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How to Get Really Good at Dying
by Emma Pearse
Get comfortable, close your eyes. And say to yourself, over and over again, I might die today. I might die today. I might die today.
“The fact is that the past does not exist,” says Gen Samten Kelsang, “Now we’re going to meditate on this and notice the feelings that come flooding in when we meditate on the truth, which is that I may die today. I might even die in this temple.”
Pema Chödrön’s statement in When Things Fall Apart: “To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”
That brought me to a weekend called “Letting Go of the Past” at the Kadampa Meditation Center in the Catskill Mountains of New York. My hope was to step a little lighter into the New Year, and there in the temple, a momentous calm began to seep in, along with memories. Flashes of being six years old in the bedroom of my grandparents’ home, besieged by shadows. It was our first visit a year after my Nana had died. When I closed my eyes, an army of black butterflies fluttered around the cave of my mind. When I opened them, the butterflies became bats; wings flapped and dark silhouettes circled and landed on the walls around me. I sobbed so loud my mother turned on the lights. “I feel like I’m dying,” I kept saying. Mum was spooked. I think she thought I was channeling Nana.
I was about 15 when I got my next death sentence: I had started smoking cigarettes and suddenly envisioned my undignified end. This time it would be slow—at 26, from throat cancer, and everyone at my funeral would know that I totally deserved it. And it took reaching 26 and not dying for my horrified Mum’s advice to seep in: “You just have to tell yourself and really believe that it won’t happen to me. I’m one of the lucky ones.” But that advice only gets you so far.
In the Kadampa tradition, “I may die today” is like a magic pill, says Gen Samtem. “We can use it many times each day whenever we’re unhappy, and find that we naturally come back to this peaceful feeling, centered in the present moment, on what is meaningful.”
A mellowness spooled around my heart as the logic absorbed: if I die today, then not only can I let go of the past, I also don’t have to worry about tomorrow. In this realm of spiritual healing, my death has become the gateway drug to life. And my head is getting around some concept of opposites that seems to guide much spiritual teaching. In order to live, I have to die. I might die tomorrow—or, let’s just make it today. Why not?
2 Paths to Rest in Peace: Bring to mind people from the past: famous rulers and writers, musicians, philosophers, saints, scientists, criminals, and ordinary people. Now bring to mind people you know who have already died. And think of the people you know who are still alive. Contemplate the notion that each of these people will one day die. And so will you.
Imagine being on a train traveling at a constant speed—it never slows down or stops, and there is no way you can get off. This train is continuously bringing you closer and closer to the end of your life. Try to really get a sense of this, and check what thoughts and feelings arise in your mind.
Faith-Rooted Organizing Brings People Together to Create Change
by Peter G. Heltzel
Community organizing is in many ways about empowering people and achieving democracy, but faith-rooted organizing takes a very different approach from that of its secular counterparts.
"In faith-rooted organizing, we're calling on people to build relational power from the deepest wells of our faith. Instead of appealing to people's self-interest, we call people to live out their dream connected to their community's dream and God's dream."
Q: What is faith-rooted organizing?
As ministers, we are great at gathering people to get our praise on and hear the word of God proclaimed from the pulpit. But what would it look like if we gathered people to join aboot camp for liberation, equipping them with the tools they need to truly change the world?
Faith-rooted organizing is bringing people together to create systemic change in our communities and world in a way that is completely shaped and guided by our faith.
Christians have always been moved by our faith to do justice and have been at the forefront of many of the historical movements that sought to build a better world, including the abolition movement and the civil rights movement. . . So our call is to get outside the church, go out into the community and share the love of God with the people of God in concrete ways.
Q: My impression is that, aside from the work of black churches, community organizing has been mostly a secular movement. Why haven't mainline and other predominantly white denominations been more involved in community organizing?
Well, churches are interested in their own institutional survival. And unfortunately, they think very small. They want to recruit members to be active participants and tithe so that there's a budget to support the ministry and the congregation, and the church as an institution.
But I think that the church is a movement, a Spirit-led movement for love and justice in the world. And the only way this movement is going to grow is through building coalitions for justice, advocacy and change with strategic partners in our cities and states.
White affluent churches can offer their space, their financial resources and their wisdom and connections as leaders at the faith table, because these churches are tied into elite relational networks in the powerful institutions, be they financial, educational or government.
Faith-rooted organizing creates a strategy for building partners through face-to-face meetings where you talk about your dream and how it connects with the community's dream and the dream of God. And then you go out into the community and launch a poor-led, faith-rooted campaign for justice -- for example, a campaign for living wages or a program to bring the community and the police together in dialogue.
Q: Is a faith-rooted organization politically left or right? Can it help overcome this current political polarization in the country?
Rev. Barber's concept of fusion politics is very compelling, (Rev. William Barber spoke at the Summer Institute for Reconciliation. He inspired North Carolina and the nation to join and buy into a poor-led, faith-rooted fusion political movement for justice for all of God's children.) because it argues that people can come to the table with different issues but work together. An African-American may want police reform. A Latino may want immigration reform. A white may want living wages. The LGBTQ community may want peace and safety for people of different sexual orientations.
