the strength to resist what needs resisting
* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Surrender"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2015-12-29

CUUC Music: Sun Jan 3


Innovative, personal, and always human, the music of Ludwig van Beethoven illustrates January’s theme of Resistance. Consider arriving at 10am for a Music for All Ages presentation on the composer, the disability he transcended, and the fiery, triumphant music he composed. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Music for All Ages with Adam Kent
Beethoven’s Resistance: A Family-Friendly Interactive Discussion Including a Performance of the Presto agitato from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor.
Opening Music:
Bagatelle in E-flat Major, Op. 33, No. 1
                                                Beethoven

Offertory:
Adagio sostenuto from Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2
                                                Beethoven
Interlude:
Bagatelle in B Minor, Op. 126, No. 4
                                                Beethoven

2015-12-22

Surrender

Practice of the Week
Surrender

A saying from the theist traditions:
“Let go and let God.”
Some of us are more comfortable with the phrase than others. But all of us -- theist, atheist or somewhere in between -- benefit from letting go of the idea that we can do it all on our own.

The famous third step of Alcoholics Anonymous is
“[we] make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.”
Or trust in the universe. Surrender to an order of things that you did not make. As Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata" tells us:
"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
Things do hold together, and the forces that hold things together carry us along as well. It is as if the laws of nature were themselves a Love that will not let us go.
"Let tomorrow come tomorrow. Not by your will is the house carried through the night." (Wendell Berry)
Can you surrender? Let go of the impulse to try to control? Let things happen instead of trying to make them happen? Harmonize with the music around you instead of trying to direct it?

This week's practice is to stretch your capacity to surrender -- to take joy in the grace that is given, unearned and undeserved.

Part 1. Meditate on this video. Watch and listen to it numerous times.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_7XIKVgRGY


Thank you for your mercy.
Would've been lost if you hadn't seen me.
You've brought me to the end of myself.
This has been the longest road.
Just when my hallelujah was tired,
You gave me a new song.
I'm letting go. I'm letting go.
I'm letting go -- Falling into You.
I confess I still get scared sometimes,
But perfect love comes rushing in,
And all the lies screamed inside go silent
The moment You begin.
Now I'm letting go. I'm letting go.
I'm letting go -- Falling into You.
You remind me of things forgotten.
You unwind me until I'm totally undone.
And with Your arms around me, fear was no match for Your love
Now You've won me.
With your arms around me, I can let it all go.
You're the safest place to let it all go.
Now I'm letting go. I'm letting go.
I'm letting go -- Falling into You.
Part 2. Let the song take you where you need to go. If the musician’s theist perspective speaks to you, lean into it and let it take you deeper than you could on your own. If it doesn’t resonate with your theological stance, work with and translate it until you make a connection in your own unique way. Surrender may ultimately be more a matter of feeling our way into it than thinking our way into it. Let this video offer you that gift.

Part 3. Journal about what comes up for you through this exercise. What new feeling arises about where your journey is calling you to go? What are you called to do next?

* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Letting Go of White-Centeredness"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

CUUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Dec 20


 



Today's theme was the solstice, which means in its Latin roots, "stand sill."

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 was just one day before the solstice, so we reflected upon the themes of light and dark, and the day's turning once again to length.  Not until January 13th though do the days began to warm up again.  For today, and for the rest of this holiday week, the weather remains reasonably warm. Despite the mild weather, the birds, perhaps to honor solstice, were quiet and still today.  A flock of Canada geese did greet us at one point as they flew over, but mostly the birds took their cues from one another, being led perhaps by the puffed up very still blue jay to the quite cold looking downy woodpecker at the end of the walk.  By the time of the service, however, the birds had started moving and we had a nice flock of chickadees, titmice, and juncos foraging around the western windows.

Our next bird walk on the grounds is January 17th, Sunday,  at 8:30 a.m. beginning at the Parsonage.  Even if you can't make the earlier bird walk, we record sightings of all birds seen on CUUC grounds until 1 p.m. on each Sunday.  For more information, or to report bird sightings on the grounds, please do contact me.

In hope for all life,

Rev. LoraKim Joyner
amoloros@gmail.com

Here's the species list for the day: - 51 individuals of 12 avian species, 1 rodent species, and one ape species.
Canada Goose
11
Cooper's Hawk
1
Mourning Dove
15
Red-bellied Woodpecker
1
Downy Woodpecker
1
Blue Jay
1
Black-capped Chickadee
4
Tufted Titmouse
2
American Robin
4
European Starling
3
Dark-eyed Junco
3
Northern Cardinal
5

4 Gray squirrels (except they were all black)

4 Humans

2015-12-17

Letting Go of White-Centeredness

Practice of the Week
Let Go of White-Centeredness

Letting go is ultimately about letting in. Multicultural competence is also about letting in: making more room for the perspective and experience of others.

