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CUUC

2017-03-29

Be Curious

Practice of the Week
Be Curious

Category: Slogans to Live By: Practices for everyone to keep in mind and pay attention to. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time. Just have the intention to grow stronger in each of these areas as you go about your day, and sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling. The titles of these practices are guiding slogans to live by.
Curious people are typically not self-centered. (Rick Hanson's daughter)

Cultivate "Don't Know Mind." When we think we know, we aren't curious. Peace, joy, and connection aren't about what you (think you) know. Rather, they come from shedding the need to know, letting go our attachment to security of knowledge, and always being open to the surprise of the this moment.
Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE]:

A couple years ago, my father and I were driving to the ocean, near where I live north of San Francisco. Born on a ranch in North Dakota in 1918, he's a retired zoologist who loves birds, and I wanted to show him some wetlands.

The twisting road was carved from the side of coastal hills plunging to the sea. After a while we paused at a pull-out for a pit stop. Returning from the bushes, I found my dad scrutinizing dried, scraggly grasses sticking out from the mini-cliff next to our car. "Look, Rick," he said excitedly, "see how the layers of dirt are different, so the plants growing in them are different, too!" He sounded like a little kid who'd discovered an elephant in his backyard.

But that's my dad: endlessly curious, never bored. I and ten thousand other drivers had sped around that turn seeing nothing but another meaningless road cut. But he had not taken the commonplace for granted. He wondered about what he saw and looked for connections, explanations. For him, the world wears a question mark.

This attitude of wonder, interest, and investigation brings many rewards. For example, engaging your mind actively as you age helps preserve the functioning of your brain. Use it or lose it!

Plus you' gather lots of useful information — about yourself, other people, the world — by looking around. You also see the larger context, and thus become less affected by any single thing itself: not so driven to get more of what you like, and not so stressed and unsettled by what you don't like.

As our daughter once pointed out, curious people are typically not self-centered. Sure, they are interested in the inner workings of their own psyche — curiosity is a great asset for healing, growth, and awakening — but they're also very engaged with the world and others. Maybe that's why we usually like curious people.

How

To begin with, curiosity requires a willingness to see whatever is under the rocks you turn over. Usually it's neutral or positive. But occasionally you find something that looks creepy or smells bad. Then you need courage, to face an uncomfortable aspect of yourself, other people, or the world. In this case, it helps to observe it from a distance, and try not to identify with it. Surround it with spaciousness, knowing that whatever you've found is just one part of a larger whole and (usually) a passing phenomenon.

With that willingness, curiosity expresses itself in action, through looking deeper and wider — and then looking again.

Much of what we're curious about is really neat, such as the development of children, the doings of friends, or the workings of a new computer. And sometimes it pays to be curious about some sort of issue. As an illustration, let's say you've been feeling irritable about a situation. (You also can apply the practices below to different aspects of your mind, or to other people or to situations in the world.)

Looking deeper means being interested in what's under the surface. For example, what previous situations does it remind you of — particularly ones when you were young and most affected by things?

Looking wider means broadening your view:
  • What are other aspects of the situation, such as the good intentions of others, or your own responsibility for events?
  • What factors could be at work in your mind? For example, have you worked too much lately, or felt underappreciated, or not eaten or slept well? Did you appraise the situation as a lot worse, or a lot rnore threatening, than it actually was? Did you take it personally?
Looking again means being active in your investigating. You keep unraveling the knot of whatever you're curious about, teasing apart the threads, opening them up and seeing what's what. You don't take the first explanation as the final one. There's an underlying attitude of wonder and fearlessness. Like a child, a cat, a scientist, a saint, or a poet, you see the world anew.

Again.

And again.

For Journaling

For your journaling today, here's an exercise for cultivating curiosity. Set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer starts, start writing. Keep the pen moving without stopping to think until the 10 minutes are up. Here's the twist: Write nothing but questions. Write questions about what happened to you, what you saw, heard, experienced, felt in the last 24 hours. Don't answer any question. Just move immediately on to asking the next question.

