Be Still My Amygdala

We all know the common response types: flight or fight – or the less mentioned one “freezing like a deer in headlights”.

We all respond these ways based on instructions from the oldest part of our brain i.e. the Amygdala*. It is so old, it is still living in caves with fear of mastodons or of anything unknown and therefore potentially deadly. For a while in the long, long ago there were good reasons for that response pattern.

But today the percentage of time we need that “shoot or run” decision is pretty small. Yet, there it sits at the back of the brain calling the shots way too often.

And the bossy, bully Amygdala is pretty much frightened of its own shadow. Does it look different? Does it smell different? Does it sound different, etc.? … then it doesn’t want any of it, which means you don’t want any of it.

So how does that happen, we are literate, experienced people with a decent storehouse of knowledge and mental capacity. Yet this ancient residual part of our brain can quickly and quite efficiently take over how we behave in new circumstances. Before we actually know it, we’ve made a decision, called our choice and behaved as if we still had to worry about mastodons.

There is, of course, a way to circumvent the Amygdala — one need only to stop and breathe, and consider what is actually meaningful to someone living in the year 2020 and not 0020.

This stopping and breathing takes – you saw this coming – consistent persistent practice in the art of being still.

Quieting the noise our various internal voices create, especially when they get all incited by Amygdala and are rushing around to save us from the threat of something new, goes by many names and takes many forms in practice. Meditation is the one we know best, primarily because the people we know and respect keep telling us we ought to try it until we find a form that works for us.

There are literally dozens of ways to quiet our chaos. True sitting in the lotus position and counting breaths – I rarely can stay with this. One can walk with awareness, one can (as I do) journal from within, thousands of guided meditations, music to center by, and on and on. Brene’ Brown, an author both Rev. Janis and I read a lot, has written that she meditates on the treadmill. For real.

The objective is not to meet any one else’s definition of proper practice but to find something that quiets your mind.

Because taming your own mind goes a long way toward controlling the Amygdala, which means being present in the here and now, and spending less time freaking out about mastodons.

Life is filled with all sorts of amazing things, none of us need the threat of long extinct creatures, or even old habits that are familiar, but not the way we want to be now. So be still my Amygdala, and hello to Presence.

–Peace and stillness to you and yours, Mariann

*a•myg•da•la /əˈmiɡdələ/ noun: a roughly almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions.

Consider Yourself Invited!

Nearly every year since (at least) 2008, CSLT’ers have chosen to gather together for a Friday evening and part of a Saturday to decide what our collective focus will be for the next 12-36 months. The results of previous envisioning weekends can be viewed on our newly improved website under “About” and then under “Organizational Documents”, as well as Board minutes for the past three years and Annual Reports (since 2009).

Together we decide what we have done well, what we could do better, and what we want to let go of. We also decide what we have will and stamina to bring into our world, and how we want to polish our collective light in Tucson and beyond. Everyone is welcome to bring their vision for CSLT forward, and attend as much or as little of this idea-planting activity as they have time and interest. We’ll build on the community visioning that occurred on Sunday, January 12. The collected notes from that visioning are presented below this document in this newsletter.

Our focus has shifted over time from very grand ideas (from 2008) like operating a K-12 New Thought school in Tucson and a self-contained ministerial program into more modest, readily-attainable goals. Our “What We Would Love” list from last year’s envisioning included:

  • Increased visibility in Tucson (Our new education center is much more visible, accessible & available)
  • Well-funded, well-attended & well-known (Our Sunday attendance has begun to grow again, and we have had the most (economically) positive year in well over a decade, not to mention the sale of the raw land on 22nd St, the purchase of the new education center and the establishment of the Opportunity Fund (which is to be used for sustainable marketing, among other long-term goals).
  • Expanded number of groups (Multiple book study groups, Men’s group, P+III group, Sacred Cinema, Lunch Bunch, Music Appreciation Group…)
  • Prosperity Fair, community bulletin board (yep, and the Annual Meeting Raffle of beautiful donated art objects, proceeds used in purchasing our new sign)
  • Vibrant Youth Program (Teachers gathered, trained & vetted, and first youth program initiated)
  • Communal expression of talents & treasures (Multiple teachers with multiple educational offerings, awesome music, recreation of the Winter Solstice ritual to a social event, drum circle…)
  • Have a home space/kitchen (‘home’ space, yep; kitchen, not exactly)
  • Location where people can drop in and use the lending library (yep)
  • Sharing our Services (Binder available on Information Table, not well utilized)
  • Increased Visibility for Service Teams (Recognized in ‘Gratitudes’ and Invitations to join)

We continue to move forward in “Telling Our Story”, populating our YouTube channel, and creating a gallery of photographs on our newly optimized website. The blog, populated by articles written by our leadership, and others, continues to gain readership. Our newsletter readership continues to grow, as does our Facebook presence.

