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2020-05-29

From the Minister, Sun May 31

Dear Ones:

As a community of faith, we make meaning together of our life and our times. Our times present us with the challenges of a new coronavirus and old racism.

In 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Sanford, Florida. In 2014 July, Eric Garner was killed in NYC. A month later, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. Eight months after that, Walter Scott was shot dead in Charleston. In response to these and many other killings of unarmed black people, the Black Lives Matter movement spread. Many Unitarian Universalist congregations adopted resolutions of support and displayed "Black Lives Matter" banners in front of their buildings. Our congregation passed our Black Lives Matter resolution in 2016 Apr.

It's been eight years since Trayvon, and over four years since our congregation adopted its resolution of support for Black Lives Matter. Has anything gotten better? The case that it has not looks pretty strong. Last Feb 23, Ahmaud Arbery was killed near Brunswick, Georgia. 74 days passed before the rising storm of protest finally prompted an arrest. Last Mar 23, Breona Taylor was shot in her apartment by plainclothes police officers who entered without knocking or announcing themselves as police officers. Last Monday morning, Christian Cooper was assailed with racist threats while bird-watching in Central Park. (The video he took was posted to twitter by his sister, former CUUC member Melody Cooper.) Later the same day, George Floyd died in Minneapolis with an officer's knee on his throat.

The responses in Georgia from that state’s attorney general and governor, albeit belated, are marginally stronger than high-level authorities offered in Florida eight years ago, or in Missouri six years ago. In Minnesota, the officers on the scene when George Floyd died were fired -- more promptly than they would have been in the past, I believe -- and one of the officers has now been charged with murder.
I was struck by Governor Tim Walz's analysis and his grasp of historical roots when he said,
"The very tools that we need to use to get control to make sure buildings aren't burned and the rule of law collapses are those very institutional tools that have led to that grief and pain. These are things that have been brewing in this country for 400 years."
I don't recall a governor talking that way before.

Still, whether we will see diminution of racist incidents, we don't know. The arc of the moral universe, if it bends toward justice, or is to bend toward justice, is and will be agonizingly slow and exasperatingly uncertain.

There is and will be overt backlash from folks who don't know how to navigate a more equitable reality. There is and will be negligent failure to actively dismantle unconscious racism from folks who feel sure they "aren't racist." There is and will be more virtue signaling than virtue.

My task – and perhaps yours if you choose -- remains what it has been: to do the work of learning without holding any knowledge certain; to do the work of examining my habits and assumptions; to speak up for justice when speaking up is called for and to shut up and listen when that is called for.

All of these are difficult, and I expect I’ll often get it wrong. But when has the path of love ever been otherwise?

Yours in faith,
Meredith

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.

Also find these videos, as well as videos of many other past services, at our Youtube channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Take Many Breaks.

As we evolved in hunter-gatherer bands over millions of years, life moved at the pace of a walk, in rhythm with the seasons and with the rising and setting of the sun each day. In many of the hunter-gatherer cultures still existing today, it takes only a few hours a day to find food and shelter. Its a good guess that our ancient ancestors lived similarly, and spent the rest of their time relaxing hanging out with friends, and looking at the stars.

Sure, life was tough in other ways, like dodging saber-tooth tigers, yet the point remains that the human body and mind evolved to be in a state of rest or leisure -- in other words, on a break -- much of the time.

But now, in the twenty-first century, people routinely work ten, twelve, or more hours a day -- when you count commuting, working from home, and business travel -- to put bread on the table and a roof over their heads. Much the same is true if a person is a stay-at-home parent, since "the village it takes to raise a child" usually looks more like a ghost town these days. Many of us are on the job and on the go from soon after we wake up in the morning and check emails or feed children (or both!) to the last time we pull phone messages at night.

It makes you wonder who is "advanced" and who is "primitive"!

The modern, pedal-to-the-metal lifestyle produces chronic stress and tension, and related physical and mental health issues. It also crowds out creative pursuits, friendships, recreation, spiritual life, and time for children and mates. Therapists these days often see families where one or both parents are dealing with work sixty-plus hours a week (both because there are so many such families, and because the stress of it drives them to therapy). The job is an elephant in the living room, pushing everything else to the margins.

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting comfortably somewhere in your old age and looking back on your life and reflecting. Do you think you are going to wish you had spent more time on the job or doing housework?

Or wish you had spent more time relaxing, hanging out with friends, and looking at the stars?

