4 Ways to Re-Energize Your Spiritual Practice

Practice makes perfect. That’s something we have all heard and in many ways we believe in. Yet “practicing” can take its toll. Like anything else, spiritual practice can take a lot of effort and focused energy. At times, we may feel drained or lack some of the enthusiasm to continue the practice. I love the gym but there are some days that I just need a rest from it. I love my spiritual practice, but at times it can feel like an obligation rather than a choice. So how can we keep the excitement and energy going when we start to lose some of the enthusiasm in our daily spiritual practices? 

  1. Schedule and push through! Let’s face it, many of us are attached to our phones and all their tools. So make use of those tools so that you can detach from it all. Put your mediation or prayer time in your calendar, or download a program that can remind you of taking a mindful breath at odd times in the day. It helps to have a schedule in mind – whether it is the same time every day or one that you create for yourself at the beginning of the week. Having reminders can support you in pushing through those moments when you are feeling a bit sluggish about your spiritual practices.
  2. Keep your spiritual practice toolbox diverse! A toolbox that only has one hammer isn’t going to be much help when you need a screw driver. The whole power in a toolbox comes from having a diverse group of tools that you can call upon as a situation arises. The same can be said for spiritual practices. Diversify the ways you practice and are connected to the Presence. Mediation can take many forms – they can be guided or simply being in the silence, indoors in your favorite room or outside under a tree, sitting in the lotus position or walking through a park. Try them all and start to recognize which works best for whatever situation you may be going through. If you may be feeling lonely, a communal times of meditation may be just what you need. If you are feeling distracted or absent-minded, you may want some alone time to decompress and become more centered.
  3. Keep your spiritual practice fresh! Rather than deciding to meditate every morning with the same CD playing, try to keep it fresh by making slight or bigger changes to your routine. Maybe it’s scheduling a different practice each day. Mindfulness Monday, Tai-Chi Tuesdays, OM Hour Wednesdays, etc. Another way to keep it fresh is to continually take classes and workshops that can deepen and expand your spiritual practices. I remember when I first learned about the Dessert Father’s mediation practices that involved moving back and forth while keeping myself focused on an affirmation or reading. At the time, it brought new energy to what was becoming a stagnant mediation practice.
  4. Make it part of a community effort! I love going to the gym but I need to be part of a gym that fosters community. Going in and out is not enough for me. I need to have people that connect me to the gym, to the working out. When I don’t show up at the gym for the 9 AM class, getting a text or call from one of my gym buddies makes me get dressed and be there for the 10 AM class. The same can support us in our practice. Have some time in communal meditation or group yoga classes. Connect with those around you. When someone doesn’t show up, let them know you missed them which also gives them permission to do the same with you.

Our spiritual practice may look different but as people we go through the some of the same struggles. If you hit a lull in your spiritual practices, you can choose to do the above and bring in new energy to it. Finding the right balance for yourself is key and will go a long way in making your practices one which you will deepen and continue much farther than you think possible.

Rev. Juan del Hierro
Associate Minister
Unity on the Bay

Are YOU on your to do list?

Rev. Chris Jackson

Are you always trying to fit more accomplishment into the 24-hour span of one day?  Do you feel at times as though you’re “spinning your wheels” to accommodate the demands of family, work, and social obligations? 

Though it may sound contradictory, one of the best ways to increase your productivity is by adding one more thing to your “to do” list – self-care.  Most of us are familiar with the instruction given to us once boarding a plane.  We are reminded that, in the event of any emergency, it’s important for us to put the oxygen mask on our own face before attempting to assist anyone else with the same task.  The idea, of course, is that if we fail to care for ourselves first, we may not have to worry about anyone else.

In his book, “Sabbath; Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives” Wayne Muller tells us, “…life has become a maelstrom in which speed and productivity have become the most valued commodities.  Sabbath honors the necessary wisdom of dormancy.  If certain plant species, for example, do not lie dormant for the winter, they will not bear fruit in the spring.  If this continues for more than a season, the plant begins to die.  A period of rest – in which nutrition and fertility most readily coalesce – is not simply a human psychological convenience; it is a spiritual and biological necessity.”

When our well-being is not a priority, our lives can become personal assembly lines in which our primary interest is accomplishing the next assignment.  We live for another completed task or project rather than the exquisite nature of the miracle of life in our midst.

It is alright – in fact it is noble – to prioritize time for your own personal relaxation, rest, renewal and reflection.  A period of recharge is a way of wisdom for those who realize that our greatest contributions are made when we are well-rested, at peace, and undisturbed by the demands of daily living.

