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Take Responsibility for Your Suffering

Practice of the Week
Take Responsiblity for Your Suffering

Category: Slogans to Live By: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these slogans, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.

Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow. For people in ancient societies, oxen were sturdy animals made for pulling heavy burdens. Cows gave milk and were not built for heavy burdens. So don't put an ox's burden on a cow. The idea is: you are the ox; other people are the cow. The burden of your suffering is your own, not theirs. So don't try to give your burden to them.

This is not saying that we should keep our suffering to ourselves. Sharing our stories of suffering with one another is one of the most important ways we have of connecting to one another. We have to do that, and we have to learn how and when to do it. This slogan is simply about being responsible for our own deeds and for our own feelings.

Suppose someone treats you very badly and unfairly. One way or the other the person is going to have to bear the burden of what ze has done. Yet the suffering that you are feeling as a result of zir deeds is not zir burden, it is yours. After all, if someone were to abuse you, and somehow or other you were able to gobble up the abuse and deal with it cheerfully and make your practice stronger, so that by the time ze was finished abusing you, you were happier and stronger than you had ever been before, then zir abuse wouldn't have hurt you or been a cause of your suffering. The abuse is so painful because of the way you have reacted to it.

Ultimately the burden of your suffering is you own. You yourself are the immediate cause of it, even though the occasion may have been someone else's misdeed. Even when other people's misdeeds are a necessary condition of your particular form of suffering, they are not sufficient. Your reaction is also a necessary condition. It takes both their actions and your reaction to be sufficient for your suffering. Blaming others for our suffering – i.e., putting the burden of our suffering on them -- doesn't do a thing to them, but it increases our own burden, because now we have become the victim of others. We have now made ourselves dependent on them to relieve our suffering. They must be punished or they must make amends or apologize, and if none of this happens, we are going to continue to suffer.

The truth is that only we can bear the burden of our own suffering. If we take responsibility for the suffering, then we have the power to lift that burden off even if the other person continues to abuse us and is never punished and never makes amends. When you give your responsibility for your suffering to others, you are giving up your power to overcome the suffering.

Racism and xenophobia result from privileged people blaming “others” – blacks, people of color, immigrants, indigenous people – for whatever frustration or dissatisfaction they have. The blame takes the form of endorsing negative stereotypes which make things “all their fault.” For the privileged, taking responsibility for their own suffering would entail cheerfully embracing the challenges of a pluralistic, egalitarian society.

It’s important that this spiritual teaching not be used as a device for dodging social justice. Wrongdoers have to be tried and punished and victims compensated. None of that is in contradiction to this slogan. The job of the law and of society is to promote and secure justice and to write and uphold laws that will have that effect. Spiritually, it is for each of us our own responsibility to shoulder the burden of our own suffering, whatever its cause, and to turn the burden into wisdom and love. Sometimes exercising that responsibility involves marching, demonstrating, advocating for policy changes, and bringing suit in court. It is possible, however, to press the point of legal, political, or social culpability without becoming emotionally or spiritually ensnared in blame.

Adapted from Judith Lief, "Don’t Transfer the Ox’s Load to the Cow."

This slogan is about weaseling out of our own duties and responsibilities. It is about passing the buck. In the first place, we avoid committing ourselves, and when we do make a commitment, instead of following through, we prefer to hand it off. We are so concerned with our rights and what we feel we are owed, and we think very little about what we owe to others and to the society at large. When we are asked to do something we may feign modesty, but not because we are really modest. We just want a way out of taking on a load we know we could carry if we wanted to.

Don’t put the heaviest burden on the one who has the least strength to deal with it. It may feel unfair or that you are carrying more than your weight, but realistically, not everyone has the same capabilities.

Sometimes we are in situations when there is a need for someone to take on a leadership position. After the question, “Is anybody willing to step up?” there is nothing but silence. In those occasions, if what is being asked for is worthwhile and you have the background or ability to take it on, you should just do so.

