Bowing to Our Adversaries

Coleen O'Connell

Coleen O’Connell

Sunday Message by Guest Speaker Coleen O’Connell

Message from Rev. Pat Bessey:

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? If so, you will relate to this. It seems every week I start this writing with a similar phrase – “it is a rainy, gloomy day” (Monday). Yikes… will this ever end?!

In spite of the rain today, Sunday was quite a nice day. We had a great speaker, Coleen O’Connell. Coleen shared the deep concern she has for our planet from her perspective as an ecological and environmental educator. Considering the factual data she has gleaned over the years, the decision made by the current administration to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement was very disheartening to her — as it was to many of us. So, what do we do with our feelings of frustration, anger, pain? She led us through a beautiful practice, called “Bowing to Our Adversaries” that can shift not only our own experience but place positive energy into the space. It is a gratitude exercise. It is done easily and comes from a Buddhist tradition.

You begin with celebration and gratitude for those who have impacted you in a positive way. It starts with the carrier phrase — either “I bow to” or “we bow to” — then you complete the phrase, ending with a bow:

We will begin by bowing to the Earth, in gratitude for life itself.

  • We bow to our ancestors who have paved the way and set us on our path.
  • We bow to our teachers and mentors who have guided us and been with us on our journey.
  • We bow to each other, our faith community, for showing up and being present for each other.
  • We bow to future generations who will inherit the good work, and the work left undone by our generation.
  • We honor you for the hope you give us in hard times.  We bow to you in gratitude.

Next, we bow to our Adversaries:

  • You who destroy the natural world for profit, you show me how much I respect and honor our abundant and beautiful planet home.  I bow to you in gratitude.
  • You bring forth in me the love I feel for this life-bearing land – its soil, air and waters – and for the community that rises in its defense.  Because of the strength with which I resist your actions, I learn how strong my love really is.  I bow to you in gratitude.
  • Because the pain I feel when I witness the pain of the world is no less than your pain – you who perpetuate destruction by cutting yourself off from the web of life, I bow to you in compassion.
  • Because the pain of greed, alienation and fear is not less than the pain of sorrow for what is lost, I bow to you in compassion.
  • For the power of my anger, arising from my passion for justice, justice for refugees that have suffered war and climate disasters, for immigrants who are treated as second class citizens or worse, I bow to you in gratitude.
  • Because we all want to feel happy, to feel intact and part of a single whole, for that shared longing of community and contribution, I bow to you in compassion.
  • Because your actions challenge me to see the limits to my own understandings, and free me from holding my view as the only correct one, I bow to you in gratitude.
  • You who teach me that the mind is a miracle, capable of manifesting as love, as forgiveness, as greed, as fear, as clarity or delusion, you who show me what I myself am capable of when I am governed by fear and greed – O Great Awesome teachers, I bow to you in gratitude.
  • Understanding that we all belong to the web of life, whether we believe it or not, and with love in my heart, I bow to you in gratitude.

Done as a congregation on Sunday, this was an incredibly powerful exercise. Should you choose to hear the whole message, use the player above.

Have a blessed week!

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

I Am the American Flag

flagsSunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

In just a few short weeks it will be officially summer, and I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen spring! I am writing this on Monday, Memorial Day, and it is cold and gloomy. I did get some annuals planted yesterday, and the beauty they create in my yard always makes me happy. However, it wasn’t without help from the black flies and mosquitoes!

Memorial Day is a time for us to remember those who sacrificed their lives in service for our freedom. Many of us have family members or close friends that we have lost, and we have the opportunity to honor them on this special day.

Memorial weekend also kicks off the summer season for many. It means opening up summer cottages and camps, gearing up for vacations, and attending graduations and weddings. And those of you from my generation will remember this — it is now appropriate to wear white shoes (smile).

On Sunday I chose to do a reading called “I Am the American Flag.” It has three requests of each of us.

The first is to “be proud of our country.” There is so much about her that is beautiful, compassionate, tender, powerful, yet gentle.

Second is to “be humble.” Look not at the mistakes that still remain. Settle for nothing less than to make a commitment to what you can do, where you are, with what you have to clean up the error and the shame.

And the third is to “be renewed.” Yes, renew your faith in God. Renew your pledge to follow the spiritual path.

The American Flag has a lot more to say. so I invite you to listen to the message.

I am very excited to meet and learn from our special guest, Coleen O’Connell, this coming weekend. We are celebrating the Season for the Earth, and Coleen is perfect fit for us. Here is a little bit about who she is and what she’s done.

