Environment

Air Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.  This exersize is best performed outdoors.

 

When I breathe in,
I breathe in peace.
When I breathe out,
I breathe out love.

- Sarah Dan Jones

 

Take a deep breath, slowly counting to three.  Feel your diaphram expanding.

Hold it.

Exhale slowly counting to three.  Feel your chest settling back.

Take a deep breath, slowly.  Feel the oxygen rushing in to feed your cells.

Exhale slowly counting to three.  Feel the carbon dioxide leaving with the air in your lungs.

Breath purifies.

Take a deep breath, slowly. Feel refreshed, new energy.

Exhale slowly counting to three.  Feel your body relaxing, any tensions leaving with the air in your lungs.

 

 

Clean air is a precious gift.  Clean air is life.  Give thanks for clean air if you have it (and even if you don't) and think about how to make sure everyone can breathe free.

Food Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.

 

The seed and root beneath the Earth,
the willful, growing shoot…
the hopeful bud then flowering blossom
turned to glowing fruit.
We thank those who grew this food
from little bursting seeds,
We thank our Mother Earth,
whose gifts fulfill our needs.

- Adapted from Anonymous

 

Next, take a moment to appreciate the food. Where has it come from? What country? Was it grown or was it manufactured? Try to imagine the different ingredients in their natural growing environment and even the types of people who would have been looking after the crops or animals.

take a moment to appreciate the fact that you actually have food on your plate.

with your hands, notice the texture as you pick it up, the temperature, and perhaps the color(s). If you're eating from a plate with a knife and fork, notice instead the texture and temperature of the cutlery as you move it toward the food, but still take the time to notice the colors on the plate.

As you move the food toward your mouth, shift the focus away from the hands and more toward the eyes, nose and mouth. How does the food smell? What does it look like up close? And, as you put it in your mouth, what is the taste, the texture, the temperature?

take the time to chew the food fully. Not only is this a healthier way of eating, but it will allow you the time to taste and appreciate all the different flavors.

bite into the food and chew, trying to omit any automatic movements. When chewing, know you are chewing.Swallow after the food has been thoroughly chewed, probably twenty or thirty times (don't bother counting; it's not a quiz). See if the flavor changes -- some food really only comes alive after ten or more chews; some disappears. Finally, when you do swallow, see how far down your esophagus you can still feel the food.

Imagine the water trickling into your stomach, and from there moving to every other part of your body.  Into your limbs.  Seeping into every cell.

Drink another mouthful, mindfully.

Think back to a time when you were really hot and thirsty.  Remember how good it felt when you finally drank liquid.
(If doing this with a family or group, encourage participants to briefly share their memories.)

 

consider for a moment all of the people involved in bringing this food to you. Farmers, truck drivers, factory workers, storekeepers -- there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose labor created the simple occasion of this food arriving in this moment. Take a moment to consider them; imagine what they look like, how hard they are working to support themselves and their families, the economic system that creates the conditions for their labor.

 

4. And, on the level of the soul, consider all the conditions necessary to have created this food. The four elements of fire (sun), water, Earth, and air; the genetic information in the plants (or animals), which I see as part of the Divine wisdom (chochmah). Consider, in Thich Nhat Hanh's words, all of the aspects of the universe which "inter-are" with this food. You are holding a small storehouse of the sun's energy, and water from a cloud.

.

Energy Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.  (This exersize is best performed after dark.)

 

May the light we now kindle
Inspire us to use our powers
To heal and not to harm
To help and not to hinder
To bless and not to curse
To serve you, Spirit of Life

- Adapted from Singing the Living Tradition, #453

 

Turn on a light.

Think about what a difference it makes in the room, how much easier it is to see.

Open the refrigerator door.  See the little light turn on, allowing you to easily view its contents.  Feel the cool air.  (Close it.)

Open the freezer door.  Hear the hum of the compressor.  Feel the even cooler air.  (Close it.)

Think about what life would be like if you had no refrigeration.

Turn on the stove.  Hold your hand a safe distance from the burner.  Feel the heat.  (Turn it off.)

Think about what life would be like if you had no way to cook your food.
(If doing this with kids, ask them to name their favorite foods that they wouldn't be able to eat any more without energy to cook food.)