How

So promise yourself that you'll take more breaks. Most of them will be brief, even a minute or less. But their accumulating effects will be really good for you.

Here are some methods for getting more breaks; pick one(s) you like best:
  • Give yourself permission. Tell yourself that you have worked hard and deserve a little rest; that it's important for your health; that your productivity will actually increase with more breaks; that even cavemen/women got more breaks than you!
  • Renounce everything else. When it's time for a break, drop everything else for that time. Truly "clock out."
  • Take lots of microbreaks. Many times a day, step out of the stream of doingness for at least a few seconds: close your eyes for a moment; take a couple of deep breaths; shift your visual focus to the farthest point you can see; repeat a saying or prayer; stand up and move about.
  • Shift gears. Maybe you have to keep grinding through your To Do list, but at least take a break from task A by doing a different kind of task B.
  • Get out. Look out the window; go outside and stare up at the sky; find a reason to walk out of a meeting.
  • Unplug. If only for a few minutes, stop answering your phone(s); shut down e-mails; turn off the TV or radio; take off the earphones.
  • Make your body happy. Wash your face; eat a cookie; smell something good; stretch; lie down; rub your eyes or ears.
  • Go on a mental holiday. Remember or imagine a setting (mountain lake? tropical beach? grandma's kitchen?) that makes you feel relaxed and happy. When you can, go there and enjoy yourself. "They" may have your body, but they don't get your mind.
  • Keep your stress needle out of the red zone. If you find yourself getting increasingly frustrated or tense in some situation, disengage and take a break before your head explodes. Staying out of "red zone" stress is a serious priority for your long-term health and well-being.
To get at the underlying causes of your busy life and lack of breaks, consider all the things you think you have to do. Can you drop or delegate some of these? And can you take on fewer commitments and tasks in the future?

Personally, I've been slowly learning how to say no. No to low priority activities, no to great things I just don't have time for, no to my appetite for filling up my calendar.

Saying no will help you say yes to your own well-being, to friends, to activities that really feed you, to an uncluttered mind. To the stars twinkling high above your head.

For Journaling

Reflect on each of the bullet points above: Would it work for you? Why or why not? Will you implement it? Which one is your favorite?

* * *

Moment of Zen: The Joke

When Zen people appear to be dodging a question, maybe they are dodging it. Or maybe they are directly answering it. Or maybe both. Consider Blue Cliff Record #78:
A monastic asked Zhaozhou, "All the Dharmas are reduced to oneness, but what is oneness reduced to?" Zhaozhou said, "When I was in Qingzhou, I made a hempen shirt. It weighed seven pounds."
Can you see how "I made a seven-pound hempen shirt" is exactly what oneness is reduced to? Zhaozhou could not have more directly answered the monastic's question. Or consider the case that appears as both Blue Cliff Record #73 and Book of Serenity #6:
A monastic asked Great Master Mazu, "Please tell me directly, Master, the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West."
Master Mazu said, "I am tired today, I can't explain it to you. Go and ask Zhizang."
The monastic asked Zhizang about it.
Zhizang said, "Why don't you ask our master?"
The monastic said, "He told me to ask you."
Zhizang said, "I have a headache today, I can't explain it to you. Go and ask Brother Huaihai."
The monastic asked Huaihai about it.
Huaihai said, "I understand nothing about that question."
The monastic told Great Master Mazu about it.
Great Master said, "Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black."
This monastic wants to know the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the west. This is thoroughly explained to him five times. (1) I'm tired. (2) Why don't you ask our master? (3) I have a headache. (4) I don't understand. (5) This is white and that is black. Each one of those answers tells precisely the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the west.

"It really doesn't amount to much" is the joke -- and saying that to Mallard is letting Mallard in on that joke.

Case
Porcupine was foraging near Stillpond and met Mallard unexpectedly,
"Porcupine!" exclaimed Mallard, "I've wanted to ask you about something. It almost seems that you and Raven have a secret understanding of some kind."
Porcupine said, "We know the same joke."
"Can you let me in on it?" asked Mallard.
"It really doesn't amount to much," said Porcupine.
"Tell me," demanded Mallard.
"Mallard!" Porcupine exclaimed. "You aren't listening!"
Verse
"When devoted invocations are sent forth, they are perceived and subtly answered."
And if the invocation isn't devoted?
Or isn't sent forth?
Or, for that matter, isn't invoked?
Still perceived.
Still answered.
Still subtle.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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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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