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Insights by Rev. Leslie Takahashi

Marginal Wisdom

They teach us to read in black and white.
Truth is this—the rest false.
You are whole—or broken.
Who you love is acceptable—or not.
Life tells its truth in many hues.
We are taught to think in either/or.
To believe the teachings of Jesus—OR Buddha.
To believe in human potential—OR a power beyond a ­single will.
I am broken OR I am powerful.

Life embraces multiple truths, speaks of both, and of and.
We are taught to see in absolutes.
Good versus evil.
Male versus female,
Old versus young,
Gay versus straight.

Let us see the fractions, the spectrum, the margins.
Let us open our hearts to the complexity of our worlds.
Let us make our lives sanctuaries, to nurture our many identities.

The day is coming when all will know
That the rainbow world is more gorgeous than monochrome,
That a river of identities can ebb and flow over the static, stubborn rocks in its course,
That the margins hold the center.

 

Rev. Leslie Takahashi

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Insights: “The Art in Letting Go” by Michele Barkhauer

The Art in Letting Go

Imagine for a moment that you have a single rope wrapped around your hand, and that you’re gripping that rope in order to hold onto what is at the other end dangling over a precipice. At the other end of the rope is a thing that was once important to you, or a part of you, but that no longer serves you. Perhaps it’s an old t-shirt that’s threadbare and well-loved after years of use that you can’t bring yourself to part with, or a letter or photo from a time better left in the past. Perhaps it’s the weight of a grudge you’ve carried, the pain of a secret hurt you’ve harbored in silence, or a voice in the back of your mind telling you that you can’t do something your soul is begging you to do. Imagine that each moment you hold the rope the items at the other end become just a bit heavier than the moment before, and as they become heavier the rope wraps tighter around your hand until you can feel the weight drag you down, constricting your fingers; holding it brings you pain. Now imagine you loosen your grip. You make a choice to take a breath, unclench your jaw, drop your shoulders from your ears and allow your fingers to loosen their death grip. As you do this, the rope begins to unfurl from around your hand and slowly it falls away; your hand is free. The pain goes and with it goes the heavy burden and you feel at ease.

The art of letting go lies in knowing what serves you in this life and what doesn’t. It is in being able to differentiate between what we want to bring with us into our future and what is better left in our past. Each moment is a teacher and each item a lesson; some things we bury in our bones until they become a part of us, but this doesn’t mean we must bear the burden of shouldering them to the grave.

I recently found myself watching a Netflix series on “tidying up”. Most of my friends made fun of Mari Kondo’s methods of “tidying” as she calls it because she states emphatically that you should thank your belongings before packing them away, giving them away, or throwing them away. To many, speaking to a threadbare t-shirt seems silly, but seeing her lovingly touch each item to see if they “sparked joy”, and thanking those that did not for their service to her before letting them go reminded me of the Shinto belief that everything possesses an energy or spiritual essence called “kami”. Some of the participants were hesitant to touch and to speak to their possessions but as they did something amazing happened, they began to find peace. Letting go became easier. I watched as they became more in tune with themselves, their environment, and their inner joy as they easily sorted between what would be carried forward in their lives and what would not.  What I noticed was that as they let each possession go, they appreciated them for the role they played but recognized that the time in their lives for those possessions was over now. I feel that mental and emotional clutter can be tidied up in the same way our possessions can; take stock and ask yourself ‘does this spark joy?’. If the answer is no thank it for its lessons and let it fall away.

I will leave you with one word of caution as you let go: if it sparks joy keep it; this is Mari’s rule. Touch the thing, hold it, speak to it, or if it is inside of you like mine was, close your eyes and check in with yourself. If a thing sparks something inside of you, a tiny ember of happiness or fulfillment, hold onto it. This is the art of letting go, the beauty of choice, of self-realization, of recognizing what you need and what you don’t; it may be the single kindest thing you can do for yourself.