This is complicated -- often painfully complex. Finding ways to de-center whites is a challenge for both whites and people of color. For instance, even the act of raising awareness of white privilege can unintentionally marginalize the perspectives and experience of people of color. For part 1 of this practice, consider this issue as explained by activist Austin Channing:

"White Privilege Weariness"
by Austin Channing
I am standing in the infamous white privilege line. Our class has answered all the activity's questions one by one. As usual the White participants are grouped at one end of the room, the Black and Latino participants at the other end. In between stands a handful of Asian participants. The facilitator asks a series of questions, mostly directed at the group of White participants. Their conversation continues... and continues... and continues. After a few minutes, I notice all of our bodies have naturally turned to reinforce the focus of the conversation between the White participants. The people of color form a quiet outer circle, glancing at each other as the conversation continues largely without us. One of the young women next to me raises her hand; she is too far away to be noticed. Remaining unseen, she gives up. As she lowers her hand, I suddenly become very weary.

Let me pause here to note that this is not a critique of the facilitator nor the activity. I myself have led the white privilege conversation more times than I can count. I've led it. I've chosen it. I've started and ended classes with it. I've done it with young people and elderly people. I've done it when the racial mix is huge and when I'm the only person of color in the room. I am quite sure I have facilitated the resulting conversation well some days but from a place of hurt and bitterness on others. My weariness is not from being tired at the activity itself.

My weariness is rooted in realizing how often starting the race conversation with white privilege automatically centers the experience of white folks. On the day mentioned above, I so clearly saw how focusing on white privilege filled the space. There was no room left for the stories, the experiences, the realities of people of color except in service to the education of white folks. We almost served as more of a comparative study than live humans standing on the opposite side of the room.

How often have you been in a room where the feelings of white people take priority? Do they feel guilt or shame? Are we making them feel guilt or shame? How uncomfortable are they? Is the room safe for them? Do they get it? In the natural occurrence of asking these questions, people of color have a tendency to become background music to the story being created for white people. As a result people of color must manage their own expectations, emotions, language, questions, frustrations. I think the trauma of racism (and recalling it during these sessions) is severely underestimated. It is such work, such risk for people of color to enter spaces created with the purpose of serving white people.

So here's what I've been contemplating. Is it possible for us to talk about race, even white privilege, without making white people the center? I wonder if it's possible to bring the narratives of people of color to the center, to hold them for their own sake. I'm trying to recall if I have ever experienced a workshop/training that sought healing for people of color rather than education for white people. Isn't it weird that white people would experience such privilege even when trying to make them aware of that same privilege? One day I would like to try hosting a workshop where people of color tell their stories, and thats it. Period.

Where people of color talk, vent, laugh, cry and affirm one another's racial realities.

Where white people don't talk, don't justify, don't question.

Where white people are given different rules that require seeking permission to participate.

Where white people are expected to connect the dots themselves, to own their learning, to manage their emotions.

I wonder if white privilege could be taught by eliminating even the small privileges/rules that typically serve white folks well in a classroom setting.

This is not an exercise intended to be mean or to make white people feel awful. Nor is it an exercise to minimize the stories and experiences of white people. I just want to spend a little more time asking myself what it would be like for the priority to be reversed. Rather than judging the success of my training on whether or not white people walked away understanding privilege; could I define success based on the emotional energy of people of color after the training is done? Could I so center the experience of people of color that they walk away feeling some measure of healing, of energy, of understanding about themselves and each other? Could they leave more alive then when they came?

I often lead with conversations on white privilege because I work with predominately white institutions. It kinda feels obvious. However, I am beginning to believe that this reality makes it even more important that I not center whiteness. It's possible that my little training or class will be the only space when people of color are at the center simply because their stories are important- not so that white people can have an "aha" moment- but because people of color need to speak their truth. My weariness of white privilege is creating an energy source within for new ways of training, of leading, of being. I'm kinda excited about it.
* * *
Part 2: Discuss Channing's points with friends and fellow parishioners. (To see Channing's post, along with various comments from readers, CLICK HERE.) Whether you are white or a person of color, how have you experienced the phenomenon Channing describes?

Part 3: As you engage in the racial justice work or consciousness-awareness efforts of your church community, keep an eye out for the dynamic that Channing names.

Part 4: Find a way to challenge that dynamic. It's not a simple or easy thing to do. Reflect also on how the ways available for challenging that dynamic would or wouldn't differ for whites and for people of color.

