CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 

February 2018

 

 

How do I lead a good life?

 

Week One – February 4th

Intro to How do I lead good life? (Dorothea Dix)

 

Supplies Needed: Question bowl, different colors of Fimo or other bakeable clay, cord to string necklaces on

 

Chalice Lighting

We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.

or

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.”

 

Centering

Sing “This Little Light of Mine”

 

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Everywhere I go….

All around my neighborhood…

All around the world….

Deep within my heart….

 

Introduction

One of the most important questions for all religions is “How do I lead a good life?” Religions may or may not have a particular leader they follow, like Jesus or Mohammed (Hinduism doesn’t). They may or may not talk about God (Buddhism doesn’t—at least some versions). But all religions have something to say about how people should act in the world, how we should treat other people and how we should handle our feelings so that we act for the larger good. So this month we’ll be talking about what some different religions say about how people can lead a good life, and of course we’ll be thinking about our own ideas of how we can lead good lives. So we’re going to start with our question bowl, to see if anyone can think of questions we might look at that have to do with the big theological question of “How do I lead a good life?” In thinking of your questions, you might want to move your mind to situations when you have a hard time making good decisions.  We’re going have a few moments of silence to think about what questions we have, maybe the questions that come up for us when we have to make hard choices. Then we’ll pass the question bowl around, and when it comes to you, if you have a question, say it out loud (or offer option of writing the question on paper and placing it in the bowl).

People from different places, times and religions have all asked questions about how to live a good life, and have come up with various answers. Can you think of any rules or sayings that you’ve heard about how you should treat other people? (Kids are most likely to come up with the Golden Rule, but may have others. You can encourage sharing rules from their school classroom, or rules you may have for your group. If they don’t mention them, you may want to bring up our UU principles.) The Golden Rule, to treat other people as you would like to be treated, is probably the most famous statement of how to live a good life, and pretty much all religions have some version of that statement. However, there are other statements or rules that have important things to say. For instance, in the Hebrew (Jewish) Bible the prophet Micah says “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?” In other words, Micah said that you could live a full religious life, a good life, by working to see that all people are treated with fairness and kindness, and by being humble before God. To be humble is to admit that there are greater things in life than you, to recognize that there are things you don’t know, or can’t do. It’s kind of the opposite of being stuck up. So walking humbly with your God means to recognize that you aren’t the center of the universe, that you owe your life to something larger than you.

 

Story

I’d like to share with you the story of Dorothea Dix, a true story about a Unitarian woman who lived a life that was truly an example of doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly in the world.

Dorothea was born in 1802, just over a hundred years ago. She had a pretty unhappy family life – her parents fought all the time, her father drank heavily, and her mother suffered from ongoing severe headaches, and didn’t pay much attention to Dorothea, or to the two younger brothers who came after her. Dorothea acted pretty much as a mom to her brothers, raising them and helping them. When she was 12, Dorothea and her brothers went to live with her grandmother, since her parents were clearly not able to take care of the children. Life at the Dix mansion was very different from what Dorothea was used to. Her wealthy grandmother hired a dance instructor and a seamstress and did her best to turn Dorothea into a proper “lady.” Dorothea, however, wasn’t interested in fancy clothes and at one point her grandmother punished her severely when she was trying to give food and her new clothes to the beggar children who were standing at their front gate.

Dorothea had very little schooling, since teaching girls was not considered very important in those times. However, she was extremely smart, and loved to learn. She read everything she could get her hands on, went to public lectures, and made a point of spending time with knowledgeable people who were part of her grandmother and aunt’s social circle. More than anything, what she wanted to do was to become a schoolteacher. When she was just 15, her second cousin, Edward Bangs, helped her to achieve that goal, and she started a school in a store front on Boston’s Main St.