What wants to be done by each, and all, of us in the next year or so?

How do you wish to participate in sharing of our divine expression and our expansion throughout more of Tucson, and beyond? Come join the conversation Friday night 6-9pm and/or Saturday 10a-4pm.

–Your CSLT Board of Trustees

Our Youth Program Begins!

January 5 was the official start of the CSLT Youth program. No youth attended service that day, so the 1st day sharing the Science of Mind with a youth was January 12. A young fellow spent time with Maria and Jay, two CSLT members, during the service and enjoyed himself. The time began with a short treatment, they discussed unity and the three spent time drawing their favorite animals, talking about how we’re all connected with everything including the animals, especially our favorite animals. The youth shared his experience with the congregation after the three returned to the service before the final song. Maria shared how we are all the same age on the inside and all have something to share with each other.

The process for me, of pulling this youth program together has been challenging because working with children has been such an unfamiliar experience for me. Even though I have three adult children (who made it to adulthood), my parenting style was more of the making sure they were fed, clothed and at soccer practice on time and less of the being present with them, or helping them to understand feelings and reassuring them that everything was going to be okay and each child was perfect, whole and complete just the way they are. Over the last 10 years and especially since my introduction to CSLT, I have talked to my kids about the emotional support they did not receive, but desired, and have found that I can supply that now. I feel that I’m a better parent to them now than I was in their youth.

Assembling the youth program has involved reviewing three weeks of the 52-week curriculum, which has 6 different lessons for Preschool-High School. The lessons are very long and involved and being able to follow them seemed overwhelming. Meeting with Pat Masters, we simplified the curriculum to a basic format of Spiritual Truth from the CSL curriculum, Readings from the CSL curriculum, asking a question and discussion followed by a Craft and Closing Prayer. The Volunteer teachers can use the supplied curriculum and suggested readings (we have them all) to prepare for the class. The curriculum provides a thorough discussion of a topic with a summary so we can talk about a topic easily with the kids.

It turns out that I am having fun putting together the lessons and preparing the crafts. We will be making turtle symbols on river rocks, dusting our auras with turkey vulture feathers and doing Tai Chi for Kids. And that is just the next few weeks! I look forward to spending time with the kids.

My initial thought was that I would miss out on not being in the service but meeting with the children will be another way of nurturing myself. I wish that I had been exposed to SOM when I was young and since, as Maria said, we’re all the same age, I will be exposing that young person in Marya to Science of Mind in a new way. Teachers will receive a copy of the service at no charge so we can hear the Sunday talk & the fantastic music.

The young person returned to the service, with his two teachers, before the last song so all were present for the Closing Song & the after-service dance party. Please speak with me if you’re interested in getting involved.

–Marya Wheeler

Put Your Own Mask On First

Ram Dass is reported to have said, “If you (mistakenly) think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family”. Those of us fortunate enough to still have family around, and visit them occasionally, get to be reminded of this great truth. Family dynamics are among the most soul challenging experiences any of us can have. This is especially true if we don’t see our family frequently. All of us change constantly; they still remember us as they knew us, or as they wish to remember us. Neuroscience tells us that what people experience of us is 10-20% what they perceive from the actual interaction, and 80-90% what they remember, or what they imagine. This is also true for each of us.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about expectations and disappointment and the scenarios we build in our minds about how things ‘should’ be. Especially around major holidays. And that thing Buddhists call attachment. Typically, we think of attachment to ‘stuff’, but it applies more to stories that people will behave a certain way, or respond to us like we want them to, or that things will be as they have always been, or that we can stop time, or that we can precisely control exact outcomes, or ….

