Ordinary, Everyday Mindfulness


Ordinary, Everyday Mindfulness

We’ve all experienced moments of wonder and bliss:  a beautiful sunset engages our rapt attention, an act of loving kindness fills us with joy, a nighttime breeze bathes us in deep peace.  And then the moment is gone and in its place is an ever so small longing to have another or longer moment.  As human beings we are hardwired for this “bliss connection” —  which is why chocolate and Starbucks enjoy such commercial success.  And this connection is amazingly also available to us through ordinary, everyday mindfulness.

Simply put, mindfulness is the act of bringing our fully engaged attention to the present moment – which is what sometimes happens with the awesome sunset and the first sip of morning coffee.  Although we use the word “mindful,”  a wonder moment is internalized through our attention or awareness and is not a product of our thinking mind – as soon as we start the inner litany of reasons for finding bliss in the brew of the day, we are no longer experiencing bliss, we have moved on to just looking at a snapshot of it.

So if it’s ordinary, everyday, garden variety stuff why don’t we see more of it?  Why do we always move on to viewing the image or living the memory rather than lingering in the joy without a thought in our head?  And I guess the answer to that is:  even ordinary garden varieties only grow where they’ve been planted.

No matter how we phrase it, sunsets, coffee, and chocolate are not bliss itself; they are only catalysts that activate our bliss regulator.  And since the “bliss connection” is what we long for, it can be really good to know that the catalysts are all around us. Finding and using them is simply a matter of perception and practice.

Like painting a picture, mindfulness is learned as a skill and, with loving application, it becomes an art.  Within various forms of meditation are the skills that can turn us into a Van Gogh or Monet of living art.  Once we have the technique, it’s a simple choice of what picture we want to create or what garden we want to plant.

Mindfulness and Presence Practices is the new name for our gathering which meets to explore different approaches to meditation.  Since there are many ways to make a journey, while we practice meditation we experiment with different techniques to center our thoughts, bring mindfulness into our daily lives, and experience Presence (which is the name for that moment of bliss).  In that way, we each have the chance to explore what works best for us individually.

In September we will resume the meditation schedule; most likely we will again be meeting on Monday evenings and Thursday mornings.  Additionally there is the possibility for meeting in homes to accommodate those who find it difficult to get to the church.  Probably we will be starting the week of September 16, so please look for final announcements in the Happenings.  As always, this program is also open to the community at large.  Please see me in church or contact me with any questions about content or suggested preferences about time and location.   M. E. Tanabe,  Ph. # 815-337 9895 m.e.tanabe@comcast.net


Haystacks Presents Andy Cohen and Friends

Andy Cohen 8-13

Blues Guitarist Andy Cohen

On Saturday, September 7 at 7:00pm, blues artist, Andy Cohen returns to kickoff our Haystacks concert series with  an evening of entertainment that will benefit the Monic Children’s Center in Jinja, Uganda. he will be joined by fellow blues artists Donna Herula and Andrew Calhoun.

Andy Cohen is a fellow Unitarian Universalist from Memphis who has entertained audiences throughout the country. He mostly plays what he calls “a sort of Country Blues 101.” He’s been known to cover Rev. Davis, John Hurt, Big Bill, Gus Cannon, Frank Stokes, Memphis Minnie, Bukka White, Barbecue Bob, Charlie Patton, Ted Bogan, Henry Spaulding, or any of a hundred other blues people. Andy is currently on a cross-country tour and was able to add this benefit concert to his schedule.

Donna Herula

Donna Herula

Donna Herula is a Chicago-born singer and slide guitar player who plays a mix of songs from the early blues women, including Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith and the early Delta blues men, including Robert Johnson, Robert Nighthawk, Furry Lewis, Blind Blake, and Muddy Waters.  She also performs music from more recent blues and slide players including Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Lucinda Williams. With a percussive guitar style and soulful voice, Donna plays fingerstyle as well as blues slide guitar on her resonator guitars.

Andrew Calhoun

Andrew Calhoun

Andrew Calhoun’s music is innovative and rooted in tradition. In forty years as a performer he has evolved an increasingly varied repertoire including original songs, Irish and American folk songs, Scottish ballads, African-American spirituals, hymns, historical background, comic songs and poems and songs by writers such as Dave Carter, Mary Oliver and Robert Frost.  He has toured internationally, performing at folk clubs and festivals, pubs and house concerts. In 1992, Calhoun founded Waterbug Records, an artists’ cooperative folk label which has grown to 115 titles, bringing some of the brightest singer-songwriters and folk musicians to an international audience.

Admission to this benefit is $10.

All procedes will go to the Monic Children’s Center, an organization that provides a safe sanctuary for orphans, street children, and young people in Jinja, Uganda that teaches skills to help people (especially women) become self-sustaining, and educates the young in life skills and health and safety.



Welcome Our New Intern Minister

Ja Rickard

Ja Rickard, 2013 – 14 Intern Minister

Rev. Sean and the Board of Trustees are excited to announce that we will welcome an Intern Minister to our congregation for the 2013 – 14  church year. (September 1 – June 1) Ja Rickard, a student at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, will be our Intern Minister.

Ja (pronounced “jay”) is originally from Chicago but spent her summers at her father’s summer home in Ingleside, IL and fell in love with the country atmosphere. After a five-year move to Denver, CO, she came back to this area and settled in Bristol, WI where she built her own home, which was a dream come true. After living there for about 12 years, she realized that shoveling snow was not her strong point and took off for Phoenix, AZ. Then, after about 5 years, the Midwest again tugged at her soul and she returned. She currently lives in Racine, WI where from her front porch she can gaze over Lake Michigan.

She describes herself as “somewhat of a late bloomer” because she began work on her Bachelor’s Degree at the age of 55. She received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Religion from American Public University and within weeks, enrolled at Meadville Lombard Theological School where this May she received her Master of Divinity degree. In June, she began work on a Master of Arts in Leadership Studies, which she will complete in May of 2014.

Ja’s home congregation is Bradford Community Church in Kenosha, WI and as part of her seminary training, she did a two-year field placement there. She also spent four months assuming ministerial duties while the settled minister was ill and was their summer minister.

She shares her home with two dogs: Stella, a five pound Yorkshire Terrier and Sophie, an Australian Cattle dog/Beagle mix; along with two cats who are brothers: Gandolph and Oberon. In her spare time, Ja likes to, “take off and go camping.” She says,  “My dogs and I have camped all over the Southwest and recently camped in Indiana while I attended General Assembly.”

Having an Intern Minister is a wonderful opportunity for the congregation and for Ja. According to the Unitarian Universalist Association:

…[An] internship offer[s] opportunities to develop ministerial skills in a supportive setting and with an experienced supervisor.  It provides an environment in which to integrate historical and theological understandings with the practice of ministry—developing skills, self-awareness, confidence, ease in relationships, and a sense of vocation.

We hope you will welcome Ja warmly when she joins us September 1.

Service Auction Fundraiser

Hi members and friends of Tree of Life UUC

This is an important reading so stick with it to the end!

The Stewardship Committee is going to have a Service Auction Fundraiser on November 2, 2013.  If you’re not sure what a service auction is, here’s the skinny:  A service auction is an auction where the items auctioned are services, functions, or events that are donated by members and friends of the church.  Some examples:

Landscape design or maintenance

Dinner parties for small groups, usually prepared and served in the provider’s home

Private music lessons

Musical performances

Baked goods; baked and delivered by the provider once a month for six months or a year

A chord of firewood; cut, split, and delivered

A group outdoor outing; planned and conducted by the provider

A period of technical or professional training or consulting

We could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Even though this is a Service Auction, we’re also going to auction off art and craft items created and made by our own talented and artistic members and friends.  Here are a few possibilities:


Sewn items such as quilts, apparel, etc.

Art objects made of wood, glass, metal, or other materials

This is gonna be both a live and silent auction.  Most services will be auctioned live by our own flamboyant auctioneer (you know who).  Art and craft ‘things’ will be in the silent auction (that’s where you secretly write in your bid and hope nobody outbids you).