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Rick Hanson on being curious:


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

2017-03-28

Music: Sun April 2

Child Dedications are especially joyous occasions at CUUC, and Sunday morning’s musical selections celebrate the wonders of childhood and new life in the eyes of several composers. Claude Debussy’s popular suite Children’s Corner opens with a parody of the tedious “Gradus ad Parnassum” technical exercises many young piano students are forced to endure. “The Little Shepherd” is a particularly tender, wistful depiction of a whimsical, piping lad. The Brazilian Octavio Pinto made his living as an architect, but his “Scenes of Childhood” have long been a favorite of pianists, starting with the composer’s wife Guiomar Novaes. The Catalan composer Federico Mompou seems indebted to the harmonic subtleties of the French Impressionists in his “Young Girls in the Garden”, although the piece actually quotes a popular Catalan song “La filla del marxant”.

CUUC members Kim and Christian Force are also on hand with a perennial favorite by Johannes Brahms as well as a contemporary take on parental love from Guns N’ Rose. Read on for programming details, and see below for a translation of Brahms’s ubiquitous Lullaby.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
From Children’s Corner
            Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
            The Little Shepherd
            Claude Debussy
Scenas Infantis
1.     Run, run
2.     Ring around the Rosy
3.     March, Little Soldier!
4.     Sleeping Time
5.     The Hobby-Horse
Octavio Pinto

Opening Music:
From Scènes d’enfants
            Jeunes filles au jardin
                                                Federico Mompou

Offertory: Kim Force, soprano
Wiegenlied*
                                    Joahnnes Brahms

Interlude: Kim and Christian Force, vocals and piano
Sweet Child of Mine
                                    Guns N’ Roses

*Translation:
Lullaby and goodnight, with roses bedight
With lilies o'er spread is baby's wee bed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed
Lullaby and goodnight, thy mother's delight
Bright angels beside my darling abide
They will guard thee at rest, thou shalt wake on my breast
They will guard thee at rest, thou shalt wake on my breast

2017-03-22

Music: Sun Mar 26


The March Worship Theme of Mercy is embodied in both instrumental and vocal selections at Sunday morning’s service. CUUC Music Committee co-chair and chorister Kim Force teams up with hubby and trombonist Christian Force, bassist Marty Kounitz, and Music Director Adam Kent in an arrangement of Mosey Allison’s bluesey, soulful “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy”, a song which seems to challenge listeners to assess the depth of their commitment to justice and compassion on earth. Kim also treats us to Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World”, a preview of next Sunday’s Sock Hop concert with the CUUC Choir, featuring danceable delights from 1950’s---the dawn of the rock-n’-roll era.

The Prelude and Opening Music focus on solo piano works by the Catalan composer Federico Mompou, whose Impresiones íntimas offer tender glimpses of every day domestic life. The last number of this suite---Gitano—was written after an encounter with a gypsy near Barcelona. Apparently, the composer’s car had a run-in with an itinerant gypsy, who, according to Mompou, responded to the mishap not with anger or curses, but with good-humored forgiveness and grace.

Read on for programming details

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
From Impresiones íntimas:
            Planys I and II (Laments)
            Pájaro triste (Sad Bird)
            La barca  (The Boat)
            Cuna (Cradle)
            Secreto
            Gitano
                                                            Federico Mompou

Opening Music:
Canción y danza No. 1
                                                            Mompou


Offertory: Kim Force, soprano; Christian Force, trombone; Marty Kounitz, bass
Wonderful World       
                                                            Sam Cooke

Interlude:
Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy
                                                Mose Allison  

Spiritual Intimacy

Practice of the Week
Spiritual Intimacy

Category: Occasional. These are practices suggested for "every once in a while." Some of them are responses to a particular need that may arise; others are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. All of them are worth a try at least once. And any of them might become a regular and central part of your spiritual practice.


"The Spiritual Intimacy Experience" consists of fifteen questions that partners can ask each other to develop a deeper connection. Many have found that answering these questions with their mate led to the most profound experience of intimacy they had ever had. In workshops I lead, I've seen that even when complete strangers openly share their responses to these questions with each other, a beautiful sense of bonding is created.

For a spiritual intimacy experience, all you need is a willing partner, about forty-five minutes of time, and a somewhat quiet and private location. You can do this exercise with a lover, parent, child, friend, co-worker, or new acquaintance. Yet, since it leads to a deep level of sharing, make sure you do it with someone you'd like to be closer to. Also make sure you have plenty of time, and are in the mood to fully open and connect with another human being.