O’Connell, director and founder of Lesley University’s Master of Science Program in Ecological Teaching and Learning, has been named 2013 Eberhard Thiele Environmental Educator. The award, bestowed by the Maine Environmental Education Association, recognizes her distinguished work and enduring contributions to the environmental education field, and lauds her creative and innovative approaches to environmental education programming.

“Anytime you’re recognized by your peers, it’s a wonderful thing,” said O’Connell, whose career in environmental education and ecology studies spans 30 years. “In a sense, this award really recognizes that commitment and that passion of the last 30 years of my life.”

You do not want to miss this on Saturday. This is a critical time in our country’s history, as well as that of the planet. We are being called into service — Coleen will help guide us as to what we can do in our corner of the world. Lunch will be provided. The cost is $60 for the day; however, we never turn anyone away. Whatever you can contribute will be accepted. She will be speaking on Sunday morning and doing a two-hour presentation following lunch on Sunday.

Speaking of lunch… this week will be Potluck Sunday, so your contribution to providing a treat to share will be greatly appreciated. And lastly, I want to extend a special thanks to the angels who gifted us with a brand new grill. This will be perfect for our vegan BBQ potluck on June 30.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life

Gregg Levoy

Gregg Levoy

Sunday Message by Guest Speaker Gregg Levoy

Message from Rev. Pat: It was another great Sunday at Unity of Greater Portland. We hosted Gregg Levoy, author of Callings and more recently Vital Signs. Gregg has such a wonderful presence. He is both knowledgeable and witty. His topic, no surprise, is passion. The first point he made is that passion can be cultivated. It is not something you either have or don’t; it can be turned on as well as off.

The second point was that passion is in the risk. You move from the sidelines onto the field. Actually, the risk often happens before you feel the passion. Gregg defines “risk” as whatever scares you. Risk is entirely relative – not to be compared with others. He identified a lot of small risks you can make. One that Rev. LeRoy and I took today was changing where we sat at the dinner table. It was fun to change up what we always do.

The third point was passion is not just about exuberance; it is also about endurance. He gave the quote from Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point: “Mastery in any field of endeavor requires a minimum of 10,000 hours of dedicated practice.” Passion requires shoulder-to-the-wheel endurance.

Lastly, the fourth point is that passion breeds and inspires passion. Conversely, disinterest breeds disinterest. Lacking passion in your own life will impact your relationships; your passion is critical to others’ engagement with you.

Our regular school year for our children’s program is quickly coming to a close, as summer is almost here. We have a more relaxed program for the summer for the children and the teachers. Here is an opportunity for you to engage with our children by bringing an activity to them on a Sunday morning. The teachers will be present and your role is to have fun with the children as you help them complete the project you have brought for them to do.

We will have a signup sheet on the bulletin board for you to select the Sunday that would work into your summer schedule. I invite all who are reading this to come into agreement with me and the teachers that we will have a full schedule of folks like yourself that are just now thinking of what they would like to do with the children.

While I am mentioning signing up, have you signed up for the daylong event on June 3 with Coleen O’Connell? This is a not-to-miss experience. Do not let the cost of the event be a factor. There is scholarship money available for partial scholarships.

This coming Sunday, join me for the message, “I Am the American Flag.”

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

The Transcendence of Motherhood

Ingrid Avery

Sunday Message by Guest Speaker Ingrid Avery

Message from Rev. Pat Bessey: As your minister, it is my responsibility to provide a sound spiritual message on Sunday mornings. When I am not giving the message, it is my responsibility to find those who I believe will deliver a message that has substance and truth, so you all walk away with a teaching that will support you in living your life. It is truly an act of surrender when I turn the platform over to someone else, as I do not have the details of what they will be sharing, only the topic. I want to say from the feedback I have received — and in listening to the message of the 10 am service online from Sunday — mission accomplished. A shout-out goes to Karen Bailey for doing a superb job at the 8 a.m. service and to Ingrid Avery for also doing a wonderful talk at the 10 a.m. service. Thank you both for sharing and blessing our community.

My time away was wonderful and spiritually nourishing. Rev. LeRoy was the Retreat Director for a men’s AA retreat in St. John, New Brunswick. I went along for my own spiritual renewal. We stayed at the Villa Madonna Retreat Center, which was absolutely lovely. It had walking paths through the woods, which I happily took advantage of. Thanks to all the Sunday staff at UGP that make it possible for me to be away and know that all is well back at 54 River Road.