Part 5: In your journal, reflect about your learnings, slips, recoveries and best efforts.

* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Spiritualize One Space In Your Life"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2015-12-16

CUUC Music: Sun Dec 20


Join us this Sunday for our annual family-friendly Christmas Pageant. Musical highlights include performances of seasonal favorites by the CUUC Choir, a touching solo by soprano Kim Force, and piano works evocative of Christmas performed by Adam Kent. Read on for details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Rumanian Christmas Carols, Series I
                                                Béla Bartók
Christmas, Op. 37, No. 12           
                                                Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
Psallite! from The Christmas Tree           
                                                Franz Liszt
Anthem I: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Follow that Star  
Jay Althouse

Anthem II:
On the Day Before Christmas (and the Day Before That!)  
Amy F. Bernon

Offertory:
Adeste Fideles from The Christmas Tree
                                                Liszt

Special Pageant Music: Kim Force, soprano
Maria Wiegenlied (Mary’s Lullaby)

2015-12-09

Spiritualize One Space in Your Life

Practice of the Week
Spiritualize One Space in Your Life

Whether or not you'd agree that "cleanliness is next to Godliness," the spaces we inhabit do have spiritual significance. Uncluttered space makes our spirits more at ease, more ready for joy.

While spiritual growth involves accepting things exactly as they are -- loving what is -- it also, at the same time, orients our attention and action toward what is most needful in human life: justice, for one; beauty, for another. Spiritual deepening includes increased appreciation for beauty and simplicity, and an increased interest in facilitating the creation of simple beauty. Decluttering is a spiritual exercise in attending to simple beauty in the space where you spend a lot of your life.

Marie Kondo's international bestseller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, offers a way to see cleaning up clutter in a new light. It’s not about eliminating mess; it’s about letting in joy and creating space in which our spirits can breathe.

Kondo challenges us: “Anything that doesn’t 'spark joy' is to be touched, thanked, and ceremonially sent on its way!”

Read the article about her book (and maybe read the book as well!): Top Tips to Joyfully Declutter Your Home, from Marie Kondo

Then:
  • Pick one “space” in your life and declutter it in the way Kondo recommends. This space can be something as big as a living room or as small as a desk drawer or the back seat of your car.
  • Take before-and-after pictures.
In your journal, write about what it was like to thank and send the clutter on its way. What was it like to have one space full of the things that “spark joy” and prop you up?

Before

After

* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Engage Transformative Possibility"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2015-12-08

CUUC Music: Sun Dec 13


In honor of Chanukah, Sunday morning’s musical selections consist of works by composers of Jewish descent. The Prelude opens with two of Felix Mendelssohn’s elegant Songs without Words and continues with two jazz-inflected miniatures by Brooklyn native Aaron Copland. Leonard Bernstein provides the Opening Music in the form of a charming birthday commemoration of his wife, actress Felicia Montealegre. George Gershwin’s raucous, Blues-inspired Preludes furnish the morning’s Offertory and musical Interlude. Read on for details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Songs without Words
            In E Major, Op. 19, No. 1 “Sweet Remembrance”
            In A Major, Op. 102, No. 5 “The Joyous Peasant”
                                                Felix Mendelssohn
Slow Dance
Piano Blue No. 4                       
                                                Aaron Copland
Opening Music:
Anniversary for Felicia Montealegre
                                                Leonard Bernstein
Offertory:
Preludes Nos. 1 and 3
                                                George Gershwin
                                                           
Interlude:
Prelude No. 2
                                                Gershwin

2015-12-05

UU Christian Fellowship

Metro NY UU Christian Fellowship News
2015 Dec
from Rev. Kelly Murphy Mason, Community Minister in affiliation with Community UU, White Plains.

For the 2015-2016 program year, the Metro NY Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship has two special events scheduled, one during the Advent season, the other during Lent. Both will be held on Thursday evenings at the Community Church of New York, from 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm. Community Church is conveniently located in midtown Manhattan between the Metro North lines at Grand Central and the NJ Transit and LIRR trains at Penn Station; it is also near to subway lines from the outer boroughs.

Our 2015 Advent event will take place on Thu Dec 10, and will be a highly experiential workshop on the contemplative practice of Centering Prayer. Below is a link to a PDF outlining the essential elements of this spiritual practice, courtesy of the Center for Contemplative Outreach, headed by Fr. Thomas Keating; he’s also authored a number of wonderful books on the Christian contemplative tradition, if you’re interested to learn more about his approach to centering prayer. You will also find below a link to another PDF illustrating the “family tree” of contemplative practices across various world religions, courtesy of the Metta Institute.