Instructions

You are about to begin an extended sharing experience. Really getting to know another person involves a learnable set of skills and attitudes, risk-taking, trust, and acceptance. The following questions are designed to assist you in getting to know another person on a fairly intimate level. They can be answered to whatever degree of self-disclosure you wish. Take as long as you like to answer each question. After one person has answered a question, the other person answers that question. Carefully listen to your partner's answer, and feel free to ask related questions that might further clarify or expand upon that answer. If a conversation naturally unfolds from your partner's response, that's perfectly all right as well. Once both of you have answered the first question, proceed to the next.

If you give this exercise enough time and sincerity, you'll find it to be a very satisfying and powerful experience.
  1. When are you the happiest?
  2. What is your greatest strength?
  3. What is your greatest weakness?
  4. What was the most difficult time in your life?
  5. What is extremely important to you?
  6. When do you feel most affectionate?
  7. What are you avoiding right now?
  8. What helps you to feel really loved?
  9. What is the thing you most regret having done?
  10. How do you think I see you?
  11. What is your heart longing for?
  12. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
  13. What was your first impression of me?
  14. What do you like best about me?
  15. What kind of person have you dreamed of becoming?
Besides being great way to get to know someone at a deeper level, this exercise also demonstrates a process by which relationships can become more intimate. When we ask a friend or partner meaningful questions, it opens the door for a more profound level of connection with him or her. Most people hunger to talk about important topics. Asking "big questions" is a simply and effective way to know the soul of another person -- and experience your own essence as well. Yet, asking good questions only half the story. The depth to which you can truly listen to your partner in a nonjudgmental manner will determine the experience you have in this exercise. Try to listen with an open heart and a quiet mind.

You may also want to make up your own questions. As long as you create an atmosphere of safety and warmth, people appreciate the opportunity to talk about themselves. In our fast-paced world of gadgets and hype, the spiritual intimacy experince can be a great way to share the wonders of being human with someone you care about.

See also related Practice of the Week: Fall in Love with Someone
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For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2017-03-14

Stop Blaming

Practice of the Week
Stop Blaming

Category: Slogans to Live By: Practices for everyone to keep in mind and pay attention to. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time. Just have the intention to grow stronger in each of these areas as you go about your day, and sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling. The titles of these practices are guiding slogans to live by.


Stop blaming. Whatever happens, don't ever blame anyone or anything else. Take responsibility. Eat the blame and it will make you strong.

In ancient China the monks of a monastery had their meals in the meditation hall oryoki style: seated in rows on their cushions, with formal serving and chanting, eating in a dignified, prescribed manner. On one such occasion, the monastery's abbot discovered a snake head in his soup. This was not snake soup; the monastery was vegetarian. It was definitely a mistake. Probably a farmer monk out in the fields hadn't noticed that he'd cut off the head of snake while cutting the greens, and the snake's head had found its way into the soup pot because the soup-cook monk also hadn't noticed it. Such things happen, even when you are practicing mindfulness and doing good organic farming and trying not to kill anything. But a mistake is a mistake, and a mistake that ends up in the abbot's bowl is a mistake compounded. The abbot called the head cook. "Look!" He held up the snake's head. The head cook, without saying a word, snatched the snake's head and swallowed it. He didn't blame the farmer; he didn't blame the soup cook. He didn't make excuses. He didn't feel guilty or ashamed. He ate the blame. It was probably very nourishing.

Don't blame others, and don't blame yourself either. "Take responsibility" doesn't mean directing blame at yourself. We often blame ourselves and have been doing so most of our lives. We are constantly feeling guilty about everything, and if we are not guilty, we are ashamed. You don't need to blame yourself for the situation you find yourself in. Just take full responsibility for what to do now that you're in that situation.

Stop blaming means you can't blame anyone for what happens, even if it's actually someone's fault, like the farmer's or the soup cook. It may be their fault, but you really can't blame them. Something happened, and since it did, there is nothing else to be done but to make use of it. Everything that happens, disastrous as it may be, and no matter whose fault it is, has a potential benefit, no matter how bad it may seem at first. That's the nature of something happening, that it has a potential benefit, and it's your job to find out how to turn it into a benefit.