Turn on your favorite form of viewing entertainment (tv, internet videos, etc).

Access the internet.

What are other things in your home that require electricity to operate?

Almost every convenience that we have in life requres energy.  Give thanks for the energy you have and think about how to make sure everyone has enough.

 

Water Appreciation

Author: 
Kat Liu

These "appreciation meditations" can be as quiet and introspective or as energetic and interactive as you desire.  The aim is cultivating gratitude.  Gratitude is the starting point for generosity and action.

 

Water flows from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us,
and sustains us all.

- Thich Nhat Hahn

 

Pour yourself a glass of water.
(If doing this with a family or group, use a pitcher to pour each person a glass of water.)

Look at the glass of water.  Hold it up to the light.  See its clarity.

Sip a mouthful but do not swallow.  Feel the coolness roll over your tongue, the roof of your mouth, through your teeth.

Swallow.  Feel it moisten your throat as it goes down. 

Imagine the water trickling into your stomach, and from there moving to every other part of your body.  Into your limbs.  Seeping into every cell.  Bathing each cell with life.

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Think back to a time when you were really hot and thirsty.  Remember how good it felt when you finally got to drink.
(If doing this with a family or group, encourage participants to briefly share their memories.)

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Where did your water come from?  Did it come out of the tap?  Did you buy it in the store?  Did you get it out of a well?  Imagine what it would be like if you could not easily get water. 

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

As our climate changes, it becomes harder to get clean, drinkable water.  Some places have drought, which means there isn't enough water.  Other places have floods, which makes clean water dirty.

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Despite the increasing scarcity of clean water, some companies still gather up water in order to make money from it - they may bottle the water to sell, or use it to grow water-intensive crops to sell, or use it to force oil out of the ground to sell - and do not let the people who live nearby have clean water to drink.

Drink another mouthful, gratefully.

Water is a precious gift.  Water is life.  Give thanks for the water you have and think about how to make sure everyone has enough.

Water Flows

Author: 
Thich Nhat Hahn

Water flows from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us,
and sustains us all.

Water flows over these hands.
May I use them skillfully
to preserve our precious planet.

Blessed Be the Wind

Author: 
Lyall Watson

Blessed be the Wind!

Without wind, most of Earth would be uninhabitable. The tropics would grow so unbearably hot that nothing could live there, and the rest of the planet would freeze. Moisture, if any existed, would be confined to the oceans, and all but the fringe of the great continents along a narrow temperate belt, would be desert. There would be no erosion, no soil, and for any community that managed to evolve despite these rigors, no relief from suffocation by their own waste products.

But with the wind, Earth comes truly alive. Winds provide the circulatory and nervous systems of the planet, sharing out energy information, distributing both warmth and awareness, making something out of nothing.

All wind’s properties are borrowed. Our knowledge of it comes at secondhand, but it comes strongly. And this combination of a force that cannot be apprehended, but nevertheless has an undeniable existence, was our first experience of the spiritual. A crack in the cosmos that widened to let the tide of consciousness flow through.

We are the fruits of the wind-and have been seeded, irrigated, and cultivated by its craft.

Hymn to the Community Garden

Author: 
David Breeden and Christopher D. Sims

This poem is a collaboration and was recited in Providence, Rhode Island in a workshop entitled This Is What Love Looks Like. 

David:
Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

With some compost in a vacant lot,
that’s how our community
garden grows.

Christopher:
With community gardens/
The people won't be starving/
Higher prices, the stores are charging/
What they're putting in the food these days is alarming/
I am arming myself with the knowledge to grow my own/
Healthy food, community, and love in all US time zones/
What else do we need: cleaner water and air to breathe/

David:
Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

With lots of hard work
in a vacant lot
and no empty lots

to mow!

That’s how our community garden grows!

Christopher:
Community gardens bring the people together/
Community gardens helps us eat and do better/
It's a natural, holistic way to cooperate and be/
I open my door, walk outside, and join in unity/

David:
Mary, Mary, quite Unitary-
ian (Universalist), how does your
community garden grow?

With lessons in growing
and nutritious food, that’s how our
community garden
grows. 