The skill of working with others requires development. It is an art to know how much responsibility to take on yourself and how much to direct to each of the people you are working with so that each person feels challenged but not overwhelmed.

Practice. Pay attention to the temptation to shift your burdens to those who are weaker than you. When you find yourself hiding your own strengths and abilities, look into what is behind that. In what ways do you avoid taking on your fair share of responsibilities?

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Gone fishin'

from the Music Director
Dear Friends:

It’s been so long since we’ve been together in person, but I still feel connected with you through our sense of community and the miracle of modern technology. I am thankful that music continues to be a part of spiritual life at CUUC, especially at this time of incertitude and loss.

For the past 15 years, the start of summer has meant packing my bags and heading off to Spain to play, teach and lecture at several musical festivals. In particular, Joel and I look forward to returning every year to the magnificent town of Burgos; we feel we have a personal relationship with its splendid Gothic cathedral! (see below) This year, though, the unthinkable has happened; all of these activities have been cancelled, and, in an ironic twist, the European Union recently granted the current occupant of the White House his longed-for travel ban.

Still, there are compensations, and remaining in closer contact with the CUUC community and with our denomination is one of them. Last weekend, I was able to participate in the first Virtual GA. The numerous services, talks, and workshops I attended have given me much to ponder in terms of relating the past to current struggles for racial equality, and the challenges involved in situating artistic creation in moral contexts. I hope to share my evolving understanding of these issues through my programming and through my contextualizing at worship services and on our blog in the coming church year.

For now, I look forward to making music for those of you who take solace in it twice each week throughout the summer, through my ongoing series of “A Tempo with Adam” concerts. I will be suspending these concerts the week of July 6, when Joel and I head up to Oneonta for a much-needed mental health break. I look forward to resuming on July 13, and every Monday and Friday afternoon thereafter at 3 pm EST until Labor Day. You can access these concerts through Zoom at: (*Phone (audio only), call: 929-436-2866 and enter Meeting ID: 939 6077 5149)

Although I do not normally participate in live worship services between the 3rd Sunday in June and the 1st Sunday after Labor Day, I am looking forward to providing music for former CUUC ministerial intern Jef Gamblee on August 9. It will be a pleasure to collaborate again with Jef, and reconnect with many of you then.

I leave you with a few links to highlights from my last “A Tempo with Adam” broadcast, which included repertoire connected to our unfolding understanding of the July 4th holiday:

George Gershwin: 3 Preludes

Claude Debussy: Golliwogg’s Cakewalk

Louis Moreau Gottschalk: Souvenir de Porto Rico

Anonymous Colonial: Variations on “Yankee Doodle”

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: “Deep River” arranged for solo piano

Wishing everyone health, peace and fellowship this summer,


Minister's Post, Sun Jul 5

Dear Ones:

When the Unitarian Universalist Association's Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) began its work three years ago, it began by articulating it's commitments -- to:
  • ground its work in theological reflection and seek the articulation a liberating Unitarian Universalism that is anti-oppressive, multicultural, and accountable to the richness of our diverse heritage
  • oversee an audit of racism within UUA and policies and set priorities and make recommendations for anti-oppression strategies that will advance our progress toward Beloved Community while holding the UUA accountable
  • collect stories of those who have been targets of harm or aggression because of racism within existing UUA culture and identify the aspects of that culture that must be dismantled to transform us into a faith for our times
  • examine and document critical events and practices at all levels of the UUA, congregations, and related ministries as special areas for redress and restorative justice
  • illuminate the expectations placed on religious professionals who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the transformation of our fath
  • identify promising practices for recruitment, retention, and formation of religious leadership that spans the spectrum of race, class, and age and reflects an inclusive ecclesiology
Three years later, the COIC has kept its commitments in assembling its report, issued last month.

The full report is available as a PDF HERE. Or you can order it in book form HERE.

Please read it. Let's talk about this.

