Spiritual Practice: Thriving Despite

If you’re like me, your current state of mind is that of escaping. By that I mean by this point in the year we have had a pandemic, fires, smoke, racism, and politicking; I want to crawl into a cave and wait until it’s all over. 

I’m not alone. I have friends who are so discouraged by the state of our country they are investigating other countries where Americans can relocate.

I have friends that have packed “go bags,” not to escape fires, but to try to escape the coming apocalypse.

I read an article about how humans are built to withstand short term conflict, but long term, ambiguous danger is not something for which we have a context. I guess World War Two might have been the last time folks felt this way.

It. Is. Getting. Hard.

So, what do we do? Crawl into a hole? Give up?

Thankfully for me, way before the pandemic, I committed to teach two writing classes this fall and to begin a new training program for spiritual directors.

 Life. Goes. On.

There are jobs that need going to, kids that want food, spouses who need our attention.

If you’re on the verge of giving up, tossing in the towel, taking a literal long walk off a short pier, please ask for help. We need each other to get through this, and the suicide rate is rising as we speak. Reach out, call the hotline: 800-273-8255 PLEASE! We need you. We need your voice, your gifts, your intelligence to make it through this.

So, how do we thrive despite all that is happening?

  1. Give yourself a lot of grace. This is not a time to be hard on yourself. This is a time to slow down and lower the bar. Instead of being the best employee, try to be a good one. Instead of being the best parent, try to keep your kids fed and sheltered. Hug them occasionally. Grace. Grace. Grace.
  2. Give others a lot of grace. Right now, that is hard. We are more polarized than at any time in history. It is interesting that on my Facebook memories, I made the same statement eleven years ago. I guess this has been going on for a while. But, what does it gain us to disparage other people? Most of us are living in fear right now, and if your trauma brain is activated, you’re going to believe all the fear mongers because they make sense to your animal brain. We are all walking around in a trauma response. We need to try and put on glasses of love, to look at everyone as if they are doing their best, to give them the grace we desperately need ourselves. 
  3. BE WITH PEOPLE. I know we are in a lock-down situation, but there are safe ways to be with people. Social isolation is killing us. A neurologist just told my friend that locking up our seniors for their safety in these care homes is causing quicker onset of dementia that wouldn’t have happened if they could see each other and their families. It’s a challenging problem. We don’t want them to die, but they are dying of loneliness. How can we see people and be safe? Meet outside. Go for walks with someone. Have dinner in your back yard with a couple of folks. You can sit six feet apart and still enjoy each other’s company. We need to be with others to thrive.
  4. Find someone to care for. There is always someone who has it worse than you. Adopt a shelter animal, send money to people who have lost their homes via fire, tutor a child online. Try growing a succulent, they are hard to kill, trust me. Giving to others gets our minds off ourselves, which, if not unchecked, can quickly become a central occupation when we are stressed.
  5. Practice self-care. Read good books, watch positive TV, take naps, eat well, and exercise. The usual. We need that more than ever.
  6. Learn something new. Nothing lights up the brain like trying something new. Take an online class. Heaven knows there are a lot of those offered these days. Teach one! That will light up the brain for sure. Mine is quite lit these days with the class I’m teaching and my book club which is reading, “How to be Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi. There is so much to learn. My brain is on fire!

I’d love to know how you are surviving this difficult time. We need to share resources, ideas, and encouragement. Just know, I’m in your corner, and I’d love to hear how you are doing. If you’re in a cave, it’s okay to tell me.

Photo credit. Owl, mine

Family Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Making an Altar

Six months into the pandemic things are getting difficult. Civil unrest around seeking justice for people of color continues and America can’t seem to get a foothold on this virus. Massive numbers of people are dying and sick. Today, I may have forgotten to put on pants. Thankfully, I don’t really go anywhere these days. Anyway, I thought it would be a good time to focus on something positive.

In the Old Testament people were always stopping to build altars, or memorial stones, to mark important events in their lives with God. I’ve been reading the coolest little book by my friend Cindy Bunch. She and I went through our spiritual direction program together. Her book is called, “Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy.” In it she has a ton of very accessible spiritual practices.

The one I want to highlight is making an altar. I’ve never tried this, although Cindy makes alters all the time to celebrate or mark significant events. They are temporary things that she takes a picture of to remember each event. She may leave them up for an hour or for weeks; she may make them indoors or outdoors. She marks what she  calls “moments of grace.”

“You could pick up items on a walk, arrange them outside, use the altar for prayer and meditation, and then walk away from it as a way to reinforce the moment but not hold on to it. You can, of course, take a picture to preserve the memory and return to those moments of grace.”

I decided to make an altar representing what is getting me through the pandemic. First, I thought of books. I’ve been reading Robin Hobb’s Assassin series (I’m on book 13) and it is so engaging, I just love it. So, I put a stack of those on a chair. Then I added a paint by number kit I sent for. It’s ridiculously hard but I’m enjoying it in small bits. Of course, the Black Lives Matter protests are ever on my mind and I’m committed to learning and listening, so I added two books I’m reading with my book club. And I added a candle to represent my spiritual practices, which I am enjoying most every morning. Without these I would probably not be surviving at all.

If you’d like to give this practice a try, I’d love to see a picture of what is helping you get through this pandemic. And I’d highly recommend Cindy’s book as it is a very important time to Be Kind to Yourself! Otherwise you might just leave home without your pants.

Photo of altar rocks by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Second pic is mine