Turn Things Around

Practice of the Week
Turn Things Around

Category: Slogans to Live By: Practices for everyone to keep in mind and pay attention to. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time. Just have the intention to grow stronger in each of these areas as you go about your day, and sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling. The titles of these practices are guiding slogans to live by.

Where there's confusion or pain in your life, make use of it instead of trying to get rid of it. Trying to get rid of it usually doesn't work anyway. It only makes things worse. (Of course, if your painful situation can be resolved somehow, resolve it. Spiritual growth and depth is not about acquiescence to bad situations that can be improved; it is about addressing the pesky facts and emotional states that are not so simply removed: grief, fear, and so on.)

There is a slogan from the Buddhist tradition:
"Three objects, three poisons, three seeds of virtue."
"Turn things around" means turning the three objects and poisons into seeds of virtue.

Three objects refers to three categories of objects, and object isn't exclusively a physical object (thoughts and feelings are "objects" of consciousness, as physical objects are objects of perception.) The "three objects," then, are: attractive, repellent, and neutral. Objects themselves do not have these qualities, but our reactions to the objects do. Whatever comes into our consciousness will spur a reaction in us, and this reaction will be one of these three: we will either like, dislike, or be neutral to the object.

Three poisons refers to greed, hate, and delusion. These are the emotional activities we indulge in response to the three objects. We are greedy for attractive objectives; we hate repellent objects; we are confused or indifferent about neutral objects.

The three objects and three poisons describe basic ordinary daily life. "Objects" constantly arise, and we are constantly trying to grab them and make them stay or push them away as soon as possible, depending on the style of our reactivity and emotion. The flow of these objects and emotions goes on constantly, usually below the level of conscious awareness. We wake up in the morning and feel too cold or too hot or just right. This makes us feel pleasant or irritated or neutral. Our coffee is tasty or not so tasty, and we're slightly pleased or annoyed. Our thoughts are pleasant or not so pleasant. All day long objects appear to our perception, feeling, and thought, and all day long we are reacting in simple, basic ways to each and every object: wonderful, let's keep this one; terrible, let's get rid of this one; neutral, I don't care about this one.

All day long this flows on, usually without much discernible problem. But occasionally our likes or dislikes become strongly activated by objects, and then we become powerfully happy or miserable, overcome with lust or desire or anger or fear.

Quite often we cannot avoid losing what we find attractive and having to put up with what we find repellent. And in the biggest picture of our lives, we always end up losing what we want (our loved ones, our health) and having to put up with what we don't want (our aging, our illness, our death, and the loss of our loved ones). If we insist on trying desperately to control things we can't control, we eventually become very desperate and unhappy -- the world begins to seem like a very hostile and unjust place, and we can become quite paranoid and upset about almost everything. Once you decide that the world is a hostile and inhospitable place and the people in it untrustworthy and venal, things begin to get worse and worse and worse. So the three objects and three poisons are lamentable realities. If we don't pay attention to them, if we don't figure out a way to cooperate with rather than resist their pressure, they can ruin our lives.

Three seeds of virtue appear when the three poisons are turned around. We don't have control of much, but we do have control of whether to turn around the greed, hate, and delusion that appears in our lives.

Contrary to what we might think, the three objects and three poisons are not problems and traps. They are seeds of virtue. The basic human mess of likes and dislikes, in which we seem to be trapped and which seems to be so dangerous and troublesome, is actually wonderful, a real treasure. Our messes and our problems are our treasures! Our suffering, our troubles, our problems, the things that we really don't like and want to get rid of but can't, or the losses we feel, the things we wanted to keep and sadly cannot -- all of this is a treasure to us if only we can understand it in the right way. Everything painful and difficult has the potential to bring us great joy and deep spiritual riches.

We can turn toward and appreciate our suffering, our problems, and the suffering and problems of others. Given the power of our likes and dislikes and the intractability of the world (which doesn't organize itself according to our needs), it won't do not to deal with our likes and dislikes in some way other than simply trying constantly to fulfill them. So naturally we imagine somehow trying to modify or eliminate them. But this is not what "turn things around" means. It means something radically different. It means recognizing that our very likes and dislikes and the suffering they bring us, can be the source of spiritual growth.