Yours in faith,

The Liberal Pulpit
Recent past services:
Apr 5: "Taking Care, Giving Care." TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 12: "Traditions of Liberation." TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 19: "What's Your Great Vow?" TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 26. "Attending to the Indigenous Voice" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 3. "Transforming Your Inner Critic" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 10. "There Is No Try" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 31. "Presence in the Midst of Crisis" TEXT. VIDEO.
Jun 7. "Vision" TEXT. VIDEO.
Jun 14. "Just Love." TEXT. VIDEO.
Also find these videos, as well as videos of many other past services, at our Youtube channel: HERE

* * *
Practice of the Week: Cooking As a Spiritual Practice

Category: Might Be Your Thing (This practice is not for everyone -- but may be just the thing for you!)
"When the activities of one's life become spiritual practice,...the activities of life itself become a prayer." (Lynn Brodie)
Adapted from Lynn M. Brodie, "Cooking," in Everyday Spiritual Practice

I like to start my spiritual practice -- cooking -- with a recipe. One of my favorites goes like this: Grab a large pot, pour in:
two tablespoons of oil
heat it on the stove.
Chop up 1 c. onion and
1 tbsp fresh garlic.
Throw them in the pot.

a pile of fresh chopped basil,
1 heaping tsp dry oregano,
2 bay leaves, and
1.5 tsp salt.
Saute them all together.

1 lb, 13 oz tomatoes
1 lb, 13 oz tomato puree
a heaping 1/4 tsp black pepper,
a pinch of red pepper,
1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley, and
1/2 c. wine or beer
Cook it over very low heat all day on stove or in the crock pot. Stir it, taste it, and adjust the seasonings regularly.

When I make this recipe for tomato sauce, I'm not just getting a meal on the table. There is much more going on. To start with, I am paying close attention to all the sights, sounds, smells, and textures. I am smelling the sharp odor of garlic as I hold the cloves between my fingers and chop. I am listening to the sizzle of onions sauteing on the stove. I am watching bright red tomato puree pour from a metal can onto the sizzling spices and enjoying the contrast of color as I drop fresh green parsley on top. I am feeling myself present in the moment. Throughout the day as I go about my other work, my nostrils are filled with the warm, spicy aroma of a sauce made just the way I like it, and I am connecting with my mother, my father, my grandmothers, and all the cooks in my family going back to generations I've never met.

Like most children, I learned to cook by helping my mother in the kitchen. The transformations of ingredients into finished product seemed magical. Some special recipes she made the way her mother had made them. With those recipes came her stories of watching her mother cook and sharing meals with her own family as she grew up.

When I began cooking on my own, I had a great time chopping and stirring, mashing and frying, plunging my hands into bowls full of dough and squeezing it between my fingers. I never thought of it as spiritual, but I certainly enjoyed by cooking nights.

When I went away to college and had an apartment to myself, I cooked up something simple each night. I never thought about why I did it -- I just liked to cook. Now I know why. Those were times of connection and creation. Alone in my apartment, I felt connected to my family by a tradition of cooking.

After marriage and the arrival of children, my cooking had a new focus. Cooking connects me to the people I am cooking for. I focus on creating food that will nourish the bodies and souls of my family and any company we might have. Even when they aren't helping me cook, my family is connected to the process through invisible waves of fragrant steam emerging from the kitchen. When we sit down together in the evening and spook a fresh-cooked meal onto our plates, we all participate in that connection to our senses, our present moment, our selves.

Sometimes I more-or-less follow a recipe, other times I invent something new. But whatever process I use emerges from my life. Recipes I choose to follow or invent are based on my past experience, on my dietary values at the time, on the ingredients available in my house or those I can afford at the store, on the way I feel, and the way I wish to connect with others around me. Recipes I choose to cook always come out of the depths of who I am and where I am in life at a particular moment. All that is in my participates in the act of cooking.