Christopher:
We’re talking tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, and greens/
Planting, nurturing, and growing those nutritious things/
We attend potlucks and farmer’s markets seeing our neighbors/
The food is good whether we eat it now, or save some for later/
The farm to table movement is what we can once again enjoy/
The youth in my city are growing food, becoming employed/
For this way of life, there is no harm or no pressure/
We can use this knowledge and love for the land to end food deserts/

David:
Mary, Mary, quite communitary-
ian, how does your community
garden grow?

Buy into our CSA

—Community Supported Agriculture!—
that’s how our
community garden
grows.

© Rev. Dr.David Breeden and Christopher D. Sims
June 4, 2014

The Detroit Water Crisis

Author: 
Christopher D. Sims a.k.a UniverSouL

Who would be considered the nicest,
After shutting off people’s water
causing a crisis?

Using the devices of power
Hour after hour
To sour the living conditions
of so many.

Three-thousand households a week
are facing shutoffs. Can you imagine
how much those bills cost?!

Babies need water.

Children need water.

Youth need water.

Adults need water.

But it’s money over people.

This is a Human Rights issue.
This is a Right to Water issue.

And if this continues imagine
how many lives will be affected.
I’ve heard that gentrification is
connected to these shutoffs.

So it’s about money and land.
Resources changing from hand
to hand. An American pastime
That many poor and people of
color can understand.

Water is in demand.

But shutting it off in
Detroit is their plan.

© Christopher D. Sims
July 8, 2014

Earth Day

Author: 
Madelyn Campbell

Earth Day, a sermon by Madelyn Campbell delivered to the Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church on 27 April, 2014   

