Sunday, November 4, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

Day read out loud the following quote from the chapter, entitled "Envy: That Guy Goes Past Yet Again in His Mercedes-Benz":
We tend to compare ourselves to those who are in our social circle.  According to the happiness research, "upward comparisons" are particularly corrosive to our well-being.  Envy doesn't leave room for joy.  The Tibetan word for envy is trakdok, which means "heavy or constricted shoulders," and indeed the feeling of envy leaves one with a pinched feeling of discontent and resentment, tinged with guilt. (p. 137)

We reflected upon 5 powerful remedies for envy to be able to regain a full open heart in today's discussion.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu revealed his three remedies:

  1. Gratitude -- by counting your blessings
  2. Motivation -- by using one's envy as a spur to improve our situation
  3. Re-framing -- by analyzing why I want to have something
Judy remarked following our group's contemplation period that this process of 4. centering helps us start anew with a tuned conscience, amidst clingy memories and associations. 

For ten years when growing up, Giselle studied at a school taught in French, held within a convent.  "We always went for 5. confession and asked forgiveness for our moral errors.  Openly describing our moral quandaries was useful to bring light to these subconscious feelings."
* Check out the following online video, "Busted Halo: Faith Shared Joyfully", describing the process of confession -

For next week:  Please have read p. 145-168.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

Today, we examined the requirement for humans to cooperate to be able to together create more advanced societies:

 (Joan)  "It's not just surviving, but cooperating.  Cooperation is Christianity at its best.  We depend upon each other.  When we are grateful for the whole, we can thrive in civil society."

(Day)  "Trump Republicans hail to "make America great again" through private initiative and competition.  This is not the best way we together can bond to thrive as a diverse complex community, but rather a retrenchment towards reptilian survival instincts of fear and separateness from others.  I have found that cooperative democratic socialism in Sweden has been a wonderful way to rationally plan a thriving civil society."

(Harry)  "Part of our humanity is being enlarged and informed by our differences, not retrenchment into hate and delusion."

(Pete)  There have always been bad times, e.g., the 1965 murder of a Unitarian minister.  As  President Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."  Check out the following online article for inspiration, entitled "Rev. James Reeb died in Selma 50 years ago today. He should be remembered for how he lived!"

For Next Week:  Please read p. 135-157.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

Today, our group of nine attendees strategized how to be joyful while sensitive and connected to the complex world that is full of tragedies and dysfunction:

(Rose) "Knowing what is going on in the world is of value because it helps you to reach out and relate with others.  When you read about history, there's always been strife, conflict, and disorder.  For example, in the 13th and 14th centuries there was the (URL) Black Death.  Some places lost most of their people from the Bubonic Plague!"
(Judy)  "During the Holocaust, people who gave up hope, turned over and died."
(Harry) "We can be depressed in times of depression or disaster, but hope lasts a longer time.  Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that joy and sorrow comes from the same source."
* Below is his famous prayer about "enjoying one moment at a time".  We together queried whether this is the best way to experience joy in this world:

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

For Next Week:  Please read up to p. 133.

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

We relished Archbishop Tutu's group prayer as a way to open our important conversation:
"Let's be still for a moment.  Come, Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of thy faithful people and kindle in them the fire of thy love.  Send forth thy spirit and they shall be made new and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.  Amen."  (p. 29)
We threaded how "Fear, Stress, and Anxiety" are related and resolved in the Chapter, p. 93-108:
Harry clarified that fear has an object, whereas anxiety has no object.
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite it.  Courage is indeed the triumph of our heart's love and commitment over our mind's reasonable murmurings to keep us safe." (p. 93)
Anxiety and stress often come from too much expectation and too much ambition.
"The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama encourage us to develop Stress Resilience.  This involves turning what is called "threat stress," or the perception that a stressful event is a threat that will harm us, into what is called "challenge stress," or the perception that a stressful event is a challenge that will help us grow.  The remedy they offer is quite straight forward.  One simply notices the flight-or-flight stress response in one's body--the beating heart, the pulsing blood or tingling feeling in our hands and face, the rapid breathing--then remembers that these are natural responses to stress and that our body is just preparing to rise to the challenge." (p. 99)
Comments on how being on a spiritual path can counter materialism:
(Joan)  "Christianity is counter culture, battling consumerism about stuff."
(Day)  "When we are striving for things, we get on this train.  We forget what we are now and being present to what we have."
(Rose)  "Recently, I was inspired by Alice Walker, who practices Buddhism.  "
* Please enjoy Bill Moyers' web interview, entitled Alice Walker on the Power of Meditation

For Next Week:  Please read "Sadness and Grief: The Hard Times Knit Us More Closely Together" & "Despair: The World is in Such Turmoil", p. 109-123.

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

Our group's constructive spiritual remedy for countervailing forces is centering prayer at the start of our morning discussion.  This prayer helps collect, integrate, and recall all our varied mental/emotional situations during the previous week.   We groaned upon mention that a conservative evangelist had prayed, "God, let those who oppose Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court have confusion." 