While I was away, the annual Spring clean-up day took place. My deepest thanks to all who came and took away the remnants of winter and prepared our beautiful grounds for new life. Each time I drive into the parking lot my heart swells as I look around at the beauty. It takes many hands to do the upkeep and I would be remiss in not giving special thanks to John Michael Roods and Bill Taylor. They are out working around the grounds during the week: mowing, clipping, trimming dead branches and anything else that is calling to them. We are so blessed by their dedication and service.

For the last few weeks I have been mentioning the gardens that our Season for the Earth team are preparing. This endeavor is being championed by Anna Richie and Ginger Dowling. They have a big vision for the gardens and invite you to support the vision by giving a couple of hours a week through the summer to this project. On the bulletin board is a sign-up sheet for different tasks that need to be done, such as planting, watering and weeding. There is a wonderful saying that “many hands make light work.” This would apply here for sure.

This Sunday we are honored to have with us Gregg Levoy. Gregg is the author of Callings and Vital Signs and has been a keynote speaker for Unity Worldwide Ministries conferences in the past. I know that you will enjoy hearing Gregg at the 10 a.m. service and then, following lunch, he will be presenting his workshop, Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion.

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday…

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

The Practice of Getting Lost – Wilderness

Rev. LeRoy Lowell

Rev. LeRoy Lowell

Sunday Message by Rev. LeRoy Lowell

Message from Rev. Pat Bessey: A big shout-out to all who brought food for the potluck on Sunday. Although I wasn’t there to enjoy it, I heard it was outstanding. The intention for the potluck on the first Sunday of the month is to give our Kitchen Team an opportunity to catch their breath. They are in service to us at least three Sundays a month, and this is our chance to say, “Thank you and we love and appreciate you” by providing the food. Well done!

I am so blessed to have a husband that not only supports me in my personal life but also supports me by speaking on Sunday when I am off playing! This past weekend was my semi-annual cousin’s weekend. It is the time when my first girl cousins on my father’s side of the family get together for the weekend. It is always a fun time, and this was no exception. There were eleven of us and we laughed and cried together as we shared stories from our childhood right up to where we are today.

Rev. LeRoy’s talk was from the book An Altar in the World written by Barbara Brown Taylor. He talked on “The Practice of Getting Lost.” Just an aside here — this is not new territory for him. I am the type of person who sees the quickest way from point A to point B and that is the route I take. Not LeRoy: He loves to explore, and often times it results in us getting lost.

Meanwhile, back to the message on Sunday: The author first issues an invitation to admit and accept that there will be times when you will be lost. It may be physically being lost because you took a road that didn’t lead to where you wanted to go. However, the type of “lost” that is more disconcerting to me is the feeling of being lost, of not knowing what I am expected to do next or what it is that seems to be hiding itself from me.

The second invitation she makes is to move from accepting being lost to actually choosing it when it happens. This is where my learning really needs to come into play. I must choose to not resist it, see that I have chosen it, and then follow the next sign in front of me.

wooded pathThe author writes: “At this advanced level, the practice of getting lost has nothing to do with wanting to go there. It is something that happens, like it or not. The advanced practice of getting lost consists of consenting to be lost, since you have no other choice. The consenting itself becomes your choice as you explore the possibility that life is for you and not against you, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.”

After accepting that getting lost will happen, and then daring to choose it, Taylor invites us to stop fighting the prospect of getting lost and to engage it as a spiritual practice. In essence, to see it not as a detour, but as the path; not just a wound, but as a gift; not a place where God is absent, but as a place where God is.

She says: “God does some of God’s best work with people who are truly, seriously lost.”

“Popular religion focuses so hard on spiritual success that we do not know the first thing about the spiritual fruits of failure/loss. When we fall ill, relationships fail, lose our jobs, we alienate or are alienated from loved ones, we are left alone to pick up the pieces. Even if we are ministered to by brave friends it can be hard to shake the shame of getting lost in our lives. Yet when we look in our lives to see what changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times. When the safety net has split, resources are gone, the way ahead is not clear, the sudden exposure can be frightening and revealing. We spend so much of our time protecting ourselves from this exposure that a weird kind of relief can result when we fail. To lie flat on the ground with the breath knocked out of you is to find a solid resting place.”

To hear of Rev. LeRoy’s experiences, I suggest you listen to the talk.

plantingOn another note, if you haven’t noticed, the Season for the Earth team is starting their work and can use your help. There is a signup sheet on the bulletin board offering different opportunities for you to serve. It is the intention that the raised gardens will bear fresh vegetables and herbs for the use for our Sunday lunches as well as vegetables to share with the community. If you can give a couple of hours a week to planting, weeding or watering, please sign up and a member of the team will contact you.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey