CUUC

CUUC

2016-01-27

Smile

Practice of the Week
Smile
"A warm smile is the universal language of kindness." (William Arthur Ward)
Rick Hanson on smiling:


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

Smiling has many benefits:
  • Thinking of things that make you smile -- like people you love, silly moments, stupid pet tricks, funny movies -- helps you feel better right on the spot. Plus it calms down the stress response and releases wholesome neurochemicals like dopamine and natural opioids (e.g., endorphins).
  • Researchers have found that the facial movements of smiling -- independent of what a person actually feels inside -- prompt the person to evaluate the world more positively (Niedenthal 2007).
  • Smiling and the good feelings it encourages promote approach behaviors, a fancy term for paying more attention to the opportunities around you, going after your dreams with more confidence, and reaching out to others.
  • Through what's called emotional contagion, when you smile and thus feel and act better, that influences others to feel and act better, too. Then nice positive cycles start rolling through a group -- perhaps a family, a team at work, or simply a bunch of friends -- in which your smile gets others to smile and be more positive, which snowballs into an even bigger grin for you.
  • When you smile -- authentically, to be sure, not in a false or Dr. Evil sort of way -- that tells people you are not a threat, which calms the ancient, evolutionary tendency to be wary of others, and thus inclines them to be more open to you.

How

This is definitely not about putting a happy shiny face on depression, grief, fear, or anger. Smiling then would be phony, and would probably feel awful. But when you feel neutral or experience mild well-being, shifting into a small smile while thinking of good facts that make it real can naturally lift your mood and help you act more effectively.

So, in your mind or on paper, make a list of things that make you smile. Several times a day, look for moments to bring that list to mind...and a soft smile to your face.

Then notice the results, in how you feel inside, and in how you act toward others and how they respond to you Savor these good feelings and successes, taking them in.

Smiling a few more times each day may not seem like much, but it will send wonderful ripples through your brain, body, mind, and relationships.

Now, isn't that something to smile about?


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

CUUC Music: Sun Jan 31


A wide range of musical styles prevails at Sunday morning’s worship service this week. Consider arriving by 10am for Music for All Ages, featuring works evocative of children by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002). Montsalvatge’s Sonatine pour Yvette, an allusion to the composer’s daughter, reflects the influence of Maurice Ravel and also quotes several recognizable children’s songs. Because of the wealth of commerce between the Costa Brava of Spain and Cuba, popular music of the Antilles came to be known in that part of the Iberian peninsula. Montsalvatge’s Five Canciones Negras from 1945 are all based on texts by Cuban poets dealing with colonialism and Afro-Cuban culture. The Canción para dormir a un negrito, performed by soprano Kim Force, is an enticing lullaby in the rhythm of an Habanera.
Kim Force also teams up with guitarist Joann Prinzivalli in a song by Norah Jones requested by Perry Montrose in conjunction with this service. In addition, CUUC’s Choir is on hand with lively arrangement of a traditional African-American spiritual and a setting of a seasonal sonnet by William Shakespeare. Read on for programming details, and please consider staying for the Music at CUUC Concert this afternoon at 1pm, immediately following Chili Brunch. More information is available at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1676922929259234/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming&action_history=null

Prelude: “Portrait of the Composer’s Daughter as a Young Girl and Lullaby for a Baby Boy”, a Music for All Ages Presentation with pianist Adam Kent and soprano Kim Force. Featured works include:
Allegretto from Sonatine pour Yvette and Canción para dormir a un negrito
                                                Xavier Montsalvatge

Special Music: Kim Force and Joann Prinzivalli
Something Is Calling You
                                                            Jesse Harris
Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Oh, Won’t You Sit Down!   
American Spiritual, arr. by Victor C. Johnson  

Offertory:
How Like A Winter     
Music by Ruth Morris Gray, Words by William Shakespeare (from Sonnet 97

2016-01-20

Claim Desire

Practice of the Week
Claim Desire

What do you want? What do you desire that has been missing from your day? It's possible to not know. It's possible that there isn't anything other than the alarm clock that pushes you into your day.

This week -- for each of the seven days of the week -- take 10 minutes at the beginning of your day (or at bedtime the night before), to identify one thing you want out of the coming (or next) day. In the midst of all the obligations ahead of you, what one desire do you want to make room for in the day ahead? In selecting a desire for the day, keep in mind these two guidelines:

  • Keep it simple. Identify a desire that could really be satisfied in the course of one day. (Rome wasn't built in a day, so don't list "build Rome" as what you want to get out of a day.) Maybe it is nothing more than to feel the sun on your face for five minutes. Maybe it is to connect and cook tonight's meal with your daughter. Maybe it is to read for 30 minutes, or go running, or sit in stillness and silence for 20 minutes.
  • Pick something that requires some intentional energy to make happen. Don't pick "brush teeth" if you always and habitually brush your teeth every day. Pick something that hasn't been usual for you -- but maybe you'd like it to become usual.

