The other day I drove to the Fare For All site to pick up a box of veggies. Fare For All is a non profit that buys groceries in bulk and sells them at cost to anyone who wants them. You don’t get a choice in what is in the box, but it’s basic supplies: this month it was potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, apples, oranges, pears all for just $10. They have a veggie/fruit box and a couple of other options with meat in them. It’s the first time I have gone, but I decided it was time to check it out. They were doing a gloved/masked drive through, and had emailed instructions, so I drove over there to see if there was a long line. There were only a few vehicles in front of me, and as I pulled in a woman approached me to ask which of the boxes I wanted. I replied, and continued in the line making my way to the main truck they were unloading from. Another woman came up and asked me to pop my trunk. I did so, and pulled forward a little more. The first woman retuned, carrying a box. She popped it in my trunk, and I went to hand her my bank card to pay. “Oh, you don’t need that today,” she exclaimed with a twinkle in her eyes. “Someone already paid for it. Just pay it forward somewhere!”
I pulled out of the parking lot, tears in my eyes, laughing at God’s great timing as earlier that very day I had received an email from one of the sisters at St. Ben’s Monastery saying she was praying for my financial situation, and I gave thanks! Thanks to the person who had paid for my veggies, for the farmers that grew the crops and the pickers that sweated in the fields, for the earth that had allowed the crops to grow, for the kindness that is swirling around us during this difficult time, and so much more.
And I began to dream of ways to pass the kindness on. Making bread for others, creating a pollinator patch in my garden, growing vegetables and sharing them when harvest time comes, walking Gibbs on the monastery grounds when the sisters who enjoy him are likely to be walking around, posting pictures of beauty on Facebook, supporting small businesses, and, as always, prayer! There are so many ways we can be kind to one another, that we can pay it forward! And I think that kindness has a ripple effect, carrying outward until the very edge of the world then turning back in again. Who doesn’t need an extra dose of kindness these days!
One thing I have a vision of is to create a nature based art exchange on the prairie trails at church where people can leave a piece of art for another to find, and find something that someone else has left, spreading beauty in the world. Painted rocks, small canvases, wooden carvings, even masks could be hung up for others to take! The ideas are endless and fun… and would get people out into nature with open eyes and hearts!
How will you pass on kindness today? What visions do you have to pay kindness forward?
Dear Loved Ones,
How are you feeling this week? In the Christian faith many of us celebrated Easter this last Sunday, but I’m not I really sure I feel Easter has happened yet! Things are still quiet, reflective, subdued. So I wait for the Easter feeling to come, trusting in God, staying in the present.
I had a conversation with a friend last week and in response to her question, “How are you?”, I answered “I’m doing OK.” “What makes up your OK these days?” she responded. This question made me think. I’m ok because I’m not sick, I have food in my house and a place to call home. I have people I pray with three times a day, and nature to get out into. I have friends and family I am in touch with and I have a garden that I can get into and plant things in! AND I have some worries about finances and work that have slowed down, a grief around people who are dying, anger at the ways the government has handled (or mishandled) the pandemic, a sadness around trips cancelled and a general concern for how long this is going to last and where it will leave us. SO ok is all I can really manage to be.
I tend to find that my ok changes with the days though. Some days feel easy and good, things get accomplished, my soul feels good. Other days feel like I am slogging through. Everything feels more challenging, tears may come more easily, tiredness settles on my bones. Little, simple objectives loom like huge challenges to push through. And then, then next good day all is well again. I seem to have fallen into a pattern of having a hard day each week, and maybe a few moments on other days.
I mostly turn to do what I know to do. Thankfully the dog always needs a walk! Being outside in nature is an ongoing healing element for me. I pray with my monastery. I pray alone. I paint and sing and turn the computer off. Sometimes I even allow those tears to flow, knowing that I will feel better when they have stopped. And I wait, watching for signs of hope, watching for the helping stories, watching for places where I can be in service, watching for the ways God is inviting me to say yes.
So what makes up your ok these days? And are you ok? How do you cope with the ups and downs of your emotions? And how can I be of support at this time?