All this backstory brings me to the statement made by flight attendants before every flight, and by self care gurus everywhere, reminding us that if we don’t “put our own (oxygen) masks on first…”, and take conscious note of our own needs, desires, intentions, stories, expectations, beliefs, boundaries, etc., we have stripped ourselves of our ability to respond to our life experiences, whatever they may be, in a supportive, affirming way. Any time we link our sense of wellbeing to our expectation that any other person will act a certain way, we have limited our ability to be present with what is actually happening and reduced our ability to decide how we choose to perceive and remember the events of our lives.

Then there are the predictably unexpected monkey wrenches. My sister had a serious medical emergency the weekend before I traveled to see family. During those last few pre-holiday days, she had planned to finish her last minute Christmas shopping and tie up loose ends. Instead she spent five days in a very good hospital, ultimately receiving three stents providing blood to her unhappy heart. The surgery was successful; she was home the afternoon of Christmas Eve. She was saddened that she wasn’t able to participate in the pre-holiday prep, buy presents for about half the family, or get any of her gifts wrapped. After she had handed out the few presents that she had acquired, she apologized to the rest of the family and said, “Well, I’m still here.” We all applauded and celebrated her presence.

Then there are the blended (and blended and blended) family issues, and the (control) games people do play. Without making anyone wrong, a challenge all by itself, there were opportunities to create some new and completely different rituals and practices over the holidaze. We decided not to let the grandstanding of a few individuals during the week spoil the quality of our appreciation of each other during the few days we had to spend together. That is not to say it was easy, but it was possible, since we kept our wits about us, mostly.

The practice of remembering that only we are in charge of our own experience, while unsettling or annoying at times, may be among our most powerful methods of sharpening our mental and spiritual tools in our toolkit of awakening. Putting our own oxygen masks on first, remembering what has actual importance for us and is in our control, remembering that everyone is doing the best they can all the time, given what they know and believe, including us, we can more easily remember that “We are just walking each other home.”

Blessings in this New Year.

–Rev Janis Farmer

What Do You Want in the New Year?

We have all heard a lot about the law of attraction and manifesting our dreams. It’s almost a mainstream idea these days. The Science of Mind philosophy has a very definite interpretation of this practice.

You may have tried to put some of the common principles and techniques into practice, and might have experienced some frustration and confusion about how to manifest the things you want to experience in your life. One of the most common frustrations I experience, when it comes to manifesting my dreams, is not being clear about exactly what I really want. That question requires some deep searching, and looking again, when I don’t have the experience I expect.

You probably have heard how important it is to focus your attention and intention on what you desire. Many people have trouble staying with one idea and end up sending themselves, and the Universe, mixed messages. Often, people believe they are engaged in asking for what they want, but they are actually complaining instead. For instance, “I want more money, because I am tired of being broke” or “I am going to find the person of my dreams as soon as I shed a few pounds”. Focusing on feeling broke, feeling overweight or not feeling loved or appreciated will not help you achieve your desires. Each of these complaints sets up crossed signals, making it very challenging to manifest what you really want to experience.

Noticing consciously that you may be mixing your messages is the first step in achieving your true desires. The Wednesday night classes coming up in January that Rev Janis will facilitate on the four basic spiritual practices of the Science of Mind may help you understand, and improve your use of, these spiritual practices.

In the meantime, identify one decision you can make in relation to this awareness and take action. Then pay attention to how your decision shows up in your life. When the ‘answer’ appears, and doesn’t look like what you thought you meant, take another look and reconsider any adjustment you might need to make to get clearer in your signaling.

Remember, the shortest way to a happy life is found through conscious choice, which every one of us has access to each and every moment of our lives.

–May the New Year Bless Us All,
Janie Hooper

Telling Our Stories Still

Holidays frequently bring families together, and part of being a family is hearing some old stories more than once, but something special happens when we hear a story that gives us something new, something we didn’t know and gives us an insight not only into who we came from, but also into ourselves.

A new way of seeing who they are, but also aspects of ourselves. Sometimes it’s surprising. Because sometimes it’s how we are and sometimes it’s how we want to be. Or not.

The importance of these stories lies a lot in exactly that — what we learn about ourselves from their telling their stories.