The Soul provides an omnipresent heartful constructive response:
1.  (Day)  "Christian prayer is raising everyone's boat with your heart, getting buoyant above/outside of one's box."
2.  (Ruth) "Our synapses are opened up/benefited in Christian prayer by stepping back and not reacting."
3.  Check out the following comical dramatic sketch URL: "I'm not dead yet!" in the film, Monte Python and the Holy Grail.

The book clarifies one's experience of negativity in constructive prayer:
"Throughout the week of dialogues, the Archbishop said many times that we should not berate ourselves for our negative thoughts and emotions, that they are natural and unavoidable.  They are only made more intense, he argued, by the glue of guilt and shame when we think we should not have them.  The Dalai Lama agreed that human emotions are natural, but he did argue about whether they are unavoidable.  Mental immunity, he explained, is the way to avoid them.

"Through self-inquiry and meditation, we can discover the nature of the mind and learn to soothe our emotional reactivity.  This will leave us less vulnerable to the destructive emotions and thought patterns that cause us so much suffering.  This is the process of developing mental immunity."
For Next Week:  Please read "Fear, Stress, and Anxiety:  I would Be Very Nervous", p. 93-108.

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

One thread of thoughts reflecting upon current events stood out from today's group discussion:
(Harry) - Radical narcissism is the root of evil, when you make yourself the center - God, e.g., the America First Trump policy of separating refugee immigrant parents from their children.
(Rose) - There was strong and compelling research that we come factory equipped for cooperation, compassion, and generosity." (p. 57)
(Judy) - We're also wired to survive, beyond compassion.
(Day) - It's good to take short breaks during the day to hold wonder, to ask "Where is God?"  and 'What is the whole?"  Strategic use of empathy and compassion can help us to get out of our crafty private strategic perceptual boxes looking at parts.
(Harry) - Other questions to contemplate are, "What is our strategy leading to?  Why does all I'm doing matter?"

For next week, please read chapter, "You Are a Masterpiece in the Making" (p. 78-92).

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

I was the first to arrive at 8:43am for our Sunday meeting!  Ten total participants gradually coalesced.  We discussed further into The Book of Joy:

Judy reflected about how to see God's will in the universal problem of life suffering and pain, e.g., if one had a 45 year old brother acquiring Parkinson's Disease, or the difficulty of adjusting from being an intellectual snob to take care of a mentally retarded child.  
Shock red Carolyn decided that it'll take a long time to understand The Book of Joy's message. She didn't buy into the idea of Nelson Mandela's 27 years long suffering in jail having spiritual value for him to become South Africa's first black president.  Rather, his tribulations were not necessary to learn and grow in God.
Day vividly agreed!  An existential atheist (like Jean Paul Sartre) would problem solve more convergently towards a solution for suffering, unlike trans-rational Christians.  (Please see the article -> How Christians approach the problem of evil)  

Rose questioned, how do we make those small choices to be kind and generous?  
Carla noted that the Dalai Lama winced when being kissed by Desmond Tutu on both cheeks.  Raised in the Tibetan monk tradition, he wasn't used to being touched.  Rather, physical touch is natural in relating with another human.  Joy comes from our interconnectedness and relationships, opposite of narcissistic self-care.  Right now, we have so many individualistic media channels that cater to one's own vantage that the skill of relating to another is being lost.
  For Next Week:  Read up through page 78.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Spirituality Study Group notes

10 Sunday morning members started discussing a new book, entitled

On the cover is written,
"Two great spiritual masters share their own hard-won wisdom about living with joy even in the face of adversity.

The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together in Dharamsala for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet.

From the beginning the book was envisioned as a three-layer birthday cake: their own stories and teachings about joy, the most recent findings in the science of deep happiness, and the daily practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives. Both the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu have been tested by great personal and national adversity, and here they share their personal stories of struggle and renewal. Now that they are both in their eighties, they especially want to spread the core message that to have joy yourself, you must bring joy to others.

Most of all, during that landmark week in Dharamsala, they demonstrated by their own exuberance, compassion, and humor how joy can be transformed from a fleeting emotion into an enduring way of life."

Both Nobel Peace Prize winners have extraordinarily rich and complex personal histories. The complexity seemed untangled though.  These 'holy' leaders exuded simple honesty.

Highlights of our discussion:  
Kay saw the Dalai Lama at Safeco Field, in Seattle.  We all welcomed Carla who downloads the Father God universe through contemplationJoan noted that little children are just being in life, which can be relearned through contemplation.  Harry mentioned the importance of compassion in the Buddhist 8-fold path. Christian theologian Reinhold Neibuhr wrote that sorrow and joy comes from the same source.  Rose added that when we realize others suffering, our pain is lessened.

For next week, please read to page 64, "Lunch"!
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