August 9, 2022
Some days shadow dominates.
Some days I feel the presence of shadow more and am not as aware of light.
Those days seem to happen more frequently now that I am in my mid70’s.
When I was in my 40s and 50s, people in my life faced difficult times, too. Loss is not limited to one decade of one’s life, that’s for sure, but what I realize now is that when I was younger, I experienced space around sadness. For example, when a friends was diagnosed with cancer and later died at a far too early age, the sudden news felt totally unexpected and out of the ordinary. A shock, yes, but I was able to hold each one of those out of the ordinary situations, mainly one at a time, with tender care. I now see how there was recuperation time between encounters with the suffering.
That is no longer the case. A reality of being in the Third Chapter of life is that every day I hear of someone in my own beloved circle or in the circle of someone I know who is facing challenges — health, loss, relationship issues, etc. An unwelcome change of some kind. Prayers are asked for and needed. And sometimes more practical or visible help is needed. A meal or drive to an appointment or a hug or a conversation. Or…
I ache with the news. Each announcement. Each cry. Each plea. Each shock wave.
How do we cope with the daily revelations of sorrow?
More and more I realize the importance of spiritual practices.
More and more I realize the importance of spiritual practices to keep me grounded, to find sustenance and equanimity.
More and more I realize how spiritual practices lead me to clarity and the next step.
More and more I realize how spiritual practices support me and sustain me as I attempt to support others in ways that are appropriate and needed.
More and more I realize how employing spiritual practices on an ongoing basis ground and steady me for the days when there is no time or energy to practice them.
I also realize the importance of having more than one spiritual practice in my back pocket.
In the non winter months, I tend to start my day walking in the neighborhood, instead of sitting in the garret for an hour or more of devotion time. I practice walking meditation. As I feel the ground beneath my feet and breathe in and out, filling with the sights and sounds and smells around me, I lift the names of those I hold in my heart, but I also refresh myself and return home better prepared for the day ahead.
Some days, however, the walk doesn’t feel like enough, and I return to the Girlfriend Chair for more quiet time. In recent months I have created my own tangible prayer list, using sweet small cards. I write a name or a situation on each card, along with the date and any important details. I hold each card, whispering the name, one at a time. It’s not much, but this is something I can do, and I know that as I lift each person’s heaviness, I am steadying myself, as well.
Over the years my spiritual practices have included walking labyrinths, practicing T’ai Chi, and the most constant, writing in my journal. Those practices are still part of my life, along with meeting with my spiritual director monthly, reading and studying scripture and other sacred texts, but more and more my spiritual practices are simple, in the moment, practices. Pausing between tasks. Sipping a glass of water slowly. Smiling. Gazing out the window. Sending a handwritten note or choosing an E Card to send.
Each practice is at once a practice of gratitude, but also a practice of being present and opening myself to being a presence.
I can’t end this without also noting the spiritual practice of being in community–attending Sunday worship services. We often arrive early, even as the musicians are practicing. I love settling in and feeling the space, readying myself for whatever message I need to receive. Moving through the worship service, I feel myself deepening and opening. And that is a good thing, for I know before returning home I am apt to learn about someone in pain or distress, and I want to be whatever is needed in that moment.
if your everyday practice is to open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that–then that will take you as far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught.Pema Chodron
Yes, there are more shadows in this elder age, but notice the light in the photograph at the beginning of this post. I am convinced spiritual practices not only help me notice the light, but even create the light.
What are your spiritual practices and how do they help you cope with difficult news? I would love to know.
I was the guest blogger on the Brevity Nonfiction Blog yesterday, August 8, and I invite you to read my post, “My Writing Garret.”https://brevity.wordpress.com/2022/08/08/my-writing-garret/