Faith-rooted fusion politics opens up the table where people can come together to break bread and share their passion about an issue and then strategize together about how we can reconstruct a new society in America.
Getting to that faith-rooted fusion political table is not easy. It takes organizing. You have to invite all these different groups and people who will naturally be in their own enclaves.
You have to invite them to gather, and there will be conflict, but I see great possibility in the Moral Monday movement. We've seen for many years that Rev. Barber has been leading the movement in Raleigh, North Carolina, and for the past three years we've been part of the Moral Monday movement in Albany, New York, advocating to Governor Cuomo for a moral budget that includes money for public schools.
So we are on the battlefield for justice and we will not be afraid, we will not give up, we will continue to hold our ground and to march on for love, justice and God.
Preparation for Lent
by Becky Eldredge
The preparation before prayer is important. It allows us to physically carve out space in our day for prayer, and it allows our minds to be mentally ready for prayer. As Lent approaches, the same idea of preparation that St. Ignatius suggests can be helpful in our preparation for Lent.
In our preparatory prayer during the Spiritual Exercises, we pray for specific graces. What is the grace we desire to deepen within us during Lent?
In these last few days before Lent begins, I invite us to begin our preparatory prayer. We can turn to Jesus and ask, “What is the grace you desire to deepen within me over these next 40 days?”
Meet: monthly 1 ½ hours
Where and when:
Ashland Christ UMC, 1140 Claremont Ave. – Second Wednesdays, 1:00 PM
Canton Faith UMC, 00 9th St. NW—Second Thursdays, 10:30 AM
Sandusky Trinity UMC, 214 E. Jefferson St. – Second Thursdays, 2:00 PM
Cleveland Hts Church of the Saviour, 2537 Lee Road – Third Thursdays, 1:30 PM
Medina Granger UMC, 1235 Granger Rd. – Third Wednesdays, 1:30 PM
If you are interested in being part of one of these groups, it would be helpful if you let us know for planning purposes. For questions and to receive information about a particular group, please call our office 330-456-0486 or email us at email@example.com
The Program in Pastoral Care and Counseling encourages the spiritual formation of our pastors believing a strong spiritual base is the greatest resource a church leader can possess. It helps us weather the many storms of ministry and deepens the incredible joys ministry provides. Following is a list of Spiritual Directors in our area. We encourage you to take advantage of this rich resource. This listing will appear in each edition of our bi-monthly webpage updates and new names and contact information will be provided as we learn of them and have permission to include them. If you are a director or know of a director that is not included here please let us know.
Debbie Baker - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Batchlor-Glader – email@example.com
Harry Finkbone - Finkbone1@gmail.com
Joy Gordon – firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Hollingsworth – email@example.com
Liz Nau – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Olin-Hitt – email@example.com
Sharon Seyfarth Garner – firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Stultz - email@example.com
Carol Topping - firstname.lastname@example.org
Mindful Attention Awareness Scale
The MAAS is a 15-item scale designed to assess a core characteristic of dispositional mindfulness, namely, open or receptive awareness of and attention to what is taking place in the present. The scale shows strong psychometric properties and has been validated with college, community, and cancer patient samples. Correlational, quasi-experimental, and laboratory studies have shown that the MAAS taps a unique quality of consciousness that is related to, and predictive of, a variety of self-regulation and well-being constructs. The measure takes 10 minutes or less to complete.
Brown, K.W. & Ryan, R.M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848.
How to Wake Up Your Body for Morning Meditation
by Cara Bradley
Win the morning with 5-minutes of mindful movement to synchronize your body and mind with movement, breath, and stillness.
When you win the morning, you win the day. But there are days when my body isn’t quite ready to wake up when I am. And if I want to meditate in the morning, and my body’s not awake, my practice won’t be as invigorating as it could be—Which why I start every morning with mindful movement. It promotes healing, increases energy, enhances awareness, and sets you up to thrive. With that in mind, I developed a simple 5-minute mindful movement practice that you can do as soon as you wake up to focus your mind and energize your body before you sit to practice meditation or start your day.
As with all of my mindful movement exercises, this morning routine has three elements: Move. Breathe. Sit.
Wake Up: Mindful Movement Practice: As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, tune into your body and breath. Allow yourself to pause in that delightful transition between dreaming and waking. Feel your body rise and fall with each breath. Note how your breath feels.
Is it in your chest? Your lower abdomen?
1) Rise: Gently roll over to one side and rise slowly, pausing in each transition to notice your breath and feel your body.
2) Attend to your needs: Then, go do what you need to do: bathroom, wash face, brush teeth… and return to your bedside.
3) Single Knee to Chest: This movement warms up the lower back and hips. We’ll start on the floor. Lie down next to your bed, on your back with your legs straight, arms straight, palms on the ground, and head facing the ceiling. As you inhale slowly, bring your right knee up towards your chest, grab your knee with both hands and pull it in to your chest. As you exhale switch legs and then exhale and bring the left leg towards your chest and repeat. Repeat for 3-5 breaths. This movement warms up the spine helps to relieve any tension accumulated in the spine during sleep.