You can pick the same thing for all seven days, pick something different each day, or anything in between.

For Journaling

Write about what desire you claimed each day, and what effect this had on the excitement with which you woke up each day.

2016-01-19

CUUC Music: Sun Jan 24


In honor of CUUC’s Black Lives Matter service, Sunday morning music includes works by composers of African descent and a setting of an Afro-Cuban text by a European composer.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was an English-born composer of Creole heritage. His 24 Negro Melodies, the source for the first two works in the Prelude, are his arrangements of traditional tunes from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. His style is warmly romantic and evocative of a virtuosic tradition of piano performance.
Scott Joplin’s numerous rags for solo piano need little introduction; they are among the classics of American music. “The Entertainer”, featured in “The Sting” from the early 1970’s, is widely credited with triggering a resurgence of interest in this popular musical form.

Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002) was a Catalonian composer, whose music reflects the influence of Maurice Ravel as well as Caribbean traditions. Because of the wealth of commerce between the Costa Brava of Spain and Cuba, popular music of the Antilles came to be known in that part of the Iberian peninsula. Montsalvatge’s Five Canciones Negras from 1945 are all based on texts by Cuban poets dealing with colonialism and Afro-Cuban culture. The Canción para dormir a un negrito is an enticing lullaby in the rhythm of an Habanera.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Bamboula                       
West Indian, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Take Nabandji           
South East African, arr. by Coleridge-Taylor
The Easy Winners and Maple Leaf Rag
                                    Scott Joplin           

Opening Music: Kim Force, soprano
Canción para dormir a un negrito* from Canciones Negras
                                    Xavier Montsalvatge
*Translation:
Close your eyes and slumber, my little tiny one; little child, oh, won’t you go to sleep!
Coconut head, coffee bean, with freckled eyelids, your eyes wide open, like two 
windows looking out to the sea. Close your eyes and slumber, my frightened little one, the Bogeyman can devour you. No longer are you a slave! And, if you sleep enough, the lord of the manor will buy you a suit with buttons, so you can be a “groom”. Close your eyes and slumber, my little tiny one, etc. 
 
Offertory:
The Entertainer
                                    Joplin


2016-01-13

Keep Sabbath

Practice of the Week
Keep Sabbath

Sabbath is traditionally Sunday (from the Christian tradition) or Friday-sundown to Saturday-sundown (Jewish tradition), but perhaps some other day works better for you. Set aside one 24-hour day every week for a personal retreat. If you can't manage more than half a day, then start with half a day. The important thing is to set aside a specific time each week for stepping back from work, from demands that you produce.

Sabbath time is an alternative to "the reduction of all human life to the requirements of the market" (Walter Brueggemann). It's a time for not going to work, not reading or writing any work-related email, not taking any work-related phone calls, not engaging any work-related projects or planning. Devote the time instead to:
  • face-to-face time with family or friends,
  • spiritual study or other spiritual practice,
  • taking walks in a natural setting,
  • playing music (unless you're a professional musician, in which case music is work, not Sabbath),
  • other creative pursuit (painting, writing poetry or fiction -- again, as long as it's not your job).
For Unitarian Universalists with a standard Mon-Fri work schedule, Sunday may well work best. Sabbath is not intrinsically about worship, but including Sunday morning worship as a part of your Sabbath day a wonderful practice. (Ministers, on the other hand, often pick another day -- Monday, say -- as their Sabbath, since, for them, Sunday is a work day.)

You may also want to give yourself some prohibitions. Options might include, "no caffeine or alcohol" (allow yourself one day to confront life without mood enhancing substance), "no TV" (allow yourself time away both from work and from mindless distraction), or "no purchase or consumption of animal products" (one day a week of being vegan may help you feel more connected to life). Select rules for yourself that enhance the experience for you and that you feel good about. Whether or not you add any such rules, the main point of Sabbath is to put aside your work, put down the preoccupation with producing, and take a day to "lie fallow" and regenerate.

Take a look at Walter Brueggemann's 2014 book, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now.
"In our consumer culture we are restless and filled with desires for something more, better or different. The rat race keeps us moving at breakneck speed as we expend ourselves on work and deplete ourselves on draining pleasures such as reality television shows and professional sports." (from a review of Brueggemann's book)
Keeping Sabbath is a counter-cultural act. It means resisting the anxiety, coercion, exclusivism, and rushed multitasking that contemporary life demands. Modern society has elevated striving to such a height that it has become, for us, a spiritual disease. Life is not reducible to production and consumption -- a truth we are apt to forget if we do set aside Sabbath time in our week.

Make these five statements (appropriately adapted, as necessary, to the specifics of your situation) your mantra for your Sabbath times:
  • You do not have to do more, sell more, or score more.
  • You do not have to control more.
  • You do not have to know more.
  • You do not have to have your kids in ballet or soccer.
  • You do not have to be younger or more beautiful.
For Journaling

Each week for the first 4-6 weeks of keeping Sabbath, write in your journal how you experienced it.