But Dorothea’s ambition went beyond just teaching – she wanted to help provide an education for poor people, since there were no public schools at the time, and only fairly wealthy people could afford to educate their children. To Dorothea’s surprise, her grandmother supported her plan to use room in the mansion where they lived as a school – one room for poor children, and one for wealthier children whose parents could afford to pay. Dorothea was a teacher for some twenty years, although overwork and illness forced her to take a couple of extended vacations in order to recover, both times with the help of the famous Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing, whose daughters she tutored.

But in 1941 something happened that would change Dorothea’s life – and the lives of many other people – forever. At the request of a friend, she volunteered to teach a Sunday school class to women at the East Cambridge Jail. Dorothea was shocked by the conditions that she found when she got there. The jail housed not only criminals, but also children and adults with mental delays and people with mental and emotional illnesses. The buildings were filthy, and had no furniture and no heat, and many of the people were in chains. When she asked why the people were housed in such terrible conditions, she was told “the insane do not feel heat or cold.”

At that point Dorothea began a second career that lasted most of the rest of her life, campaigning for better treatment of the mentally ill. Dorothea went to jails and poorhouses where the mentally ill were housed, wrote careful notes about what she saw, and brought these conditions to the attention of people in government. She lobbied for money for new hospitals, and convinced leaders that many of the mentally ill could recover under the right conditions. In spite of her poor health, she managed to cover every state east of the Mississippi, and later she traveled to Europe and did the same work in thirteen different countries there. In the US alone, she played a major role in founding 32 mental hospitals, 15 schools for the mentally retarded, a school for the blind, and numerous training facilities for nurses. Her efforts were an indirect inspiration for the building of many more institutions for the mentally ill. She was also was a leader in establishing libraries in prisons, mental hospitals and other institutions.

Dorothea, however, was always embarrassed by attention and praise for her work. She refused to have hospitals named for her, and didn’t even put her name on most of her publications. But her work fundamentally changed how we regard and treat mental illness. Dorothea Dix was truly someone who lived out seeking justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with her God.

 

Activity

Some Christians choose to wear bracelets or other jewelry with the letters WWJD – which stands for “What would Jesus do?” This phrase is another kind of rule or reminder about how to live a good life, since Jesus is a role model of treating people in a kind and loving way. We’re going to make necklaces that are similar, but a little bit different. You may choose to put in different letters, but I’m going to suggest “WWUUD” – What Would UU Do? You could read that as a reminder to make choices according to our UU principles, or you might hear it as the question “What would you do?”, a reminder that all of us have to make choices every day about how to treat others – and that we need to be careful that our choices show the values that are important to us, like justice and kindness.

(Make pendants by flattening discs of fimo or other bakeable clay. Combining colors for a swirly effect is fun. Then use a pencil to carve the letters into the clay, and to make a hole at the top that a cord can go through. Older children may wish to press in letters made from slender “snakes” of different colored fimo, and younger children may need help in carving the letters, but can mix colors and create the disc for the pendant. If you do not have facilities for baking the clay in your RE space you may need to take the pendants home and return them for stringing the following week.)

 

Discussion

What do you think What Would UU Do? means? What kinds of things do you think a UU would do? What kinds of things wouldn’t a UU do?

 

Closing

Sing “This Little Light of Mine” as in centering.


 

Week Two – February 11th

Love and Friendship

a Celebration of Valentine’s Day

 

Supplies Needed: heart-shaped cookies, frosting, sprinkles and such for decorating, story of Owen and Mzee—preferably with pictures, paper plates, sharp knife, large plate

 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

Light chalice.

 

May the light of this flame

Shine in our eyes as truth,

Give warmth to our hands in caring,

And glow in our hearts as love.

 

Or see week one.

 

Check-in: See week one.

 

Centering:

Sing “Come, Come, Whoever You Are” (#188 in Singing the Living Tradition)

 

Come, come, whoever you are,

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.

Ours is no caravan of despair,

Come, yet again, come.

 

You can find the tune here.

