Lists of Lists

Here's a list of a dozen lists for understanding Unitarian Universalism and for our shared congregational life.

#1. The Seven Principles

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Source: Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association

#2. The Six Sources

The living tradition we share draws from many sources:
  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  6. Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Source: Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association

#3. The Four Functions of Faith Community
  1. Worship and Celebration. The Sunday service centers congregational life.
  2. Religious Education. Learning and growing together -- for both children and adults.
  3. Caring for Each Other. The church has a pastoral function.
  4. Social Justice. Acting together as a people of faith to promote peace and justice in the world.
These are the reasons a church exists. It does many other things -- elect officers, make and amend bylaws, make a budget, maintain a building and grounds, produce newsletters. These things are not the reason the church exists. They are necessary to enable the church to carry out its four functions, but they are not themselves reasons for the church's existence. Worshiping, learning, loving one another, and working for justice are.

Source: Rev. Richard S. Gilbert (UU Minister), The Prophetic Imperative: Social Gospel in Theory and Practice, (2000).

#4. The Four P's: Expectations of Membership

Membership in a Unitarian Universalist congregation, I explain to prospective members and current members alike, comes with certain expectations.
  1. Presence. Membership calls for a commitment to show up, if at all possible, for weekly Sunday worship, and for your monthly "Journey Group" (a small group of 9-16 members). Without a commitment to attendance at these two, membership isn't very meaningful.
  2. Participation. Take part in the running of the church. Various items come before the membership for a vote: participate in the discussion, engage the issues, and cast your vote. "Participation" also includes taking part in the programs of the church, helping with various tasks, servng on committees, taking a turn teaching kids' R.E. from time to time.
  3. Pledge. The church requires your financial support to sustain itself, of course. More importantly -- since we are a faith organization for nurturing your spirit -- generosity and gratitude are the most basic practices for cultivating spiritual growth.
  4. Practice. Practice Unitarian Universalist values and spirituality throughout your life. If you were accused of being a Unitarian Universalist -- and if the evidence of your presence, participation, and pledge were inadmissable -- would there still be enough evidence for a conviction? "Practice" also involves taking up the intentional discipline of a spiritual practice, of which there are many forms.
Source: The basic four P's came to me through Rev. Kathleen Rolenz (UU Minister) at the annual assembly of Tennessee UU congregations, 1997. Adapted.

#5. The Four Types of Church Growth

A church must be growing -- and growing in four different ways.
  1. Numerical growth. Growth in membership numbers (including also number of kids registered for RE and average Sunday attendance of adults and kids), and in budget numbers.
  2. Maturational growth. The growth of the members of the church in the maturity of their faith, the depth of their spiritual roots, and the breadth of their religious imaginations.
  3. Organic growth. The growth of the church considered as an organism. A healthy organism requires healthy internal organization. For a church, this means policies, processes, practices, programs; practices of leadership recruitment and succession planning; evaluation mechanisms for programs, volunteers, and paid staff; structures for dealing with conflict openly and honestly.
  4. Incarnational growth. The growth of the church as the embodiment of its values, hence, it's growth as a presence in the community and in serving needs outside itself.
Source: Loren Mead. A variety of UUA materials utilize this typology (for one online example, click here.)

#6. The Three Constituents of Religion

When I'm asked what Unitarian Universalists believe, I frequently reply, "What Unitarian Universalists believe is that your religion isn't about what you believe." So what is religion about?
  1. Religion is about the way you live: the ethics and values that guide your life.
  2. Religion is about community: the people with whom you choose to join in faith community, and the rituals, songs, and stories that affirm and strengthen community connection.
  3. Religion is about experience: the experiences of moments of transcendence, awe, mystery, wonder, beauty, interconnection and oneness.
A church is for bringing these three very different things together in such a way that each one can reinforce the other two: so that the values we live by can also help us be in community, and facilitate more frequent and deeper religious experience; so that the community we join can strengthen us in our values and help us make enduring meaning of the moments of religious experience; so that the breakthrough moments of spiritual experience will deepen commitment and understanding of our values, ethical commitments, and appreciation of one another in community.

