When I was about six years old I received an essential teaching from an old woman sitting in the sun. I was walking by her house one day feeling lonely, unloved and mad, kicking anything I could find. Laughing, she said to me, “Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart.”
We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.
~ Pema Chödrön (formerly Deirdre Brown)
~ ~ ~
Faith and spirituality are not just about coming to church on Sunday mornings (or tuning in on Zoom or Vimeo!); it’s about cultivating our potential for compassion, our connection with the divine and with one another, and finding our understanding of our lives and the sacred transformed.
On this page you will find information about the devotional and meditation programs offered by First Parish Church, and other resources about mindfulness, prayer, and other spiritual practices to sustain your spirit. It turns out that the simple practice of focusing on the present moment is a doorway to finding compassion, connection, and even transformation.
Weekly Morning Meditation
Wednesdays at 8:30 AM
The weekly sessions start with a short lesson or reflection on mindfulness and finding meaning followed by a guided meditation and a time of silence. The guidance and instruction is suitable for beginners as well as those with an advanced meditation practice. Everyone is welcome to stay afterward for 5-10 minutes of informal discussion. We begin by 8:30 am and always finish by 9:15 am.
No prior experience is required, and all are welcome to join us. We typically have anywhere from 9 to 25 people participating each week.
We invite you take a little time out of your week for contemplation and stillness… slowing down helps keep us steady when the world speeds up!
Muddy water set still.
Zoom Meeting ID: 823 3214 0993
Online Resources we Like and Use
There are some excellent meditation and prayer sites that we like and recommend. They include the following:
- The Center for Action and Contemplation
- The Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford
- The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Teaching, Practices, Resources
- The Contemplative Society, featuring the work of Cynthia Bourgeault
- Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
- The Foundation for Active Compassion
- Christian Meditation from the Sounds True Catalog
- Why Powerful People Need to Cultivate Compassion- article
- Benson-Henry Institute at Mass General Hospital
Unitarian Universalist Resources
Braver/Wiser is a weekly email from the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) that offers a “weekly message of courage and compassion.” These come in the form of written reflections and a brief prayer by ministers, religious educators, and other Unitarian Universalist spiritual leaders. You can subscribe to the weekly emails on the Braver/Wiser website.
InSpirit, the UUA Bookstore, also has a number of excellent books about spiritual practices:
- Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life by Scott W. Alexander
- Faithful Practices: Everyday Ways to Feed Your Spirit, by Erik Walker Wikstrom
- Simply Pray: a Modern Spiritual Practice to Deepen Your Life, by Erik Walker Wikstrom
- Conversations with the Sacred, edited by Manish Mishra-Marzetti & Jennifer Kelleher
There are many smartphone apps to help you with your spiritual practices, whether at home or on the go. Below are some links to some of the more popular apps; some are free, and others require a subscription. If you have a favorite, let us know, and we’ll add it to our list!
Calm is a popular smartphone app for meditation, guided sleep recordings, and relaxation. “Calm creates unique audio content that strengthens mental fitness and tackles some of the biggest mental health challenges of today: stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression.” During COVID-19, Calm has created a list of open resources for Getting Through This, Together. Calm is available in both the iTunes App Store for iPhones & iOS, and the Google Play store for Android.
Headspace is another popular smartphone app for meditation and mindfulness; the app has guided meditations, animations, articles, and videos. With Headspace, you can “learn the essentials of meditation and mindfulness with our free Basics course. [The paid subscription provides] bite-sized minis for when you’re short on time, exercises to add extra mindfulness to your day, and hundreds of meditations on everything from stress to sleep.” Headspace is available in the iTunes App Store for iPhones & iOS and the Google Play store for Android.
Insight Timer believes that “everyone deserves access to a free daily meditation practice” and boasts the world’s largest collection of free guided meditations, with over 65,000 titles. Insight Timer does not usually get as much attention/press as Calm or Headspace, but it instead focuses on effectiveness: compared to other applications, people using Insight Timer log three times as many hours meditating and return to the app more frequently during the week. Insight Timer has a free course called “Learn How To Meditate In Seven Days”.
“Let every moment be a prayer. With every sip of tea, let your lips move in thanksgiving. Be fully present to every stroke of the hairbrush, every cup of milk you pour for the children. Be present, without judgment or regret, without plans or expectations, or even dreams, and every moment becomes a prayer.”
— Elena Westbrook, Unitarian Universalist lay leader