Spiritual Growth Circles
Spiritual Growth Circles are groups of 6-12 people who gather each month to discuss the themes of each month’s sermons. New SGCs form each September for the church year ahead. Through facilitated exploration of material prepared by Rev. Miller, these groups stimulate deeper understanding of significant spiritual issues and provide an opportunity for personal growth and for meaningful connection with other participants.
The same group meets every month with their facilitator for a period of 6-9 months. The meetings are held either in the facilitator’s home or at the Fellowship. The meetings last for 90 minutes. The format includes lighting a chalice, check-in, opening reading, and questions for discussion. At the end of each meeting, there is an opportunity to discuss administrative issues. Some groups undertake a service project during the year, giving them another way to get to know each other and to put their shared values to work. For example, one UUFSD group painted an area at the Community Resource Center on a Saturday morning to help with maintenance of the facility
The Minister, assisted by a small group of members, prepares the materials for each month. The Facilitators are Fellowship members, and they meet together in their own SGC early each month, led by Rev. Miller. The Facilitators then use the same materials for each of their Circles, all of which meet during the third week of each month. As mentioned above, the materials explore the same theme as the minister uses for the Sunday services.
The essence of the SGC is captured in the Covenant, recited together at each meeting: “We gather as a Spiritual Growth Circle to deepen our sense of meaning and community. In this community, we seek to care for one another and to work together toward creating a kinder, more compassionate, more loving and just local and global community.”
There is an expectation of confidentiality within each Spiritual Growth Circle. Participants develop a trusting relationship that encourages deep personal exploration and sharing as the year progresses. When there are significant pastoral concerns, a facilitator may ask if they can share that concern with the minister.
Contact: Linda Giannelli Pratt at SpiritualGrowthCircles@uufsd.org
Mindfulness Meditation Group
Mindfulness Meditation, for some, is part of a spiritual practice. For others, it is a pragmatic way to consciously be engaged in life with more intention and clarity. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, describes meditation as a “way to make the mind more stable and clear.” So that, from this perspective one does not need to be a Buddhist to practice this very effective way of calming the mind so that we can be available to all that we experience in the present.
Mindfulness Meditation is a practice originating from Buddhism and is the foundational practice of all Buddhists. There is nothing mystical or magical about meditation in its most fundamental form. The Sanskrit word for meditation is “shamatha” translated as “peacefully abiding.” The essence of the practice is to intentionally focus ones’ attention to the present moment using attention on the breath as a vehicle to support this activity of the mind. Calming the mind or offering our minds a way to rest so that we may have clarity or less confusion in order to actually access our intelligence, wisdom and compassion and inner peace.
Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) describes Mindfulness as being “fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. It is about paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment….”
The Mindfulness Meditation Group offers an opportunity to learn about meditation and, and more importantly, to practice meditation with guidance. We also discuss obstacles that may arise that distract us from focusing on the present and ways to deal with these distractions, be they thoughts, emotions or body sensations.
Tuesday mornings, 9:15-10:30 in the Library (2nd Tuesday of the month in Founders’ Hall).
Contact: Livia Walsh
Buddhist Meditation Groups
We have two meditation groups that have been meeting on Thursday evening and Friday morning for over twelve years. Both groups are open to drop-ins and follow the same format. They start with an opening reading, followed by 10 minutes of meditation. A chapter from the book that is being studied is then read aloud by passing the book around with each participant reading a paragraph. This is followed by a discussion of the chapter, a closing reading, and 10 minutes of meditation. While we study a variety of Buddhist traditions, we are especially fond of Pema Chodron, an American nun in the Tibetan tradition. Once or twice a year, we hold an additional series of weekend meetings to watch recordings of her teachings and to host dharma talks from teachers in various traditions.
This meditation Sangha meets on the first and third Thursdays of every month from 7:30-9:00 p.m. in the UUFSD Library. The Sangha is based on the Vipassana tradition. Each session will provide guided meditation instructions and discussion, a talk on Buddha’s teachings, a question and answer time, and practice assignments that call for applying the teachings to everyday life. We are open to newcomers.
Contact: Bob Isaacson