Study Spiritual Texts

Practice of the Week
Study Spiritual Texts

Category: This is one of the Three "Core" or "Base" Daily Practices (along with Journal and Meditate)

You can learn a lot by reading. Certain texts are helpful guides for developing spiritual wisdom.

Select worthy texts of “wisdom literature.” The scriptures of any of the world’s religions are wonderful:
  • the Dao De Jing
  • the Bhagavad Gita, and 
  • the Hebrew Bible's books of PsalmsEcclesiastes, or Proverbs 
for instance.

Aside from the canonical scriptures of established traditions, there are many works of wisdom and insight. Here is an essentially random sampling of just a few of the sort of books I have in mind, in no particular order:

Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul
Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First and Second Series
Stephen Levine, A Gradual Awakening
Ram Dass, Be Here Now
Jaris Jay Masters, Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
Chogyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
Henry David Thoreau, Collected Essays and Poems
St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul
Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Awakening of Intelligence
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi
Sharon Salzberg, A Heart as Wide as the World: Stories on the Path of Lovingkindness
Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior
Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step
Jon Kabat Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
Howard Cutler and Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
Julian of Norwich, Showings
M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
Carlos Castenada, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
Dalai Lama, An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess
Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life
The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila
Rabindranath Tagore, The Religion of Man
Kazuaki Tanahashi (ed. & trans.), Moon In a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen

Many more could be mentioned. Choose works that resonate with you, that will coach you in the ways of wise and loving peace in a way that makes sense to you.

Since spiritual deepening is never completed, maintaining a regular, ongoing discipline of study is the important thing here. Set aside 15 minutes a day for reading and reflection on your choice of wisdom literature.

There is a truth/awareness/experience beyond words. The books, of course, are all full of words. But, in combination with practices of silence, regular and continuing spiritual study can give us the words to help free ourselves from the grip of words -- the concepts to help us see through concepts.

Study of a spiritual text enlists your cognitive capacity to assist your spiritual. We live through our days full of ideas and concepts -- and most of them are connected to some form of judgment, some form of not wanting things to be as they are. Wisdom literature helps give us some concepts that can nudge some of those other concepts a little bit into the background more often.

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CUC Music: Sun Mar 1

This Sunday, we welcome oboist Ian Shafer and bassoonist Leonard Hindell to CUC in Francis Poulenc’s charming Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano. Poulenc’s music illustrates the theme of Brokenness in a surprisingly positive, life-affirming way. The music seems to piece together fragments of popular tunes, military fanfares, children’s melodies, romantic excess and classical elegance in a kaleidoscopic array of changing perspectives.
Come at 10am to hear Music Director Adam Kent in a chat with Ian and Lenny about their respective musical instruments and the unique sound and expressive possibilities they offer. Also, consider attending and inviting your friends to the Chamber Music Gems concert at CUC on Sunday March 8 at 3pm to hear more from these marvelous musicians and their colleagues.
Check out https://www.facebook.com/events/1544005835873160 for more information on the Mar 8 event, and read on for programming details for Mar 1.

Ian Shafer, oboe
Leonard Hindell, bassoon
Adam Kent, piano

Prelude: Music for All Ages:
Two Reeds Are Better Than One! Meet the Oboe and the Bassoon
"Rondo" from Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano
Francis Poulenc

Opening Music:
“Bransle de Champagne” from Suite Française

"Andante" from Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano

"Lent—Presto" from Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano


Our Punctuated Equilibrium of Spiritual Growth (Perry's Ponderings)

I remember being introduced to the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium that is about species moving along in stasis or very gradual evolution and then having a sudden major change due to a mutation or other event. It strikes me how this biological evolutionary theory actually applies to our individual, spiritual, emotional lives. We create our routines and our lives move along in a somewhat constant way, hopefully with gradual personal growth happening in the background, until an event hits our lives with a sudden impact. These incidents that puncture our equilibrium force us to shift our perspective and create a new reality. We are transformed by what causes a fissure in our lives and at first seems to break us.

In my own life, I have been through serious illness, divorce, the death of young and old people close to me, and supporting those around me through addiction, cancer, and mental health struggles. Each of these situations has brought its own anguish, attempt for understanding, and search for a path forward. In these moments of life, we struggle to understand the circumstances and ways to cope. I was once told, “No death stands alone.” Our lives are composed of the connective fiber of our life experiences. We experience a sudden brokenness in the context of everything else we have been through and who we are at that moment in time.

Afterward, we continue to process and mesh the experience with our previous life perspective, forming a new vision and way of being that contains the old material woven with our new passages. Sometimes it feels like our life is never the same again. Well, it isn’t; we have evolved.

Although it is an internal process, we depend on others to move ourselves forward. The people around us provide perspective, comfort our pain, push us forward, and often hold up a mirror so we may see more deeply what is happening inside of us. It is invaluable to have a community to which you can bring the questions, feelings, uncertainties, and fledgling realizations. In our Unitarian Universalist faith community we grow together emotionally and intellectually.