Write down "turn things around." Contemplate it carefully. Bring it up when you find yourself annoyed or upset by instances of liking and disliking that are causing you suffering. This practice might help you to let go a little in that moment. Even if you don't believe it and are only a little intrigued by it, it can be helpful to practice this slogan. It will have the effect of causing you to stop your lamentation for a moment and recall that it might just be possible that there is something potentially good and positive in this agony in which you are right now enmeshed.

The earlier Practice, "Real Compassion" (SEE HERE), trains us to see and feel that our pain and difficulty in this life, and the pain and the difficulty of others, is the gateway that will lead us down the path of love. We don't need to avoid or protect ourselves from pain. Quite the contrary. When pain and suffering are present, we need to turn toward them, breathe them in. And through this practice of suffering, we can transform it, and transform ourselves. Turning things around -- turning the three objects and poisons into seeds of virtue -- fits with the sending and receiving of Real Compassion.

What a difference this would make in your life if you actually knew that when things happen that you don't like, that are difficult or painful, you don't need to complain and try fruitlessly to change them (when they can't be changed), and that you don't need to find someone to blame and then do battle with that blameworthy person, as if you were a victim, but instead you can have a profound and heartfelt sense of acceptance and love. You can breathe in the difficulty and transform it into ease and healing through your body.

The practice of turning things around requires cultivation over time, persistence, diligence, and strength. It requires keeping up the effort, all of the time, in everything we do.

Suppose you understood all of your pain and suffering as raw materials for transformation and healing. Your life would be completely different.

* * *
Judith Lief, "Three Objects, Three Poisons, and Three Seeds of Virtue" Tricycle.

Three Objects: Labeling our World

One way of looking at this slogan is that it is about the power of labels. It is about the way we categorize our world and what happens as a result. At a crude level and very quickly we are always sizing people up. We put the people we deal with into mental bins such as “friend,” “enemy” or “not worth bothering with.” We do this both individually and collectively.

There are times when this ability to categorize may be crucially important for our survival, which depends on knowing whom we can trust and whom we need to avoid. Simply recognizing that someone is a friend or enemy or neither in that way is not in itself particularly problematic. But what happens is that those labels take on a life of their own. They change from being simple observations of a current situation or interaction to become unchanging definitions of the way things are. They become the world according to us.

Three Poisons: Fixed Reactions to Our Own Labels

When our labels become solid in that way, we can’t see past them, we can only react. And the way we do so, according to this slogan, is in three dysfunctional ways: by grasping, by hatred, and by avoidance or indifference. This trio is traditionally referred to as passion, aggression, and ignorance. As we scan our world, we pick out highlights and focus on those people who further or threaten our self-serving agendas, ignoring the rest. We are always struggling to draw in friends and push away enemies.

Three Virtuous Seeds: Taking Responsibility for Our Own Reactions

We first need to see this pattern at work. Then, when a poison such as hatred arises, instead of blaming the “enemy” that triggered such a response, we can see that hatred and the other poisons are our own creation. We can take full responsibility for them. Without the excuse of an external object, the poison is left hanging, with no support. When the three poisons arise, we can take them in and hope that, in doing so, others may be freed of such harmful patterns. In that way, we can transform the three poisons into the three virtuous seeds.


Pay attention to labeling and notice how tenacious such labels are. When you react, notice what you are reacting to and where you place the blame. Explore the connection between the poison and the object.