Our 2016 Lenten event will be a Maundy Thursday Chapel and Communion Service, to be held on Thu Mar 24. More information about that will be available closer to time. Do let me know about any questions, suggestions, or comments you might have regarding our Metro NY UUCF chapter. Folks from a variety if congregations throughout the tri-state area have attended in recent years, so thank you all for your generous support of UUCF within this district.

You are heartily encouraged to pass on word of our UUCF programs to those in your UU congregations. At the national level, UUCF has its own rich store of resources available at its website and invites lively dialogue about alternative Christian communities and various “heresies” within the larger church, all online at www.uuchristian.org. Feel free to copy, post, forward or otherwise distribute any & all of the attached PDFs to anyone anywhere who might be interested in our local UUCF programs.

I do hope to see some of you at Community Church for one or both of our 2015-2016 events. Please remember that this UUCF chapter is always kept open to the public; the invitation to join us at the Metro NY fellowship remains a standing one, year after year…

- Kelly

ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF CENTERING PRAYER

FAMILY TREE OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES

Recovery Every Month

Recovery Every Month
by The Rev. Dr. Kelly Murphy Mason
2014 Sep 27

Last spring, I was invited by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – perhaps better known by its bureaucratic acronym, SAMHSA – to participate in its 2015 Interfaith Partnership Summit just outside of Washington, DC. Along with scores of other religious leaders from a range of traditions, I was asked to consider ways that our particular faith communities might help promote public awareness around substance abuse and mental illness. The message that SAMHSA hoped to communicate was that mental health is integral to overall health and that three things generally hold true:
  1. “Prevention works”; 
  2. “Treatment is effective”; and 
  3. “People recover.” 
In essence, SAMHSA was asking religious professionals to do the very thing that we have been busy doing for millennia, namely holding out hope for those who are struggling and suffering.

Most of you know me as one of the Unitarian Universalist community ministers currently in affiliation with this congregation, but my weekdays are spent as Managing Director of the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute in Manhattan, where I work with other clinicians in an array of disciplines providing mental health services to our clients. What we all share is a commitment to tapping people’s spiritual lives as a source of personal strength. For decades now, solid research has shown that religious commitments help people become increasingly resilient and better able to survive serious threats to their health, including mental disorder, alcoholism, and addiction.

The consensus in the professional literature is that involvement in faith communities seems to provide a powerful protective measure against relapse and recurrence, and much more than an ounce of prevention, as well. It can even help to save people from suicide. In clinics and counseling centers all across this country, helping professionals know these findings. SAMHSA thought it might make good sense to share this felicitous knowledge with all the congregations around America, where so much healing has already happened and continues to happen.

So I stand here today, a bearer of that good news, and also a big booster of September itself, which SAMHSA has designated National Recovery Month. Through a range of public platforms, SAMHSA works to communicate its pithy tripartite litany: “Prevention Works. Treatment is Effective. People Recover.” Over the past few years, the Unitarian Universalist Association has gotten pretty vocal on this score, too. A little while ago it sponsored a religious education curriculum called “The Caring Congregation”, geared to helping those with mental disorders feel supported and welcomed in our UU communities.

More recently, the UUA published a pamphlet titled “Addiction and Your Faith Community.” Skinner House Books has just published a volume titled “Restored to Sanity: Essays on the Twelve Steps by Unitarian Universalists”, and a group called the UU Addictions Ministry has been steadily expanding its size and scope over the past few years. One significant way UU congregations have historically supported the recovery movement is by hosting AA and NA groups, and other anonymous fellowships, in our church basements and parish halls.

While that’s certainly important outreach, I want to hold out that a great deal of recovery occurs within the walls of the sanctuary, this sanctuary, in both the pulpit and pew, as people grapple with a host of afflictions – alcoholism and opioid addiction, surely, but also bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, and major depression, to name a few – Sunday after Sunday, month after month. Like Jacob wrestling with that angel in Genesis, spiritual seekers have found themselves marked by an ongoing struggle but still unwilling to surrender hope. What faith communities like Community UU can do is break the silence around these topics and in doing so, banish some of the social stigma. We need to speak openly about these subjects, and not only at SAMHSA Interfaith Summits, and not only in the month of September.

My own life has been profoundly affected by substance abuse and mental illness. As many helping professionals do, I came to the work with a history – a history, to be sure, but also a future that was somehow opened itself to possibility. I believe that people can recover precisely because I did not believe that I ever would, and I was wrong, and I did. In my clinical work, I routinely see people improve and their situations resolve. In our UU congregations, I have seen people saved and brought back to themselves, if not from the actual dead, from an emotional deadness they sincerely thought would be the end of them.