Stop blaming means you take the full appreciation and full responsibility for everything that arises in your life, no matter whose fault it is. This is very bad; this is not what I wanted; this brings many attendant problems. But what are you going to do with it? What can you learn from it? How can you make use of it for the path? These are the questions to ask, and answering them is entirely up to you. Furthermore, you can answer them. You have the strength and the capacity. Stop blaming is a tremendous practice of cutting through the long human habit of complaining and whining, and finding on the other side of all of that the strength to turn every situation into the path.

Blaming others and blaming yourself are actually not so different. How is it possible to blame yourself? The only way is to stand next to yourself wagging your finger at yourself, just the way you wag your finger at someone else you are blaming for something. Blaming yourself requires that you somehow stand outside yourself and scrutinize yourself, removing yourself from yourself so as to make yourself into somebody else that you could blame. This is absurd, yet this is what we do. There is no way to be self-blaming or self-incriminating or self-judging without self-externalizing. The question, then, is: Who is it that is standing over there wagging her or his finger at whom?

So it doesn't matter whom you blame. Self or another, it is more or less the same thing. The important point is to accept that what has happened has actually happened. Without hesitation you eat the snake head. You accept reality; you accept responsibility; you figure out what to do next.

And if you can't shake the recriminations? You breathe them in; you breathe them out; you try your best to stay present and patient and not let your mind run away with you. Here you are. This is it. It is not some other way -- it is this way. There is no place else to go but forward into the next moment. Repeat the slogan -- stop blaming -- as many times as you have to.

For Journaling

Use your journal to reflect on how you understand the distinction between blaming yourself  and "eating the blame" by taking "full appreciation and full responsibility for everything that arises in your life no matter whose fault it is."
During your journaling time, think back over the previous 24 hours: Did you blame others? Did you blame yourself? If so, describe. In those particular circumstances, how could you, instead, have taken responsibility without blaming?

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

2017-03-08

Gardening

Practice of the Week
Gardening

Category: Might Be Your Thing (This practice is not for everyone -- but may be just the thing for you!)
"In gardening, you cannot cram. You cannot wait until the last minute to plant and expect a harvest the next day. Shortcuts do not work in a natural world, just as they do not work in our spiritual world. You cannot cram and suddenly become a person of integrity, courage or compassion. In relationships, caring, sharing, tenderness, and consideration can never grow and flourish when too little time is spent nurturing the seeds of shared vision, trust, and compassion."
Adapted from Barbara Davenport, "Gardening," in Everyday Spiritual Practice

For me, all I really needed to know I learned in the garden. Tending a garden from clearing to planting to harvesting has been my way of cultivating the soul.

My hands and heart have dwelt in some patch of dirt every year of my life. Nature's gifts -- dirt, seeds, sun, and rain -- combine to sustain life. I grew up on a 140-acre farm in rural Vermont, a sort of Noah's ark with pairs of goats, sheep, cows, ducks, pigs, horses, and a two-acre vegetable garden. Providence and the work of our hands provided all that we ate.

Gardens are nature's classroom: encouraging imagination; instilling a love of life; teaching the value of work and its rewards. One of my favorite definitions of God comes from a child in a Sunday school class who said, "God is what knows how to grow." Gardening makes real and vivid what we know to be true: we constitute, with all growing things, a single community of life. The universe is often uncertain but ultimately beneficent.

As I grew older I took more responsibility. So too with my spiritual growth and development. First wise elders guided my path. Later I became the hopeful gardener of my own soul, feeding and weeding my own inner spirit. In our gardens we learn the deepest of spiritual lessons.

How We Are Linked to the Land

By participating in the direct preparation of our own food in collaboration with nature, we understand our true link to the land upon which our survival depends.

For Vermont children in the 1940s, spring vacation from school coincided with "sugaring off," a time not set by our fixed calendar of today, but by thawing days and freezing nights. The changes in temperature cause the sap of the sugar maple tree to rise up from its roots in the day, and descend at night, thereby filling buckets of slightly sweet water which, when repeatedly boiled down, provided the only sugar I knew as a child and which remains my favorite sweet. Linked to the land in this way, we more clearly understand the meaning of these familiar words:
"For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NRSV).
The hand of God connects spring and fall, seed and harvest with all the seasons of our souls. We change and grow with each season. The god of the garden is a god for all seasons. The god of the garden is what knows how to grow.