Telling my story on these pages has been an enormous impetus to dig down and clarify exactly what my becoming and being a member of CSLT means to me. That meaning changes as I learn and grow in the teachings, the classes and in fellowship.

Last year’s Community Envisioning set as one of our goals “To Encourage the “Telling of Our Stories.” Because the importance and value of that sharing cannot be overstated.

We are not the same, therefore we should never be bored: occasionally mystified, perplexed and often amazed, but never bored.

Each of us is a unique expression. We know that. We say it often. Let the meaning of that resonate in your soul for a moment, or five. What you bring to CSLT and what CSLT brings to you is different from my experiences. Different from everyone else’s as well.

Far from meaning that your experience is too different to mean anything to anyone else — it is your uniqueness– that “special sauce” that CSLT is for you — which can help others expand and grow their own knowing. Our differences underline and strengthen the wonder of our uniqueness.

Sometimes it is the knowing that others did it differently, that enables us to do it our way.

And, sometimes we learn that others share our vision, our challenges our dreams.

We are always at choice to remain and grow in our own garden OR we can trade seeds with our neighbors and maybe add a new flavor to our lives and to theirs.

Which brings me to the request our Community sends out to each of you reading this.

Please share your story of finding, joining and experiencing CSLT.

It needn’t be long; it just needs to be your CSLT story. If writing is not your favorite thing, we have gentle folk who are experienced assisters and who share our love for CSLT.

Talk to any Board Member and we’ll be happy to help. We’re waiting to hear and to learn.

Or drop me a line or give a call:
mmoery@gmail.com Cell: 917.653.7378 – If I don’t answer, be sure to leave a message, or you’ll never hear back.

–Peace & Joy in this Season, and Beyond, Mariann

Family Thanksgiving

I feel connected and complete. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I spent time with my aunt and two cousins whom I have not seen in over 40 years. And I saw my brother and sister. The occasion was attending the memorial for my uncle who transitioned in September. Uncle Proctor and Aunt Patsy lived in Wilmington, Ohio. This is roughly one hour north of Cincinnati which is on the border of Kentucky. The Cincinnati, CVG, airport is in Hebron, Kentucky.

Awakening at 1:30am on Thanksgiving morning to catch the 2:15am shuttle to Phoenix for the 6am flight was the start of my weekend adventure. When I made the reservations in October, I puzzled over the expensive airfare into CVG. I found cheaper flights on the Thursday before December 1, not realizing until two weeks later that it was Thanksgiving Day. The airports were not busy, and I had no problems with the flight, the car rental or the drive to the nursing home where I joined my cousins Sue and Nan, Aunt Patsy and Susan’s son, Matt, for a takeout Thanksgiving dinner. We ate in a small apartment that the nursing home provided for visiting family members. No microwave so the food was not hot, but it was yummy. I shared how my diet had changed after being vegan for 4½ years.

Sue, Nan and I shared primarily about our current life situations and what concerns we have regarding our adult children and aging mothers. Our mothers are both 88 and have dementia. Susan has been a widow for 17 years and is currently dealing with breast cancer which has metastasized to her bones although it is still breast cancer. She is on chemotherapy for two weeks and then off for one week. On the Wednesday before I traveled, I got my hair cut and my hairdresser gave me Shirley Temple ringlets. I was wearing my glasses on Thanksgiving and explained to everyone that this was not what I looked like. The next day when I wore my contacts and had fixed my hair and Susan spent time with me without her wig, we agreed that we were now our real selves.

Our mothers were best friends in high school. That is how my mom met my dad. Susan is 3 months older than me so they were pregnant at the same time with us. Aunt Patsy was especially close to my father, Jack. Their birth mother died when my dad was 6 and Aunt Patsy was 3. Sue and Nan gave us a set of old pictures which included pictures of our parents and Uncle Bill’s birth mother, Gertrude. She bares a striking resemblance to my older daughter, Nicole.

My brother, John flew in from Vermont on Saturday and within a short time we picked up our sister Maggie who flew in from Wisconsin. They both have children who are 12 and/or 13 and were relishing traveling solo. At dinner on Saturday night the cousins and Matt (sans Aunt Patsy) all shared about the relationships we had with our parents and about the times we remembered spending time together. My siblings and I shared about the pain we experienced as a result of our mother’s mental illness and her brutality. In the early 80’s our father came out to us as gay. His absence during our childhood had contributed to the sense of abandonment the three of us shared and dealt with us as adults. It was a bonding experience and I am grateful for it.

