Bear In There

Bear in There

There’s a Polar Bear

In our Frigidaire–

He likes it ’cause it’s cold in there.

With his seat in the meat

And his face in the fish

And his big hairy paws

In the buttery dish,

He’s nibbling the noodles,

He’s munching the rice,

He’s slurping the soda,

He’s licking the ice.

And he lets out a roar

If you open the door.

And it gives me a scare

To know he’s in there–

That Polary Bear

In our Fridgitydaire.

A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

When I was teaching 3rd graders we used to read from all of Shel Silverstein’s books. This was always a favorite. We would memorize it and act it with gestures and dance moves. I love the imagery and freedom this poem paints with its words. 

Imagine knowing what you love and going after it. 

Imagine loving something so much that you go in and grab it with both hands. You consume it and become fierce and growly when anything threatens to separate you from what you love. 

Imagine crossing boundaries for that which you love. Taking over something not meant for you because what you love is in there. 

Imagine not caring who knows about that love and showing that love to the world with laughter and joy and fullfilment of finding and getting that which you love. 

Imagine loving yourself like that. 

~Lydia Patrick

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Many Paths to the Center

This month people have shared many paths one can take to find their center amidst the chaos and uncertainty of life. I find there is not one single way for me to find my ground, my center. Much depends on the circumstances and what’s possible at the moment. 

I grew up in a large-ish family and there was often a lot of frenetic activity in the house. I was an avid reader and sought quiet places to read.Often that space was nestled high in my favorite tree.I discovered 15 or 20 years ago that following a difficult conversation or challenging situation, I could renew my sense of balance and center by hugging a tree… any tree will do! I’ve been in really challenging workshop spaces where so much was stirred up inside me I felt like a cyclone was moving through my body and brain as I wrestled with new insights about topics such as racism, gender identity, family systems and more. A few minutes sitting with the natural world around me would bring things back into focus. 

I also find a path to center through creative activity, primarily collaging, immersing myself in imagery to express the many ideas and feelings moving through me. All this has developed over time – learning about my needs for centering, when I need centering, and the resources for centering. I practice Qi Gong to nurture my sense of connection with the earth and the cosmos, drawing the energy of both into my body to gather a sense of peace and connection. Through all my explorations I know that having a daily meditation practice offers the most significant support for my spiritual life – and I see all aspect of my life as spiritual..

During the fall, my meditation practice had become less of a practice and more of an occasional event. In the week between Christmas and New Years, I took part in a program through the Open Heart Project Sangha called “Building a Mindful New Year.” Each day, a different Buddhist teacher offered a lesson on one of the six paramitas (Generosity, Discipline, Patience, Exertion, Meditation, and Wisdom). The teaching on Exertion struck a deep chord and I realized I had lost my internal motivation to prioritize my centering practices. So, I then participated in the 21-Day Meditation Challenge January 1-21. That provided the kickstart I needed to get back on my path to finding my center, every morning. That sense of centering stays with me throughout the day, and if I get lost in the frazzle, I only have to return to my breath to find my center again. 
Resource: Open Heart Project –

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Your Code

It’s alright to live by your own code.

After A Long Dry Spell, by Tomas Transtromer

Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet, lived his adult life and created his poetry in post-World War II Europe. When I read this line from one of his poems, I immediately think that this is a man who has reflected on what happens in the world when millions of people allow themselves to live by someone else’s code. A Nazi code, for example. I imagine a man who spent much time in nature listening to and learning from it. I imagine a man who listened closely to his own life so that he had a sense of what his own code was and how that code was challenged when confronted with something that pushed up against it. 

I’ll be honest to say that I bristle a little on the inside when I hear someone say: “Unitarian Universalists can just believe whatever they want.” This is usually followed by laughter. Nowhere do we say this. It makes me wonder if unconsciously we promote this attitude or perception. What we do say is that we affirm everyone’s right (and responsibility) for searching for truth and meaning. That search for truth and meaning will bring us each to varied and different places on our journey. Perhaps that is what gives the perception of “just believing whatever you want.”

I think this is what is truer to our fourth principle, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” We practice going to our center, often. We begin to discover the pieces to our own code, the insights, wisdom, knowledge, facts, principles and values that shine the light of truth on the path for us, that help create a meaningful life not only for us, but for us as we interact with other beings. We may do much of this work in solitude and quiet, but we don’t do it alone. We also do it in community, interacting and learning from the experiences of our fellow beings. We discover our code.

My last hunch about all this is that our codes are never really finished. They are always evolving. Return, again, then.  Return, again. Return to the home of your soul.

~Bob Patrick

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Along the Way

Most of us forgive

Because we have trespassed

Not because we are magnanimous.

The Women Gather, by Nikki Giovanni

Going to our center is a journey–one that we make again and again having been called away from our center by a hundred thousand things. The more we practice returning to our center, the easier it becomes. Those first attempts feel like looking for a needle in the haystack. We go there, though, and eventually we begin to know the way, more or less.

As that familiarity of the way to the center begins to form in us, something else happens. We begin to notice the potholes.  The uneven path. The tree that has fallen across the way and threatens to halt the trip back to center altogether. These obstacles! How did this happen? But we know. A transgression here.  A fault there. Anger unresolved.  A wound so deep that the scar itself is like a boulder in the road. Inattention, forgetfulness, denial and those walls of shame and guilt rise up.  At some points, we even encounter a river flooding across our pathway to the center, that river called grief. 