 

Introduction

This month we’re talking about the theological question of “How do I live a good life?” Does anyone remember any of the answers to that question we talked about last week? (Golden Rule, UU principles, “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God, etc.) Since we’re coming up on Valentine’s Day, this week seems like a good time to celebrate another of the basic values that teach us to lead a good life – love. One very famous passage from the Christian Scriptures (sometimes called the New Testament) starts like this:

If I speak in the languages of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only like a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 Love never fails.

  

Story

I’d like to share a story with you – a true story, although not one about a Unitarian Universalist this time. You may well have heard this story before. It’s a story about love, but not mushy, romantic love. Its about love between friends, and broken hearts, and healing. It’s the story of Owen and Mzee. (Note: you may want to show the video of the story, or tell the story as it appears here. Or you may find the book with photos in your local library)

Mzee was, and still is, a tortoise. A very, very large Aldabaran tortoise, who lives in a nature preserve in Kenya, Africa. Just how he got there, no one is quite sure, since Aldabaran tortoises only are born in the coral islands of Aldabara, near Madagascar. The best guess anyone has is that Mzee was taken from his home by pirates, who used to bring the giant tortoises on long journeys so that they could use them for food. Are there really pirates out there sailing the waters with tortoises in their holds? Well, it helps to know that Mzee is about 130 years old. He was out on the Aldabaran Islands a very long time ago! No one knows quite how he got to the coast of Kenya—most likely the pirate ship got shipwrecked and he managed to swim ashore. There are other Tortoises at the nature preserve where Mzee lives, but he never liked to hang out with them. Of course, Mzee is a tortoise, a reptile, and many scientists believe that reptiles don’t have the same feelings of love and friendship that mammals like people and dogs do.

Owen comes into our story as a casualty of a terrible natural disaster that killed many people and destroyed countless homes and livelihoods. But his story starts a bit earlier than that. Little Owen was a baby hippo, only about a year old. Of course, a little year-old hippo weighs about 600 pounds, so he wasn’t that tiny! He lived with his family on the shores of the Sabaki River in Africa, where they waded and swam and ate plants from the river. But in December heavy rains flooded the river, and Owen and his family were swept down the river to the ocean. But things got worse for Owen from there. The day after Christmas there was a tsunami – a huge wave in the ocean caused by an underwater earthquake. The tsunami started half a world away in Indonesia, and caused huge devastation there. But twelve hours later the great wave traveled all the way to Africa, and washed Owen away from his family and stranded him on a coral reef offshore. The water was too shallow for him to swim, and the coral was too crumbly for a 600 pound hippo to walk on. Owen was stuck – his family was lost, and he was alone, with no way to scramble to safety. The young hippo must have been terrified and lonely and desperate.

But help was on the way. Villagers from the town of Malindi saw the stuck baby hippo and tried to rescue him by capturing him in their fishing nets. But this only made Owen more terrified, and he broke free of the nets. Next the villagers borrowed shark nets from another fisherman, and tried to catch Owen in the stronger nets. Still the frightened hippo struggled and escaped. Finally a few villagers surrounded him, and a brave man named Owen tackled the hippo and wrapped him in the shark nets. That’s how Owen got his name.

Even though they now had Owen wrapped in the nets, it was still extremely hard to get him to shore. It’s not easy to drag a 600 pound hippo, and Owen was getting cut all over by the sharp coral. The villagers were afraid that in spite of all their efforts Owen would still die. Then, finally, the water level rose enough that it lifted Owen over the coral reef and they were able to get him to shore.

However, Owen’s troubles were far from over. Baby hippos can’t take care of themselves, and his family was gone. Another family of hippos wouldn’t take him in. Poor Owen was alone, exhausted, sore, hungry, tired, thirsty and plenty angry. But naturalists from Haller Park helped the villagers to get the struggling, heavy hippo tied into the back of a truck for the long, slow, drive to the nature preserve. Owen must have felt desperate jostling about on that long journey, but finally, at nightfall, he arrived and the naturalists at the park managed to get the unhappy hippo out of the truck and onto the ground.