Source: Meredith Garmon (but see also Phyllis Tickle [religion scholar]: religion is a "cable of meaning" composed of three strands: spirituality, corporeality [i.e., the apparatus of community], and morality).

#7. The Five Smooth Stones of Liberalism

The preceding "Three Constituents of Religion" apply to any religion, liberal or conservative. What qualities, then, make a religious approach liberal? The great 20th-century Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams (1901 - 1996) articulated these "five smooth stones" of liberalism:
  1. Growth. "Religious liberalism depends first on the principle that revelation is continuous. Meaning has not been finally captured. Nothing is complete, and thus nothing is exempt from criticism." Our religious tradition is a living tradition because we are always learning.
  2. Freedom. "All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion." We freely choose to enter into relationship with one another.
  3. Justice. We are morally obligated to direct our "effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community. It is this which makes the role of the prophet central and indispensable in liberalism."
  4. Social Incarnation. Religious liberals "deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation." Developing just institutions involves the messiness of claiming our power amid conflicting perspectives and needs, rather than the purity of ahistorical, decontextualized ideals.
  5. Hope. "The resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism."
Source: James Luther Adams, "Guiding Principles for a Free Faith," On Being Human Religiously. (CLICK HERE)

#8. The "Four Noble Truths" of Unitarian Universalism
  1. It's a blessing you were born.
  2. It matters what you do.
  3. Your experience of the divine is true.
  4. You don't have to go it alone.
Source: adapted from lyrics by Laila Ibrahim for a "Chalice Camp" children's song.

#9. The Three Sub-measures of Spirituality

The "Temperament and Character Inventory" (TCI) measures "self-transcendence" (a.k.a. spirituality) as the sum of three submeasures:
  1. Self-forgetfulness. The proclivity for becoming so immersed in an activity that the boundary between self and other seems to fall away.
  2. Transpersonal identification. Recognizing oneself in others -- and others in oneself.
  3. Acceptance. The ability to accept and affirm reality just as it is, even the hard parts, even the painful and tragic parts.
Source: Robert Cloninger (psychologist, creator of the TCI), adapted.

#10. The Five Foundational Spiritual Practices

Whatever your primary spiritual practice may be -- playing music, hiking, quilting, gardening, or any of myriad other possibilities -- your practice will benefit from also taking up these five practices to provide a solid foundation for your spiritual growth.
  1. Study. Daily. Choose writings that seem to you to offer spiritual wisdom and insight. Spend some time studying them every day for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Journal. Daily. Journal about your reflections on spiritual subjects, your experiences of the last day and what they meant to you, and what you're grateful for. Journal every day for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Silence. Daily. Sit still and quiet. Bring your attention to the sensations of your breath coming in and going out. When thoughts arise, make a note of what sort of thought it was, and then return to awareness of the sensations of breathing. Set aside some time -- at least 15 minutes -- every day to experience stillness and silence.
  4. Group meeting. Monthly, at least; fortnightly or weekly, if do-able. Meeting regularly with a group that shares your spiritual practice provides additional insights and helps maintain the motivation for practice. We need to have friends along the path.
  5. Resolve for mindfulness. Continuously. Throughout the day, keep bringing yourself back to the present moment.
Source: Meredith Garmon

#11. The Seven Dimensions of Religion
  1. Ritual: Forms and orders of cermonies (private or public or both)(often regarded as revealed)
  2. Narrative and Mythic: Stories (often regarded as revealed) that work on several levels. Sometimes narratives fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and humans' place in it.
  3. Experiential and Emotional: Dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, liberation, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss (private)
  4. Social and Institutional: Belief system is shared and attitudes practiced by a group. Often rules for identifying community membership and participation (public)
  5. Ethical and Legal: Rules about human behavior (often regarded as revealed from supernatural realm)
  6. Doctrinal and Philosophical: Systematic formaulation of religious teachings in an intellectually coherent form.
  7. Material: Ordinary objects or places that symbolize or manifest the sacred of supernatural.
Source: Ninian Smart

#12. The Six Stages of Faith Development

Congregations can't make people advance to higher stages of faith development, nor can they even test with much accuracy who is at what stage. Nevertheless, nurturing and encouraging people toward greater faith development is the function of a faith institution.