Despite the obstacle, we can still journey back to our own centers. We have the tools. Forgiveness is one, and it works best if worked first on ourselves. And then, compassion. Gentleness and kindness are more. We see that we are wounded, broken, failed, and so we hold ourselves with compassion. And then, we can hold others as well. 

Forgive yourself.

All of your faults

Have root in something


Chelan Harkin

The journey to the center will show us our true selves. For all those obstacles that we face, there is a beauty within that we belong to. Go there often. Forgive yourself as often as necessary. Be gentle and kind and tender. And from that place, go do the work of Compassion. She’s just waiting on someone who knows the way.  And we do.

~Bob Patrick

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Why Me?

Why is it, when one problem is solved another takes its place?  Why me? Why always me? Well, that’s my anxiety talking to me. It always overwhelms me by telling me nonsense. The thing is most of the time I listen to it. 

My water heater had a leak, it was replaced, The water heater did not stress me out because I knew it had to be replaced for a while. It was replaced with joy.

Two days later, my shower started leaking and making a whistling noise. Well, my old friend, anxiety decided to visit me. It was a rough evening. 

The next morning friends of mine came to see if they could fix it. They could and the part was ordered. Well, my anxiety reminded me how much I don’t enjoy its company. I had to find a way to my center, my peaceful place. 

I told myself that I did all that I could do. I sat down and turned on the tv. I picked up my crochet and focused on those two things. I’m crocheting a rug for a reading nook that I will have for myself. I kept telling myself that in the end, it will be ok, I kept telling myself that throughout the day. Even when a nut was stripped, I kept telling myself that everything will be ok. 

I’m happy to say that I stayed calm. Anxiety didn’t put me over the edge this time. I don’t know about next time but this time finding my peaceful place, my center, helped me greatly.

~Rita Romero 

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What I Don’t Know

Not being afraid

Of what I don’t know

I unanxiously await the emergence.

Nikki Giovanni, Space

What I don’t know.  It can keep me tossing and turning in the bed, unable to surrender my over-thinking mind to sleep. It can put me on edge so that regardless of what else I am doing, I am ramped up in my feelings and shut down in my ability to think clearly and listen well. 

Knowing what we know, and our ability to rely on that, is one of the things that we use to keep ourselves calm and centered.  Whether we like what we know about life or not, the confidence we have in what we know somehow creates a balance and a framework that we can work with. 

Just let any of that change. Word gets out at work that there is going to be some downsizing. Look at the ceiling and see a leak that wasn’t there yesterday. Let the doctor say “we’ll do some tests to see what this is” and then “you’ll have to wait 3-5 business days for the test results.” One of your children calls or comes into the house and says “can I talk to you about something?” Your significant other is just “off” today. A pain in some part of our bodies shows up, out of the blue. This list could fill pages.  We know those moments when what we thought we knew is called into question, and we no longer know. 

Nikki Giovanni does not make light of these moments in these lines from her poem. She embraces the struggle. She knows the pain.  She has also lived through enough of these scenarios to know that she can surrender even to what she does not know (yet), and find a new center, a new peace.  The center of not knowing.  The center of waiting.  The center of being unanxious. I suspect that we know how to do this, too, but we don’t engage in it as often as we do the anxiety that these new situations provoke. I think it can work like this.  The new and unexpected arises.  After allowing ourselves to feel what that is for us, we settle ourselves with some conscious breathing, and then we choose to move our hearts and minds into this new space: I don’t know XYZ.  Breath. And so I wait for the new emergence.  When it arrives, I know that I will find my way through.

If we look back over our journeys, we do see all those times when we had to shift into not knowing, and then knowing some new reality.  And we made it through.  And we will, again.

~Bob Patrick

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Out of Whack

What puts me out of whack? Well, actually a lot of things. I’m going to tell you about the one thing that is the hardest to deal with and that’s my health. It is with me wherever I go. It’s my alter ego. But, instead of making me stronger, it makes me weaker. Or does it?

Watching She-Hulk at the moment. I’m not only a Trekkie but a huge Marvel fan. I do see one thing in common with certain superheroes and that is that I have to deal with a situation that has changed me forever . Hey, looking on the bright side. 

I had spinal injections and it brought tears to my eyes. It was a day for my alter ego to rule. I felt bad today because my lumbar back is what is keeping me from an ordinary life. I can’t stand without pain. I can’t sit without pain. I can’t walk without pain. I know that many people understand me. 

Having my center on the outside helps me calm down fast. I put dinner in the slow cooker with Jalilas help. I got my crochet and made myself comfortable in front of the tv and binged movies and crocheted. I felt bad because that is all I could do. That is life for me in the foreseeable future. 

When I see people doing things that I want to do but can’t do, it’s hard on me. Many times I feel worthless because I can’t help around the house like I used to. I can’t mow the lawn anymore. I used to enjoy it because it was peaceful to me. But, that is life.

Coming to terms with my alter ego helps me find my center quickly. Nevermore will I be without her. Mourning what I used to be and accepting who I am now is a hard path to go down but necessary.  

I should name my alter ego. If anyone has any suggestions I would surely love to hear them. Oh! Edgar Allen Poe fan. Let me know of names. 

~Rita Romero 

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