* * *
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"


Religious Education: January 16, 2022

Religious Education & Faith Development
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains
January 16, 2022

2021-2022 RE Theme: Community, Wholeness, Discovering Our New Normal
Sunday Class Helper Needed

We need a second adult for the 1st-5th grade class this Sunday, January 16th, to uphold our Safe Congregation practices. If you’d like to sit in and connect with this lovely group of children, contact Tracy.  If you are not available this Sunday but would like to be a second adult another Sunday (no prep required!), contact Tracy (cuucwptracy@gmail.com).
U & U 

Have you ever wondered which well known people were/are Unitarian, Universalist, or UU?  Or what the difference is between the U & the U?  The 6th-7th grade class is learning about each branch in their next two classes.  The Unitarian Universalist Association website offers links to lists.  You can also see a list of well known Unitarians here, and here.  Learn about John Murray, who brought Universalism to our shores in 1760 and the Murray Grove Center where our Coming of Age Youth participate in a Credo Writing Retreat
This Sunday 
January 16th
PreK/K Gathering
*Online Only*
9:45am  Diane invites young children to gather for check-in, a seasonal story, and rhythm/movement activities. Come have some fun together! Log in to Zoom 8428 then Tracy will move you to your breakout room.
1st-9th Grade Classes
*Online Only*
9:50am  1st-5th Grade Class Begins
10:00am  6th-7th Grade Class Begins
10:10am  8th-9th Grade Class Begins
All classes log in to Zoom 8428 then move into class breakout rooms.
Zoom 8428 password embedded login:  https://bit.ly/CUUC-RE  
Phone (audio only): 646-558-8656 · Meeting ID: 817 388 428 · Passcode: 468468 

Classes will include check-in, approx. 30 minutes of lesson,
then playing games to have some fun together. 
We look forward to seeing you!

9:50am 1st-5th Grade Class, Love Connects Us: Gus C is leading session 5, We are Loved, Flaws and All.  This session focuses on the first Unitarian Universalist Source, "Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and openness to the forces that create and uphold life," expressed in children's language as "the sense of wonder we all share."  The session affirms that, although humans are imperfect creatures, with work and time and love we can turn our blemishes into strength and beauty. A story illustrates the concept, telling of a gem carver who transforms a deeply scratched diamond by crafting the scratch into a beautiful flower. 

10:00am 6th-7th Grade Class, Amazing Grace: Exploring Right and Wrong: Alex Z and Laura G are leading session 6, The First U.  The session begins with a basic tenet of early Unitarianism, the oneness of God and considers some historical consequences of holding that belief and of human actions in general. Then the session explores the consequences of wrong actions, paving the way for discussing Universalism's ideas about salvation in next Sunday's class. 

10:10am 8th-9th Grade Class, Coming of Age Handbook: & Compass PointsBetsy W and Raquel B are leading session 7 from the Coming of Age Handbook, Unitarian Universalist Values.  Betsy mailed each youth a packet for Sunday.  Bring it to class with you.  Youth will explore UU values, their own values, and obstacles that can keep people from acting on their values.   Belief is a word that American culture typically associates with "opinion" or "faith in things unproven."  However, the original meaning of believe and the Anglo-Saxon word from which it is derived is "to hold dear, to prize."  This unit explores belief from both the perspective of faith in things unproven and the lens of what we hold dear. 
10:00am Worship
*Online Only*

“Celebrating bell hooks” ~ Adine Usher, Tara James, and Jeff Tomlinson

 bell hooks (aka Gloria Jean Watkins) died on Dec 15 at age 69. She “wrote worlds into being.” She was a groundbreaking author, educator, and activist who explored how race, gender, economics, and politics intertwined. For 40 years, she shaped conversations both academic and popular. Three of our members share their appreciation.

To join the worship livestream, click https://bit.ly/CUUC-Worship, or phone in (audio only): 646-876-9923. Webinar: 761 321 991, Passcode: 468468

Orders of service are e-mailed and uploaded to our website prior to each Sunday.  Revisit past services anytime at our YouTube Channel.