Stage 1 – "Intuitive-Projective" faith (ages of three to seven), is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious, and marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns. [1] Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with.

Stage 2 – "Mythic-Literal" faith (mostly in school children), stage two persons have a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and their deities are almost always anthropomorphic. During this time metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and are taken literally.

Stage 3 – "Synthetic-Conventional" faith (arising in adolescence; aged 12 to adulthood) characterized by conformity to religious authority and the development of a personal identity. Any conflicts with one's beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies.

Stage 4 – "Individuative-Reflective" faith (usually mid-twenties to late thirties) a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect on one's own beliefs, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one's belief.

Stage 5 – "Conjunctive" faith (mid-life crisis) acknowledges paradox and transcendence relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves conflicts from previous stages by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent "truth" that cannot be explained by any particular statement.

Stage 6 – "Universalizing" faith, or what some might call "enlightenment." The individual would treat any person with compassion as he or she views people as from a universal community, and should be treated with universal principles of love and justice.

Source: James Fowler (summary from Wikipedia).


Practice of the Week

1***Sun Oct 6
Practice of the Week: Fall in Love. Try this with your spouse -- or a prospective spouse. Or try it with any friend if the two of you are game for being drawn closer together. It's a remarkably effective procedure for two people to develop closeness in a about an hour or two. For people on a first date, the process almost always makes them feel better about each other and want to see each other again....READ MORE

2***Sun Oct 13
Practice of the Week: Meditate. There are different ways to meditate. Focused-attention, or mindful meditation, which is where you focus on one specific thing—it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. The other type of meditation is open-monitoring meditation. This is where you pay attention to all of the things happening around you without reacting....READ MORE

3***Sun Oct 20
Practice of the Week: See the Good in Yourself. Each of us is like a mosaic, with lots of lovely tiles, some that are basically neutral, and a few that could use a little work. It's important to see the whole mosaic. The brains negativity bias, we tends to fixate on what's wrong with us instead of what's right. If you do 20 things in a day and nineteen go fine, what's the one you think about? Probably the one that didn't go well...READ MORE

4***Sun Oct 27
Practice of the Week: Begin the Ecospiritual Path. Awakening is a challenging path. We who live in the industrialized West may find it uncomfortable to face the painful reality of the damage our culture has inflicted upon other people and the Earth itself, as well as dysfunctional aspects of our culture such as consumerism. We may even feel guilty and ashamed. Nevertheless, it is critical that we walk this path...READ MORE

5***Sun Nov 3
Practice of the Week: See Everything As a Dream. This is a physiological fact: the brain registers experience a moment after the experience has happened. Life actually, scientifically, is a kind of illusion. It's very hard to actually put your finger on experience. And the closer you look, the stranger it gets. When you investigate it, the oddness of it all comes home to you. Life is like a dream....READ MORE

6***Sun Nov 10
Practice of the Week: Cultivate Mindfulness. Mindful awareness is paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. It is an excellent antidote to the stresses of modern times. It invites us to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with inner experience. Significant research has shown mindfulness to address a variety of health issues. READ MORE

7***Sun Nov 17
Practice of the Week: Slow Down. There's a place for revving up occasionally, but chronic speediness has many bad effects. When you speed up, you're quicker to find things to worry or get irritated about. Even though "the need for speed" may have become a way of life, it's always possible to make a change. Slowing down is one of those seemingly small actions that could really change your life. READ MORE

8***Sun Nov 24
Practice of the Week: Choose Your Spiritual Practice. Not every activity or pastime is a spiritual practice. It's a spiritual practice if it helps you cultivate spiritual development, and it's more likely to do that if you engage it with mindfulness, with the intention of cultivating spiritual development, and with a group -- and if you establish a foundation of the the three base practices (meditation, journaling, study). READ MORE

