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(361) Unity

Today is my “U” entry for Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I picked Unity for the subject today because it typically was a Sunday experience.

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What It Is

Unity School of Christianity was founded on the principles that Jesus’s ministry was one of healing. It takes a metaphysical, rather than literal meaning, to the bible and teachings of Jesus, opening up new ways of seeing and applying to our own lives.

I am not exactly sure how I started to attend Unity of Greater Cleveland. I think it was because I was already studying A Course in Miracles, and Unity had a study group. The minister, Joan Gattuso, had been raised Catholic like I was, so her experiences mirrored mine in many ways.

Although Unity Worldwide is based on Christian teachings in general, the Unity ministers have a lot of flexibility. This allowed Joan to teach from Buddhism, Taoism, A Course in Miracles, even Judaism as it fit the overall message.

My sister also attended Unity with me, as well as A Course in Miracles study group. It was a comfortable place to be on Sunday morning. What I learned to love best is that it was multi-cultural and inter-religious. People from all backgrounds could feel welcome at Unity, and there was something there for everyone.

The Five Unity Principles:

  • 1. God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.
  • 2. We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.
  • 3. We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
  • 4. There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our awareness of God.
  • 5. Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them.

My Experience

I began attending the services in fall  of 1991. In the spring of 1995, I received the church’s newsletter in the mail. I saw that they were looking for a new youth sponsor for the teen group Youth of Unity. I heard a “calling” at that moment. I tried hard to ignore it.  I tried to talk myself out of it privately, then talked to Jim and my friend Iris about it.  Instead of talking me out of it, they both urged me to pursue it.

The next day, I told my minister and within a month I was on a plane to Unity Village in Missouri with a couple of teens from our Y.O.U. group ready for the annual conference. I was scared out of my mind. This was the big event of the year, and I barely knew these kids, let alone anyone else. It was crazy.

But, oh, so wonderful.  A week in a beautiful setting, with the right focus, the right people, and the right lessons.  I was assigned to an all adult “family” where we learned the curriculum for the Sunday classes and also got to do some writing with a published poet.  It was pretty awesome. The music, the energy, and the things I learned — simply out of this world.

Relationships

The Y.O.U. gathering in Missouri brought me one of my dearest friends — Kate. Her son was in a Y.O.U. group from the other side of town, and she was the sponsor. She became my guide throughout the week. Kate helped me immensely with all things Y.O.U., and at the same time became a friend and confidante in many parts of my life. I simply cannot imagine life without her.

YOUKate
At the Y.O.U. Conference, Unity Village, July 1995

The best part, however, was the relationships I built with the young people who were in the Y.O.U. during the years I was a sponsor. I am on Facebook now with many of them, all who have grown into wonderfully principled people, pursuing their dreams, having families…it is wondrous to me when I think of who they were then, and who they are now.

Where It Led

I made the decision to stop being a sponsor about as quickly as I made the decision to become one. It was sometime in the spring of 1998 I decided to call it quits, allowing a few months time for them to find a new sponsor. (I knew at the time that my life would be going in a different direction, as I was going to pursue going to college.) What was weird was that my last day of being a sponsor we had the Wings Ceremony for three of the girls who were graduating and moving on to college. When I left Unity that day, I never returned. I never made a firm decision to leave Unity — I somehow just never went back. My friend Kate, always the wise one, said that Unity is a school and sometimes we graduate. I guess that is what happened.

I am convinced I would have never had the nerve to pursue teaching if it had not been for my time working with youth in this way. My commitment to Unity obviously was about that part of my journey. I grew in countless ways, found excellent principles to live my life, and can see the continuity with what transpired there in my every day life. I would venture to say that every day I have some memory related to my time with Unity. It was a wonderful foundation in which to build the second half of my life.

YOUcamp
My first and last camping trip ever was with Y.O.U. at Punderson State Park, July 1995
YOUreport
There were two rallies a year, besides the conference. The spring rally was held in Holland, Michigan at Hope College. Every chapter had to give their report. Zander is shown here giving ours. According to the back of the picture, he told the audience, “We wanted to go to Mexico, but went to Chi-Chi’s instead.”  June 1996
YOURally97
Rally at Hope College, June 1997.  Our group had grown!
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(331) Power Spot

I have been consumed with creative planning. Today was Day Number Three of my break obsessively working on units for my students.  I am having a blast doing it — finding all the pieces that continue to connect together. But part of me knows I have got to get on to other things. I need to walk. I need to read that awesome book I started, The Invention of Wings. And I desperately need to practice my music, which has been languishing all month.

I happened to take a look at my Facebook feed around 10:30 and saw a post from Buddhist leader Joan Halifax. She had several suggestions for things to do on Black Friday. One was to “forest bathe.”

Immediately, I put away all my planning tools. I made a list of what I want to do the rest of the day that has NOTHING to do with school, and I went to Lakes Park to bathe in the forest. But what happened was unexpected.