With its faith-based initiatives, SAMHSA is working to get those stories told on the same holy ground where we meet each week for worship. I feel certain that there’s no shortage of just such stories in our congregation, and I encourage those of you who have been keeping them secret to share them as a meaningful part of your spiritual journeys. Those stories, your stories, are welcome here – and you are, too, especially if you are struggling now. Faith can work wonders. Treatment is effective. People recover. We have all have great cause for hope.

2015-12-03

Violence Exposure Support for Families

It can be difficult to know how to respond to children’s exposure to violence in the news and the fear that arises for everyone after incidents such as the Paris attacks and recent shootings. It is best to let the conversation be directed by children’s questions, which will let you know their concerns and what they are trying to process. It is most important to reassure them about their safety and the wellbeing of loved ones. If a specific issue comes up for your child, I would be happy to support you in addressing that. Here are some resources to help guide parents:

Trauma response resources from the Unitarian Universalist Association
http://www.uua.org/re/families/disaster/281608.shtml
http://www.uua.org/safe/response/117164.shtml

“Talking with Children About Horrific News” by UU DRE Michelle Richards
http://www.uuworld.org/articles/horrific-news

"Helping children with scary news" from the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood site
http://www.pbs.org/parents/rogers/special/scarynews-thoughts.html

The National Child Trauma Stress Network has many resources, including one specifically about talking to children about shootings and a page of resources about terrorism
http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/talking_to_children_about_the_shooting.pdf
http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/terrorism

“Helping Children Cope with Tragedy Related Anxiety” from Mental Health America
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/children-cope-with-tragedy

2015-12-02

CUUC MUSIC: Sun Dec 6

Join us this Sunday for a delightful program of Renaissance-era music performed by Long Island Post’s Merriweather Consort and the CUUC Choir. Works include festive dances as well as seasonal favorites. Consider coming by 10am for a special family-friendly Music for All Ages, featuring an introduction to the timeless musical treasures of the Renaissance. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: The LIU Post Merriweather Consort, Professor Maureen Hynes, Director
Music for All Ages, including selections from
Pavane (Baises moy)
Gaillarde 15
3 Bransles de Bourgongne
Pierre Attaingnant (1530)
Schiarazula Marazula
Pierre Phalèse (1583)

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen*
Michael Praetorius (1609)
*Translation: Verse 1:
A rose has sprung up,
from a tender root.
As the old ones sang to us,
Its lineage was from Jesse.
And it has brought forth a floweret
In the middle of the cold winter
Well at half the night.

Verse 2:
The rosebud that I mean,
Of which Isaiah told
Is Mary, the pure,
Who brought us the floweret.
At God's immortal word,
She has borne a child
Well at half the night.

Offertory:
Psallite
Anonymous (1530)
Pavan: The Cradle
Anthony Holborne (1599)

Anthem:
Riu, riu chiu*
Spanish Carol, Anonymous (1556)
*Translation of Refrain: The river bank is protected
God has kept the wolf
From our ewe lamb
God has kept the wolf
From our ewe lamb

2015-11-30

Engage Transformative Possibility

Practice of the Week
Engage Transformative Possibility

Trapeze artists must let go of the bar to which they are holding, allow themselves to enter the space of holding to nothing while flying toward the new bar. Is there a new bar swinging your way? What is it? What will you have to let go of in order to fly to the new bar?

Is life calling you to let go and leap into something entirely new?

This week's exercise is reflection and discernment on that question.

How

Set aside reflective time. Use the six-minute video below as a meditation. Don’t rush it. Watch it three days in a row or multiple times over two weeks. Linger with the questions it asks: What new trapeze bar has your name on it? What is your next new story? What is the new aliveness coming to get you? Are you ready to jump? Are you ready to honor and savor the transition zone? And see it as the space of real living?

For Journaling

Write your thoughts about possible answers to these questions.



* * *
Previous Practice of the Week: "Let Go"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2015-11-27

Let Go

Practice of the Week
Let Go
“When you stop trying to grasp, own, and control the world around you, you give it the freedom to fulfill you without the power to destroy you. That’s why letting go is so important: letting go is letting happiness in.” (Leo Babauta)
* * *

Rick Hanson on letting go:


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

I've done a lot of rock climbing, so I know firsthand the importance sometimes of not letting go! This applies to other things as well: keeping hold of a child's hand while crossing the street, staying true to your ethics in a tricky situation, or sustaining attention to your breath while meditating.

On the other hand, think of all the stuff—both physical and nonphysical—we cling to that creates problems for us and others: clutter in the home, "shoulds," rigid opinions, resentments, regrets, status, guilt, resistance to the facts on the ground, needing to be one-up with others, the past, people who are gone, bad habits, hopeless guests, unrewarding relationships, and so on.