Put yourself on your calendar – for an hour, for a day, for a weekend or longer.  Prioritize the time you need to energize yourself from within.  At the end of the day, it’s not the person who reaches the finish line first that wins.  The true winner is the one who has enjoyed a balanced and rewarding journey to the finish line, and they take the time they require for rest and renewal.

Set a schedule for your Sabbath.  Find periods for renewal on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.  Add the ingredients of nature, meditation or a good book.  Light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat and nap. 

In a somewhat miraculous way, you’ll begin to find your life accommodating your priority of self-care.  You’ll be more productive and pleased with your accomplishments.  You’ll be contributing to your health and well-being in a way that will allow you to better appreciate the quality of the life you work hard to provide for yourself and your loved ones.

Written by Rev. Chris Jackson
Senior Minister, Unity on the Bay

 

Crutches, Part Deux

If you read my last article, I shared a process by which the “crutches” in our lives could be made known to us, with the intention of beginning to release that which no longer served us. To re-read that blog entry, click here.

As many of you know, “crutches” came up for me when I had a gym accident a few weeks ago which left me with a broken bone on my foot. In the first few days after the accident, I used crutches that I believed I could release very quickly. And I did. Just a few days with the crutches and I was ready to walk the world, albeit with a small limp and a special shoe. Healing was taking place, at an accelerated pace I might add.

Fast forward to just a few days ago when I was told that in reality, my fracture had gotten wider. It seems I should have used the crutches much longer than I had wanted to, or thought I did. And so now, I am on crutches once again.

This led me to realize that we have to be gentle with ourselves as we try to release things we believe no longer serve us. In the process of releasing, we may find that something new comes up and we move back into our old habits, into our old ways of reacting and responding to people or situations. Rather than feeling guilty or feeling lost, we can recognize that it was needed and that it helps creates the necessary drive within us to evolve.

It also reminds me that our work is to create the space for the process to take place rather than to make the process happen.

Part of creating that space involves becoming more open to seeing how the “crutches” are showing up in our lives and how they create things we no longer want in our lives. This can be helped by bringing a higher level of accountability into our lives.

A few ways to develop accountability are:

  • Journal in the third person about situations when you have acted out of your “crutches.” Doing it in the third person allows us to see a situation with a little more perspective. It also supports us to not have resentment or shame towards our past behavior.
  • Speak your “crutches” out-loud. Do it in front of a mirror or, better yet, talk to a friend or someone who you can invite to hold you accountable for when the old you shows up.
  • Give permission to people around you to hold you accountable. It is important to remember two things though at this step: 1. do it with someone who you will feel less inclined to take it personally, 2. Ask someone to do it that you feel is more inclined to be impartial and not become too critical. The point is to have help in keeping yourself accountable, not beating yourself up.
  • Pray. Affirm right-action taking place in your life.  Set prayerful intentions to embody a new way of being.
  • Act. If it feels like the expression of that which you had been working to express, celebrate yourself. If it doesn’t, celebrate yourself for becoming more aware, for taking a risk and trying it out, and begin the process again.

When giving birth to a new consciousness, it’s good to remind ourselves, “You’re doing great. Take a few deep breathes, and now push.”

 

Rev. Juan del Hierro
Associate Minister
Unity on the Bay

Do this in the morning and make your day!

Rev. Chris Jackson

Throughout my years of spiritual work, my practices have changed, including the one I use to stay focused on the present moment.  There are countless ways to practice being in the present moment.  I encourage you to try as many as possible until you find the one that works best for you. 

My practice begins every morning with a thirty-minute meditation.  I begin by silently repeating the statement “thank you” to myself.  After a few minutes, I change the statement to “Here I am,” again repeating it several times, each time allowing myself to become more deeply immersed in the present moment.  As distracting thoughts or feelings arise, I try to let them pass along and return to the statement, “Here I am.”

After a few more minutes, I change the statement to, “I am receptive.”  I allow myself to relax more completely and see myself receiving whatever the present moment reveals.  The present moment always reveals the presence of God, but that presence reveals itself in many different ways.  It may be the answer to a pressing question in my life, a direction to follow, an insight or awareness of some kind, or a sense of deep peace. 

Next, I change the statement to, “I am willing.”  Silently repeating these words to myself, I see myself in total obedience to the will of God, trusting it to live as my life.  A few more minutes follow, and I return to the statement, “thank you,” repeating it several times as I conclude the meditation.

This sets the tone for my day, throughout which I take periodic moments to return to these four statements, especially when I am heavily distracted by certain events in my experience.