Imagine everyone’s surprise when the first thing Owen did was to head right over to Mzee, the ancient tortoise. Perhaps Owen, in his loneliness, thought the tortoise looked more like a hippo than anything else around. Mzee, however, was less than thrilled. He didn’t like to hang out with other tortoises, let alone baby hippos! He hissed at Owen, and tried to get away.

But Owen just wouldn’t give up. He kept on following Mzee around, trying to snuggle up to him. And eventually Mzee let him. Now, as I said earlier, many people think that reptiles like tortoises don’t really have feelings, at least not feelings like affection and caring. But most everyone looking at the photos of Owen and Mzee together now would say that both animals give every sign of being the best of friends. Mzee follows Owen, as well as Owen following Mzee. They eat together, sleep together and swim together. They’ve even worked out ways of communicating with each other, although hippo language and tortoise language must be totally different.

Owen’s life is very different from what he knew with his family as a baby. So is Mzee’s, for that matter. But somehow, in the most improbable of ways, they both found the love of a good friend, and they aren’t lonely any more.

 

Activity

The heart shape is a traditional symbol for love, and for Valentine’s Day. We’re going to spend a little time with our hearts now – in cookie form. Everyone will get a heart-shaped cookie to decorate. But we’re not going to eat them right away, because we have a special ritual to do with them once they’re done. (So as to participate in the ritual, adult leaders should decorate a cookie each as well. Note: If you have a child in your program who is diabetic or otherwise unable to eat a cookie, you can have all participants draw on/decorate a heart-shaped piece of paper instead.)

 

Discussion (while decorating cookies)

Do you have friendships that other people think are unlikely or surprising? What do you do when you feel lonely? Can you think of a time when a friend helped you to feel better?

 

Ritual

(Have everyone sit in a circle or at a table, with their decorated cookies in front of them.)

Here we are with our hearts out in front of us, each one different, each one beautiful. But sometimes, in everyone’s life, our hearts get broken. Something bad or sad or scary or upsetting happens that we can’t control. I invite you to think for a moment about what in your life has made you the saddest, has made you feel like you have a broken heart.

(Go around and cut each cookie down the middle.) Please put one half of your cookie on the plate in the center, as a symbol of all the ways our hearts get broken. But our hearts also heal, and become whole, although they are never quite the same. I’m going to start our circle by taking one of the half cookies from the center and giving to the person on my right, saying “May your heart be healed by love and friendship.” (Help kids to go around the circle, delivering a half cookie that doesn’t match the one on the plate in front of the recipient, saying “May your heart be healed by love and friendship.”)

One of the ways to live a good life is to act out of love, to try to heal broken hearts. I invite you to eat your cookie now (or tape together your paper heart), as you think of the ways that love and friendship has helped and healed your heart.

 

Closing

Our closing reading is a poem by e e cummings. Maybe it describes the friendship between Owen and Mzee. Maybe it describes how you feel about a friend.

 
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in 
my heart) 
i am never without it (anywhere i go you go,my dear;
and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you



here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart


i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
 


Week Three—February 18th

How do I live a good life?

Buddhism, compassion and the 8-fold path

 

Supplies needed: poster of 8-Fold Path, squares of light-colored fabric, markers, large needle, yarn

 

Opening Words/Chalice Lighting

Let your love flow outward through the universe,
To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
A limitless love, without hatred.
Then as you stand or walk,
Sit or lie down,
As long as you are awake,
Strive for this with a one-pointed mind;
Your life will bring heaven to earth.
-- attributed to the Buddha

 

or see week one

 

Check-in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.”

