From the Minister, Sun May 10

Scott Peck's 1978 book, The Road Less Traveled, has become a classic. In it, Peck writes that mental health is a an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs. Here's a little bit of the context leading up to that line:
Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful. We can revise our maps only when we have the discipline to overcome that pain. To have such discipline, we must be totally dedicated to truth. That is to say we must always hold truth, as best we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort. Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort, relatively unimportant and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth. Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.
I'd say that's what spiritual health is, too: that commitment to face reality, not turn away from it, embracing the discomfort it sometimes makes us feel.

As we explore Joy -- our theme for May -- during a time Coronavirus -- I recall that the foundation of joy is spiritual health, and spiritual health is dedication to reality, all of reality, at all costs. The temporary comfort of turning away from reality, putting it out of mind even for a moment, exacts a toll upon our spirits. Whatever self-medication we might choose to numb ourselves -- whether ingesting a substance or any other escapism -- disconnects us from life and from joy. The temporary soothing obstructs abiding joy.

I look to the poets to depict reality vividly -- to hold it clearly before us. Our invocation every Sunday for the last 5 weeks has been a poem about the pandemic. This week, I share with you "Kneading Bread While Dying," by Christine Gelineau.
Not a loaf from antiquity forward
has ever been formed by hands
that were not dying—it’s not
that I’ve forgotten that, but here
I refer to the special quality imbued
to the feel of the yeast springing alive
under your palms when the breadmaking
is an attempt to distract yourself
from the Covid symptoms that
that have flared, and receded, flared
and receded within you now for weeks.

At 3 a.m., pacing, jittery, bellowing
your lungs in deep five-second breaths,
you find yourself pondering what
a life means, living, what is
the import of new mornings
when the darkness surrounds you
elementally as oxygen?

Remember that time on the plane,
the pilot preparing you for
emergency landing, twenty
minutes until we are “on the ground,”
see you on the ground
the pilot said and you curled into
yourself, folded into stasis, unable
to imagine what could one ever do
equal to the last twenty minutes of your life,
a question you knew even then had no answer.

And now, the window of time left
less definite, you fill the hours:
walk out into the cold spring
to breathe the chill air and visit
the nodding daffodils, or you FaceTime
the grandchildren, or you knead
the living dough, hands pressed deep
into the rising warmth of our daily bread.
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.

Find videos of these and many past services at our Youtube channel: HERE

Adult/Youth Religious Education

Sundays, 4:00 - 5:15, in zoom room ending 7899.
THIS WEEK ONLY: Also offered at 4:00 on Sat May 9.

Click here:
Or telephone 646-876-9923, and enter meeting ID: 289 850 7899

You are invited to join in at EITHER Sat May 9 at 4:00, OR Sun May 10 at 4:00. Take Your Pick

Jeff Tomlinson and Rev. Meredith Garmon will be leading conversation about Part 2 of 4 exploring this year's UUA Common Read: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States.
This special "double" arrangement is offered this week only for the sake of those who may have (virtual and socially distant) Mother's Day plans.

This weekend we'll look at pp. 56-116:
  • Chapter 4: Bloody Footprints
  • Chapter 5: The Birth of a Nation
  • Chapter 6: The Last of the Mohicans and Andrew Jackson's White Republic
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States is the 2015 Recipient of the American Book Award, and holds the 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature.

Order your copy from uuabookstore.org (or any major online bookseller).

More info about the UUA Common Read at uua.org/read

Sun May 17: Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, part 3
Sun May 24: Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, part 4.
Sun May 31: The 1619 Project, part 1.
Sun Jun 7: The 1619 Project, part 2.

Practice of the Week: Heal What You Feel: The Sensation Meditation

Category: WORTH A TRY, or OCCASIONAL, or MIGHT BE YOUR THING: These practices are "worth a try" at least once, or, say, for one week. Beyond that, different people will relate in different ways to the practices in this category. Some of these practices you will find great for "every once in a while" -- either because they are responses to a particular need that may arise or because they are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. Among these practices you may find the one particular practice that becomes your main and central spiritual practice -- or a Key Supporting Practice.

When clients come into my office, they describe many types of problems. Whatever their problem, it usually includes feeling stuck in anger, sadness, fear or hurt. I teach them the “Sensation Meditation” (SM), which is my adaptation of The Sedona Method. In this guided meditation, people focus on their negative feelings in a specific manner. By fully feeling their emotions without distraction, people can move through “stuck" feelings into a place of healing. When people finish using this simple three-minute meditation technique, they frequently report that their negative feelings have vanished, and that their body feels relaxed, peaceful, and at ease.