Rev. Chris Jackson
Unity on the Bay, Senior Minister

 

UOTB Choir to perform at Pulse Memorial Service

Interfaith Miami invites you to join them on ThursdayJune 15 at 8:00 p.m. for a concert of remembrance and hope as lives lost are honored from the Pulse Nightclub shooting one year ago. This concert is hosted by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral of Miami located at 464 NE 16th St, Miami, FL 33132

This will be a time of music, featuring the Unity on the Bay Choir, Miami Gay Men’s Chorus, the Trinity Cathedral Choir, and talented musicians from Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and Miami Shores Community United Church of Christ.

There will be time for prayer and introspection, featuring local South Florida faith and community leaders. This concert will be an interfaith service of healing and promise for the LGBTQ community and its allies. A reception will follow prepared by the good people of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

The Will of God by Rev. Chris Jackson

Lately, in my times of contemplation, I’ve been guided to reflect on the will of God. 

During the past several years I have been realizing more and more just how limited my own perception really is.  My conditioned mind is very quick to diagnose and judge people and situations in my life.  It also likes to prescribe courses of action which usually involve changing or “improving” life situations and individuals so that they are a better match for what I determine is needed, or what “ought” to be. 

I am learning more every day that there is a higher order at work in all of life.  Through each one of my activities and associations, this order is at work to support me and everyone else involved.  It sees beyond my personal analysis of how things need to be.  Its perfection is not obscured by my personal desires and preferences. 

For me, this is the will of God.  As my trust in this higher order increases, I learn to look beyond the way things seem to be – Jesus called this not judging by appearances.  I think that is because he knew that things are never as they seem.  There are universal forces – the same forces that orchestrate an entire cosmos, that are in motion in my life. 

I may not always like the apparent disappointments or misfortunes I encounter in life, but I have experienced enough of them to know that they always bring me a gift – and typically it’s not a gift that I knew I needed or that I particularly wanted.  It is always, however, a gift that expanded my awareness, made me more aware of love in my life, or allowed me to appreciate something or someone I was taking for granted.

More than seeking to accomplish my personal expectations in life, I want to be present to support the will of God – the higher order of life.  Personally, I believe it has my best interests at heart and wants to extend greater love into my experience.

More and more I want to support the will of God and to see it at work in my own life, the lives of those I love, and throughout the collective experience of the family of humanity.  Maybe you would like to join me?

Written by Rev. Chris Jackson
Senior Minister, Unity on the Bay

Celebrating Tony Aviles. Thank you, Tony!

Tony Aviles

It is a great honor to recognize a long-serving Sacred Server as our Sacred Server of the Month for June 2017. Join us in celebrating Tony Aviles!

Tony has served in a lot of different ways, most notably as an AV Team member and at one point Coordinator, Prayer Chaplain, and even Board Member. Today we honor him for his consistency and commitment to our Wednesday Night OM Hour Service. Tony shows up every Wednesday battling Miami traffic just to help us with all of our AV, especially sound and lighting. It is through his service that our OM Hour Service is a quiet respite for many. We thank you, Tony, for all you do and all you are.

Crutches

"Crutches" written by Rev. Juan del Hierro, Associate Minister, Unity on the Bay

Rev. Juan del Hierro

A few Saturdays ago I had a small accident at the gym. After a quick trip to the urgent care clinic, I emerged on crutches and a fracture on my foot. As I drove back from the clinic, I began to think about the crutches I would be using for the next 7-8 weeks. Here were tools for me to get by, helping sustain me and lifting me up when my own feet could not. And yet, in about two months, they would no longer serve me and would actually hold me back, not allowing me to use my own two feet to move through my path with ease.

A few weeks back, for Earth Day Sunday, part of my talk included how we could use the processes of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle within our own lives. Recycling was about letting go of that which had at one point served us but no longer did.

We all have crutches. Without judgment and guilt, we can look at what we created for ourselves to serve us in a moment of need or a challenge, but that is now keeping us from experiencing our highest good.  

So how do you know when a tool has become a crutch?

First and foremost, we go into the Silence. Think of what your prayer work could be around this. Seek the Guidance of Spirit in showing you what it is that you must release. One of my favorite affirmations to use when moving into the Silence for guidance is “Reveal what must be revealed, heal what must be healed.” Sit with it. Ask your higher power “What is now holding me back?”

What comes up for you may or may not surprise you.

Remember to release judgments of yourself as things are revealed. Even the deepest fears may have shown up as a tool for survival – whether physically or emotionally – at some point in your life.

If you experience guilt, shame or confusion, you may want to take out a piece of paper and journal with these two questions in mind:

  • How did this bless me at some point in my life?
  • How is this now holding me back from living my best life?

I hope you take this opportunity. With just a moment of clarity, that which needs to be revealed can show up for us to begin the process of healing.

