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Soul Matters @ OUUC

April 2017                                                                                             


April's Theme: Embodiment

embody the transcendent 2

Sara's Reflections

Sara Lewis1

Unitarian Universalism has a history, particularly on the Unitarian side, of emphasizing the rational and intellectual side of religion, to the exclusion of (and even the deep suspicion and distrust of) more emotional, feeling, and embodied styles of worship and religion.

They weren't alone in that interpretation, of course. Religion and philosophy has often looked askance at the body and the physical, and tried to emphasize the soul and the spirit over the flesh. As C.S. Lewis (apocryphally) is quoted as saying: "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body" (emphasis added).

For Unitarian Universalists, you might replace the word "mind" where Lewis might have used "soul", and you'd have a pretty good joke about us - like the many jokes I hear about how we (all UU's not just this congregation) can't clap rhythmically in worship.

I want to challenge this idea, however. I disagree with both the idea that the body is separate or lesser, and the idea that UU's neglect the body. After-all, Unitarian Universalism is one of two denominations (along with United Church of Christ) to develop the Our Whole Lives curriculum to teach holistic and comprehensive sexuality education in our churches. We understand that sexuality is a healthy and normal part of our humanity, and we promote a body-positive and values based way of understanding and living out our own sexuality - across the lifespan. (For more on this, read this recent article titled "The Unitarians Want to Prepare Us All For Hot Sex")

We also embrace embodiment in our understanding of the Interdependent Web of Life, of which we are a part. We are not separate from or placed above nature, but a part of it. I know many in this congregation find time in nature and the outdoors to be a very important spiritual practice, and it is one that I strive to bring to our children as well. Our place in nature, our understanding of our "footprint", and of our responsibilities to work for environmental justice and sustainability ... it's all part of our embodiment, of our UU focus on this life, in this world.

And in our work for social justice, we are also becoming increasingly aware of embodiment ... of how some of us are the embodiment of privilege because of skin color or gender, ability or age, and of the need to embrace and accept all bodies as good, as human. This is still a growth edge for many of us, and you will be seeing more work in this area as our congregation renews its Welcoming Congregation status.

Those are just a few ways that I see us as embodied in our faith. You may be able to think of others, or you may have a personal spiritual practice that is embodied (yoga, tai chi, etc). Rather than continuing to emphasize mind over body, this month let us embrace our embodiment, together!

Reflection Questions:

1. When was the last time you listened to your body? What is your body saying right now?

2. When and how have you experienced God/the sacred/the transcendent through your body?

3. What would it mean to embody your highest ideals? How would that change the way you feel about your body? How would it change how you treat your body?

Spiritual Exercise

The Question We Embody

“Hearing about [others’] first, big question got me wondering about my own. What is the question that I asked as a little girl and have never stopped asking? How has asking that question defined, even if unconsciously, the choices I’ve made, the things I’ve created, the legacy I will leave behind?”   -Courtney Martin


Courtney Martin sees our lives as embodiments of our “first big questions.” This exercise asks us to take that proposition seriously. Instead of a complex set of steps, your instructions are simply:

Spend the month figuring out and articulating your “first big question” and identify one way it has shaped you and one way it is calling you to change or deepen.


So… What question have you been trying to embody your entire life?  What question has embodied you whether you liked it or not?  What is the question that you asked as a little kid and have never stopped asking?


Check out the rest of Martin’s essay for more inspiration:

Other Media That Might Inspire:

Recommended Book: I Love Dirt!

I love dirt

Children today spend less than half as much time outdoors as children did 20 years ago. This situation has been dubbed by author Richard Louv as "Nature Deficit Disorder", and the benefits of more outdoors time are many ... including but not limited to a greater sense of connection to our interdependent web of life.

In this helpful book, author Jennifer Ward gives us 52 activities to help children rediscover the joy of the outdoors and the wonders of nature. It's the perfect time of year to add a little more dirt into your life!

To receive other recommendations, words of wisdom, reflection questions, and more all through the month as we engage with this theme, join the OUUC Soul Matters Facebook Group!
In This Issue
  • Sara's Reflections
  • Reflection Questions
  • Spiritual Exercise
  • Recommended Music
  • Recommended Books
  • Words of Wisdom
ouuc chalice

Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it.
- Epictetus

The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.  - Martha Graham

No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it. The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are. -Barbara Brown Taylor


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Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation
2315 Division St NW
Olympia, Washington 98502

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