Letting go can mean several things: releasing pain; dropping thoughts, words, and deeds that cause suffering and harm; yielding rather than breaking; surrendering to the way it is, like it or not; allowing each moment to pass away without trying to hold on to it; accepting the permanently impermanent nature of existence; and relaxing the sense of self and opening out into the wider world.

Living in this way is relaxing, decreases hassles and conflicts, reduces stress, improves mood and well-being, and grounds you in reality as it is. And it's a key element, if you like, of spiritual practice. To quote Ajahn Chah, a major Buddhist teacher who lived in Thailand:
If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness.
If you let go completely, you will be completely happy.
How

Appreciate the wisdom of letting go, and notice any resistance to it: perhaps it seems weak to you, foolish, or against the culture of your gender or personal background. For example, 1 remember talking with my friend John years ago about a woman he'd been pursuing who'd made it clear she wasn't interested, and he felt frustrated and hurt. I said maybe he should surrender and move on—to which John replied fiercely, "I don't do surrender." It took him a while to get past his belief that surrender—acceptance, letting go—meant you were wimping out. (All ended happily with us getting drunk together and him throwing up on my shoe—which I then had to surrender to!) It takes strength to let go, and fortitude, character, and insight. When you let go, you're like a supple and resilient willow tree that bends before the storm, still here in the morning—rather than a stiff oak that ends up broken and toppled over.

Be aware of the letting go that happens naturally all day long such as, releasing objects from your hands, hanging up the phone, pushing send on an e-mail, moving from one thought or feeling to another in your mind, saying bye to a friend, shifting plans, using the bathroom, changing a TV channel, or emptying the trash. Notice that letting go is all right, that you keep on going, that it's necessary and beneficial. Become more comfortable with letting go.

Consciously let go of tension in your body. Exhale long and slowly, activating the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system. Let go of holding in your belly, shoulders, jaws, and eyes.

Clear out possessions you don't use or need. Let in how great it feels to finally have some room in your closet, drawers, or garage.

Pick a dumb idea you've held on to way too long—one for me would be that I have to do things perfectly or there'll be a disaster. Practice dropping this idea and replacing it with better ones (like for me: "Nobody is perfect and that's okay").

Pick a grievance, grudge, or resentment—and resolve to move on. This does not necessarily mean letting other people off the moral hook, just that you are letting yourself off the hot plate of staying upset about whatever happened. If feelings such as hurt still come up about the issue, be aware of them, be kind to yourself about them, and then gently encourage them out the door.

Letting go of painful emotions is a big subject, with lots of resources for you in books such as Focusing, by Eugene Gendlin, or What We May Be, by Piero Ferrucci. Here's a summary of methods I like:
  • relax your body;
  • imagine that the feelings are flowing out of you like water;
  • vent in a letter you'll never send, or out loud someplace appropriate;
  • get things off your chest with a good friend;
  • take in positive feelings to soothe and gradually replace the painful ones.
In general, let things be pleasant without grasping after them; let things be unpleasant without resisting them; let things be neutral without prodding them to get pleasant. Letting go undoes the craving and clinging that lead to suffering and harm.

Let go of who you used to be. Let yourself learn, grow, and therefore change.

Let go of each moment as it disappears beneath your feet. It's gone as soon as you're aware of it, like a snowflake melting as soon as you see its shape. You can afford to abide as letting go because of the miracle that the next moment continually emerges as the previous one vanishes, all within the infinitely tiny duration of Now.

For Journaling

Describe some of the things that you let go of today.

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Previous Practice of the Week: "Be Grateful"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2015-11-24

CUUC Music: Sun Nov 29


This Sunday morning’s musical selections continue in the Thanksgiving vein with selections by such American composers as Edward MacDowell, Samuel Barber, and William Bolcom. The Prelude opens with Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Piece entitled Thanks. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Thanks, Op. 62, No. 2           
                                                Edvard Grieg
In Autumn and Told at Sunset from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51
                                                Edward MacDowell

Opening Music:
In slow blues tempo from Excursions, Op. 20
                                                Samuel Barber

Offertory:
Graceful Ghost Rag
                                                William Bolcom

Interlude:
A.D. 1620 from Sea Pieces, Op. 55
                                                MacDowell

2015-11-18

Be Grateful

Practice of the Week
Be Grateful
"Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for." (Zig Ziglar)

"'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding." (Alice Walker)
Rick Hanson on being grateful:


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

We experience gratitude when we are freely given something good. Therefore, looking for opportunities for gratitude -- developing an "attitude of gratitude" -- is a great way to notice and enjoy some of the gifts you've received.