Self-Reflection

Gardens are mirrors of our souls through which we can see clearly into ourselves. Jealousy and self-judgment arise: My neighbor's pea plants are taller than mine! Anger and vengeance arise: Armed with a paring knife and salt shaker, I engage in an early morning search-and-destroy mission, patrolling the strawberry patch in "The Slug Wars." Who shall live? The lettuce or the slugs? This is not one of my Harvard Divinity School exam questions. My intention is death to the invaders of my space. This, too, Ecclesiastes included:
"a time to kill, and a time to heal;...a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace" (Eccl 3:3, 8).
I am not proud of my competitive and murderous aspects. I do not always like what looks back at me from the mirror of my soul, but self-reflection is part of the process of cultivating the garden of the soul. The god of the garden sees all and blesses all without judgment.

Generosity

I have never met a gardener the world over who was not generous. On a trip to Tanzania, I met a gardener who gave me some brightly variegated tan and purple flower seeds. He thought seeds from his garden at the base of snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro would flourish in a garden two continents away, nestled at the base of glacier-covered Mt. Baker. So I planted his passion flower seeds along with seeds I purchased from Burpee Seed Company and reflected on the contrast between Burpee's patented high-priced seeds and the gift from the African gardener. Who gave Burpee their first seeds?

Gardening cultivates generosity and gratitude for the gifts freely given. The god of the garden knows no private ownership, no power over, no permission to oppress. The god of the garden knows no east or west, no north or south. The god of the garden blesses the generous giver.

Patience

In gardening, as in all of life, shortcuts and impatience do not work. As a college student, I crammed for my English literature exams. As a result, all I remember about War and Peace is that it is about Russia. In gardening, you cannot cram. You cannot wait until the last minute to plant and expect a harvest the next day. Shortcuts do not work in a natural world, just as they do not work in our spiritual world. You cannot cram and suddenly become a person of integrity, courage or compassion. In relationships, caring, sharing, tenderness, and consideration can never grow and flourish when too little time is spent nurturing the seeds of shared vision, trust, and compassion. There are no shortcuts and no way to fake the harvest. One quick application of instant "Miracle-Gro" for the soul will not do. The god of the garden blesses the patient sower and reaper.

To Believe in Miracles

A garden is one place in the universe in which you can see and even touch a miracle.

My compost heap is teeming with tiny, squirming, food processing plants whose work no human technology can duplicate. Dead and dying kitchen waste becomes reborn through lowly earthworms, whose life work is transforming garbage into black gold. These creatures work day and night and teach us that miracles do not just happen all at once, but often come after a lot of hard work. The god of the garden transforms the dead into the living.

Wonder

Our gardens draw us into that profound, unspeakable knowledge that we are inseparable from the land we live on, connected in the web of past, present, and future generations. Corn seeds pass from one generation to another, assuring a world without end. Each one of us who supports nature's efforts is a co-creator of life. Each one of us who becomes a hopeful gardener of the soul is a co-creator of a faith that we can and will sustain ourselves.

"Even if I knew certainly the world would end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today," the sixteenth-century theologian Martin Luther once said. Luther understood the true meaning of the paradox of faith: Faith is belief in the unbelievable, but believing in it anyway. The god of the garden cultivates eternal hope and faith.

How

Begin with a personal assessment of your earthly surroundings and outdoor space around you. Ask yourself, how does my plot or pot of earth reflect my character and my spiritual life? What would I like to change in the garden of my soul? What lessons might I learn from tending a garden?

Then, begin your own garden. Help others learn gardening skills. Plant more than you need, and give the rest away. Donate land to someone without a garden plot.

Gardening is active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe: death, rebirth, and the single community of life. The god of my garden blesses every gardener of the soul.