9***Sun Dec 1
Practice of the Week: Rest in the Openness of Mind. There's no need to figure everything out. We can just be alive. We can breathe in and breathe out and let go and just trust our life, trust our body. Our body and our life know what to do. The problem is to let them do it, to relax and let them guide us. Resting in the openness of mind at any time during the day can be quite powerful. READ MORE

10***Sun Dec 8
Practice of the Week: Have a Direct Experience of Transcending Mystery and Wonder. Actually, you cannot make yourself have a direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder. You can only prepare for, open yourself to, and invite such an experience. If  transcending mystery and wonder happens, it’s an accident. This practice is to try to make yourself a little more “accident prone.” READ MORE

11***Sun Dec 15
Practice of the Week: Forgive Yourself. There are an inner critic and an inner protector inside each of us. For most people, that inner critic is continually yammering away, looking for something, anything, to find fault with. It magnifies small failings into big ones, punishes you over and over for things long past, ignores the larger context, and doesn't credit you for your efforts to make amends. READ MORE

12***Sun Dec 22
Practice of the Week: Face Ecological Reality. Industrial civilization is killing the planet. Civilization itself may fall; the Earth may be uninhabitable for our great-grandchildren. Let that sink in. We are consuming resources faster than the Earth can renew them, and poisoning the planet. The “Fertile Crescent” is now mostly desert. Ocean “dead zones” are vast, glaciers are melting, forests are clear-cut. READ MORE

13***Sun Dec 29
Practice of the Week: Live by the Truths of Life, Death, Actions, and Suffering. 1. The rarity and preciousness of human life. 2. The absolute inevitability of death. 3. The awesome and indelible power of our actions. 4. The inescapability of suffering. If you think about these four points long and hard enough, it will change your outlook on life, and you will have found the motivation to begin again. READ MORE

14***Sun Jan 5
Practice of the Week: Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. READ MORE

15***Sun Jan 12
Practice of the Week: Get Enough Sleep. It's a rare person these days who's truly getting enough sleep. The right amount of sleep varies from person to person — and from time to time: if you're stressed, ill, or working hard, you need more sleep. Whatever it is that you need, the key is consistency: getting good rest every night, not trying to catch up on weekends or holidays. READ MORE

16***Sun Jan 19
Practice of the Week: Pray. Prayer is not about asking for stuff with any expectation that it will magically appear. Prayer does not require believing in a personlike entity or committing to the notion that reality-as-a-whole has knowledge and desires. Prayer is about being in touch with things exactly as they are in your heart. It's about blessing what is -- even if "what is" is your own desperate need for help. READ MORE

17***Sun Jan 26
Practice of the Week: Examine the Nature of Awareness. Let me suggest an experiment in awareness. Turn away from reading this and find yourself, the me. Find a definite, concrete, identifiable somebody there within your awareness. I think you will find this is not so easy to do. You can find plenty of thoughts and emotions, sensations, opinions, sense experiences, but I think it's very difficult to find an I. READ MORE

18***Sun Feb 2
Practice of the Week: Poetry By Heart. By recording words of wisdom that have personal meaning and "living" with them until they become one's "heart wisdom," those words come to occupy a place beyond memory. When you live with a poem so intimately that it enters your heart, it becomes a constant resource, companion, and guide. The rhymes and rhythms we stored deep in our brains stay with us. READ MORE

19***Sun Feb 9
Practice of the Week: Befriend Your Body. It's common to push the body hard, ignore its needs until they get intense, and tune out from its signals. And then drop the body into bed at the end of another long day like -- as my father would say, having grown up on a ranch -- "a horse rid hard and put up wet." People get mad at the body, and even mean to it. Like it's the body's fault if it weighs too much or is getting old. READ MORE