After worship, join our Virtual Coffee Hour or phone in (audio only): 929-436-2866 · Meeting: 336 956 2210 · Passcode: 468468
Honoring the Legacy of Dr. King
Local Events & Resources
~ The Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Nonviolence is colleting your comments, pictures and videos to help everyone see where we Dr. King's vision is alive in our communities. Please share your comments, upload pictures or videos on this form
 from January 21 to January 31. They will share this community "snapshot" next month to continue lifting up Dr. King's legacy and vision.
~ Volunteer New York! shares these community events and local opportunities
The Westchester Center for Racial Equity & YWCA White Plains 
Monday, January 17, 3:00pm  
Tell Me the Truth: Exploring the Heart of Cross-Cultural Conversation 

Join the YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester's Center for Racial Equity this MLK Day to learn how cross-racial conversation and collaboration lead to racial equity and the achievement of Dr. King's dream of Beloved Communities. Through "Tell Me the Truth," racial justice advocates and educators Shay Stewart-Bouley (Black) and Debby Irving (White) will share racism’s impact on their lives and how cross-racial conversation has been instrumental in their own understanding of 21st-century racial dynamics. They’ll also help audience members understand how interpersonal social patterns hinder organizations from living up to their own ideals for diversity. This program is presented in partnership with support from the Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Nonviolence.   

Tuesday, January 18, 8:00pm
National Day of Racial Healing: An Evening with Dr. Thema Bryant

The National Day of Racial Healing is a time for contemplating our shared values and engaging together on #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism. Launched on Jan. 17, 2017, this day is observed every year on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and is an opportunity to bring all people together in their common humanity and inspire collective action to create a more equitable world.  Fundamental to this annual observance is a clear understanding that racial healing is at the core of racial equity. 
Virtual Teach-In
Teaching Truth: Putting Students First
Countering the Baseless Claims of Anti-CRT Politics

Saturday, January 15, 2:00-4:00 pm
We have seen school board meetings erupt in debate around teaching anti-racism, anti-oppression curricula in school.  To counter the baseless claims of anti-critical race theory (CRT) politics and reinforce the importance of teaching inclusive history, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax (UUCF) will sponsor a virtual teach-in. Co-sponsors are UUCF, Emmaus United Church of Christ, SURJ NoVA (Showing Up for Racial Justice Northern Virginia). Among the panelists is Rev. Dr. William G. Sinkford, past president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Teach-In goals include:

  • Provide an accurate counter-narrative to lies told about teaching accurate history in our schools. 

  • Reinforce the understanding of why learning accurate, inclusive history is good for students and our communities.

  • Offer a curriculum for those interested in having their children learn accurate, inclusive history.

  • Initiate a pledge for faith communities to teach inclusive history as a critical moral calling in our efforts to learn from our history and to help build the beloved community of all souls.
    Learn more and register here. 

Westchester Youth Alliance's Virtual Interactive Film Screening & Art Advocacy Kick Off Event this Monday January 17 @ 1PM!  Join them in viewing portions of HBO’s A Weapon of Choice Inspired by Gordon Parks and examine how Gordon Parks' work & methods create a cohesive group of photographs that continues to influence civil activism in the United States. REGISTER HERE.
In the Commnity
More New CUUC Trail Photos

Attention AnimalKeepers, EarthKeepers, and WaterKeepers of all ages!  Rev. LoraKim's trail cameras continue recording lots of activity around CUUC. It's fun to see who's living around us and visiting.  Take a look!  Click here for last week's photos.  To see this week's photos, click here!

Social Action Spotlight
Meals for HOPE
Begun in May 5, 2020, soon after Covid struck, CUUC’s “Meals for HOPE” project has produced weekly meal trays and sandwiches to feed about 150 people. Over 87+ weeks, our volunteers have prepared some 15,000 meals to support HOPE (Help Our People Eat) Community Services of New Rochelle. Through our Meals for HOPE project, CUUC is actively performing vital services in our community, and putting into action our congregation's mission to “engage in service to transform ourselves and our world.” We are grateful for the energy, enthusiasm, and dedication of our volunteers that has made this possible. Click here to visit our new webpage to learn more.
For up-to-date information, schedules, and Zoom links, visit the RE overview and schedule. You may also consult our CUUC website calendarFamilies participating in childcare through 12th grade RE, please submit 2021 registration (click here for the form). Read All CUUC Announcements in the Weekly e-Communitarian Newsletter
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains  
468 Rosedale Ave · White Plains, NY 10605-5419