During my next blog, we will explore the ways in which we can let go of the crutches and begin to flow within our lives with more ease and joy.

PS. This process also reminded me of a wonderful experience I had in 2014. I was invited by Eric Page, at the time Director of the Unity Archives, to write a blurb on an artifact they found at Unity Village that year. It was a set of wooden crutches. Check out the picture and short blurb titled “Walking on Divine Feet” by clicking here (https://www.facebook.com/juan.delhierro/posts/10152541745352020)

What does it mean to be spiritual?

What does it mean to be spiritual?  It means to be who you are.  In order to be who you are, you have to know who you are.  This is where the journey of spiritual awakening begins – discovering the truth of your identity.

Most of us have assumed a false identity.  From our earliest recollection, we were given ideas about ourselves from others and we took them as truth.  At the core of many of these ideas was the assumption that there was something inherently and deeply wrong with us.  We were told that we were incomplete, incompetent, insufficient, unable, undeserving, unworthy and generally miserable.  From the standpoint of our spiritual nature, none of this is true.  Yet we were given these labels nonetheless, and we believed them.  Because the ideas that we believe in make up our experience of life, our lives -- for the most part -- have been challenging.

Our spiritual identity contradicts all of these labels by affirming that we are divine elegance and exquisite in nature.  We are whole and complete just as we are – peaceful, loving, joyous and abundant. 

Our lives become experiences, then, in recognizing what ideas we are holding about ourselves and ensuring that those ideas are in alignment with spiritual reality.  We recognize when we are holding onto false labels and we are willing to exchange them for spiritual truth.

As we align our identity with spiritual reality, our life experience begins to reflect that reality.

Regardless of our human experience, nothing can negate the divine perfection in which we were created.  Simply because we believed false ideas about ourselves does not mean that those ideas are true or that they have lasting influence.

You cannot not be spiritual – regardless of what you believe about yourself.  The very grace of God ensures your identity into eternity, and the expression of our spiritual brilliance is an inevitable, ultimate outcome.

Rev. Chris Jackson
Senior Minister
Unity on the Bay

Meet our newest Licensed Unity Teachers, Sandra Tagle & Alina de la Paz

Sandra Tagle, left, Alina de la Paz, right. 

Sandra Tagle, left, Alina de la Paz, right. 

The journey to becoming a Licensed Unity Teacher (we call them LUTs), is a long one with over 2 years of classes and several trips to Unity Village in Kansas City, Missouri. It requires dedication, discipline, and faith, characteristics that both Alina and Sandra exhibited during this fulfilling journey. 

Sandra first visited Unity on the Bay for an event in the middle of 2009. Her friend invited her. When Rev. Chris Jackson started the event with a prayer she was impressed. She says the way he did the prayer was completely different for her. She felt the need to be involved in Unity because just being in this community made her feel so good.

She went on to volunteer in a multitude of ways, including serving on the Board of Trustees for 3 years and 2 years as the leader of the Spanish Member Driven Ministry. In her personal life she is committed to being a model of living spiritual principles by studying many different paths and modalities which led her to practice Reflexology. 

Alina was born in Matanzas, Cuba, and immigrated to the United States at age 2 with her family. She spent her youth and college years in Chicago, Illinois graduating from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Spanish and Liberal Arts, and a B.S and M.S in Speech and Hearing Sciences. She is a Speech/Language Pathologist, Coach, Tutor and Registered Yoga Instructor. Alina has two adult children.

Alina has been attending Unity on the Bay for a very long time, moved by the message and teachings and vigilant about practicing the principles in her own life. Like Sandra, she also has volunteered at Unity on the Bay in too many ways to even count including serving on the Board of Trustees as the Board President. 

We are deeply grateful for their dedication to Unity on the Bay and for being models for us all on how to live spiritual principles in our everyday life. Congratulations Sandra and Alina for completing your journey of becoming LUTs. We love you. We appreciate you. And we see you doing great things!

Sacred Service Team of the Month for May 2017

Our Ambassadors Team is truly helping Unity on the Bay shine brightly to our 1st and 2nd time guests. Not only do they provide them with a warm welcome and connect them with the many programs we have, they are also helping us improve the feel and decor of the Welcome Center area in the foyer. Did you notice the difference? Make sure you check it out. They designed and donated all the new furniture. Most of all though, our Ambassadors truly embody who we are as a spiritual community - diverse, welcoming and loving. Thank you, Ambassadors, for all that you are and all that you do.