20***Sun Feb 16
Practice of the Week: Turn Away from Mindless Living. Humanity’s transition from hunter-gatherers to agriculture may have been our original trauma. The psychic foundation of addictive behavior was laid. We are collectively addicted to consumerism and the maintenance of our lifestyle, to petroleum, junk food, quick fixes, big cars, bigger houses, easy credit, to throw-away products, and to overspending. READ MORE

21***Sun Feb 23
Practice of the Week: Don't Get Stuck on Peace. Seeing clearly that what is naively taken for reality is an illusory dream -- and that there is no self at the center of that illusion -- is a crucial step. But it is not the last step. Those slogans may help you be more peaceful, but don't make them into belief systems. Hold them lightly. They are just devices. READ MORE

22***Sun Mar 1
Practice of the Week: Create a Home Altar. Altars hold a central place in the history of many cultures and religions. An altar is set apart as holy. It might be as simple as a bowl on a stone or a mat. What is important is who you are in the presence of your personal altar. For there, you have created a place where you are invited to recognize the sacredness of life, where you are invited to "wake up!" and be whole. READ MORE

23***Sun Mar 8
Practice of the Week: Nourish Your Brain. Significant shortages in any one of the dozens of nutrients your brain needs will harm your body and mind. Shortage of vitamins B12, B6, D, folate, or DHA causes depressed mood. Shortage of vitamin D also causes weaker immune system and dementia. On the other hand, filling up your neural cupboard with good supplies will bring more energy, resilience, and well-being READ MORE

24***Sun Mar 15
Practice of the Week: Simplify. "Simplicity" has a number of overlapping aspects: reducing the hectic pace of life; reducing consumption and reliance on exploited labor, and environmental harm; reducing the clutter of stuff; paring away things that are merely distractions from the kind of life that we want to live; enhancing self-reliance and reduced consumption through self-provisioning activities. READ MORE

25***Sun Mar 22
Practice of the Week: Be a Child of Illusion. Radical transformation is possible. The world can be suffused with love. One can enjoy a measure of happiness and peace. Many regard these statements as illusory. Be a child of such "illusion"! Don't ignore the more difficult side of life and of humanity, or pretend it doesn't exist. But don't let that side completely colonize your mind and heart. READ MORE

26***Sun Mar 29
Practice of the Week: Empathize. There is decreasing violence in the world, says Steven Pinker. One of the main reasons is empathy. Empathy functions to help humans see each other's inherent worth and dignity, and then to enact social practices, expectations, and laws that curb our more violent propensities. Is it possible that we can grow our empathy and extend it to other other species? Yes! READ MORE

27***Sun Apr 5
Practice of the Week: Protect Your Brain. Small changes in brain neurochemistry can lead to big changes in your mood, resilience, memory, concentration, thoughts, feelings, and desires. Key protections include: avoid toxins, minimize inflammation, get regular exercise, and relax. READ MORE

28***Sun Apr 12
Practice of the Week: EveryDay Sacred. We live most of our lives in very ordinary places, where we spend our time doing very ordinary things. If we set up the expectation that the Sacred is something remote from us, something “out there,” far removed from nitty-gritty reality, then it's no wonder we flop into our beds every night wondering why life isn't more fulfilling. How can we live in a way that honors our deepest values and our place in the grand scheme of life? READ MORE

29***Sun Apr 19
Practice of the Week: Don't Be So Predictable. We should all stop becoming professional selves and become amateur selves -- doing what we do for the love of it. Imagine being yourself for the love of discovering every day who you are in relation to others: loving them, and yourself in the process of loving them. We are all a bit too professional about our lives and our relationships. READ MORE

30***Sun Apr 26
Practice of the Week: Balance. Paying attention means using all of our senses in being in the world and in the moment. Stop a moment. Feel the chair in which you are sitting. Notice the temperature around you. Listen for the sounds of your background symphony. Breathe. Appreciate the colors of your clothes, your skin, the sky, or the ceiling. This practice only takes a few moments and is not bound by place or time or ritual. READ MORE