***

In 1996, I was blessed to take a workshop with Danaan Perry called “Warriors of the Heart.”  He has a book of the same name, which I have on my shelf and refer to quite often.  I cannot even begin to explain what an influence this man had on me — perhaps I will try in another blog. But one thing he taught me is that we all need a Power Spot. The definition of a Power Spot, according to his book:

Your Power Spot is a place in nature where you can relatively easily tap back into your Aloneness. It’s a natural setting that holds for you the qualities of calm, quiet, earthy, grounded, centered. It is for you only.

I have had several Power Spots over the year. They seem to come to me when I have a decision to make. In early 2013, I used to visit a Power Spot I had found at Lakes Park. It was close to the path, but was behind some brush where no one could see me. It was a limestone rock that was fairly comfortable, and it overlooked two fountains on the lake that often sported rainbows, as well as a rookery across the way. This Power Spot was instrumental in helping me make the changes in my life I made that spring, which began with a dream I had after I found the Power Spot. I continued to visit it, often writing on the notepad in my cell phone my thoughts while I was there.

Along with some specific music (Dawes album Nothing is Wrong and the song “All Will Be Well” by the Gabe Dixon Band) and the poem “Mariposa” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, I was fortified to make the changes I needed to make, even though they were scary.

Since then, the Power Spot I visited has had the vegetation removed, leaving it wide open to the path. I figured it served its purpose, and haven’t thought much else about it.

***

When I arrived at Lakes today, I started walking the paved path around the lake to the woods. I noticed a mound that was covered with what I like to think of as Ft. Myers snow — little white flowers that appear this time of year:

Nove 27 mound
The mound covered with “snow”

This piece of land called to me, and I started to walk up to the top with the intention of plopping myself down when I got there. Instead, I looked down and saw a mighty nice sitting rock. I went down and found the most comfortable way to sit on this piece of limestone, and knew in an instant I had found my new Power Spot. I wasn’t even looking, but here I was, looking out across the lake, perfectly secluded from all the people walking and biking the path and visiting the Farmer’s Market. It was a beautiful feeling.

Nove 27 view
View from the newly-minted Power Spot

I sat for just a bit, and then walked on, knowing I would return. And right afterward, a couple pieces of the puzzle on the units I was planning came together. Just like that. And now I know there is no more planning to do — I found the questions that are the driving force in the units. The rest will come in time.

Nove 27 butterfly
Delightful companions

I walked on into the woods, visited along the journey by two Zebra Longwings. I walked off the path for a while and said a prayer. I heard some sirens in the distance I was in the woods, and said a prayer for whoever was involved.

When I came out, I saw a Power Tree — one of those trees that just says, “Here I am.” All of nature was alive to me, as I continued to walk.

Nove 27 tree
Say hello!

When I left, Gladiolus Drive was all backed up.  There was a five car crash that had happened while I was at the park. I said another prayer for those involved, and came home to share my story.

Nove 27 me

 

(302) Moon Goddess

imageToday I decided I wanted to write a poem based on this photo my friend Pam took of the moon a couple of nights ago. I am using a poem from The Year of Being Here website called “Brotherhood” by Octavio Paz as a mentor text.  See the poem here.

Here is my poem:

Moon Goddess

I am mystery; I come and go

and the night is enormous.

But I look down;

my reflection comforts.

Unknowing I ponder:

I too am changing,

and at this very moment

someone prays to me.

(285) Moment of Realization

I didn’t write this morning, figuring that somehow I would have the energy tonight.  I came home not feeling the hoped-for energy. While sipping a chardonnay and scrolling through Facebook, I saw this photo my friend Pam took today.  She entitled it “Bird Meditation.”  I took it as a writing prompt.

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Photo taken by Pam Malafronte 2015

Bird meditation

soothes frustration

for the duration

of no concentration;

a new formation

to relieve starvation

for motivation.

He’s in speculation

and exploration

of the wave sensation

and preservation.

Bird dedication

to cooperation

and this elevation

of a new dedication

to life’s appreciation;

this moment of realization,

no manipulation,

just a silent celebration.

(130) Listen, The Silences

Today I am starting a series within my series.  Lately, I have noticed certain song lyrics jumping out at me.  Some of these lyrics I have known for a very long time — sometimes decades — and I suddenly hear them in a different way.  I have decided to do what I ask my students to do, and that is to connect that particular lyric to a moment, a photo, a painting, another song or poem.  Something.

It begins today, so this is Lyric Series #1.  Whenever I do a series, the title of song the lyric is from will be the title of the blog post.  My inner-directive on this is to keep it simple.

Today I was driving to Lakes Park for a walk, and heard a song from an album I have called Songs Inspired by Literature, Chapter Two.  The song is by michelle [bloom] and is inspired by the writings of Thomas Merton. The lyrics that stood out:

I don’t want to talk,

I just want to listen.

I went to the fragrance garden walk and was greeted with butterflies, hot sun, cool breeze, and lots and lots of colorful flowers. I took tons of photos, and have connected those photos in a series with a quote from Merton.

Enjoy the silence.

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Happiness
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is not
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a matter
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of intensity
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but
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of balance,
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order,
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rhythm,
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and harmony.