But cooking is not merely an expression of myself. The process of creation shapes who I am in many ways. For example, cooking strengthens my awareness of my dependence on the earth. I like to start with basic ingredients and cook from scratch because it puts me in closer contact with the source of the food. I don't grind my flour myself, but it is easier to see the connection to wheat in a bag of whole grain flour than in a package of processed baking mix. When I use fresh herbs and vegetables from the store or from my garden, I feel the same connection.

Cooking has also been a way to connect with the mysterious process of creation. In cooking, one combines separate, individual ingredients and transforms them into something new. Each of the ingredients form making a muffin has a unique taste and texture that is nothing like a muffin. Combining those ingredients and baking them is as clear an illustration of transformation as one could hope for. A muffin is a new entity -- different from its ingredients separately and different from the unbaked batter of all the ingredients mixed. This happens in a more or less dramatic fashion in all cooking.

I began to realize that cooking was my spiritual practice when my life got too busy to cook -- yet I did it anyway. I was a wife, mother of two, homeowner, dog owner -- and then I started graduate school. Week after week I kept telling myself, "This is crazy, I don't have time for all this cooking." But somehow I found myself making the time to cook and being happy that I had.

Slowly, I realized why I couldn't give up cooking. Cooking was much more than a way to feed the physical bodies of my family and myself. It was much more than an enjoyable hobby. Cooking nourished my soul, too. Like all good spiritual experience, the time spent in practice enhances the rest of life rather than taking something valuable away.

My pot of tomato sauce is a prayer that has developed and evolved over the years. At first, I followed Mom's recipe exactly, creating a smooth, mild, flavorful sauce. Later, my father showed me a way to make spaghetti sauce that drew on his Italian heritage: it was a spicy, chunky, and potent sauce. In college, I began to cook a sauce that combined my mother's and father's recipes. I stopped measuring ingredients and just added them and tasted regularly. When my husband and I stopped eating red meat, I came up with a recipe for ground turkey meatballs. When we stopped eating meat altogether, I devised a vegetarian meatball. When my son was refusing to eat any vegetables, I added grated carrot to the sauce. I'm sure the sauce, like all my cooking will continue to evolve with the ever-changing inner and outer lives of myself and the members of my family.

When I cook I am part of the interconnecting past, present, and future of humanity. I have opened a window to my own inner soul and to the world around me. I am completely involved in the activities of life and paying close attention to all that surrounds me. By being fully present in the moment, I experience a peace, a connection, and a rootedness. Through this awareness I am connected with the ultimate forces of the universe within and without. That is my definition of spirituality. When the activities of one's life become spiritual practice in these ways, the activities of life itself become a prayer.

* * *
See also: Anne-Marie Fryer Wiboltt, Cooking for the Love of the World: Awakening Our Spirituality through Cooking. "An internationally acclaimed biodynamic farmer, natural health counselor, and nutritional cooking teacher infuses cooking and eating with deeply reverent and spiritual consciousness. Food is placed within an understanding of the earthly and cosmic forces of plant life and exquisite recipes transform nature into the art of cooking."

* * *

* * *
Moment of Zen: The Dualistic Idea

We think and talk in dualisms: good and bad, is and is not, home and away.

These dualisms are necessary. They are also false. The challenge is to use them while also seeing through them.

Owl came to Raven for a private meeting and asked, "Is there something pure and clear underneath everything?"
Raven said, "You can say that."
Owl said, "Isn't it a dualistic idea? I thought Buddhism is a religion of oneness.":
Raven croaked and then said, "Show me your essential purity and clarity."
Owl said, "I was just asking a question about Buddhism."
Raven said, "Don't neglect your religion of oneness."
First comes inferring what must be underneath.
Or believing what somebody else inferred.
And maybe that's enough,
And maybe not. Maybe you want to see it more directly --
Though what "directly" is, or "see," you don't know.