31***Sun May 3
Practice of the Week: Take Pleasure. When you find pleasure in life, you are not pushing away things that are hard or painful. You are simply opening up to the sweet stuff that's already around you -- and basking, luxuriating, and delighting in it. This activates the calming and soothing parasympathetic wing of your autonomic nervous system, and quiets the fight-or-flight sympathetic wing and its stress-response...READ MORE


Moment of Zen

1***Sun Oct 6
Your Moment of Zen: Mutually Dependent Arising When Raven was living near Jackrabbit Roshi, she visited him frequently to inquire about the Way. One day she asked, "I hear that Buddha Macaw looked up from the branch of her Jobo tree and saw the morning star and announced her realization. I get the feeling that something is missing from the story. What happened when she saw the star?"...READ MORE

2***Sun Oct 13
Your Moment of Zen: Metaphysics: Oneness Raven went to see Prairie Dog Roshi. When she announced herself, Prairie Dog poked her head out of her burrow and blinked in the bright sunshine. Raven said, "I hear that Buddha Macaw looked up from the branch of her Jobo tree and saw the morning star and announced her realization. I get the feeling that something is missing from the story. I went to see...READ MORE

3***Sun Oct 20
Your Moment of Zen: Delicious Raven went to see Moose Roshi.
She found him feeding on waterweed in the creek at Cedarford. Perching herself on a rock, she croaked for the Roshi's attention. When Moose looked up, Raven said, "I hear that Buddha Macaw looked up from the branch of her Jobo tree and saw the morning star and announced her realization. I get the feeling that something is missing...READ MORE

4***Sun Oct 27
Your Moment of Zen: Something Still Missing Raven went to see Brown Bear Roshi. Announcing herself, she stood and waited outside the den. Brown Bear eventually emerged and squatted silently on her haunches. Raven said, "I hear that Buddha Macaw looked up from the branch of her Jobo tree and saw the morning star and announced her realization. I get the feeling that something is missing from...READ MORE

5***Sun Nov 3
Your Moment of Zen: Metaphor As they got better acquainted, Raven would ride on Brown Bear's back as Brown Bear foraged for food. When they were setting out one day, Raven asked, "Do you teach exclusively with metaphor?" Brown Bear said, "The robin sings in the oak tree; the finch sings in the madrone." Raven asked, "What do they stand for?" Brown Bear turned her head to look at Raven and...READ MORE

6***Sun Nov 10
Your Moment of Zen: Faith One morning after a round of zazen, Raven asked Brown Bear, "Does faith have a role in practice?" Brown Bear said, "Great faith." Raven asked, "How should I direct it?" Brown Bear said, "One, two, three." READ MORE

7***Sun Nov 17
Your Moment of Zen: The Unborn Relaxing with Brown Bear under the night sky, Raven asked, "What is the unborn?" Brown Bear said, "Awesome." Raven asked, "Is it the same thing as the void?" Brown Bear asked, "Where does all this come from?" READ MORE

8***Sun Nov 24
Your Moment of Zen: Turning Points Raven sat with Brown Bear at zazen early one morning, and afterward she asked, "Why don't we study turning points that are relevant for the forest today?" Brown Bear said, "Ask me a relevant question." Raven asked, "Does the bear hunter have Buddha-nature?" Brown Bear growled, "Mu." "There you go," Raven said. "Mu is an old Asian word." Brown Bear said, "That's the...READ MORE

9***Sun Dec 1
Your Moment of Zen: Character One evening, in a discussion of her personal problems, Raven asked Brown Bear, "What is the role of character in the practice?" Brown Bear said, "I try to keep my promises." Raven said, "I try to keep my promises, too, but I'm easily distracted." Brown Bear said, "The cold wind reminds me." READ MORE

10***Sun Dec 8
Your Moment of Zen: Birth and Death One evening after chanting sutras, Raven said, "Over at Jackrabbit Roshi's community, we were taught that we should be free from birth and death. I've never known how to go about this." Brown Bear said, "That's because it isn't possible." Raven said, "There was a clear implication that it is." Brown Bear lunged at Raven with a horrific snarl. Raven let out a croak and flew to a gray...READ MORE