Gratitude does not mean ignoring difficulties, losses, or injustice. It just means also paying attention to the offerings that have come your way. Especially the little ones of everyday life.

When you do this, you're resting your mind increasingly on good things moving toward you, on being supported, on feelings of fullness -- on the sense of having an open heart that moves toward an open hand.

Fuller and fuller, more and more fed by life instead of drained by it, you naturally feel like you have more of value inside yourself and more to offer to others.

And that is a very good thing. For example, studies by Robert Emmons and others have shown that gratitude is associated with greater well-being, better coping, and even better sleep (McCullough et al. 2001).

How

Prime your pump by bringing to mind someone you naturally feel grateful toward. Perhaps a friend, parent or grandparent, teacher, spiritual being, or pet.

Next, look around and notice, both here and now, and in the past:
  • The gifts of the physical world, including the stars in the sky, the colors of the rainbow, and the remarkable fact that the seemingly arbitrary constants that determine how atoms stick together in our universe are just right for planets to form and life to develop -- enabling you to be here today
  • The gifts of nature, like the flight of a bird, the creatures that die so we may live, and your amazing brain
  • The gifts of life, including the marvelous instructions for building a human being woven into the strands of DNA
  • The gifts of nurturance, helpfulness, good counsel, and love from other people
These gifts are freely offered; no one can possibly earn them. All we can do is be grateful for these gifts, and do what we can in our own little corner of the world to use them well each day.

Let yourself accept these gifts. It would be rude -- ungrateful! -- to refuse them.

Remember that gratitude is not guilt or indebtedness -- both of which actually make it harder to feel grateful. You may feel moved to be generous in turn -- including in new directions, such as giving to some out of appreciation for what you have been given by others -- but it will come from large-heartedness, not because you think you owe something. Gratitude moves us away from let's-make-a-deal exchanges in relationships toward a sense of abundance, in which you feel fed beyond measure and in turn give with all your heart without keeping score.

Then recognize the benefits to you of what has been given. Reflect on how it helps you and those you care about, makes you feel good, and fuels your own generosity in turn.

And recognize the benevolence of the giver, whether it is a person, Mother Nature, or the physical universe -- or, if this is meaningful to you, something Divine. Don't minimize the benevolence to avoid feeling unworthy or indebted; open up to it as a telling of the truth, as a giving back to the giver, and as a joyful leaning toward that which is truly gift-giving in your world.

Last, soak up the gifts coming to you, whatever they are. Let them become part of you, woven into your body, brain, and being. As you inhale, as you relax, as you open, take in the good that you've been given.

* * *
Brother David Stendl-Rast's TED Talk. He says:
"It's not being happy that makes us grateful. It's being grateful that makes us happy."



See also, Arthur C. Brooks: "Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier."
* * *
For Journaling

Every day for seven days (or forever), start off your daily journaling by listing five things in the previous 24 hours for which you are grateful.

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See also Practices of the Week: "Be Grateful to Everyone" and "The Gratitude Visit"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

CUUC Music: Sun Nov 22


Join us for a special Thanksgiving celebration at CUUC. Choir Director Lisa Meyer performs Aaron Copland’s moving version of the “At the River” and directs the CUUC Choir in selections connected with the celebratory nature of the season. The morning’s Prelude is provided by Georgianna Pappas, who offers Mozart’s delightful variations on a favorite children’s tune. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je maman”, K. 265
                                                Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
For the Beauty of the Earth   
John Rutter

Offertory:
At the River
                                                Traditional American, arr. by Aaron Copland
Anthem:
Singabahambayo  
South African Folk Song, arr. by Victor C. Johnson 

Translation: We are pilgrims on this earth, but our home is in heaven. We say Hallelujah!


2015-11-15

CUUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Nov 15



Today's theme was gratitude, and so we began our walk with this reading:

When we feed the birds, they teach us their language in gratitude. Then we come to understand them, and when we do, they feed us.


There was much to be grateful for today, including our highest ever count of total individuals for our walk - 413 birds!  This was mostly due to the icterids flying over (blackbirds, orioles, and grackles).  We also saw 15 different species, and not one of these was at the solitary bird feeder at the parsonage. This shows us that just by slowing down, and then looking around and looking up there is life ever before us.

We also saw high flying gulls passing over throughout the walk, as well as the icterids. The robins continue to enjoy the many berry and crab apple trees on the grounds, though we will probably see ever less of them as winter approaches.  It was nice to see the area resident red-tailed hawk. They are frequent visitors to CUUC, and surely one day we will discover where they nest.