Legends say that once you see it
You'll see it's not underneath,
but immediately presents.
You never were looking at anything else,
Legends say.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC News

E-Shrine of Vows

Check out our electronic CUUC Shrine of Vows: CLICK HERE. Eventually, these will be printed out and incorporated into a physical display. For now, draw inspiration from your fellow Community UUs by seeing what they have vowed. If you're vow isn't included, please email it Rev. Meredith at


Summer 2020 Religious Education Newsletter

Religious Education & Faith Development
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains
July 2, 2020

Summer 2020 Edition
Our Religious Educator, Tracy Breneman,
will be on vacation July 5th-27th.

She will be back at her desk Tuesday, July 28th.
During this time, please contact RE Council Co-Chairs:
Laura Goodspeed, and
Christine Haran,


Friday, July 3rd
Peekskill Waterfront

YOUTH LED Rally Against Racial Injustice
Westchester Interfaith Youth Alliance 

JR (Tracy's partner) will be sharing original
spoken-word poetry early in the program

Friday, July 10th
Westchester County Courthouse

Honoring Black lives lost
and supporting families

The CUUC Hunger and Homelessness team and the Brunch Committee continue partnering with HOPE Kitchen to provide support for local families experiencing food insecurity. Contact Nicole Turygin ( and Steve Miller ( to find out how you can participate in this important work over the summer! 

The 1619 Project at CUUC
To understand current demands for racial justice, we need to truly understand our country's history. CUUC discussions about The 1619 Project will resume in the fall. Read about CUUC's approach HERE.  Summer is a great time to read the materials! Links to the individual essays on The New York Times website can be found at the bottom of their article "Why We Published the 1619 Project." Find a link to The New York Times Magazine: The 1619 Project HERE


UU Kids Connect
Welcome! UU Kids Connect is an 8 week summer program initiated by The Community Church of New York and developed in collaboration with six other UU congregations to offer a new experience in faith community for incoming grades K - 8. Using stories, games and activity-based learning, children in incoming grades K-5 will explore the eight principles of our UU faith in new and different ways. Middle schoolers, incoming grades 6-8 will enjoy theme-based socials that allow them to forge new friendships, share their voices on matters that matter to them, and have fun growing their identities in a supportive and grounded space! 
UU Kids Connect is about building new UU community, and lifting up and celebrating all of the awesome ways there are of being and believing in the world. 
Rising K-5th Graders 
  • Summer Power Hour Mondays - incoming grades K-2 (Mondays, July 6 – Aug.24, 11:00am-12:00pm ET)
  • Summer Power Hour Wednesdays - incoming grades 3-5 (Wednesdays, July 8 – Aug.26, 11:-00am – 12:00pm ET)
Each week we’ll explore one of the 8 Unitarian Universalist Principles. On Monday July 6th, we’ll begin by lifting up the belief that each and every person is important. Any child through 5th grade is welcome to attend on any Mondays and/or Wednesdays. Wednesday hours will be more of an enhanced deeper dive into the principle that is explored on the previous Monday.

REGISTER NOW FOR K-5 (registration is free and does not bind you to attend). Click HERE to register for the 8/week 8/Principle program. 
Rising 6th-8th Graders
  • Summer Socials for incoming grades 6-8 (every other Friday, July 10, July 24, Aug.7 & Aug.21, 3:00pm – 4:00pm ET)
REGISTER NOW FOR 6-8 (registration is free and does not bind you to attend).  Click HERE to register for Summer Socials 6-8. 
Contact: Jil Novenski, Director of Religious Education for Children & Youth - The Community Church of New York, NY
Youth Treehouse
Your UU Central East Region (CER) staff and youth are working on a private social media space where CER youth can connect with each other this summer. 

There will be break out spaces by CON community, spaces for POC and LGBTQ youth, chances to plan drop in programs like worship, and more—whatever the community needs and can create together! This will provide opportunities for youth to develop leadership skills. 

The Treehouse will be completely free and open to rising 9th graders through 2020 HS graduates. Youth must be approved by their Religious Educator. Registration is OPEN! The week of July 6th we’ll have a meet and greet over Zoom and an online youth worship.