Bill Maher recently tried to shame millennials claiming that their love of video games and comics was childish; he claimed they needed to ‘grow up’. A woman named Catherynne shattered this idea on social media asking Maher why on earth millennials, who are living in an era of #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, questionable politics, global warming, crushing student debt, and a poor economy, would give up what is “good & joyful & rich in the art and accoutrements of childhood in exchange for a yawning grey void?” and she’s absolutely right. Never let go of what sparks joy in your life simply because other people fail to recognize its worth in your life. The value of your joy should never be based on someone else’s exchange rate.

by Michele Barkhauer, Director of Religious Exploration

 

 

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Insights: “Our Sabbatical”

By the time that you read this article I will be on sabbatical and please believe me when I tell you that I will miss you and my ministry at First Parish more than I can say. A Sabbatical is a time when a settled minister steps back from the day-to-day of their parish to refresh and reflect in order to move forward into, what some might consider, the next phase of one’s ministry. A sabbatical is not just about the minister… it is a time for the members and friends of First Parish to take your relationships, your commitment to Unitarian Universalism and your goal of growing the congregation to the next level. A sabbatical is not just about holding down the fort while the minister is away, it is about being fortified by one another as you engage deeply in your shared ministry.

This is a time to invite friends and neighbors to Sunday services and other events that you will envision and manifest. It is a time to support one another during times of joy and sorrow. It is a time to go deeper into your understanding of what it means to be a member of First Parish and for those of you who have been on the fence about joining… what is holding you back? Join, First Parish needs you! Over the next few months, with the help of the Board of Trustees, you will envision how First Parish might evolve and what role you may want to fill in this process. First Parish is what you make of it because it is yours. It is up to you and your representatives on the Board to be self governing. This is nothing new. We do this governing each and every day and at our annual meeting. The Unitarian Universalist Association, I affectionally refer to our national organizing body as the “mother ship,” explains a bit about the goal of our governance.

Governance is spelled out in the fifth Principle, which calls for “the use of the democratic process within our congregations.” Just as Unitarian Universalists emphasize-in our theology and history-the independence of each congregation rather than our interdependence through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), we emphasize the independence of each person more than our interdependence as members of a congregation. Under congregational polity each congregation is self-governing, choosing its own leadership, handling its own finances, and choosing its own delegates to the (UUA) General Assembly… How we relate to each other as individuals within a congregation mirrors the interrelations among congregations, entailing the same issue: balancing independence with interdependence. Difficult decisions such as actions for social justice, balancing the annual budget or a new location for the congregation spark (ie: new minister) bring the need for congregational polity and the democratic process to the forefront. Too often members of congregations believe that the only model for democratic process is for everyone to gather in one place and make all decisions by consensus. Although consensus may be appropriate for a small fellowship, it restricts both the size and development of the congregation. Rabbi and psychotherapist Edwin Friedman states the case: “[Consensus] tends to value peace over progress and personal relationships over ideas. . . . Emphasis on consensus gives strength to the extremists.” (https://www.uua.org/leadership/learning-center/governance/polity/47009.shtml)

As your settled minister I offer recommendations to the Board of Trustees and to the various committees that I meet with, but ultimately your direction, your goals, your hopes and dreams are yours, together. I am sure that you will learn so much independently and interdependently as you take your shared ministry to new places.

Over the next couple of months my hope is to rest, reflect and begin writing a book that studies the intersection of adoption, DNA and identity. These are all complicated issues taken one at a time, but the complexities and interconnections between these concepts together will be fascinating to unpack. As part of this very personal work I have committed to writing every day as well as journaling. I will hopefully be traveling to France and England at some point over the next few months to do some hands on research. I expect to be delightfully busy working on this passion that I have been only able to spend spare moments on over the last few of years.

I encourage you to reflect over this time as well, work on your credo that we talked about in October, which we will share in June, and endeavor to find your rhythm. You are each amazing people that have so much to share with one another.

Remember that I love you, be safe and I will miss you until we see one another again!

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: “Peace”

How do we find and cultivate peace? Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor also known as the Philosopher explained that, “He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the world.” Building upon this teaching Thich Nhat Hahn shared that, “Nonviolence and compassion are the foundations of a peace movement. If you don’t have enough peace and understanding and loving-kindness within yourself, your actions will not truly be for peace. Everyone knows that peace has to begin with oneself, but not many people know how to do it.” The roots of peace are anchored within us… The Buddha explained that love, compassion, kindness, enlightenment, fear, greed, anger are all small seeds that reside within each one of us, the seeds that we water and feed are the ones that will grow. He encouraged humankind to focus on the seeds that we want to sprout and ignore the seeds that we want to wither.

When I think of peace, this months theme, I envision the Peace sign created in 1958. This symbol was created to support the movement of denuclearization in Europe, but ultimately was adopted by those who sought peace against war and violence around the world. Throughout history there has been constant unrest and war with a few periods when there was notable peace. The first acknowledged peace movement began in 989 ce. It was a movement that endeavored to restrict violence towards monasteries. This early movement had the foresight to understand that peace in general was difficult to achieve so they proposed to restrict the use of violence by the nobility to a certain number of days per year. Humankind has not stopped seeking the means to create peace ever since.