Rev. Barbara Davenport, now retired, previously served the Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (Mt. Vernon, WA), South Fraser Unitarian Congregation (Surrey, BC), and was a campus minister at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

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

2017-03-06

Music: Sun Mar 12


The Blues---a musical style, but also the embodiment of artistic expression in the face of human suffering. Sunday morning’s service explores the role of the Blues in accepting life’s trials, and finding meaning and beauty even in the most difficult times. Jazz great Charles Eubanks –all the way from North Franklin, NY--provides his personal touch, with original compositions and improvisations. CUUC’s Choir is also on hand, offering reflective selections with soloists Kim Force and Ernie Kennedy.  Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Charles Eubanks, piano
Birds of Baghdad: a suite in four parts
(a)Tranqulity & flight (premonition)-(b)shock & awe-(c)Despair & hopelessness-(d)Rejuvenation

Anthem: CUUC Choir, directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
"Since I Fell For You"
Buddy Johnson, arr. by Jay Althouse
Kim Force and Ernie Kennedy, soloists

Anthem:
"Sweet Home Chicago"
 Robert Johnson, arr. by Roger Emerson

Offertory: "Blues on the Corner"/”Dig”
McCoy Tyner/Jackie Maclean

Interlude:
 "Sand Prints"
                                                Charles Eubanks

Postlude: Hymn-Doxology (improvised)

2017-03-01

Be Merciful

Practice of the Week
Be Merciful

Category: Occasional. These are practices suggested for "every once in a while." Some of them are responses to a particular need that may arise; others are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. All of them are worth a try at least once. And any of them might become a regular and central part of your spiritual practice.

See how many of these suggestions for showing mercy you can do in one week. Or in two weeks. Or in a month.

adapted from aleteia.org
  1. Resist sarcasm; it is the antithesis of mercy.
  2. Pare down possessions: share your things with the needy.
  3. Call someone who you know is lonely, even if you understand why they’re lonely. Especially if you do.
  4. Write a letter of forgiveness to someone.
  5. Do something kind and helpful for someone who you don’t get along with, or who has wronged you.
  6. Be mindful of your behavior online. Is that post designed to improve your image and leave others feeling bad? Are you hammering people in order to serve your anger and humiliate others?
  7. Be generous enough to allow someone to help you; people need to feel needed.
  8. If you didn’t mean to be a pain in the neck to someone, admit you were and ask the person to forgive you.
  9. Carry around $5 Starbucks and McDonald’s gift cards for the homeless.
  10. Take time to contemplate the good qualities of someone who is difficult for you.
  11. Send a card, flowers, gift or note to someone on the six-month anniversary of his or her loved one’s death. By then, most people have stopped recognizing their grief.
  12. Offer to babysit for a busy mom to go out and have a couple of hours to herself.
  13. Make a meal (or buy a gift certificate) for a mom who’s just given birth or adopted a child, or for someone who’s just gone through a loss.
  14. Hold. Your. Tongue.
  15. Offer to run an errand (groceries, dry cleaning pick-up, dog-walking) for a busy parent or homebound person.
  16. If you’re sharing a treat, take the smaller portion.
  17. Instead of losing patience with someone online (or in person), try to hear that person’s fear.
  18. Recall a time you were not given the benefit of the doubt, and extend one to someone else.
  19. Put down the phone and really listen to someone else. With eye contact.
  20. Take advantage of sales to buy small toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, socks and feminine products/toiletries; donate them to parish outreaches or make gift bags and have them ready to hand out where needed.
  21. Create a short end-of-day ritual to ask for (and extend) forgiveness with those you live with.
  22. Make a list of your “enemies.” Then, every day, say a prayer for them.
  23. Make a point to smile, greet or make conversation with someone who is not in your everyday circle.
  24. Give away something of yours (that you really like) to someone you know would enjoy it.
  25. Make a gratitude journal for your spouse and jot down little things he or she does that you’re grateful for.
  26. Respond to provocation with the respect you wish a person would show you.
  27. Dig out your most attractive stationery and handwrite an actual letter to someone as a means of demonstrating his or her importance to you.
  28. Offer to read to someone who is feeling ill or is just feeling blue.
  29. Lead with a kind comment with friends as well as strangers.
  30. Can you play the piano, or any instrument? Can you recite poetry? Give free “concerts” to the forgotten people in nursing homes and assisted living centers.
  31. Go on retreat. It’s a way to be merciful to yourself and the people around you, who know you need to go on retreat. If you cannot do that, at least try to make a day, or evening, of recollection.
  32. Offer hospitality in your home to someone or a group of people you would normally never invite over.
  33. Pay the parking or toll fee for the person behind you.
  34. Pray for your dead.
For Journaling

Each day you are following this practice, write in your journal about it. Which items did you do in the last 24 hours? Describe what you did, how you felt, and what effects of your action you observed.

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