 

Centering:

(Note: be sure to leave ample pauses between sentences as you lead this meditation to allow time for visualization.) Allow your body to become quiet and still. Make your feet quiet and your legs quiet. Make your hands quiet and let them lie still in your lap. Make your mouth quiet and closed. Let your eyes remain open, resting quietly on the flame of our chalice. Now, imagine that the light from that flame is filling you, filling you with peace and well-being. Imagine that as a glass is filled when you pour water in it from a pitcher, so you are being filled up with the light, full of peace and health and joy. And when you are full of the light, imagine that now you are the pitcher full of light, pouring that light into the people you love. Imagine pouring your light into the members of your family, into your friends. And no matter how much light you pour out into others, your pitcher of light, your body, magically stays full. Now imagine that the light that you pour out, the peace and health and joy, is filling up your school. And then your neighborhood. And then your city. Imagine the light of peace and health and joy flowing across the country, across the continent into big cities and small towns and forests and farmlands and lakes and rivers and deserts, from ocean to ocean. Imagine the whole planet washed over with the light of peace and health and joy, while you, yourself are still filled with that light. Bring your attention back to this room, and remembering that the whole room is filled with that light, the same light that is inside you.

 

Introduction

This month we’ve been talking about the theological question “How do I live a good life?” We talked the first week of the month about a Jewish answer to the question, which had to do with doing justice and loving kindness, and our example was the Unitarian Dorothea Dix. Last week we talked about a Christian answer to the question, which has to do with love, and we talked about Owen and Mzee, who don’t belong to any religion, so far as I know, since they’re a hippo and a tortoise. This week I want to talk about a Buddhist answer to the question, but this time our story is the story of Gautama Buddha, the man who started the Buddhist religion roughly 2500 years ago.

 

Story

The Story of the Buddha

The story of Buddhism starts with a man named Siddartha Gautama.  Gautama was born in India, more than 500 years before Jesus was born.  When the young prince was born his father called for a wise man to predict the future of his little son.

“What do you foretell for my son?  What will his life bring?” asked the king.

The wise man paused for a long time before he responded.  “This child has a great destiny.  When your son grows up he will either become a great king who will conquer all of India or he will leave your kingdom and become a great religious leader.”

The king said, “My son will be a great king!  I shall give him everything he could possibly want so that he will never have any desire to leave!  I shall make sure that he never sees the sorrows or troubles of the world.”

The wise man left, but the king paced back and forth, wondering how he could protect his son from ever seeing anything unpleasant.  Then he had an idea.  He wrote out an order, and called a servant.  The king said, “Here, take this order throughout the kingdom.  It says, ‘Prince Gautama shall never be allowed to go alone outside the palace grounds.  He must not see any person who is sick, blind, crippled or old.  No one must ever mention death around him.”  The servant took the order and rode around the kingdom, telling of the king’s command.

You might think that Prince Gautama would have grown up to be a very spoiled, bratty young man.  He wore fine silk clothes, and whenever he walked out, a servant would carry a silk umbrella to protect him from the sun and dust.  He was given three palaces to live in – one for the hot season, one for the cold season and one for the rainy season.  When he was sixteen his father arranged for him to marry a beautiful, kind princess, and they had a sweet baby boy, whom Gautama loved dearly.

One of the prince’s favorite things to do was to ride out hunting with his favorite servant, Channa.  One day as they were riding along on their two horses, they came upon a man lying beside a rock, groaning and twitching in pain.

“What is wrong with this man?” asked Gautama.

“He is sick,” said Channa.

“Why is he sick?” asked Gautama.  “Can’t we do anything to take away his pain?”

“It’s the way of life,” replied Channa .  “This man is only a beggar.  Best just to forget about him.”

But Gautama did not forget.

 

Another day the two of them were out hunting in the country when they saw a man stumbling slowly down the road, supporting himself on two canes.  The man’s hair was white, his face was wrinkled and his hands shook like leaves in the wind.

“What is wrong with this man?” Gautama asked.

“He is old,” answered Channa.

“What do you mean by old?” asked Gautama.

“It is something that happens to all who live a long time,” Channa told him.  “Their bodies become tired and weak.  Do not trouble your mind, Prince.  The man is only a beggar.”

But Gautama’s mind was troubled indeed.

