“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” — Albert Camus
Do you have a yearly retreat? A place that helps you to refocus your energy? Perhaps you have a ritual you practice on a daily basis. Worship can be a form of retreat as well. How do you turn away?
“An elementary particle is not an independently existing, unanalyzable entity. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach outward to other things.”
- H.P. Stapp, twentieth-century physicist quoted in “The Little Zen Companion”
Today’s quote for meditation comes from Kay Jacobson and appeals to our sense of scientific wonder. What “particles” in your life at first appear independent and unanalyzable, but upon closer examination, can be seen as a set of relationships?
Today’s Meditation Monday Quote was shared with us by member Sara Sha.
Taken from the book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, by John O’Donohue, 2008.
“While our culture is all gloss and pace on the outside, within it is too often haunted and lost. The commercial edge of so-called “progress” has cut away a huge region of human tissue and webbing that held us in communion with one another.
“It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another. I believe each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere.
“A blessing is not a sentiment or a question; it is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart.”
The most basic blessing, and a simple way to start the practice of blessing, would be to bless ourselves in the morning. Following is an excerpt from his blessing called Matins.
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Clear in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
- The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson
As we come out of this Fourth of July weekend and get back to daily life, ponder what your “Ameican-ness” means to you. What are unalienable rights and do you believe they are bestowed by a creator? The founders were inspired by the idea of a creator, but what form did this creator take? (Jefferson himself was part of the budding Unitarian movement) How does this social contract of our nation benefit from those spiritual roots and in what ways might we be hindered by it in the pursuit of liberty and happiness for all people?
This week’s meditation comes from member Carolyn Monzingo.
Long before I was able to understand the great philosophers of the world, I felt that animals could talk. I believed in trees and plants, and that heaven had something to do with how the dead trees of the forest gentle themselves into long, mossy columns of bright-smelling, crumbling earth, lively inside with sprouting seeds and black beetles. I could not make myself believe in a loud-voiced, bearded God on his throne in the clouds, but I was moved to tears by the compost pile.
Where did you first feel spiritual connection? To what or whom?
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. -Shunryu Suzuki
Here at FMUU, we are about to begin our new program year. Though our regular RE classes and small groups won’t be fully active until the beginning of the academic year, our fiscal year and turn-over in leadership occurs in July.
With that new beginning, we are also rebooting our blog, which has not been active for a few months. I am relatively new to the blogging experience, so in my mind there are many possibilities for what the coming months will hold. However, the first step will be to begin a tradition of Meditation Monday. This means that each Monday, we will post a thought to contemplate, discuss, and engage with.
This week’s quote comes from FMUU member Kay Jacobson and a book called “The Little Zen Companion” by David Schiller. I hope that in the coming weeks you will share your own favorite quotes, prayers, and meditations and join us in Meditation Monday!
As you contemplate this quote, what do you think? When, in your own life has experience been the enemy of possibility? Was it for the better or for the worse? Have you seen this within a community of faith or in matters of the spirit? How do you balance the fruits of experience (perhaps practicality or tradition) with hope, optimism, or creativity?
I really enjoy going to my church. I never thought I would ever say that. But it is true. I go to church most Sundays. Heck, the service starts at 11, it’s over at noon. All is well and it starts off my Sundays almost always with meaning and hope and love. But, I missed going to church two weekends in a row! Two weeks ago, it was because I didn’t want to go out in the -25 degree weather (I believe I was in the majority of our congregation on that thought process.) Then, this past weekend, I missed mostly because, well, frankly, I was just too darned lazy and tired. I had spent the entire – yes, the entire previous day — traveling. So my eyelids were closed, on my sofa, with two warm blankets wrapped around me during the entire Sunday program.
So there you have it, confessed to the public. I missed Sunday church. The absolutely groovy thing is, it just doesn’t matter, at least not in terms like it matters if you miss a “Sunday Mass”, or didn’t “keep the Sabbath holy”. It isn’t earth shattering. It doesn’t mean much to anyone but myself. I hear I missed another phenomenal talk about someone’s personal spiritual journey. But that is all on me, my loss, and a little regret for having not been able to share in that story.
When I don’t attend, I miss the people I see on our Sunday gatherings. I miss the snacks, coffee, and conversation afterwards. I miss the music. I miss the community. But I will be back. I always go back. When I do, well, no one will have judged me for missing a service. I may have been missed, as I miss others when they choose to not attend. There is no guilt. There is no shame. There is nothing wrong with making the decision to miss a Sunday service. It’s more than OK. And I love it.
I was gone, but not judged for being gone, and that, my friends, is one of the beautiful things about being a member of the Fargo Moorhead Unitarian Universalist Church. See you on Sundays at 11 am.
Religions are not all the same, of course. Yet certain common themes and core values emerge in all of them. Among these are compassion, community, the practice of a spiritual discipline, and the pursuit of a difficult path toward a new level of consciousness.
We UUs have been open to other faiths for a long time. We draw from a number of religious sources. We respect and try to appreciate other traditions (well, at least the more liberal and progressive parts of them). I have sometimes joked that we are a kind of spiritual refugee center for people from other traditions. I am one of them.
Many current UUs came to our faith out of a rejection of the faith into which they were born. The search of many young people today is fundamentally different. They are not in flight from oppressive orthodoxy. Instead I see them searching for something much deeper than an absence of dogma. Something new is struggling to be born.
What is holding back a new spiritual awakening? How can we help it emerge? How can we play a role in this great cultural movement?
I think we can help change the conversation. We need to think about faith, religion, and spirituality in a new way. When I grew up I was taught that religion was about what we believed. What made my denomination different (and correct, of course) was our sound doctrine. We were right. This made religion too much about being right, about us and them. Too much attention then goes into defending our beliefs.
I am now convinced that “belief,” in the way we usually use the word, is actually the enemy of faith, religion, and spirituality. Let me say that again: belief is the enemy of faith. When we dwell on beliefs we ask all the wrong questions. My faith is much more about what I love than about what I think.
When the conversation shifts away from our beliefs to what we hold most dear, to what moves us at the depths of our being and what calls us, wondrous new possibilities emerge. We share and explore our deepest experiences. We discover what we have in common. Our attention naturally turns to how we want to live our lives and to the commitments we are willing to make. Our concern at the personal level becomes one of developing our awareness, of spiritual disciplines, of growth. At the interpersonal level, our attention turns to loving relationships. Finally, our attention turns to issues of compassion, justice, and interdependence. Faith becomes a relationship. Faith is about being faithful to what we hold sacred.
A new interfaith, multifaith spirituality is struggling to be born. Ours has always been a faith beyond belief. We have a historic role to play.
This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of UU World(page 5). See sidebar for links to related resources.