4) Dynamic Bridge: This movement warms up the spine helps to relieve any tension accumulated in the spine during sleep. Place your arms flat on the ground by your sides a few inches away from your body, with your palms facing down. Place both feet to the floor under your bent knees. Make sure your back is flat and your body feels centered and balanced. Then, as you inhale lift your hips up towards the ceiling, creating a straight line from your knees, down your thighs, to your chest. Exhale and lower your hips back to the ground so that the small of your back and your hips tough the ground together. Repeat 3-5 times.
5) Cat/ Cow: This movement continues to warm up the spine. Slowly bring your knees to your chest and gently roll over to your side and then move on to all fours: Place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders and your knees on the ground beneath your hips, keep your back straight and your head forward. As you inhale gently drop your belly towards the floor, lift your chest and look forward arching your spine slightly. As you exhale bring your face towards your navel while doming your upper spine, rounding the top of your back. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.
6) Dynamic Mountain: This movement gets the blood flowing while warming up your upper body. Bring your self to a standing position and stand with your feet hip-width apart, back straight shoulders back, and face forward, hands facing palms in by your sides. As you inhale bring your arms forward and up towards the ceiling. As you exhale, turn your palms out, and bring your arms back down to your sides. Repeat for 3-5 breaths. This movement invigorates your entire body.
7) Side Sways: This movement invigorates your entire body. As you inhale reach your arms up as you did with the last movement. This time as you exhale turn your right palm outwards, bend towards the right, bringing your right hand down to your side, and arching your left hand over your head. Inhale rise back up to the center. Exhale repeat on the left side. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.
8) Mindful Mountain: This movement allows you to tune into your body. Bring your hands to your sides, and stand tall, yet relaxed. Take a moment to pause in mountain pose. Notice the physical sensations in your body: your heart beating, coolness or heat rising, tingling or prickling in your feet or hands, soreness or achiness? Observe these sensations without judging them.
9) Seated Mindfulness Meditation: Sit on a chair in your bedroom or on the side of your bed with your feet on the ground. Rest your hands on your thighs. Place your attention on the sensation of breathing and count to five as you inhale and five as you exhale. After a few minutes relax from counting your breath and pause in stillness for a few more minutes, allowing your natural breath to return—Simply experience being aware of your breath and your body.
I hope this mindful movement helps you ease into your day with more clarity and vitality.
Mindfulness Creates Momentum for Healthy Choices
by Kathryn Drury Wagner
People who are more mindful are more receptive to making positive changes.
You know you should put on sunscreen. You know you need to get off the couch and go for a walk. You know it’s a good idea to snack on a cucumber instead of a heaping bowl of Doritos. But what triggers us to make these changes, instead of perceiving health messages as nag, nag, nag? According to new research, the difference can be mindfulness.
According to Yoona Kang, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication’s Neuroscience Lab, mindfulness is usually defined as having awareness of the present moment and has been shown in previous studies to reduce negative reactions to emotionally charged situations. Since health messaging like “get your flu shot!” tends to have people react in negative ways, Yang and her fellow researchers examined whether using mindfulness could get people to be more receptive.
To test this, they assembled a group of participants who didn’t exercise very often, and exposed them to a bunch of health messages. They gauged their reactions and then, whether or not the study participants changed their behavior. They also asked how mindful each person was using a Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. It’s comprised of 15 scenarios, like “I tend to forget a person’s name as soon as I hear it,” or “I walk quickly to get where I’m going without paying attention to what’s around me.” The higher a person’s score, the more mindful they are considered to be.
The study showed that the less mindful people were, the less likely they were to make a positive change in their behavior after they’d been exposed to the health messaging. Perhaps they weren’t as inspired. Or maybe they feel bad about themselves. People who are more mindful, however, react less negatively and are more likely to change their behavior to be healthier.
The research team suggests that if we’re facing health information that is good for us, but that feels a bit threatening, we’d do well to cultivate mindful attention at that moment. So wear sunscreen … Ommm.
Calming the Rush of Panic in Your Body
by Bob Stahl
How to create space between you and what you’re experiencing in order to decrease anxiety and worry.
Anxiety softens when we can create a space between ourselves and what we’re experiencing. Stephen Covey reiterates Victor Frankl’s powerful insight and possibility: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”
When you react in ways that aren’t mindful, they can gradually grow into habits that are detrimental to your health and well-being. Consequently, these patterns of reactivity further your suffering or distress. This is why it’s so important to discern clearly the difference between reacting with unawareness and responding with mindfulness. When you become aware of the present moment, you gain access to resources you may not have had before. You may not be able to change a situation, but you can mindfully change your response to it. You can choose a more constructive and productive way of dealing with stress rather than a counterproductive or even destructive way of dealing with it.
How to Practice Mindful Breathing You can learn mindful breathing by following the script below, pausing briefly after each paragraph. Aim for a total time of at least five minutes.
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