Because my nature is to approach life from a spiritual perspective, there are core questions that have arisen for me in recent days while I’ve felt disoriented and unsettled by the sudden required and changes for everyday living. It’s been some time since I’ve written here, but the current pandemic and resulting paradigm shift calls me to contemplate two questions and explore personal ways of working with them. I imagine that you, too, are questioning and contemplating how to acclimate your spirit in the midst of all that is unfolding. What I’m offering here is nothing new. Rather, think of the practices I’m sharing as gentle reminders, if you wish to reconnect with your personal process to help navigate this new and challenging terrain.
Two inquiries have become central for me during the past week…
1. What spiritual practice do I choose to support and maintain my center? What practice will help me to remain fully present and informed so I may appropriately respond to all that’s occurring…without succumbing to panic, disabling anxiety, and fear?
A spiritual practice that reconnects me to my center (the still-point within) is the ancient sacred practice of silent or verbal repetition of a mantra (a short phrase, word, or quote). The mantra is repeated while slowly breathing in and out. This practice was used by the first century desert mothers and fathers. I find that it centers me when I begin to wobble, and when I enter into the practice wholeheartedly, I am blessedly returned to a state of equilibrium. My mantra may change according to what I am seeking in the way of spiritual sustenance.
The mantra that returns me time and again to a place of inner peace and calm is the name of “Jesus.” I inhale…Je. I exhale Sus. Je-sus, breathing in. Breathing out. Frequently I repeat, “Jesus have mercy.”
Additionally, I call up mantras from poets, mystics and other sources, for instance…
When I need courage I repeat the words of poet, Audre Lorde…
“I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
When I am seeking a creative solution for an issue or need to shift a negative state of mind, Lorde’s phrase,“The maps they gave us are out of date…” This mantra invites me to think outside the box, to examine the issue from another perspective.
When I need reassurance in the midst of challenge or anxiety, I turn to the wisdom of the medieval mystic, Julianne of Norwich…
“All shall be well and all shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.”
The following prayer (extended mantra) has become a lifeline in recent days. I find this mantra especially calming when I awaken in the night and dark thoughts roll in like an unwelcomed tide. I hold fast to St. Theresa’s bookmark prayer:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
Everything is changing.
God alone is changeless.
Patience attains the goal.
She who knows God, has all her needs provided.
Often my mantra/prayer is simply: “Thy will be done.” I find deep surrender and the peace in laying all my concerns at Christ’s feet with confidence and trust. My spiritual work, however, is not to reclaim those same concerns ten minutes later…
What are the prayers, quotes, phrases that soothe your spirit in troubling times? How does your breath serve you as an instrument for re-centering?
Question 2: How will I maintain balance (spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally) throughout this period of social distancing, sequestering and beyond? I think of this practice as choosing a self-guided prescription of what I know to be personally life-giving. My list includes one, or a combination of several of the following, depending upon my immediate needs for rebalancing.
I choose to…journal, pray, breathe and offer my mantras, read uplifting literature, poetry, Scripture. Make art, stitch, craft beauty, make a collage, paint an icon, bake bread, write letters, write, write, write. Listen to Gregorian Chant, or the music of Hildegard of Bingen, Debussy, Chopin, or Erik Satie. Pray the Rosary. Walk in nature, exhale fear, inhale peace. Revere God’s Creation. Feed the birds. Observe wildlife, sunrise, sunset. Pray. Take a nap. Cook a pot of soup. Stay hydrated. Eat healthfully and also (without guilt) cook and enjoy comfort foods when called for. Make a daily gratitude list. Stay connected with family and friends through video calls. Seek the most reliable sources of information pertaining to this crisis. Discern, to the best of my ability, the truth of what I hear, read or view. Share pertinent resources with others. Disconnect from technology for a rest when an intake of too much information feels overwhelming. Peruse my home library for solace and inspiration. Pray. Clean closets and drawers to simplify material belongings that no longer hold meaning and purpose. Practice loving compassion with myself and family (husband and son) also sequestered in our household. Pray. Pray. Pray.
What life-giving, generative, and creative actions support you holistically (body, mind, spirit, emotions, intellect)? What is your personal prescription for self-care today?
In closing, I would be amiss not to mention a lasting practice and belief that are central to my well-being, Present Moment Awareness/Mindfulness.
This morning, as the day began, after an intake of Internet updates regarding the state of the world, I recognized my heart was in my throat and my mind was overwhelmed with the enormity of what’s happening. I caught myself teetering at the edge of the rabbit hole. I closed my eyes, took three deep breaths. With each breath I inhaled peace and exhaled fear. When I opened my eyes I saw my beloveds at the breakfast table and felt love. I took in the scene through my heart, rather than my head. In that moment of shifting from my head to my heart, I felt appreciation for our blessings of a shared meal, a roof over our heads, and nature’s beauty outside the kitchen window, I felt an inner shift from anxiety to deep gratitude. Present moment awareness and gratitude, returned me to a state that calmed my racing heart and fearful thoughts. Mindfulness and present moment awareness are a central practice that I find necessary to renew again and again.
If anything I’ve shared is helpful for you, I’m grateful. I’d also love to learn from you, if you’d like to share your practices and contemplate the questions you’re carrying. Meanwhile, I pray for increased awareness to learn what is to be learned from this abrupt change of “normal” everyday life. Tolerance, patience, self-care, deepening gratitude… these are a few lessons that have appeared for me to continue to cultivate. I have no doubt that others will surface in the days and weeks to come. May you and yours be well. We’re united through our prayers for our world and one another.
As I contemplate and acclimate to the current reality, I think of all the people in the world who have been displaced, ravaged by local pandemics and wars, and suffer ongoing deprivation and uncertainty every day of their lives. I pray for all of humankind, for those who are ill, and the caregivers, nurses and physicians, first responders, researchers working night and day for solutions, and for all of us as we navigate this unfamiliar and hazardous terrain…
May we be united through our prayers, across time and space, in the midst of increasing chaos and uncertainty. Steadfast God be with us. In the night, when fear stalks every thought and overtakes reason and faith. Compassionate God be with us. When illness, suffering and loss arrive suddenly. Merciful God be with us. When our way of life becomes unfamiliar requiring dramatic changes to be made and we feel lost, let us remember, God, you are with us. Creator God, we pray to be healed as you carry us to Higher Ground. Amen