First, find a comfortable chair or couch. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. Then, scan your body and notice the most uncomfortable feeling or sensation you feel. Focus on this area of your body, and feel exactly whatever is there. For example, if you're annoyed, you might notice a tightness in your chest and a warm feeling in your throat. If you're worried, you may notice a tension in your forehead muscles and shoulder blades.

Emotions are experienced in the body as specific sensations such as warmth or coolness, tightness or relaxation, sharp or blunt, etc. As you notice uncomfortable sensations in your body, try to be aware of the resistance you have to experiencing these uncomfortable feelings. Instead of avoiding or pushing away the discomfort you feel, allow the sensations to be there. Give yourself full permission to feel whatever is going on in the present moment.

As you tune into your present time sensations and let go of resisting whatever is there, you may notice that things start to change. Negative feeling arise and pass away if we don’t resist them. If we resist them, they stay stuck in our body. Let go of your resistance, focus on what you feel, and the dam of stuck feelings will become like a moving river once again.

To help you tune into the present sensations of your body, focus on the following questions:
1. Where in my body do I feel the most uncomfortable feelings or sensations?
2. How big of an area in my body does the core of these uncomfortable sensations cover?
3. Is this area warmer or cooler than the rest of my body? How exactly does it feel different?
4. What about this sensation do I resist or find uncomfortable?
5. Can I let go of my resistance and allow the sensations to flow through?
6. What is something I could feel grateful for or look forward to in my life?

As you go through each of these, focus on what the question points to. For example, if you're noticing how big an area the sensations occupy, compare it to the size of a baseball, a basketball, or whatever seems appropriate. Except for question number six, each of these inquiries will help you be present with your body. The more current you can be with the actual sensations in your body, the more quickly and easily stuck feelings will dissipate.

As you focus on these various questions, imagine you are a scientist objectively noticing the exact moment to moment sensations in your body. By the time you reach question number six, you'll probably feel relaxed. As you focus on what you feel grateful for or what you look forward to allow yourself to be filled with the feeling of gratitude or excitement. Once you feel relaxed and positive, you can slowly open your eyes and enjoy your day.

While the SM is great for cutting through stuck feelings, it's also an excellent tool for getting over minor upsets. If you feel a bit tense or annoyed, try taking three minutes to do this meditation. I think you'll notice you'll soon feel relaxed and at ease. With practice, you can even do a shorter version of this meditation. To do this, simply take a deep breath, notice the uncomfortable sensations in your body, and then relax and allow what you feel to fully be as it is. As you stay present with these sensations, you'll soon observe that they change, and like a river, flow through you. If you do this method enough, you may even be able to do the whole process in under a minute. It can be a great way to love yourself.

The SM helps your feelings through a natural, organic process. Instead of trying to distract yourself from your feelings—which simply allows them to stay stuck - your feelings naturally become unstuck as you fully feel them. Although it can be hard to believe, it is our resistance to our feelings that allows negativity to stick around in our body. Even for major upsets, like the ending of a relationship or a death in the family, the SM can help you move through your grief. Sometimes, the feelings will briefly become more intense before they subside. That's part of the healing process, and shouldn't be resisted either.

You might want to write out the six questions from the meditation on a little note card, or record the meditation on your Smartphone or MP3 player and then, when you need it, listen to it. To create your own guided Sensation Meditation, simply tell yourself to "focus on what feels uncomfortable in your body." Wait a minute to give yourself time to feel what is there and time to try to let go of any resistance. Then, read the six questions into whatever you use to record your voice, remembering to pause for about twenty seconds after each question. That's all that's needed.

Most people are secretly at war with their own feelings. This creates stress and has a tendency to keep bad feelings around. Fortunately, the SM can help you become friends with your feelings and your body once again.

Moment of Zen: Shaking the Tree

Mess with something, and you get poked and pricked. Did the thing do that, or did you do it to yourself? Where is responsibility -- and what?

Raven called a special meeting of the Tallspruce community to announce that Porcupine was to become a teacher.
"Porcupine has shaken the old crab-apple tree and brought down some tasty little fruits," she said solemnly. "He'll share them if you like."
Black Bear said, "I'm afraid I'll get poked with his quills."
Raven said, "That's the risk."
Mole said, "I'd like to hear from Porcupine."
Porcupine said, "Actually, I don't poke. You poke yourself."
Black Bear said, "How can I avoid poking myself?"
Porcupine said, "Don't mess with me."
Teachers and students, friends and lovers,
Robins, glaucous macaws,
The local stream, the distant hills, the vast ocean,
The trees: oak and birch, poplar and larch,
Pine, cedar, dogwood, and all the rest,
And all the rest, the great blue planet:
To love is not to seek to merge,
Nor to embrace, nor to be embraced by,
But to be infused with the vivid certainty
That separation never happened and couldn't.
The fact is already accomplished,
Teachers and students, friends and lovers.
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 minister@cucwp.org

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