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Previous Practice of the Week: "Get Help with a Resolution"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

CUUC Music: Sun Jan 17


The piano solos performed this morning offer two different aspects of compositions by prominent composers of African descent. R. Nathaniel Dett, wrote a substantial body of serious piano works in the classical tradition, although many of them draw on imagery from the African-American culture of his time. Juba Dance was a great favorite of pianists in the early decades of the previous century. Along with Scott Joplin and James Scott, Artie Matthews was one of the pioneers of American Rag Time. His five Pastime Rags are upbeat, virtuosic works full of good humor and vivacious dance rhythms. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with
Prelude: Pianist Adam Kent plays music by African-American composers in honor of Martin Luther King Day.
Night, His Song, Honey, and Juba Dance from In the Bottoms
                        R. Nathaniel Dett
Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Siyahamba   
South African Freedom Song  

Offertory:
Pastime Rag No. 3
                                                            Artie Matthews

Anthem: Turn Me 'Round  
 arr. by Earlene Rentz

2016-01-06

Get Help with a Resolution

Practice of the Week
Get Help with a Resolution

You don't have to make your "New Year's Resolution" on the 1st of January. Make a resolution any time in January, and it's still a "New Year's Resolution."

Resolutions are about making a change – resisting the inertia of habit. But inertia is hard to resist! An estimated 88% of New Year's resolutions fail each year.

Here are some tips to making resolutions you can keep:

1. Pick only one resolution
Trying to start a new habit uses up a lot of brain energy. Trying to start more than one will be almost impossible for your brain to handle.

2. Take baby steps – make it a tiny habit.

  • Instead of "quit smoking," try, "stop smoking that 1 cigarette you have every morning after breakfast."
  • Instead of, "eat healthy food," try, "start substituting that 1 daily morning pastry for a banana."
  • Instead of, "lose weight," try, "every evening after work, go for a 2-3 minute run or walk around the block."
  • Instead of, "manage stress," try, "meditate for 2-3 minutes every morning after you wake up."

3. Build in some rewards along the way.
If the new habit is daily, for example, plan a reward for yourself every three or four days that you stick to the habit. Treating yourself to an unhealthy snack after a few days of successful diet habits changes is a good way to help you hang on for the long run.

Those tips can help. The main part of "Get Help with a Resolution," however, is the "Get Help" part! So...

Don’t just pick a resolution. Pick a partner!

Honoring the spiritual practice of accountability, tell a trusted friend about your resolution and then ask them to help hold you to it.

Choose whatever accountability strategy that works best for both of you. Maybe ask them to text you once a day to remind or encourage you. Instead of running alone, ask them to run with you for the month. Maybe your resolution is to get back to writing. If so, ask them to be your editor. And don’t just ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to help you reflect on the experience itself. Sit down for at least one conversation before your small group meeting to talk with your “resolution partner” about how it felt to be held accountable and to hold one accountable.

The people around you can have a significant impact on your behavior. So if you tell some of your friends and family about the new tiny habit you’ve created, you are much more likely to stick to it. One 2007 study found a striking correlation between increased social support and lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol.

For Journaling

What did the experience teach you - and them - about the power of resisting together?

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Previous Practice of the Week: "Give Thanks to Someone for Your Resistance"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

CUUC Music: Sun Jan 10


Enrique Granados (1867-1916) was one of Spain’s greatest classical composers, pianists, and musical educators. He was preoccupied with the art work of Francisco Goya, the inspiration behind his opera Goyescas. In 1916, Granados and his wife Amparo traveled to New York City to attend the premiere of Goyescas at the Metropolitan Opera. On their return journey to Spain, their boat was torpedoed in the English Channel, and the couple perished at sea. Granados’s lush, hauntingly romantic music will forever be associated with his one fateful journey to the U.S., the centenary of which is commemorated in 2016. Sunday morning’s musical selections feature excerpts from the original solo piano version of the Goyescas as well as pieces from other collections by Granados, including the Valses poéticos and the Escenas románticas. Also, in recognition of the monthly theme of Resistance, American pedagogue Paul Sheftel’s charming “Not Für Elise” suggests what resistance to a hackneyed classic of the piano repertory might sound like….Read on for programming details, and consider attending our next event at Music at CUUC on Sunday, January 31 at 1pm for solo piano, duo-piano, and chamber music by Enrique Granados performed by pianist Jason Cutmore, the Damocles Trio, and CUUC Music Director Adam Kent.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
El amor y la muerte from Goyescas
                                                Enrique Granados

Opening Music:
Not Für Elise
                                                Paul Sheftel

Offetory:
Introducción y Vals melódico from Valses poéticos
Granados
Interlude:
Mazurka from Escenas románticas
                                                            Granados