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2020-06-27

Minister's Post, Sun Jun 28

Dear Ones:

In the summer of 2017, Unitarian Universalist Association's Commission on Institutional Change began meeting. The COIC, consisting of Unitarian Universalist leaders of color, began looking carefully and soulfully into the question of how Unitarian Universalism could move forward on racial issues. Now, three years later, the COIC has issued its vitally important report: Widening the Circle of Concern.

As I write to you from the middle of this year's Generally Assembly, where considerable attention is being devoted to this report's findings and recommendations, it's clear that this report is a big deal -- because the issues it addresses are and have been big deals, even when we didn't treat them as such.

The report's Preface lists the obstacles that Unitarian Universalism faces:
• Addressing the perennial problem of race in Unitarian Universalism is not broadly seen as a theological mandate.
• No shared accountability structures and processes are in place to hold people accountable for the continued harming of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color among us.
• The diffused nature of our organizations, each with their own accountability structures, means that ignorance and aggression are experienced again and again in different leadership contexts and as leadership changes.
• Our faith seems to have no room for repentance and saying when we have failed.
• We need new definitions of competency for religious leadership, and multicultural competency has to be part of those new standards.
• We need to both learn the lessons of history and acknowledge that these are new times.
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,
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.
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: Be Glad

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.


In order to keep our ancestors alive in harsh and often lethal settings, neural networks evolved that continually look for, react to, store, and recall bad news -- both "out there in your environment, and "in here," inside your own head.

As a consequence, we pay a lot of attention to threats, losses, and mistreatment in our environment -- and to our emotional reactions, such as worry, sadness, resentment, disappointment, and anger. We also focus on our own mistakes and flaws -- and on the feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and even self-hatred that get stirred up.

There's a place for noticing and dealing with things that could harm you or others. And a place for improving your own mind and character.

But because of the negativity bias of the brain, most of us go way overboard.

Which is really unfair. It's not fair to zero in on a bit of bad news and ignore or downplay all the good news around it. The results of that unfairness include uncalled-for anxiety, pessimism, blue moods, and self-doubt. Emphasizing the bad news also primes us to be untrusting or cranky with others.

But if you compensate for the brain's bias by actively looking for good news -- especially the little things you are glad about -- then you will feel happier, more at peace with the world, more open to others, and more willing to stretch for your dreams. And as your growing gladness naturally lowers your stress, you'll likely get physical health benefits as well, such as a stronger immune system.

Now, that's good news . . . about good news!

How

Look for things to be glad about, like:
  • Bad things that never happened, or were not as bad as you feared
  • Relief that hard or stressful times are over
  • Good things that have happened to you in the past
  • Good things in your life today, such as: friends, loved ones, children, pets, the health you have, stores stocked with food, public libraries, electricity, positive aspects of your work and finances, activities you enjoy, sunsets, sunrises . . . ice cream!
  • Good things about yourself, such as positive character traits and intentions
Sink into feelings of gladness:
  • "Glad" means "pleased with" or "happy about." So notice what it feels like -- in your emotions, body, and thoughts -- to be pleased with something or happy about it. When you create a clear sense-memory of a positive mental state, you can find your way back to it again.
  • Be aware of small, subtle, mild, or brief feelings of gladness.
  • Stay with the good news. Don't change the channel so fast!
  • Notice if your feelings of gladness get hijacked by doubt or worry. Also be honest with yourself, and consider if you are kind of attached to your resentments, grievances, or "case" about other people. It's okay if it's hard for you to stay with gladness; it's really common. Just try to name to yourself what has happened in your mind -- such as "hijacking" . . . "brooding" . . . "grumbling" -- and then freely decide if you want to spiral down into the bad news, or if you want to focus on good news instead. Make a conscious decision, acknowledge it to yourself, and then act upon it.
  • Sometime every day, before going to bed, name to yourself at least three things you are glad about.
Share your feelings of gladness:
  • Make a point of mentioning to others something that you are pleased or happy about (often the little stuff of everyday life).
  • Look for opportunities to tell another person what you appreciate about him or her.
For Journaling

Above, under "look for things to be glad about," are five bullet points. Write in your journal a few examples in your life of each of the five.

* * *

Moment of Zen: The Seed of Enlightenment

We first saw Reverend Crane in #33, when the Tallspruce Community visited his Little Church in the Grotto. He then came to visit the Tallspruce gang in #107, where he asked what role God has in our practice.

Dogen describes his journey, both spiritual and geographic:
"After the aspiration for enlightenment arose, I began to search for dharma, visiting teachers at various places in our country. Then I met priest Myozen [1184-1225], of the Kennin Monastery, with whom I trained for nine years, and thus I learned a little about the teaching of the Linji School....Later I went to Great Song China, visited masters on both sides of the Zhe River, and heard the teachings of the Five Gates. Finally, I became a student of Zen master [Tiantong] Rujing [1163-1228] of Taibo Peak, and completed my life’s quest of the great matter." (Bendowa)
It begins with the arousing of an aspiration for enlightenment. But what kind of aspiration is this? Until one experiences enlightenment, one can have only deluded conceptions of what it is. Yet somehow aspiring for a deluded conception of enlightenment -- that is, aspiring for something entirely different from enlightenment -- is a necessary first step.

We have to start where we are -- with the delusions, projections, and imaginings that we have.

Case
Reverend Crane stopped by again one evening to hear one of Raven's talks. Afterward he asked, "Do I have the seed of enlightenment?"
Raven said, "You can be your best Reverend Crane."
Crane said, "Are we talking about character development?"
Raven said, "Have to start somewhere."
Crane said, "Maybe my best Crane is just something I imagine."
Raven said, "Have to start somewhere."
Verse
Where did you start?
I don't mean, in the womb,
Or the wombs of your two grandmothers,
where your parents waited to be born.
I don't mean the 64 wombs from which your fourth-great-grandparents came,
a couple centuries ago.
I don't mean the first human, first primate, first mammal, first life.
You could pick any of those, say that's where you started,
and have a good point,
But that's not what I mean.
Nor do I mean when you were four, or went to first grade,
Or turned 18.
I mean: where were you when you stepped onto the great way?
Where in your body did the cold lump of defeat weigh?
the smoldering ash of shame,
the cavity of loneliness?
Where was the clench?
stomach? shoulders? throat? chest?
Wherever it was, it reached down to your foot,
and lifted it in the direction of the path.
Wherever it was, that's where you started --
There, and where you are right now.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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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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