The CUC Adult RE Support Team is having initial conversations about how we can create more opportunities for growth and learning. We want to intentionally allow the space for discussing life transitions, topics of interest, theological exploration, faith identity, ethical questions, and shared experiences. There are many formats for doing this whether in a single class, ongoing discussion group, field trip, lecture, or spiritual practice. We welcome your thoughts and ideas as we go through the process. Let us know what has punctuated your equilibrium and what questions it has raised for you that would be better processed in beloved community. Adult Religious Education is about sharing our stories in the context of a focused topic, so that we learn from one another. In this way, we continue to transform the cracks of our brokenness into beautiful lines of our personal evolution.


CUC Music: Sun Feb 22

Sunday morning’s solo piano selections feature works by Unitarian composers. Several of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Pieces and the opening movement of the Hungarian Béla Bartók’s Suite, Op. 14 comprise the Prelude. Arthur Foote served as organist of Boston’s First Unitarian Church for over 30 years, starting in 1878. The “Romance” from his Suite in d minor, Op. 15 is performed as the Offertory. In addition, CUC’s Choir will be on hand with selections by Ruth Elaine Schram and John David. Read on for more programming details.

Allegretto from Suite, Op. 14                                     Béla Bartók
From Lyric Pieces, Op. 12                                                            Edvard Grieg
            Folk Melody, Norwegian Melody, Album Leaf, & National Song
Adam Kent, piano
Choral Anthem:
No Greater Gift                                    Ruth Elaine Schram
            CUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Choral Anthem:
You Are the New Day                        John David, arr. by Philip Lawson

Romance, from Suite in d minor, Op. 15                        Arthur Foote


Stitching In Spirit


CUC Adult RE Program

Sun Mar 1 at 11:45 in Room 14 (Youth Room)
Facilitator: Rev. Kelly Murphy Mason, Community Minister

Fiber arts and handicrafts have figured significantly in people’s communal and spiritual lives for millennia. This has been especially true for women, historically, although these interests now hold very broad-based appeal. Today we see the resurgence gaining ground in the “maker movement” and crafting craze.

Come join affiliated minister and avid crocheter Kelly Murphy Mason in this ongoing group exploring what it might mean for those in our faith community to be “stitching in spirit.”

Please feel free to bring with you any handicrafting projects you might have underway – or else just bring an open and inquiring mind.

This CUC crafting circle will be meeting the first Sunday of the month for the duration of the church program year: Mar 1, Apr 5, May 3, and Jun 7. Anyone with any degree of interest is welcome to join at any point, and newcomers are always encouraged to attend!


What's In a Name Update

What's In a Name Update

IT'S NOT TOO LATE......though there will be no more small group meetings, we still want to hear from you. There's still time to give us your input!

HOW TO GET THE MATERIAL: You can find hard copies of both the reading packet and questionnaire on the table in the main lobby. OR if you prefer, you can e-mail Karen Dreher at KaRu55@aol.com and she will e-mail you all materials.

HOW TO GET YOUR COMPLETED QUESTIONNAIRE BACK TO THE COMMITTEE: Give it to either Karen Dreher or John Cavallero on Sun Feb 22 or Sun Mar 1 OR scan your questionnaire and e-mail it to Karen at KaRu55@aol.com.


Start a Journal

Practice of the Week
Start a Journal

Category: Journaling is one of the three core daily practices.
“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” (Christina Baldwin)

“These handwritten words in the pages of my journal confirm that from an early age I have experienced each encounter in my life twice: once in the world, and once again on the page.” (Terry Tempest Williams)

There are many methods for journaling. Here's a good one.

1. Set aside a time each day. Generally the best time will be either early in the morning, soon after getting out of bed, or at night just before going to bed.

2. Set a timer. What amount of time each day for personal reflection about your life feels right for you? Maybe 10 minutes? 15 minutes? Maybe longer? Once the timer starts, keep writing. Try to keep the pauses few and relatively brief. You're not writing for publication here, so, rather than think it through before writing, keep the pen moving and "let the pen do the thinking."

3. Start with gratitude. Begin by making a quick list of 3-5 things you're feeling grateful for. Repetitiveness is not a problem: if you find yourself listing the same things day after day, that's just fine. The point is just to orient yourself toward gratitude -- which is very powerful. (See the Practice of the Week: "Be Grateful" CLICK HERE.)

4. Then, as suggested in the article below, begin writing about how you're doing. What are your habits -- habits of mood as well as habits of behavior? What would you like them to be? Exactly what is it that's preventing the development of the habits you would like to have?

5. When the timer chimes (or buzzes), stop. Even if you're in mid-sentence (or mid-word), put the pen down and close the journal. We're not looking for instant transformation here. The subject will be there waiting for you to return to it tomorrow. Life itself is endlessly unfinished and often interrupted, and has recurring themes. Your journal reflects your life, and, in the process, begins to slowly change it.

from Tara Parker-Pope, "Writing Your Way to Happiness," New York Times, 2015 Jan 19:
The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.

Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.

The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.

It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.

In one of the earliest studies on personal story editing, researchers gathered 40 college freshman at Duke University who were struggling academically. Not only were they worried about grades, but they questioned whether they were intellectual equals to other students at their school.

The students were divided into intervention groups and control groups. Students in the intervention group were given information showing that it is common for students to struggle in their freshman year. They watched videos of junior and senior college students who talked about how their own grades had improved as they adjusted to college.

The goal was to prompt these students to edit their own narratives about college. Rather than thinking they weren’t cut out for college, they were encouraged to think that they just needed more time to adjust.

The intervention results, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, were startling. In the short term, the students who had undergone the story-changing intervention got better grades on a sample test. But the long-term results were the most impressive.

Students who had been prompted to change their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no information. In the control group, which had received no advice about grades, 20 percent of the students had dropped out within a year. But in the intervention group, only 1 student — or just 5 percent — dropped out.

In another study, Stanford researchers focused on African-American students who were struggling to adjust to college. Some of the students were asked to create an essay or video talking about college life to be seen by future students. The study found that the students who took part in the writing or video received better grades in the ensuing months than those in a control group.

Another writing study asked married couples to write about a conflict as a neutral observer. Among 120 couples, those who explored their problems through writing showed greater improvement in marital happiness than those who did not write about their problems.

“These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself,” said Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the Duke study.

Dr. Wilson, whose book “Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,” was released in paperback this month, believes that while writing doesn’t solve every problem, it can definitely help people cope. “Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,” he said.

Much of the work on expressive writing has been led by James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. In one of his experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics. Afterward, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center.

“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.”

At the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, life coaches ask clients to identify their goals, then to write about why they haven’t achieved those goals.

Once the clients have written their old stories, they are asked to reflect on them and edit the narratives to come up with a new, more honest assessment. While the institute doesn’t have long-term data, the intervention has produced strong anecdotal results.

In one example, a woman named Siri initially wrote in her “old story” that she wanted to improve her fitness, but as the primary breadwinner for her family she had to work long hours and already felt guilty about time spent away from her children.

With prompting, she eventually wrote a new story, based on the same facts but with a more honest assessment of why she doesn’t exercise. “The truth is,” she wrote, “I don’t like to exercise, and I don’t value my health enough. I use work and the kids to excuse my lack of fitness.”

Intrigued by the evidence that supports expressive writing, I decided to try it myself, with the help of Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute.

Like Siri, I have numerous explanations for why I don’t find time for exercise. But once I started writing down my thoughts, I began to discover that by shifting priorities, I am able to make time for exercise.

“When you get to that confrontation of truth with what matters to you, it creates the greatest opportunity for change,” Dr. Groppel said.
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CUC Music: Sun Feb 15

Hot, passionate music from Spain and Latin America will warm you on a chilly February morning in this Sunday’s belated Valentine’s Day celebration. Transcriptions from Manuel de Falla’s ballets El amor brujo (Love by Witchcraft) and The Three-Cornered Hat -- tales of love run amok -- will be included alongside a sensitive evocation of a “charming girl” (Danza de la moza donosa) by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. In addition, Federico Mompou quotes a popular Catalan folk tune, which says “Whoever has love scorns it, whoever has it not craves it”, in his Canción y Danza No. 1. The Prelude opens with the brooding opening movement of Isaac Albéniz’s Iberia Suite, which can be previewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARDh-G45d_8 (below).

Adam Kent, piano

From Iberia, Book I: "Evocación"
Isaac Albeniz

From The Three-Cornered Hat: "The Miller’s Dance" and "The Dance of the Miller’s Wife"
Manuel de Falla

Opening Music:
Danza de la moza donosa
Alberto Ginastera

Canción y danza No. 1
Federico Mompou

From El amor brujo: "Pantomime"
Manuel de Falla

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Adam Kent performing Isaac Albeniz:


CUC Music: Sun Feb 8

In honor of Black History Month, Sunday morning’s solo piano selections feature works by composers of African descent. The works performed range from R. Nathaniel Dett’s post-Romantic character pieces, to Hale Smith’s jazz-inflected pedagogical gems, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s rich arrangement of “Deep River.” Read on for programming details. In addition, CUC’s Choir is on hand to perform a special Valentine’s Day selection as well as a celebratory Alleluia. Read on for programming details.


Deep River
Traditional African-American, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

From New Faces of Jazz: "Scrambled Eggs and Ernie" and "That's Mike"
Hale Smith

From In the Bottoms: "Prelude: Night" and "Juba Dance"
R. Nathaniel Dett

Adam Kent, piano

Choral Anthems:

Si Vis Amari (Trans: "If you want to be loved, love.")
Jerry Estes

A Festive Alleluia
Mary Lynn Lightfoot

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