Faith Lab

Faith Lab is an engaging online summer program for high school aged Unitarian Universalists who’ve completed grads 9-12 (or homeschool equivalent) that happens July 10th through 31st. Faith Lab is a chance to explore spiritual leadership, learn alongside UU spiritual teachers, and experiment with mystery, faith and wonder. In Faith Lab, you will discern your unique gifts, explore spiritual practices and build community together. Cost is a sliding scale: $0, $75, $150, $255 to $300 + donation. Click HERE for more information. 

Youth can do both the CER Treehouse and the UU Faith Lab!

The CER Treehouse will be more drop in events, some planned by youth, some planned by adults. It’s a great place for lots of youth from youth who don’t know how much of a commitment they want to make to youth who want to practice leadership by making things happen. 

UU Faith Lab will focus on connection between youth and building the skill sets we all need to have more virtual youth events instead of leading a regional specific youth leadership school.

Center Lane LGBTQ+
Online Pride Camps 
Center Lane is celebrating its 25th birthday with LGBTQ+ Pride Camps! Pride Camps are FREE 5-day leadership conferences where teens in Westchester County can earn 20 hours of community service learning how to create community, connect with LGBTQ+ culture and history and contribute to the world! Westchester UU youth have attended these camps in the past and loved them - ask Tracy!

Pride Camp: Friendship & Dating & Sex, Oh My!
Monday-Friday, July 13-17, 11am-3pm
Finding and building relationships is unique for LGBTQ+ youth. Coming out, rejection, and (sometimes) unexpected crushes can be part of it. The straight world gives us much of the script for dating, so it’s hard to know how it all works - or where even to find someone! In most sex ed lessons, we’re either terrified or invisible. Here we’ll talk about all kinds of healthy, safe relationships.

Pride Camp: Isms & Intersections
Monday-Friday, August 10-14, 11am-3pm
The LGBTQ+ community is made up of people of all genders, races, religions, abilities, ages, income levels - we're everyone! This week, we'll talk 'ism' - how oppression of groups affects us personally, others in our community, and how we talk about being Queer. We'll explore how we navigate intersecting identities, deal with oppression, and show resilience.

Click HERE for links to other UU camps and activities.
Check for updates about in-person or virtual participation. 


The RE Council affirms that work to promote equity, inclusion, and diversity is not optional for our faith but a form of spiritual practice and necessary to fully live into the values of our faith. Core in Unitarian Universalism is a call to action that carries with it a responsibility to support our young people as they learn to carry our UU values into the world. The values of our faith are desperately needed, visibly and solidly. Our young people need to know our history, how to navigate their own socialization, and how to center the voices and experiences of people with historically marginalized and targeted identities.

For the 2020-2021 year in Religious Education, we are embracing the theme of Justice and Equity. We will deepen our partnership with the CUUC Social Justice teams, supporting existing initiatives and affording our young people opportunities to find their voice. 

While we do not yet know when we will return to our building, it’s exciting to imagine that when we do return some of the new practices we developed in recent months might continue in some form, opening new opportunities for faith development and community.

By mid-August, the RE Council will write to CUUC families with an initial plan for the year. Conditions permitting, we might have a carefully planned, physically distanced Fun Day the last weekend in August. We'll see how conditions evolve in the coming weeks and check with the Board before confirming any plans. 

We hope you have a wonderful, safe, and healthy summer!


  • For information about Summer 2020 UU camps, click HERE
  • Click HERE for activity resources.
  • Click HERE for our growing list of anti-racism resources for families.
  • Weekly Community Pandemic Check-In, Thursdays, 7:00pm, Room ending 8944. CUUC Community Minister Rev. Deb Morra invites CUUCers who want to connect and share during the pandemic to drop in to this weekly online check-in. All are welcome.
  • Many Journey Groups continue checking in over the summer. Visit for information about these and other gatherings; click on an event for login information.
  • Check the Online Programming Schedule for Zoom room information
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains  
468 Rosedale Ave · White Plains, NY 10605-5419

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