Dear Loved Ones,
How are you all this week? Another week where the world is divided with those who have to go out to work, (and a huge bow of gratitude to each of you!), those who have to stay home, and those who have no homes.
This past week opened up another realization for me. Last Thursday I had a fairly open day, and after morning prayers took Gibbs out for his walk. It was a pretty day, sunny and fairly warm. We set off, across the road, through the monastery grounds, and after about 15 minutes of walking I suddenly realized I wasn’t really walking… I was marching. Head down, almost stomping, Gibbs staying right by my back leg in case he got left behind. I stopped and stood still. I looked around and felt the sun on my face. I felt the ground under my feet. And I asked what the rush was. The answer that came was silence. No rush. No need to stomp. No need to hurry. The day had an appointment later and a meeting that evening, and I have ongoing plans for a garage repaint and some new garden beds. But there really was nothing to be marching for! So I slowed way down. Looked and soaked in the morning. Gibbs felt like he could go and sniff and explore and run ahead and stay behind and catch up, and my whole body just breathed.
This way of being on edge, of the adrenaline pumping at the thought of threat, the nervousness and fear that is out in the world (especially for us intuitives who pick these energies up easily), reminded me of the time I spent in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I was there for a semester staying in a community center in the French Quarter, helping to host and organize teams that came in and working in the community center. One thing that struck me from that time was how many were walking around with what they called Katrina Brain. The trauma of living through the hurricane, of seeing the devastation to lives and homes, of loosing so much, the daily reminders of the marked homes, and the ongoing stories that emerged changed the make up in people’s brain centers. People were not sleeping well, sometimes having flashbacks, were depressed and on edge and anxious. Short term memory was affected and alcohol and drug addiction increased. The past trauma was never far from people’s minds as they waited for the next hurricane to hit.
For many of us, the impact of this pandemic has not been personal yet. Those of us outside of the epicenters can feel the impact from a distance. But the reality we see from New York, Detroit, Louisiana and other cities where it has taken over affect us deeply. The constant threat and reminders we see affect us on a visceral level. Many of us have said we are struggling to sleep, having flashbacks to past traumas, feeling less productive even when there should be more time. The trauma can manifest in many ways, including bigger mood swings, the need to do, the frustration of not being focused to do.
And this is what my marching that morning was showing me….. I was acting in trauma mode. There was an energy within me that felt rushed and disconnected, an adrenaline running through me that was unnecessary. When we follow this unconsciously though, our whole being is negatively affected. Our immune system is compromised; our thinking, already scattered, struggles to focus; our bodies move in the flight or fight response, on edge and ready to protect. And all of this is a normal response to what is happening around us. YET, it is not the helpful response. I think what we need now, more than ever (for those of us not on the front lines right now), is to slow down. To breathe. To re-center on the truth that is in front of us at this moment. To show ourselves kindness, especially when it comes to things like brain focus. And to show this to our kids too. How can we tell ourselves it’s ok? We are doing what we need to do, sheltering in place, taking the precautions we need to. This may be enough to keep the virus at bay. But there is nothing more we can do. How can we settle into the reality and way of life that we need to be in right now, without it setting all our trauma responses off? How can we relax into this time with compassion and gentleness? How can we grieve what we have to let go (trips, face to face time with friends, loved ones getting sick, and for many of us financial income), and embrace this time for what it is. It’s not a time to march through, but a time to live into.
Many of us have a different time schedule, more space in some ways and less in others. We are spending more time in our homes, some alone and some with family members or housemates. We are probably cooking home cooked meals more. What is your organic schedule now? What does your body need? Your child’s body need? How can you allow your system to settle rather than being on high alert marching mode? How can you be compassionate if you are less focused or more forgetful than normal… and if those around you are too?
For me, I return to the things that bring me life as much as I am able. Nature, gardening, creating, praying, feeling the sun on my face in the mornings, or the rain falling on my skin. Finding things to laugh at…. And allowing myself to laugh out loud. And trying to catch the ‘should’ voice, replacing it with “Today I am able to…..”
I came across a poem the other day that I have returned to several times. It was written by an eco-therapist, James A. Pearson, in response to Covid. I have found it helpful… maybe you will too!