11***Sun Dec 15
Your Moment of Zen: Thoroughgoing Raven came to Brown Bear's den and walked right into her lair. "Time for me to be moving on," she announced. Brown Bear asked, "What will you say about your study here?" Raven said, "Brown Bear is quite thoroughgoing." Brown Bear said, "Try camping out for a while." READ MORE

12***Sun Dec 22
Your Moment of Zen: Early Students Raven took Brown Bear's instruction, "Try camping out for a while," to heart. She wandered a long time, from forests to upland meadows to icy lakes. Finally, with pinfeathers under her beak getting sparse, she found an abandoned place in a tall spruce tree. She fixed it up, and students began to gather, including Porcupine, who had studied with Coyote Roshi. Other early students...READ MORE

13***Sun Dec 29
Your Moment of Zen: The Dream One fine day Raven took her perch and said to the assembly: "We are children in the dream of the Buddha Macaw. She points to the center of our circle, and the Monarch of the Gods sticks a blade of grass in the ground where she points. Our temple is established, and the Buddha Macaw smiles. The bedrock heaved up from beneath the turf there on the far edge of our circle is her...READ MORE

14***Sun Jan 5
Your Moment of Zen: The Pivot After zazen one evening Porcupine asked, "We examine turning points as our practice. What is the pivot on which this study turns?" Raven said, "The large intestine." Porcupine asked, "So, it's all physical?" Raven said, "All physical, all mental, all moral, all spiritual, all void, all material." Porcupine thought about this and finally asked, "What's the upshot?" Raven said, "Trout in the pool...READ MORE

15***Sun Jan 12
Your Moment of Zen: Ego During one of the early gatherings at Tallspruce, Badger asked Raven, "How can I get rid of my ego?" Raven said, "It's not strong enough." "But I'm greedy," Badger said insistently. "I'm self-centered and I tend to push other folks around." Raven said, "Like I said." READ MORE

16***Sun Jan 19
Your Moment of Zen: The Spirit of Practice Relaxing with the others after zazen one evening, Owl asked, “What is the spirit of practice?” Raven said, “Inquiry.” Owl cocked his head and asked, “What do I inquire about?” Raven said, “Good start.” READ MORE

17***Sun Jan 26
Your Moment of Zen: A Key Issue Woodpecker appeared in the circle one warm summer evening with a guest. "This is mole," she said. "He has life questions but is very timid about coming to meetings. He wants assurances that he is safe," and she cast a look at Badger and Owl.
Raven said, "Well, I'm a predator myself. It's good that we face this issue early." Addressing mole, she said, "This is the Buddha...READ MORE

18***Sun Feb 2
Your Moment of Zen: Timid and Truthful Mole had just arrived at Tallspruce. Raven said, "Was there something you wanted to ask?" Mole cleared his throat and asked, "Should I always tell the truth? Sometimes it does more harm than good." Raven said, "then it's not the truth." Mole sighed and was silent. Owl spoke up and asked, "Then should I lie at such a time?" Raven said, "Tell the truth." READ MORE

19***Sun Feb 9
Your Moment of Zen: Essential Nature Early one morning Woodpecker flew in for a special meeting with Raven and asked, "I've heard about essential nature, but I'm not sure what it is. Is it something that can be destroyed?" Raven said, "That's really a presumptuous question."
Woodpecker ruffled her feathers a little and asked, "You mean I shouldn't question the matter?" Raven said, "You presume there is...READ MORE

20***Sun Feb 16
Your Moment of Zen: Bedrock Buddha Once a disciple of Yogi Rhino sent Raven a message, saying, "You just have a stone outcropping to represent the Buddha Macaw. You should come over here and meet a living Buddha." Raven mentioned this in a talk and said, "If that disciple stays on with Yogi Rhino, she might realize that living Buddhas are all over the place, and yet our bedrock stands forth alone." READ MORE