 

Still another day Gautama and Channa rode out through the green woods.  Gautama insisted that they follow a small path that he had never noticed before.  Behind the trees at the back of the path Gautama saw a small hut.  He walked toward it and opened the door.  There on the floor he saw a man who looked as if he were asleep, except that there was no motion of breathing in his chest.  “What is wrong with this man?” Gautama asked, yet again.

“The man is dead,” Channa said.

“Why?  What does dead mean?”

“I cannot tell you,” Channa answered.  Death comes to all people in the end.  But this man is only a beggar.  Do not worry yourself.”

But Gautama did worry.

 

Even the beauty of his palaces, and his joy in his wife and child, were not enough to keep the prince from thinking over and over about what he had seen.  Why was there such suffering in the world?  How did people live with the knowledge that they would die?  How could they enjoy beauty when it would only pass away?  Why did no one seem to care about the beggars?

Finally the prince could no longer stand to live in his sheltered palaces.  One night, when the questions kept going around and around in his head, Gautama got up out of bed.  He kissed his wife and son goodbye, and left the palace forever.  At the edge of the forest he exchanged his fine silk clothes for those of a beggar, and gave his horse and his jewelry to his faithful servant Channa.  With his wealthy life behind him, Gautama set off to find the truth about life.

Before he had traveled far, Gautama came upon some sadhus, hindu holy men.  He said to them, “Teach me how to find wisdom.”  The monks said, “You must improve your soul to gain wisdom.  The only way to improve your soul is to make your body suffer.  You must starve your body.”

So Gautama and the holy men went into a forest together.  They starved themselves until their bodies became hardly more than skeletons.  When Gautama pressed his hand on his belly, he could feel his backbone on the other side.  Finally, Gautama fainted from hunger, and the monks thought that he had died.  Someone, however, spooned rice and milk into his mouth, and he slowly revived.  When he was stronger Gautama said “From now on, I am going to stop starving myself!  I cannot think clearly about these important questions when I am so weak.”

The monks said, “Gautama is no longer going to act like a truly holy man.  Let’s have nothing to do with him.”

However, Gautama stayed with his decision to eat normally.  He said, “Self-torture is not the way to live.  A life of selfish pleasure is not the way to live, either.  A middle way is best.  Following a middle way is like playing a musical instrument whose strings are neither too loose nor too tight.

Gautama was still determined to understand the answers to his great questions about life.  He decided that he would go on no further in his travels.  He sat down under a Bo tree, and declared “I shall not move from this spot until I gain the wisdom to understand life, death and suffering.”

He sat there and sat there, thought and thought.  Eventually he just sat there without thinking.  Some people say he sat there for a whole week, some people say he sat there for 49 days!  However long it was, wisdom finally came to him like a great flash of light.

After that, people called him “Buddha,” because in India the word “Buddha” means “one who has found a light.”  The light that Buddha found was no the kind that you can see with your eyes.  It was what we call “enlightenment,” a kind of inward light that brings peace and understanding.  Much later one of the many people who became followers of Gautama the Buddha asked him if he was a man or a God.  The Buddha responded, “I am awake.”  He spent his long life teaching people to become awake to the great truths of life, and his ideas eventually became the religion that we call Buddhism.

 

Activity

The realization that the Buddha came to under the Bo tree had four parts.  He realized that:
1.  Everyone suffers, and feels that life is not the way they want it to be.

  1. Suffering is caused by the craving or desire for something to be permanent, but nothing in the world stays the same forever.
  2. There is a way out of suffering, of moving beyond the craving for things to be different than they are.  This state without suffering Buddha called Nirvana.
  3. Nirvana can be reached by following the Noble 8-Fold Path

 

The Noble 8-Fold Path is the Buddhist answer to the questions “How do I live a good life? Here it is: (you may wish to make a larger poster to display)

 

Right Understanding – Understand the Buddha’s teachings

Right Thought – Try not to have greedy thoughts

Right Speech – Speak in a true and kind way

Right Action – Don’t harm any living creature

Right Livelihood – Earn your living doing something that doesn’t hurt others

Right Effort – Work at living your beliefs

Right Mindfulness – Pay attention to what is inside you as well as what is around you