Look how this wilderness
swept in around us--
while we slept,
while we paid the rent,
while we ordered another round.
By the time we looked up
all our paths were gone. The forest
presses in on all sides,
every direction an equal mystery
of tangle and dark.
Breathe down into
your wild body,
into its sudden alertness,
its burning need to keep you safe.
There are parts of you that know
how to stand still in this place,
parts of you that will know
which step to take.
What are you finding helpful these days? What step are you being invited to take?
Dear Loved Ones,
How are you all doing? So far, I’m coping with the ever changing situation well, and I’ve had a couple of realizations around things that are hard.
Living alone I’ve been missing physical touch. There are no hugs from friends when I see them, no handshakes at online church, no even bumping in to another’s energy field with the distance we are to keep. And this has surprised me, as I don’t really consider myself that touchy feely!
The second is a strange thing. I keep being reminded of a time when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. It was Christmas Day and I had the mumps, so I was quarantined to my bedroom. “You are dangerous to the men,” they said. “You have to stay in your room.” All day long I kept hearing voices and laughter and fun and presents being opened downstairs while I was in my bedroom. And I felt even more ostracized than normal, more alienated and invisible. I could hear the group of people having fun. And I was alone. I think this has been brought back to mind when I see families walking down the street together, see Facebook posts of families figuring it out as a team. Even though this ‘happy family’ was never my experience of home life, it still causes a pang of sadness. I also know that being asked to stay at home as a family has its own set of issues…. The longing for some alone time, to get away from squabbles and teaching kids the lessons provided. But I find it interesting that these are bringing up feelings for me as an strong introvert!
I share these things not for pity or sympathy, but as I think this time is hard for each of us in our own way. And I have found that sitting with the feelings, allowing the memories/triggers to show themselves can help me set them free. The recognizing of old stories means they don’t need to be repeated over and over.
For example, recognizing the feeling of the loss of touch invites me to notice all the ways I am touched: by nature, by things I am reading, by times of prayer. It’s a different kind of touch, but still a touch of the Divine. I’ve also been actively resting in the presence of God, imagining the warmth of God enveloping me, feeling where it touches me the deepest and where I can feel it the easiest, and trying to experience it in the places that are harder.
And with my previous story of being quarantined, I look around my home now and am thankful. If I find myself getting stuck in this, or any other story, I do a distancing (Ironically!!) practice. I name 5 things that are different. For example, I was sick, not I am healthy. I was a kid, now I am an adult. I was not safe at home then, now I am safe. I had no choice then, now I am free to move around my home. I had no one to reach out to, now I have many friends. Each difference brings me back to the reality of what is in the here and now. Each one grounds me a little deeper and makes me grateful for the reality I live in.
What has been hard for you in these days? What has become a joy? How are you re-grounding/finding God/seeking connections?
And please do remember that there are many spiritual directors and therapists who have been working with video conferencing and distance sessions long before this all began. Reach out to one of us for help if you get overwhelmed! (If you are local, I would even do a walking session 6 feet apart in a place of beauty… just let me know!!).
Dear Loved Ones,
How are you all doing in this time of uncertainty, restrictions, concern, slowing down or being extra stretched? It has been an interesting couple of weeks so far. I know many of you are now in shelter at home situations, and others are just being asked to socially distance yourself from others, and yet there are some who are working harder than ever to keep us fed, healthy, and clean, people whose jobs mean they have to be out in the world. I thank you!
The whole Corona Virus 19 situation is new for many of us…. Even those who have lived through medical scares before (scarlet fever for example), have told me this is a whole new level of learning, and for many it the first such event to have happened in their lives. Is it any wonder that people are looking tired and anxious?
When I have begun to feel worried about what is going on, I have found it really helpful to switch off electronic devices! They tend to suck me in, even when I am not seeing the latest update about what is happening. Then I have been getting creative with what to do next. Read a book, go for a walk (yes, Gibbs and I have been out in nature more than ever!), sit with some paints and a canvas, pray, sing, cook some good food, call a friend (though this one can be hard for my introvert self!). All these things help ground me, re-center me, stop the mindless what ifs and how wills. And today I reached out to the local co-op to see how I can help them… they have lost half their workers; college students that have been sent home. So I offered to be a delivery volunteer for folk who can’t or should not get out, with the germfree protocol being to leave things on doorsteps!