The next day was Sunday and the memorial. It was at Wilmington College, the Quaker college where my uncle taught Mathematics and MIS for many years. Music played and Sue, Matt and Nan shared about my uncle. He was one of five professors that were very good friends and whose families grew up together. Three children of these professors shared about growing up being a part of group and how welcome they had always felt at the Deans. People had come from out of town to attend the memorial including the adult children that shared. It was a lovely event. Aunt Patsy told Nan that she understood that the memorial was for Proctor and that she misses him. She told me that too and I agreed that I miss him and miss my father, Jack.

Spending time with Maggie and John was great fun. We shared a hotel room and lay in bed Saturday night laughing and talking about our children. We each have three and relate that to being one of three. Monday morning the adventure continued as I arose at 3:30am to travel back home to become immediately engulfed in my work life.

The surreal experience of re-establishing family ties comforted me at a basic level. I have texted with Matt and know that our connection will include more phone calls and visits. This feels especially important considering our aging parents and Susan’s illness. I appreciate the opportunity to process this through writing this newsletter article. Thank you, for allowing me to share this with you.

— Marya Wheeler

Crumbs or Cake?

I’m not sure what specifically ‘made me notice this particular hidden belief, but it resurfaces for me now and then. Every time I think I’ve made progress, then l discover another deeper layer wanting to be seen and addressed. In any case, it’s in my face again.

My mother was always settling for, making do with whatever life gave her, not imagining anything better or different, and it annoyed me immensely that this was the way things were. Some of the memories were challenging like hand-me-down clothes, wearing shoes that were a little bit too small, and sharing orders of toast when we would (rarely) eat breakfast out. Some memories are sweet, like the Christmas she sewed a pleated skirt and little blouse for my virtually hairless, much beloved doll, and made a boudoir chair (with cushion) to match the outfit out of a cylindrical oatmeal box. That’s just the way it was back then, when there was very little extra and you made what you had work for you, at least in our neighborhood.

There’s an old foreign film called Babette’s Feast‘. (In my mind, it is much older than 1987, but that’s what wikipedia says.) A French refugee spends her entire fortune to purchase ingredients, and prepares an amazing seven-course meal for some townspeople not used to ‘fancy food’. The elderly villagers who were recipients of the meal decided it was sinful to appreciate the food, and so they agree to eat it and say nothing. One guest, from out-of-town, raved about the meal. After the meal is done, they ask her when she is going back to Paris, and she says there’s no money left and she’s not leaving. Sigh.

My particular variation of this hidden belief is not particularly economic. I do always have what I need to do what is important to me. Partly because I recognize the law of circulation operates — when I generously give, I generously receive. It happens automatically. I don’t give to receive. I just give. Also, part of it is that I’m not particularly high-maintenance, except for books, and fabric. The spot where I get caught, and I feel like I’m operating from lack, is in collaboration/support. By way of explanation, my primary love language, as described in the Five Love Languages  is acts of service. I feel especially valued, seen, heard, and appreciated when people do things they say they will, or show up when they say they will. If I’m not managing my own internal resources, and not noticing when I have given control of my experience of well-being away to someone else’s action or inaction, I can feel unloved when people are not congruent. Most of the time, I’m pretty OK with the way life works because I generally pay attention to my own self-management.

[If you haven’t taken the free test at Five Love Languages, I highly recommend it.  If you are in relationship with someone, especially if you feel like you are sometimes not on the same wavelength, I suggest you ask them to take it too, and share your results with each other. It is eye opening to realize how you give and receive love and appreciation. If there is an absence of alignment in love languages in the partnership, there are suggestions of things you can do to strengthen the relationship.]

Almost as quickly as I recognize this old (irritating) story, name it, and release it, an email pops up from someone insisting they will take care of a necessary task. Then someone else chimes in too, to handle another choreIt almost doesn’t matter to me whether I accept the offers of help, simply that the offers have been made, and were genuine. Then a third person shows up. Now, I feel almost inundated by helpful people.