Right Contemplation – Meditate

 

In Tibetan Buddhism there is a tradition of prayer flags. People write prayers on pieces of cloth, and put them out where they can flutter in the wind. Each time the prayer flag moves in the wind, it symbolizes the prayer going out again into the world. We’re going to make our own prayer flags. You can choose to draw a picture that represents some aspect of the 8-Fold Path, as a prayer for people to live a good life, or if you’d rather, you can draw some other kind of prayer. (When flags are done, use a large needle to pull a piece of yarn through the corner, and hang flags where they can be seen – preferably outside where they can blow in the wind.)

 

Discussion:

The 8-Fold Path talks about right thoughts and right mindfulness, as well as right speech and right actions. Do you think that it’s important to work on your thoughts as well as your actions in order to lead a good life? Is it OK to think mean or greedy things so long as you don’t act on those thoughts?

 

Closing

Sing this setting of a traditional Buddhist prayer:

 

May all beings be well,

May all beings be happy,

May all be at peace.

May all beings be free from hatred,

Free from sickness, free from suffering.

May all beings be well,

May all beings be happy,

May all be at peace.

 

You can hear the tune here.

 


 

Week Four—February 25th

Karma and Paying it Forward

 

Supplies Needed: dominoes, journals, pens/pencils

 

Chalice Lighting

 

We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.

 

or

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.”

 

Centering

Have participants sit in a circle holding hands. Have everyone close their eyes. Explain that when they feel the pulse of someone squeezing their hand they should squeeze the hand of the person on the other side of them, so that the pulse continues around the circle. When you have done this a couple of times successfully, give each person the chance to be the pulse “switcher.” The switcher returns the pulse to the same hand that received it, thereby sending the pulse around in the opposite direction.

 

Introduction

So far this month we’ve talked about Jewish, Christian and Buddhist ideas about how to live a good life. This week we’ll talk a little about a Hindu answer to this question, and also about how each of us answers the question for ourselves. Hinduism is one of the most ancient of the world’s religions, and is practiced by millions of people today, particularly in India. Hinduism tells its followers to choose their actions based on their understanding of karma. Basically, karma is just the law of cause and effect – anything we choose to do has an effect in the world. Hindus believe that good actions cause good effects and bad actions have bad effects. Of course, you can’t necessarily see all the effects of your actions right away. If you throw a ball, you can see the ball move away from you – throwing is the cause and the ball moving is the effect. But not all of our actions have such obvious and immediate effects. If you say something mean about a friend behind their back they won’t necessarily hear you at that moment and get mad. But they might learn what you said later and decide not to be your friend. Or the person you are talking to might think to themself that you aren’t really someone they would trust. Or someone you don’t even know might overhear you and think that saying mean things about a friend is OK, or cool, and thereby hurt the feelings of some person you don’t even know. Our choices have effects – that’s karma – but we never quite know all the effects they might have.

 

Activity

In some ways karma is like knocking over dominoes – the one you push can make a difference way down the line.

(Set up dominoes in a line on a table or floor and see what happens when you knock them over. You can give several to each child to experiment with, or create one larger pattern for everyone to observe. You will probably want to experiment beforehand to figure out the best spacing and how much of an angle you can put them at and still have one domino knock over the rest.)

 

Story

Our example earlier was a negative one – bad effects that might come from a bad cause, but of course karma works in a positive way, too. Good things you do can ripple out in the world as well. A woman named Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a novel about a boy who decided to do some random nice things for people, and how those people then chose to “pay it forward” by helping someone else, until the small kind things the boy did made big changes in people’s lives. The novel was made into a movie, also called “Pay it Forward,” and now there’s a Pay it Forward movement of people paying it forward, and using this webs site to share their stories of good karma – kind choices that create more kindness in the world. Here are a couple of stories from that web site (www.payitforwardmovement.org):

 

One day i was riding home from church, i saw a young child that was crying, his bicycle had just been run over by a car, and the car had sped away. I remembered the pay it forward idea, and decided to give him my bike, which i just got for my birthday, from my grandmother just before she passed away.....