For me, I have found the most important thing is to not dwell on the possibilities, but rather to dwell in God. No matter what happens I know God is present, however long this takes God will be walking side by side with us. My style of dwelling may seem different from yours…. It includes the list above. But I encourage each of you to find what helps you dwell in that presence of the Divine. If you are not sure, feel how you are when you are doing different things. How is it when you read, when you walk, when you do yoga, when you watch the news, when you do laundry, when you call a friend, when you look at your bank statement, when you teach your kids, when you play a game? Choose to do more of the things that give you a sense of peace, of stillness, of slowing your brain and out of control thought spirals down. These are some of the ways you can dwell with God.
And I don’t mean that God doesn’t dwell in the other places….. but maybe that you don’t dwell with God in them! God is in it all, but where are we!
As we go through this time, let us remember we are going through it together. Even when we are socially isolating, we are doing this for us all. And when the isolation turns to creation, to connections in different ways, to sharing resources and love and hope with one another, I believe it will make us better able to live on this planet in unity in the long term.
I flew home from California on Monday, and arrived to my house around 9:30pm. Gibbs was waiting eagerly and almost spinning in circles with his tail wagging shenanigans! KukKuk quickly appeared and we snuggled on the couch, greeting one another with warm kisses and purrs. Before long Gibbs decided he needed to go out, and usually his night time walk when it’s cold consists of crossing the road, peeing on the snow bank by the parking lot, standing in the middle of the road until I turn around, and running back to the house. So we stepped outside, me with no coat on presuming it would be a short walk, and crossed the road. He ran into the parking lot, looked at me, waited for me to catch up, and took off running again. He led me to the main road, across the crossing and into the college campus. We were really going for a walk! And the cute thing was that he would run ahead, turn around with a big smile on his face, wag his tail, run almost back to me, turn around again and set off running once more. His excitement at seeing me home turned into a running, dancing, joy-filled walk! We did this dance for over a mile before we reached home and fell into bed, exhausted by the day!
His behavior reminded me of a time some 20 years ago when my niece (M) was probably 4 or so. I had not seen her or her sister (E) in a while as I was in the US and they were in England. But I was visiting for a week and set a time to go see them. Their mom needed to run an errand, so set me the task of walking the E to go get her sister from school. We were picking her up early so we could spend time together. It had been about 9 months since I had seen them, and I did not know if she would remember me. E and I set off to the school hand in hand. We walked into the classroom and M jumped out of her chair and ran to get her things. She didn’t really acknowledge me, hug me or say hello. Then we left and began our walk back to their house. The whole way M was laughing and giggling, skipping ahead, turning around, running back, laughing some more. She was so happy to see me, and wanted to ensure I was still there, following her!
It made me sad to think about, as I tried to remember the last time I had greeted someone with such inhibition. When had I last shown this much excitement and love and unbridled joy? The dance and laugh and turning around to make sure the person was still there, unrestrained delight that comes out of every pore? Is it really only dogs and children who are this free?
Somehow self-consciousness sets in; maybe we are ridiculed for such a display of affection, maybe we look around us and see other people’s joy dampened down. Maybe, in telling us to control our emotions perceived as negative, we learn that expression of any emotion in too big a way is bad, childish, unnecessary. Whatever happens, something inside us tells us it is wrong. And how sad is that?!
Next time you feel an emotion that is full of joy, I invite you to show it in some way! Maybe with a little jump, or a giggle allowed to escape, or a turning around in delight. See how it feels inside to set it free! And remind yourself that all emotions are ok, none is wrong. Express your grief, your happiness, your pain, your love, and yes, even your anger. Express them in ways that allow them to be. Express them in ways that maybe you only see if you are shy. Express them, certainly, in ways that cause no harm. But it’s time for us to allow our emotions and feelings the space they need, for this is a space where healing and hope begin to enter.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.