So, my awareness once again reminds me that I can see my life as crumbs, where I feel like I’m making do and settling for less than what I desire, or I can see my life as a beautiful slice of cake with a perfect cup of fragrant coffee, completely aligned with my needs and wants. As usual, it’s up to me, and how I choose to see my world. Is this a familiar story for you,too?  How do you handle it?

—Rev Janis Farmer

Our Prospective Charities for 2020 + 1

During December we’re hear from three charitable organizations that you recommended during our congregational solicitation in November. On January 5, during Sunday Services, those present will vote for the charity we will support with a percentage of our Sunday offerings in 2020.

December 8 – Youth On Their Own strives to eliminate barriers to education and empower Arizona’s homeless youth to stay in school. For over 30 years, YOTO provides continuing support in support of high school graduation for persons in this unique demographic by providing financial assistance, basic human needs, and one-on-one guidance. With the help of supporters nationwide, YOTO has empowered over 16,000 homeless youth to remain in school and pursue opportunities for self-sufficiency. For more information, visit: yoto.org

December 15 – Sister Jose Women’s Center is dedicated to the care and nurturance of homeless women within our community. They provide respite and basic needs as well as assistance with housing, social services, health advocacy and pre-employment readiness. Women reach out to women with dignity, respect and compassion. For more information, visit: srjosewomensshelter.org

December 22 – Old Pueblo Community Services offers a full continuum of services from Outreach to Supportive Housing. ‘Housing First’ places people, regardless of their history, in safe housing first. By removing the chaos of living on the streets or in shelters, vulnerable individuals engage in services and go on to live stable independent lives. This promotes individuals’ re-entry into the community as viable contributors. For more information, visit: helptucson.org

Attend each Sunday in December to learn about these three valuable charities and discover a bigger world-experience for yourself. Be sure to attend January 5 to vote on the charity you prefer that we support in 2020.

There was a fourth charity recommended, and is noteworthy for the good work they do for a very limited community, but we couldn’t include them because they didn’t meet our requirement for encouraging self-determined living, which implies that recipients would eventually be able to move from needing to be supported and specifically cared for. That is not the intention of this charity. Still, we wanted to highlight the good work they do. Miracle Square is a local non-profit which provides housing and support for low-income elderly and disabled residents in 22 casitas in a protected, gated, insular community environment. They offer individual advocacy to help residents secure services and manage conflict, provide light housekeeping, and provide pendant alarms for emergencies. Residents are encouraged to interact with each other daily. Residents routinely receive support from the larger community including personal care items, household goods, furnishings and even free admission to community events. A small food pantry is available, stocked by donations. Miracle Square residents also participate in planned, voluntary on-site social events, educational forums and craft activities. They are provided with transportation on accessible van to grocery stores, banks, pharmacies and medical appointments. Wellness care is provided by U of A Nursing Students, who engage the residents on a regular basis and help them develop and refine their independent living skills.

—Dick Laird

Things I Learned

“Everyone has been made for some particular work,and the desire for that work has been put in every heart”             — Rumi

I was thinking today about some of the things I am so grateful for.

My introduction to Science of Mind in 2008 was right up at the top of my list. I was lost and confused about the state of my life at that time, having been divorced and living alone and feeling that something else was lacking. I began to take any and all classes available to me at CSLT, and slowly things began to shift.

So, here are some of the things I learned that literally turned me around & up.

I learned that a loving God put me exactly where I belonged, with exactly the teachers I needed to have.

I learned that I was capable of bonding deeply with like-minded people that I barely knew.

I learned to trust, at a much deeper level, both with my God self and others.

I learned that life is ALWAYS what I choose to make it, and that I am always at choice.

I learned that it’s OK to make mistakes, and that if I do, I am still loved.

I really got it, that I am an eternal being and death holds no threat for me.

I learned and saw that Spiritual Mind Treatment really works.

I’m learned that supply and prosperity come to me in many forms, when I allow it to be.

I found out that I am not a separate being but one with the One.

I came to understand the complex workings of the Law and how to use it constructively.

I found out that I spent more time worrying and praying how to put these thoughts on paper than it actually took.  🙂

Thank you Science of Mind for the blessed life I now have.

— Janie Hooper

 

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