Our goals for this fundraiser are to raise a heck of a lot of money and to have an awful lot of fun!!

For this to be successful we need the best possible donated services and art and craft items.  In past years, our members and friends have donated some outstanding and creative services and craft and art items.  We know we’ll get great stuff this time, too.

But here’s a special plea:  We would like to have a least one “KNOCK-YOUR-SOCKS-OFF” item.  You ask; what might that be?  Well, here’re some examples:

Tickets to a major event at a major venue

Get-away package

Days or a week at a resort

If you happen to have such an offering, we invite you to step forward and make the donation.  Or, if you know someone else who would be willing to donate that “BIG ITEM”, let us know.  We’ll talk to them.

Finally; we don’t have all the answers!  Do you have ideas that you think would make this auction more successful?  Let us hear from you.  We’ll consider every idea you come up with.

We really want to make this a VERY successful and fun auction.  With your participation, WE WILL MAKE IT SO!!


Comments, questions, and suggestions should go to Dave Ayres at 815 308-5266 or email them to northernayres@comcast.net.



From the Director of Religious Education

In July, my son Jacob and I had another wonderful experience at the Midwest Unitarian Universalist Summer Assembly, otherwise known as MUUSA.  The camp used to take place in Lake Geneva, but for the past 5 years, takes place in Potosi Missouri.  I highly recommend it, whether you have children, are empty nesters, or are single.  Besides General and District Assemblies, where else can a Unitarian Universalist go and feel comfortable?  With such a large group of like-minded people, awareness of our camaraderie with each other is both obvious and heart-warming.   At MUUSA, the main focus is on relaxation, connections, (both inner and outer), and FUN!  Friendships and connections are made and renewed every year.  Just like at church, it is amazing to see the children and youth return another year older, bigger and more mature, while we adults of course, remain relatively unchanged, with the exception of perhaps a few more pounds for some and a few more gray hairs for others.  My son was in the High School camp for the first time and felt very comfortable with youth whom he has known for the past 4 camp years.  It’s the one place where he doesn’t feel the need to explain his religion! Bonds are formed quickly and it is always so amazing to watch the level of openness, comfort, and camaraderie that is demonstrated by children, youth and adult alike.   It is not cheap, but when you look at all you get, lodging, 3 meals, workshops and fun activities too numerous to list, it really is a bargain.  Scholarships from both the camp and the YMCA, are available for those who need financial assistance.   I encourage you to visit the website http://www.muusa.org/index.php/29-news/newsflash/182-choose-room-2014 and see for yourself whether or not this might be for you next year.  Early registration is being accepted now.  I am always available to discuss camp details.


At the advice of our beloved minister, (thank you!) I am took a much-needed mental break from the all encompassing but extremely rewarding duties of being the Director of Religious Education.  September will mark my fifth year in this position.  To say that it has definitely been eventful would be an understatement.  I will always be grateful to Rev. Dan Larsen for encouraging me to apply for this position, which has become a most fulfilling calling for me.  During this time, I have worked without a minister, and then worked with three different interim ministers in three years and lastly, one year now with Rev. Sean, our called minister.   Also during my tenure, I have packed up 4 classrooms and an office and moved to a new location where I unpacked.  With our recent flood, there will be the work of getting the classrooms back in order once again when I return.  From the day I was hired, I always felt that after five years in the position, I should have things all figured out.  Well, after five years, I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I have certainly figured out what doesn’t work.  I have an inkling of an idea of what is working, and plan on nourishing those ideas.  I plan to investigate what is not working, and the reasons, and remain open to making whatever changes necessary.  I continually seek out new ideas and ways to strengthen the bonds between the adults and our children and youth and continue to strive to provide the best Religious Education experiences.  I have a personal goal of reaching out to the community more, and demonstrating through compassionate action, our principles.  I always welcome ideas, and most definitely volunteers, to help make the goal of providing meaningful Religious Education become a reality.  I look forward to seeing all of you at our Water Communion in-gathering on August 25th.

Sam Jones

Director of Religious Education