Practices You/We Have Found Helpful These Past Few Months
In June we invited people to answer, What practice have you found particularly helpful during these past months? We received so many thoughtful and helpful replies and have been appreciating the peace that simply reading them brings. Together, the selections below represent many traditions, practices, and voices that will be helpful to our planning a coming year of monthly practices. Thank you!
Gratitude walks. Time in nature—even around the block where I seek out beauty and interaction with the environment and look for inspiration: a chalk message of encouragement during pandemic on the sidewalk written by a neighbor’s child, a strawberry plant with the first strawberry of the season, newly abundant birds swooping in the air—able to hear a raven’s wings previously inaudible by traffic noise. Seeing “Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty” (our phrase and book) while on a casual walk in new, fresher air.
I often mentally recite this prayer: Lord, and Great Healer, I kneel before Thee, since every Great Gift must come from Thee. I pray: give skill to my hands, clear vision to my mind, kindness and meekness to my heart that I may lift up a part of the burden of the suffering of my fellow man and know the true privilege that is mine. Take from my heart all worry and judgment, that, with the simple faith of a child, I may find YOU.
Ground meditation has been a source of calm and surrender in these present times for me. Every time I've found myself cornered with worries and anxieties about life, grounding myself has brought confidence.
Make a COMFORT BASKET. Using the six senses: taste, feel, touch, hearing, seeing, and heart space to open emotions and spiritual needs, I have developed (and used over the years with my clients) a COMFORT BASKET. You may use a tray or a box if you wish. But include in the basket at least four items that bring you joy to see, touch, smell or be reminded of to use at high times of stress. We won't go around our home and stand in front of a painting/picture, a homemade item just for us and ponder the joy and good feelings that it brings. But we can use a COMFORT BASKET with items from the primary senses to take to a room, in the car, outside and use it to ground ourselves.
I have found reading poetry grounds me. Poetry strips away the nonessential and connects me with that which truly matters...the spirit, the heart, the voices and silence of other beings. It helps me move through the world with receptivity and openness.
I find solace in this poem by Pablo Neruda:
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about...
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
I have been comforted by plainly and closely observing (seeing) and then drawing (sketching) in my sketchbook the immediate world around me or as I call it "front porch drawing." Skill, talent or training is not necessary, you simply sketch what you see without judgment of what you see or what you draw. It has focused me and allows me a means of beholding my immediate environment.
I decided to translate into Spanish a part from The Purpose of Anger by Marshall Rosenberg and created a series of activities around it. It is Nonviolent Communication in action, basically. I ran it with my students and they told me it has been the most useful tool I have provided them with. I work at a small Teachers College for underprivileged people in Bogotá, Colombia.
Silence, twice daily Visio Divina.
Creating art and meditating on art.
As an ontological coach one of the practices that benefits me and my clients the most is a Declaration: write 1-2 paragraphs that are meaningful to you (usually related to self-love and care), repeat out loud standing up every day, in the morning, before your routine begins. It's a powerful way to create space for self-care.
I start every morning with ten minutes of mindfulness meditation followed by a series of yoga stretches, a few push-ups, and a little jump-rope cardio, to open my mind and move my body. I have just today added a gratitude journal to center my heart as well.
I find that slowing down and looking around me helps. In our situation, living in the Irish midlands, it generally means slowing down in front of life growing all around us. Rather than taking a tree, or bush, for granted, I take time to explore the growth and appreciate or value it anew. This approach takes me into the area of beginning to take life as being sacred. I share oxygen/carbon dioxide with this plant growth. But other forms of life, non-human, are all around us. In that context, we are learning to share their time experience (living in accordance to their circadian rhythms) and slow to the time of the planet rotating [around] the Sun. This slowing of time allows us to see the virus in context. It also has a slow life as it drifts into and around us. However, let's not be at war or in a battle with the virus. It, like us, and like the plant growth around us, is part of life. How can I begin to see the virus, itself, as being sacred? A question I have yet to answer.
I have found it helpful to make miniature home decorations out of fallen flower blossoms, little twigs, shells, feathers and other natural materials I find on my walks. I put them around the house and they remind me of the many silent lives around us.
I'm saying the Ho'oponopono prayer ALOT! I breathe it in, I breathe it out. It helps. I listen to Yoga Nidra at night—Richard Miller and Jenn Piercey really speak to me. Walking and Yoga have helped also.
In a Sounds True Interview, Jungian analyst and Tara devotee Rachel Wooten shared this practice: Start the day by saying “help me.” Then ask to recognize help when it comes. (I ask to be willing to use the help). Then ask to “be the help.” I’ve prayed this prayer almost every day since I learned it at the beginning of the pandemic. Very similar to 12-step serenity prayer. It centers and grounds me.
Every morning I sit facing the sun for about 10-15 minutes. As I inhale I let my heart drink in the rays of light and when I exhale I envision the light spreading throughout my body. I may repeat a prayer such as the Gayatri Mantra or just sit in silence absorbing the rays. I notice that since I have been doing this I have been better able to navigate the times when I feel a sadness or a fear or a darkness descend upon me.
1. Participating in the daily evening prayer of the Taize community via technology: www.taize.fr
2. Taking a few moments each day to brush up on my German and learn some French: www.duolingo.com