Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Best bedtime routine ever.

After Mia stopped screaming after being chased around the kitchen for the third time this evening, we had the best bedtime routine ever.
I brought Mia a book for bed, and she said that she did not want to read that book, but that she wanted to sleep with Tom. I said:
"OK, but Tommy needs to read you this book."
Win-win-win outcome. I love it.
Tommy read Mia to sleep and then put himself to sleep, while Lauren and I went downstairs and played Uno.
Lauren told me all about her presentation of her science project at school and how she got nervous in front of the class. We also laughed about the cards we pulled and just relaxed and hung out.
Later I finished my yoga poses for the day while Lauren drifted off to sleep.
Fantastic night.
It was tough not to yell at the older kids when they were chasing Mia and being hard on her earlier in the evening. I have to breathe deeply and simply get them separated.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My journey to Universal Unitarianism at First Parish Church

I was asked to deliver a talk about my journey to Unitarian Universalism at First Parish Church. Here is what I presented to the congregation:

My spiritual journey started as a young child attending services at St. Mary’s church in Beverly and I was confirmed Catholic. I became disillusioned with the Catholic Church in high school and I fell out of religious practice completely toward the end of my college years. I remember many useful lessons from the Bible like loving thy neighbor, but I continue to work on reducing my self-righteousness that was reinforced by my religious upbringing.

About 10 years ago, when Jenny and I decided to start a family, we began looking for a spiritual community for our kids. During my first service here at First Parish Church, I had my UU ahhaaa moment. I thought, church can be like this,? Open, informative, challenging, current? I was hooked. I recall the feeling of peace that I felt when I was attending services. That peace became more difficult to attain as my children grew to toddlers. I began grasping for the tranquility that our services provided and I could become frustrated when the children would not stay in the nursery or attend classes.

At that time I realized that I could create the calm atmosphere at church in my home through Buddhist meditative practices. A little over 3 years ago I began meditating at home daily. The moment I started a daily practice, my grasping for the tranquility of church was greatly reduced. But I welcomed the moments of peace between stints of sheparding the kids.

My spiritual practice involves creating a calm state of mind so that I can try to act in the interests of all concerned in any situation. This involves trying to develop a steadier mind that can recognize when the afflictive emotions, such as, anger and frustration are arising. If I am successful in recognizing the afflictive emotion and can connect with the breath I can often act with compassion. Compassion: understanding and alleviating the suffering of others, is critical to my religious practice. Most of my time in meditation is spent reflecting on what has happened in the past to cause me to become angry, and to try to envision the feelings of others when anger arises. I believe that God exists in the interconnected web of all existence and our actions either cause the web to shine brighter or dim.

We talk about these topics often at FPC when we discuss the interconnected web of all existence and compassion in human relations. These are 2 of our 7 principles, which I carry in my wallet. But, please don’t quiz me on them:)

I like to use a college analogy when describing UUs and FPC: I feel like we are all majors in UU with various concentrations in other religions. I believe that my concentration is in Buddhism. I feel uplifted and rejuvenated when we weave the Buddhist tradition into our services. I also am inspired by our sermons on Thoreau and Native American culture.
I love how this church exposes us to different traditions. The only thing that I knew about Judaism before FPC was that my mother got all the Jewish holidays off as a middle school teacher in Peabody. Now I know about many Jewish holidays and traditions as well as Hinduism and even Wiccan.

I am grateful to be able to lead the FPC meditation group. It is a time when the group comes together and deepens our spiritual practice. We work on connecting with our breath and developing our patience and compassion through positive visualization and insight meditation. I am thankful for the group energy that we create during our monthly encounters.

Ferry Beach is my most spiritual weekend of the year. It is a weekend of Meditation, yoga, dancing, singing songs around a campfire and connecting with friends and family. It is a weekend of the deepest renewal and it allows me to sustain my patience with my family for weeks afterwards.

Some of my best friendships have been established through this church. I can prove this because at least half of my Facebook friends are from First Parish. I have shared many Spiritual Parenting nights, winter solstice celebrations, Halloween parties, small group ministry meetings, auctions and Pastoral Care meetings.

I have watched members of this church take up the call to community service and that inspires me to do as much as I can in the community. Many of us gathered together to demonstrate for peace during the escalation of the Iraq war. Among my most cherished memories are the ones when we came together to cook meals for the less fortunate. I have been involved in several Monday night suppers and preparing meals for the River House or the kids for a UU coming of age weekend. There is nothing better than preparing a meal with friends, especially when you are doing it for a great cause.

I have had the opportunity to connect with many of the children in the church through teaching at our Sunday school. This will be my third year teaching. I am happy to have gotten to know so many of the kids at are church through teaching. It also helped me to appreciate the different learning styles that we have in our youth, and that fact kept me on my toes. I organized a scavenger hunt for the class last year for earth day and that was one of my favorite classes.

I have loved my last 10 years at FPC and look forward to 50 or 60 more.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Meditation on family compassion

I have been working on developing compassion for my family in my seated morning insight meditations for the past 2 weeks.  Each day it feels like my patience expands and my orientation towards service expands as well.  One specific competence that has been arising in meditation is listening skills.  I also worked on listening to Jenn and not interjecting my judgement into her ideas, until I validate and completely understand everything that she has spoken.  I think I accomplished this today.

Today Jenny asked if I could help her friend clear her yard.  I brought my chainsaw and helped clear brush for an hour and a half.  I felt accomplished that I was able to provide so much impact in a short period of time.
Later, a couple of Jennies friends asked that we go to a town meeting and vote for appropriations for a new HVAC system for their school.  The vote lasted 4 hours and I was not at all invested in the outcome.  I walked around and talked and played with my kids while the meeting unfolded.  I also worked on my mountain pose, forward bends and posture during the marathon. 
We finally voted and it turned out the vote was not even close.  The appropriation passed by an enormous margin and the hype to get people to turn out was not necessary.  That outcome did not affect me in any way. I was helping my wife and her friends, and living in the moment.
I took off with the kids and we played cards and games for the rest of the day.  It turned out to be a great day.  Having fun, and enjoying the experience wherever I went.  I had nowhere to go, and nothing to accomplish.  I just wanted to by with my family in any capacity, serving them and enjoying their company.


Friday, October 09, 2009

10 days of Contemplation on Compassion for Family

I have been having some great results with meditating on compassion for my wife and kids.  I have been able to sit for about 30 minutes each morning.  First 10 minutes breath, the next 20 minutes are spent reviewing examples where I could have been more compassionate and understanding.  I try to visualize the compassionate thoughts moving out of the sphere of my mind and seeping down into my heart, stomach and the rest of my body.  If I can internalize the compassionate thougths then I should no longer react when anger and frustration arise.
Two themes have been reoccurring for these past 10 days:

1.  I can be happy whatever I am doing, I don't need to be anticipating the next activity. 
2.  I can choose to be happy even when my ideas are challenged. I need not be right 100% of the time. 
These 2 issues seem to be the source of much of the anger that I experience.