Our next bird walk on the grounds is December 20th, Sunday,  at 8:30 a.m. beginning at the Parsonage. There will also be a Bird Retreat on Saturday, November 22, from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., and then a bird walk at Tarrytown lakes Sunday,  November 23, from 8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.  Please let me know that you are coming by emailing me at amoloros@gmail.com  so I know whether to cancel the event or not.  For more information, or to report bird sightings on the grounds, please do contact me.
In hope for all life,
Rev. LoraKim Joyner
amoloros@gmail.com



Here's the species list for the day: - 413 individuals of 15  avian species, 2 rodent species, and one ape species.

6 Herring gulls
1 Red-tailed hawk
1 Turkey vulture
5 Mourning doves
1 Red-bellied woodpeckers
1 Pileated woodpecker
12 American robins
3 Cardinals
2 Black-capped chickadee
3 Blue jays
2 American crows
3 White-throated sparrows
1 Dark-eyed juncos
202 Common grackles
170 blackbird species

8 Gray squirrels
2 Eastern chipmunks
2 White-tailed deer

3 Humans

2015-11-11

Sacred Reading

Practice of the Week
Sacred Reading

"I prided myself on being able to move through texts of all sorts, quickly identifying the valuable nuggets and throwing all else to the side. It took me longer to realize that was not reading as much as strip mining. It took even longer to recover a way of reading that enhanced rather than impoverished my sense of the wholeness and beauty not only of the text but also of everything within and beyond my own self." (Susan Ritchie)
Sacred reading is a very different way of reading than you are probably used to. It's a very slow approach to about one or two paragraphs a day -- reading not so much for what the text means, in the usual way, as for what it suggests for your life, right where you are, at that particular moment.

Begin by choosing a text for the day. The Bible's book of Psalms, the verses of the Dao De Jing or the Bhagavad Gita are wonderful. You might want to utilize the poems of Mary Oliver, or Walt Whitman, or the poems from such anthologies as The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy (Bly) or A Book of Luminous Things (Milosz) -- or just google "spiritual poetry anthology" for titles. You might want to use the prose essays of a favorite wisdom writer -- progressing through the essay one or two paragraphs at a time.

These instructions for the practice of sacred reading are adapted from those at onespiritinterfaith.org.

1. Enter into Sacred Time
Take a few minutes to quiet and center yourself. You may want to mark the beginning of your practice as sacred time by lighting a candle, ringing a meditation chime, taking a few deep mindful breaths, or offering a simple gesture of reverence such as placing your hand gently on your heart and bowing your head. Take a moment to recognize that this time of practice is not only for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of those whose lives you touch, directly or indirectly – even for the benefit, in some way you may never know, of the whole of life itself.

2. Read
Read the day’s passage slowly and receptively several times, silently or, if possible, aloud.

3. Reflect
Notice which word or phrase captures your attention. Take some time to reflect on the meaning that word or phrase has for you at this particular time, what it evokes in you, what questions or challenges or insights it raises for your life right now. You may want to jot the word or phrase down in a journal or on a card to carry with you as a reminder through your day.

4. Respond
Once you have reflected deeply on what Spirit, or life, or your intuition is saying to you today through this word or phrase, allow yourself to respond. This may be as simple as an inner “thank you” or an intention to express the wisdom you have gleaned in your life today. Or you may feel a need to pour out feelings that have been stirred in your time of reflection. Do not censor yourself but, like the psalmists of old, let yourself express whatever has arisen in you – whether gratitude, wonder, hope, joy, or anger, grief, shame or fear. Express your response however you are moved to: speak it, write it, pray it, dance it, draw it, sing it. Ask yourself (Spirit/life/the universe), for further illumination or guidance, for strength or courage to translate what you have discovered into action in your life. Open yourself to feeling fully listened to and heard by yourself/Spirit/life/the universe.

5. Rest and Receive
Now allow yourself to enter a time of stillness and silence – a time of letting go, of releasing agendas and control, and of simply resting in and with Spirit. Don’t look for any particular kind of experience during this time; simply surrender and offer yourself to life, trusting that whatever transformation and healing you need is being done in and for and through you as you rest and allow. Try to spend at least 5 minutes in this receptive silence, more if possible.

6. Return and Re-enter
Gently return your awareness to your physical surroundings and prepare to re-enter your daily life in the world. Spend a moment in gratitude for whatever you have received in this time of practice, and for the blessings in your life. You may want to end your time of practice with this affirmation and breath-prayer, based on words of Dag Hammarkjöld.
“For all that has been – thanks! For all that will be – yes!”
Breathing in: “Thanks”
Breathing out: “Yes”
(repeat)

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Previous Practice of the Week: "Find Beauty"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"