Monday, September 26, 2011
Staying Grounded: A Response to the Pastor
In his blog, The Well, Rev. Justin Schroeder presented this question:
"And here's the thing, if I'm not grounded in this way, I know I will burn out, that the pain and weight of the world will crush me, that I will turn toward anger and cynicism, and that I will become toxic to myself and those around me. The world is in need of some big changes, it's true; these changes won't come overnight; they will take time; there will be failures and heartbreak. And so we must have practices that sustain and strengthen our spirits, so that we can be grounded in faith as we work on behave of love and justice...or we'll be no good to anyone, anywhere, regardless of final outcomes.
What are your spiritual practices? How do you stay grounded and balanced in difficult times?"
It's a good question. One I felt deserved more than just a quick comment. My life has been filled with disappointments and I've had lots of practice, success, and failure as well. There were times I was burnt so crisp I'd be surprised no one would comment on my pronounced singe marks. I've got one major asset at this time in my life's journey. In the late Autumn of my life, there's a ton of experience I carry into the fray, failures where I learned a few lessons along the way.
So what are some of those practices I've picked up along the way? Here's a few:
o Every day I am alive, I make a mental inventory of everything I'm grateful for in this life. I've got love, a roof over my head, a community who helps keep me aloft.
o Each day I take a moral inventory of my behavior. What could I have done differently or perhaps better. When did I blow it, and do I need to repair my mistakes?
o I try to find someone else to help or reach out to, especially in those moments when I start to feel jaundiced towards it all. Helping another is wonderful therapy for self pity I find.
o I make a conscious effort during this time of meditation to look at the "big picture." It's easy to think that what happens in my little piece of the universe IS the entire universe. Of course it is not.
o During that meditation I try to put everything in perspective over the long view, not just days or weeks, but months and years.
o I constantly remind myself that I'm human. I blow off steam if I need to, rest when I'm tired, eat when I'm hungry, call friends when I'm lonely. Basic stuff, but these practices help me remain steady.
o I do pray. To the Ethos, the Universe, I can't define the supernatural or even if it exists. Still I pray. Why? It helps me. It is a process where I can move out of my self centered place, turning emotions outward rather than inward.
o I repeat the Serenity Prayer. I need to remember that the only actions I have control over are my own. If I'm keeping my head and heart in the right place, then over time that moral arc of the universe will indeed tilt towards justice.
o I remind myself constantly that I'm part of a larger community. That is especially important these days. Issues of health, transportation etc means I'm not around community as much as I once was. It does NOT mean I am not part of those same communities.
o Each day I remind myself that I can't live in the past or try to force the universe to conform to my wishes. If I live ethically, take the actions towards a better world, over time despite the stops and starts it will happen. Also the world is NOT divided into two camps. This is not war but peace we seek.
Each day I think I have a decision to make. Live with hope or with despair. Frankly, hope feels a whole lot better. I'm just enough a sensualist to want that in life. Some days are better than others. Some days hope will be dashed into the dirt, and I will own despair for all to see. With the practices I mentioned, after the moments of weakness passes, I can start over. Each day really is a new day, no matter whether the world around me is going to hell in a handbasket or not. I think sometimes of the thoughts recorded by those who were in slavery in previous generations. Yet they found the way to hope. There is a lovely saying among the black women I knew back in East Texas where I grew up. If somebody was offering to help, or asking for help, they simply replaced one word for another. It would go something like this, "Can you hope me?" "Let me hope you with that." I always thought that was a wonderful way to express life and hope.
Thanks for the question Justin:-)