Happy Easter! Yes, last Sunday was Easter Sunday, but in the Christian liturgical calendar, this is still Eastertide. In the Jewish liturgical calendar this is the counting of the Omer - the 50 days between Passover and Shavout - also known in the Christian calendar as Pentecost.  In the northern European pagan liturgical calendar, this is Beltane-tide - the time between Ostara and Beltane, or May Day, in late spring. 
I like liturgical calendars. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with them and it seems natural to me, but I think I like them most because they tie us into the seasons. There is a rhythm.  Maybe it’s the musician and the dancer in me, but I think we need to pay attention to the rhythms - and the earth has a rhythm.
We had a long, tough winter, didn’t we? It was cold. I know some of you are gardeners. I keep hearing rosemary horror stories. This winter wasn’t kind to rosemary. Did anyone here lose rosemary? Or any other plants this winter? I confess that I’m not much of a gardner. I’ve tried, I really have. I grew a $15 tomato a couple of years ago. I accomplished that by getting all the things I needed to grow my one tomato plant. Which then produced…one tomato. It was a good tomato, though. Even though I don’t seem to have much of a green thumb, I do appreciate the gardeners in my life, and the beautiful fruits of their labors.
So it was a rough winter. My gardener friends have been assessing their losses. And yet. Did you see the cherry blossoms? The Yoshindo cherry trees  - the ones with the white blossoms that line the tidal basin - have already had their peak and we’ve been showered with white blossoms, but the Kwanzan cherry trees are in full bloom just about now. Giant pink balls of blooms hanging like party lights in the trees.
For you shall go out in joy,
    and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
It feels like the trees are clapping their hands now. It feels that way to me. I hope you can feel that. Even after the very long winter, the earth is awakening again, and new life is springing forth. The rhythm of the seasons carries us forward.
The earth is resilient.  She weathers many things. Even us.
We’re a part of creation, and we act in it and on it. We sometimes think of ourselves as set apart from creation - as if humans are one thing and the environment something else. I’ve heard some people talk about the seventh principle - “respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part” as the environmental principle, as if that were all it is - as if we, somehow aren’t included in that. But in the Hebrew scriptures, in the language itself, there is no language for the separation of humanity from the rest of creation.
In their book, The Predicament of the Prosperous, Bruce Birch and Larry Rasmussen talk about our relational responsibility to creation. Bruce Birch is a professor and friend of mine and an all around wise and respected academic. They tell us, “God calls us toward the shalom of the whole creation.” Shalom - that doesn’t just mean “peace” it means wholeness. The wholeness of relational responsibility, then. They go on further to tell us about redemption as new creation - redemption as, quote, “the effort to restore the whole network of relationships that have been broken by sin.” I don’t want to get too off the mark here, but perhaps we should define sin so that we’re all speaking one language. Sin literally means to miss the mark. So when we’re doing things that take us away from relationship - with each other, or with the rest of creation, that is sinful. When we’re repairing that, then it’s redemptive.
Birch and Rasmussen point to today’s passage from Isaiah as the place where this new creation theme appears most fully in Hebrew scripture.  They say, “Here the salvation history and creation history are wedded. They are both a part of the work of one God. God’s redemption of Israel and the nations renews nature as well.” 
Think about that. Renewing the people renews nature. How does that happen? Why are the trees clapping their hands? Why are cypresses growing instead of thorns?
We can’t renew nature without renewing our relationships with each other. It’s all intertwined. Well, that makes sense.
When we don’t treat each other as equals - when we  aren’t in right relationship with each other, it’s much easier to dump our waste on those we don’t care about. One of the most dangerous jobs in the world is breaking apart ships. You won’t see this happening in the U.S., though. This work, damaging to the environment, and often deadly to the people who do it, is done in Bangladesh, by “Other” people. People who are poor, and brown. Because they’re desperate for any work. They break the ships, and it breaks the world and our relationships.
But we don’t have to go halfway around the world to find brokenness.  Back in January, a chemical spill from Freedom Industries polluted the drinking water of Charleston, West Virginia. Four months later, residents were still using bottled water. But what would happen if we cared enough about everyone to stop manufacturing and storing dangerous chemicals in poor communities?
I’m not saying this is a simple thing. I’m not saying “all we have to do is” - there are no simple answers. But we can start with considering how we are all linked, and how we all deserve to be surrounded by beauty.
How can we make that happen? What happens if we just sit and wait?
We haven’t been kind to our planet. We’re using up fossil fuels and spewing lots of carbons into the atmosphere. We’re demolishing wetlands and then we act surprised when cities flood. And then some among us cling to the belief that we need do nothing, that God will rescue us. You’ve probably heard about the man who climbed up to the roof of his house during the flood and a boat came by, but he refused to get in, saying “God will save me.” Soon, the water was up to his hips, and another boat came by, but he said, “God will save me.”  By the time the water was at his chest and he was clinging to the chimney, a helicopter came by. He still refused the help, saying, “God will save me.” He drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” and God said, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”
We have to do some of this work ourselves.
I’d said earlier that the earth is resilient. It is. The earth will be here with or without us. Creation will continue. Do we want to take the hand of the Holy and do the work to repair the garden?
There are many ways we can do that work. For some people, it means really getting out there and doing the work in the garden. Have you been in our garden? Whether you’re a gardener or not, I hope you can appreciate the  beauty of the garden.
Of course, we don’t just have a garden. We have 11 beautiful acres of open fields, and woods, and the garden. We have room to run around and fly a kite, or to sit and absorb all the beauty. What a gift! How are we caring for it?
Some of you are stewards of the grounds. You mow the lawn. You pull weeds. You care for the garden. Thank you. You’re doing the repairing work. Working on our own grounds is important, because it keeps us in touch.
We don’t all do that, and we don’t all have to, but there are things we all can do. The Green Sanctuary team has a lot of information they’d like to share with us after the service today.   Information about things you can do around here, and things you can do at home.
And once we’re taking care of each other and our own local garden, well, how hard can it be to move out from there?
When I was little, I lived in Manhattan. If you’re not a city person, you might not think of cities as green spaces, but my parents took me often to Central Park and to Ft. Tryon Park - my favorite. My father took me to Ft. Tryon Park nearly every Sunday, and we’d walk through the formal gardens and then run around and play in the open spaces. Sometimes I’d run around in bare feet and feel the grass beneath my feet. I want all of my brothers and sisters in creation to have that experience. Do you?
Go out. Enjoy the grounds today. See the trees clapping their hands. Look at the Bradford pear trees just outside here. And imagine. Imagine how it can be - how we will go out in joy and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall burst into song,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
    for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Let us make this garden here. Now. Let us join with all that is Holy in repairing creation.

Environmental Justice Curricula

Our Place in the Web of Life: An Introduction To Environmental Justice, a five-week course from the UU Ministry for Earth

The Right to Water, a five-week covenant group gathering, from the UU Service Committee

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