21***Sun Feb 23
Your Moment of Zen: Inspiration Raven took her perch on the Assembly Oak and said: "Some folks say that you must find your inspiration in your own heart. In a way that's true; you must find the place of peace and rest and carry out your life on that ground. It is also true that inspiration comes from somewhere else. The Buddha Macaw looked up from the branch of her Jobo tree and noticed the morning...READ MORE

22***Sun Mar 1
Your Moment of Zen: Karma One evening Gray Wolf appeared in the Tallspruce circle for the first time. After she had introduced herself (and acknowledged the covenant to abstain from predating in the circle), she said, "Is it all right to ask a question?" Raven said, "Not only all right." "Thank you," said Gray Wolf. "Maybe it's obvious to everyone else, but I don't understand the notion of karma. Could you explain it...READ MORE

23***Sun Mar 8
Your Moment of Zen: Propinquity The same evening that Gray Wolf appeared was also Cougar's first time at Tallspruce circle. Mole stayed underground throughout the zazen period that day, but poked his nose out for the discussion of karma. After Raven's final response to Gray Wolf, Cougar asked, "Then is karma just cause and effect?" Raven said, "Propinquity propinks." Couger shook his head vigorously...READ MORE

24***Sun Mar 15
Your Moment of Zen: The Purpose of Practice Badger attended the circle irregularly because of family responsibilities. One evening he was able to come for zazen and questions. He asked, "What is the purpose of the practice after all?" Raven asked, "Do you have an inkling?" Badger hesitated, "I'm not sure," he said. Raven said, "Doubts dig up the whole Blue Planet." READ MORE

25***Sun Mar 22
Your Moment of Zen: Brown Bear's Purpose Badger's question about the purpose of practice was followed up with a question from Porcupine: "What did Brown Bear have in mind when she took up her role as teacher?" Raven said, "To make little boys ask questions." Porcupine said, "Don't patronize me, Roshi. My question is: What did Brown Bear have in mind when she took up the role of teacher? Raven...READ MORE

26***Sun Mar 29
Your Moment of Zen: Buddhist Terms After zazen one evening Woodpecker asked, "I'd like to understand basic Buddhist terms, but I'm not sure that would help my practice. What do you think?" Raven said, "They help us sort out our vows." Woodpecker asked, "Then they're a kind of appropriate means?" Raven said, "Like the rain." READ MORE

27***Sun Apr 5
Your Moment of Zen: Maintenance Mallard attended meetings for a while before asking her first question: "Aren't we wasting time just sitting here while the Blue Planet goes to hell?" Raven asked, "Do you waste your time eating?" "Is that all it is," Mallard asked, "Just personal maintenance?"
Raven said, "Mallard maintenance, lake maintenance, juniper maintenance, deer maintenance." READ MORE

28***Sun Apr 12
Your Moment of Zen: Mistakes Grouse said, "I feel very nervous when I lead our recitation of the sutras."
Raven said, "Mistakes are part of the ritual." READ MORE

29***Sun Apr 19
Moment of Zen: The Moral Basis Porcupine came by for another special meeting with Raven and asked, "Does Zen have a moral basis?" Raven said, "None whatsoever." Porcupine exclaimed, "Empty! Empty!" Raven said, "That's not what Magpie would say." Porcupine bowed down and touched his face to the ground. Raven asked, "Why do you bow?" Porcupine said, "Magpie is bowing." Raven put her beak... READ MORE

30***Sun Apr 26
Moment of Zen: Vast Indeed Porcupine came to see Raven after the talk that night and said, "The Blue Planet is immensely vast, isn't it!" Raven said, "It doesn't stop there." Porcupine wept. Raven said, "Vast indeed. Vast indeed." READ MORE

31***Sun May 3
Moment of Zen: Where Are They? One evening Owl said, "When Brown Bear visited us, Gray Wolf asked her about the dedication of our sutras to the enlightenment of bushes and grasses. Brown Bear said, 'They are very patient.' I've been musing about this for a long time, and I still don't know what to make of it." Raven asked, "Where are they?" Owl said, "Bushes and grasses? All around." Raven said, "Like the READ MORE