Sacred Server of the Month for May 2017

Our Sacred Server of the Month is not just a familiar face, she is a familiar voice at Unity on the Bay. But she doesn't just sing in our choir, she pours herself into each song as a way of living what she calls a "life of worship." And you can feel and sense it with every note. This is why we are honoring Mayra Alvarez as our Sacred Server of the Month for May. We are blessed with Mayra's spirit and gifts, which she so lovingly shares with us every week. Thank you Mayra, our Sacred Server of the Month for May.

Free Law of Attraction Meditation

Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and listen to this 9-minute meditation by Gita Hirjee, a teacher of the Law of Attraction at Unity on the Bay. Use this meditation to relax and visualize good in your life. Gita is a Transformational Guide and Holistic Healer, guiding people to live their lives with more peace, purpose, and prosperity.

Green Up your Life!

In celebration of Earth Day, Unity on the Bay dedicated this past Sunday to recognizing the beauty of Mother Earth and how we can be better stewards of this amazing resource.

As part of the celebration, we shared the Beatitudes for Earth Sunday by Richard S. Gilbert. You can read them here.

We also invited Luiz Rodriguez, a long-time member of Unity on the Bay and environmentalist, to talk to us about some of what he is currently up to and what we can do to help Mother Earth. We mentioned that we would also provide you with:

Green Tips for Daily Living

Recycling Resource Directory

You can check out the video of our Sunday message where Rev. Juan discusses the way we can work use the same processes to clean our inner environment (our consciousness) as we do our external environment - reduce, reuse and recycle. Watch the video here.

Sacred Server Team of the Month for April 2017

Our Prayer Chaplains are not just committed to Unity on the Bay, they are committed to deepening their consciousness through prayer. Prayer Chaplains in many ways supports our community in their own experience of prayer. They provide monthly wellness calls to our members, pray with people after our services and continually hold the high watch.

We thank our Prayer Chaplains for their dedication and love of our community.

Sacred Server of the Month for April 2017

As one of Unity on the Bay's longest serving congregants, Vicente Fabre has been a constant for our community. Yet many people may not realize it. He has such a quiet and calm disposition, serving without much fanfare or a need to be recognized for it. But we do recognize it. We recognize his love of Unity and his great, caring, expansive heart.

Vicente isn't just committed, he goes the extra mile. On Sundays, he serves our 9 AM, 11 AM and 1:30 PM Spanish service, welcoming people to Unity on the Bay and receiving the love offering as one of our amazing ushers.

Thank you Vicente, our Sacred Server of the Month for April.

Sacred Service Team of the Month for March 2017

Our Sacred Service Team of the Month is one that isn't very much visible. After each of our Sunday Services though, they quickly go into our Accounting Office and help receive and prepare for the deposit our Love Offerings and Tithes from the service. Recently they changed their team name to Count the Blessings Team - well one of the blessings we can count on at Unity on the Bay is them!

Thank you Count the Blessings Team! You are our Service Team of the Month.

Sacred Server of the Month for March 2017

One of our longest serving members of our community, is also one of the most loving and committed. After more than 30 years with us, Veronica St. Albin continues to serve this ministry in many ways, most notably through Angels Everywhere, where she was instrumental in our Christmas Program, which served hundreds of people, and recently beginning the coordination of our Toiletry Drive which begins in the end of March.

Thank you, Veronica for your continued commitment and service. We appreciate you!

Sunday Morning March 5 Traffic Advisory

The Miami Beach Half Marathon is taking place on Sunday, March 5, 2017, and will be causing traffic delays around Unity on the Bay. Please plan ahead when traveling to attend our Sunday Celebration Service both at 9am and 11am. Also remember our services are available live on our Facebook page at 11am only. 

Click here if you want to view the Miami Beach Half Marathon Course so that you can plan ahead. We hope that you still plan to join us. 

New Board Members Elected & President's Awards Presented at 2017 Annual Membership Meeting

Eddie Dominguez, Board President, speaks to the membership at the 2017 Annual Membership Meeting.

Eddie Dominguez, Board President, speaks to the membership at the 2017 Annual Membership Meeting.

Members came out to the Annual Membership Meeting on Thursday, February 23, 2017 to hear about our 2016 successes, our vision for 2017, an update on our finances, and to vote on 3 board vacancies. Our Board President also presented the President's Awards for 2017.

We are happy to announce that Dr. Mary McKenry and John Irvin were voted back to their positions on the Board of Trustees and a new board member, Bashir Osman, was elected for serving on the board for the first time. 

We are also happy to announce that Amy Baez was awarded the President's Spirit of Leadership Award, Cheryl Lockwood & Cindy Binder President's Spirit of Generosity Award, and Bill Warren awarded the President's Spirit of Service Award. We are so grateful to have these individuals be part of our community. Thank you!