I told him about the pay it forward idea, and about a week later, he was in the news for saving a bag of kittens, that had been abandoned in the local river, he had given the kittens a place to stay, and looked after them.

I hope other people find inspiration from this story, as it has changed my life, and the life of the young boy.
yours sincerly,
Daniel Hilcke

 

There is a series of intertwined stories in my circle in Austin, Texas, that began when my husband and I were forced into homelessness in 2002. We stayed at the Salvation Army shelter and then were housed a few weeks by Eldercare at a nice apartment. The Eldercare shelter is funded by private and public sources as is SA. In our contacts with other homeless folks, we received resource information about how to get food, hot meals, medical care, job and lodging leads. We then shared that information with many people we met so that they could benefit by reducing their deprivation.

For several months, we had lost our lodging at Salvation Army and slept in a tent, which is a risk in itself, since camping is against the law in the city limits. However, when a cop would find us, he would just tell us to move on and not ticket us. Then we were able to move back into the Salvation Army shelter, even though sleeping was on floor mats and not beds. We have received so much aid from a myriad of sources--churches, public agencies and private charities, and even a little from my sister, her husband and my husband's brother. We'd frequented the State Employment center for months, searching for employment openings. Toward the end of the year, job leads shared with us there yielded enough money so that we could be housed and buy our own groceries.

The job coach at the Center had befriended us and tried to give us advice on our survival. In two cases, she gave us money out of her own pocket to help us with job search and gasoline to get to work.She also had been willing to pay for steel-toed boots for my husband to work in a shipping dock job. This job coach, Kathy Lansford, also received a national award in recognition of her work with the job seekers at the Re-Employment Center here in Austin.

Through her efforts, she has helped many people regain jobs. She does this by researching, keeping track of, and posting notices of job leads, leading workshops in interview and résumé submission strategies, and booking inspirational presentations to the job club by a variety of speakers. Even though many of these duties are part of her job description, I believe she goes the extra mile by staying late many nights without overtime and donating snack food for the meetings, out of her own pocket.

This devotion to the job clubbers and seekers at this center has been an inspiration to me. Then a better job for my husband opened up out-of-state which included excellent lodging and food. When we received a great deal of money from this year-end lucrative contract, Kathy's example inspired me to send her back the money she'd lent us, plus a hundred dollars--133 "gold" dollar coins. I did this in hopes that this money would then be lent out to others who needed an extra boost of cash to enable them to do a job, just as it had helped us.

Another man who'd been left homeless confided his troubles to me and I poured out all the information I had garnered about local resources so that he wouldn't have to live in his car. Then he got a good job working with the 2002 election. Now, he is back with his girlfriend and planning a wedding. Yet another man we'd met at the center who was long-term unemployed offered us a place to stay at his apartment at a very low cost when we returned to Austin, so that we'd have a base of operations as we sought a permanent place to stay. The man we chose to room with let us move in without paying a deposit or pet security money and was very helpful and welcoming.

Consequently, I am thoroughly convinced of the ripple effect and will continue to "PAY IT FORWARD" and share the concept with all with whom I come in contact.

Sincerely,

Laurie Ann Poole

 

Discussion

Can you think of any time when you have done something nice for another person that encouraged them to pay it forward by being nice to someone else?

 

Activity

We’ve talked about various rules or suggestions from different religions that are designed to help people to live a good life. Can you remember any of them? Well, here’s your chance to write down your own rules for how to live a good life. If you want to borrow from anything we’ve talked about, that’s fine, and if you have something entirely of your own, that’s fine too. (If you have children participating who aren’t able to write or aren’t comfortable writing, you can have the group share their ideas aloud, and have a leader write them all up on easel paper.)

 

Closing

Have participants share what they wrote in their journals.

 

Sing “This Little Light of Mine” (See week one.)