I am not sure about your life but in mine I truly seek peace and especially during this time of year. During the dark times we cloister and look for ways to create inner peace for oneself and our loved ones. What energy and commitment might we put towards creating peace in our lives? Thich Nhat Hahn explains that, “The practice of peace should address suffering: the suffering within yourself and the suffering around you. They are linked to each other. When you go to the mountain and practice alone, you don’t have the chance to recognize the anger, jealousy and despair that’s in you. That’s why it’s good that you encounter people—so you know these emotions. So that you can recognize them and try to look into their nature. If you don’t know the roots of these afflictions, you cannot see the path leading to their cessation. That’s why suffering is very important for our practice.”

I believe that during this time of year when we face challenges, anxiety, frustration, and suffering we receive an opportunity to look within and realize what seeds we are feeding. If we want a life of peace and happiness we cultivate within and then we spread the seeds of peace and happiness out into the world. To reduce the suffering of others we must be able to listen to one another to better understand how we can help/commiserate and to create peace within and with one another.

‘Tis the season my friends to let the ground rest and become fertile once again, it is a time to pick and choose what we will seed and grow together. It is a time to listen and give generously from our hearts to one another.

May the peace of the season be with you!

Love and Light,

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: Formation and Sabbatical

How much of who we are and have become throughout our lives has been carefully cultivated? On the other hand how much of who we are has just happened around us and to us? Life in so many ways can seem serendipitous, opportunities landing in timely or an untimely fashion changing the direction that we may have had in mind. How many times have you caught yourself saying, “the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry”? This saying, written by Robert Burns in his poem, “To A Mouse” laments on how, as humans beings, we do not necessarily stay, like the mouse, in this moment but instead struggle with the past as well as the future. Rarely present in the now we wander, backing into the future uncertain of our direction.

Formation is a process of assimilating our experiences in a mindful way where we step into these opportunities daring them to form who we are becoming. The act of forming who we are changes our very identity, specifically the parts of us that one would consider to be primary to one’s Self.

The key to mindful formation is taking the time for reflection. With this in mind I am taking a sabbatical from January returning the first week in June for reflection and formation. It will be a time of travel, research and writing. This is an amazing opportunity for growth and I invite you to carve out time in your life as well to reflect on your journey and the seminal moments that have led you to this place. Take the time to realize the ways that your identity is continuing to evolve and dare to stay present in the moment. Over the next few months let us gather, imagine and prepare for that next unknown chapter in our lives and the life of First Parish.

Peace, Love and Light,

Rev. Marjorie

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Insights: Powerful Beyond Measure

 

by Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty

We are powerful beyond measure, humankind, each one of us has a capacity for a range of personal skills. Gifts that we have spent a lifetime cultivating through times of joy, hours at work and play, as well as times where we have faced life challenges. Within us we hold knowledge, skills and the motivation to reach beyond. We are powerful beyond measure.

Courage, love, Compassion, fierceness, commitment, acceptance, communication (listening), adaptability, self-reflection, being open to feedback, learning and growing, a constant moral compass, just to name a few.

There are many skills that one can develop throughout their lives and at times we rank them in importance. Being innovative is usually highly prized, as we interact, work and play we pull each skill forward as it is needed. We multi-thread skills weaving them around situations, interactions or experiences; very rarely do we use just a single skill. Maybe in a given situation we require the skill of patience, compassion and love, and add to that our curious nature and a spark of inspiration, roll it all up in a wrapping of motivation and commitment, toss in a dash of fierceness and we are powerful beyond measure.

I think of skills as the ingredients of our life. If we pull together a palatable concoction we create a recipe for success or happiness or whatever our minds/hearts desire. If we are not willing or able to gather what is needed what we need/desire may not manifest in the way that we had hoped for. If we each have a different recipe in mind how, one may wonder, can we cultivate a menu that is simpatico?

As we arrive at First Parish’s Homecoming Sunday, hopefully rested from this summer, let us gather our skills and recipes for an amazing and enlightening church year. Let our ingenuity, creativeness and commitment bring us to new and exciting places. There is an important reason that we gather in comm-unity… because it is far more fulfilling to do this work of living a life, developing our skills, learning and growing when we do it together.

We have everything that we need if we dare to invite, welcome, imagine and unite as the community of First Parish!

Much love and see you soon,

Rev. Marjorie

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