AWAKENING: the practice of letting light in

Theme for February

The intention of the themed year is to help Unitarian Universalists build a robust spiritual and ethical vocabulary. The themes are points of departure for religious liberals seeking to think, speak and act theologically, prophetically and prayerfully. The themes reclaim religious language, casting old terms in a new key to deepen spiritual grounding and sharpen moral reasoning. More at: or sign up for a circle at

Download 2020 Feb Awakening – Letting in Light.pdf Packet


  • Do you have a method for reminding yourself to be awake?
  • When you are flooded with light,  how does it affect your actions?
  • Who or what magnifies your spirit?


“There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  – Leonard Cohen, Anthem

“Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.” – Dogen

“There is a wide, yawning black infinity. In every direction, the extension is endless; the sensation of depth is overwhelming. And the darkness is immortal. Where light exists, it is pure, blazing, fierce; but light exists almost nowhere, and the blackness itself is also pure and blazing and fierce.” – Carl Sagan

“It’s in the space between the fracturing pieces of what we thought was our life that we finally feel and allow light to find us… Choice depends on awareness. Awareness depends on light. And light depends on darkness. Going through the darkness takes time. Like the seed that blooms into a flower, our rise from the darkness into the light is a tender, incremental journey.” – Vince Gowman

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

You know how a lot of people say, ‘I lose myself in music,’ or ‘I like to escape,’ but I want my music to be more of an awakening. I want it to make people to be aware of life; I don’t want my music to be a distracting. I want it to light a path. —Jhene Aiko, hip hop artist

Awakening your spiritual side is really what artists do. When you hit a groove, it’s not you; it’s the spirit world. —Tommy Chong

In Buddhism, we talk of meditation as an act of awakening, to be awake to the fact that the earth is in danger and living species are in danger. —Thich Nhat Hanh

“We must,” Thoreau insists, “learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. — American Philosophy: A Love Story by John J. Kaag



Birdsong by an unknown child, WWII Jewish prisoner at Terezin Concentration Camp, north of Prague, Czechoslovakia

He who doesn’t know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and doesn’t go out.
He doesn’t know what birds know best
Nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness.

When dewdrops sparkle in the grass
And earth’s a-flood with morning light
A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to open up your heart
To beauty; go to the woods someday
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then if the tears obscure your way
You’ll know how wonderful it is
To be alive.

Remember by Joy Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother
to give you form and breath. You are
evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who
all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk
to them,listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice.
She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.



It is said that soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked,

“My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”

“No,” said the Buddha

“Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?”

Again the Buddha answered, “No”

“Are you a man?”


“Well, my friend, then what are you?”

the Buddha replied, “I am awake”


Excerpt from “Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious” by David Dark.

“By letting religion name all our own ultimate concerns and the ways we pursue them, we open our lives to an ever-renewed perception and recognition of our profoundly interdependent relationship to the rest of the world. I view this as a summons to see ourselves anew and to discover reality as it is–not making connections exactly, because the truth is they’re already there, preceding us as the very facts on the ground, whether we recognize them or not. To begin to respond to such a summons is to enter the kind of accountability–the deep awareness–that occurs when we see and think poetically, because poetry is the work of recognition, the work of seeing beautifully.”


Thirteen Learnings from Maria Popova, author/blogger

  1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate the capacity for negative capability (say “I don’t know” sometimes).
  2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. Anything that distracts/detracts from the things that offer deeper rewards.
  3. Be generous. With your time, resources, with giving credit where it’s due, and with your words. There is a human being on the other end of every one of your exchanges. It’s too easy to be a critic rather than a celebrator.
  4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Daydream. Let boredom happen. Everything good springs from rest and balance.
  5. When people tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You’re the custodian of your own integrity. Their assumptions merely say a lot about the other person, not you.
  6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Avoid the cult of productivity.
  7. Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time. Wallow in the tedium of blossoming, where the real magic unfolds.
  8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith cites her creative influences as those who magnified her spirit. Use them as your remedy for spiritual malaise.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. Ideals are for lifting people up, rather than lowering them down. Consider the supply/demand theory: supply creates its own demand, in this case increasing the demand for substantive over the superficial.
  10.  Don’t just resist cynicism —fight it actively. In yourself, and counter it in those you love by modeling its opposite. It’s an act of courage and resistance.
  11.  Questions your maps/models of the inner and outer universe and test them against reality. The landscape of truth and the knowable is always incomplete.
  12. There are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives. 
  13. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Then forgive again. Relationships can be lifeboats but also submarines that descend to dark, disquieting places. Forgiveness is alchemy



Non-hymnal congregational song: Give Light and the People Will Find a Way


May Your Life Be As a Song #1059
May your life be as a song,
Resounding with the dawn
to sing awake the light.
And softly serenade the stars,
Ever dancing circles in the night.

O Star of Truth #293 or O Star of Truth #297
O star of truth, downshining through clouds of doubt and fear,
I ask beneath thy guidance my pathway may appear:
however long the journey, however hard it be,
though I be lone and weary, lead on, I follow thee.

I know thy blessed radiance can never lead astray,
though ancient creed and custom may point another way;
or through the untrod desert, or over trackless sea,
though I be lone and weary, lead on, I follow thee.