This continues to be a profound time of polarization and uncertainty politically, socially, physically, economically, and so forth. As time goes on we are being stretched even further and asked to develop a deeper resilience and to access wisdom to navigate this new age we find ourselves in. I want to name a few things that you may be noticing and experiencing. First of all, the collective nervous system is moving from a mild underlying anxiety, worry, concern, irritability, frustration, spacey, numbing experience to much more activated states of fear, terror, anger, rage, freeze, confusion, wanting to curl in a ball and wait for it all to be over. There are many questions like when will this end? What is safe to do? This often looks like prolonged confusion and numbing. People are wondering. . . What is the goal here? Are we trying to reduce the numbers? What about the small businesses that are struggling with the shelter in place order? There is decision fatigue which comes from having to think through things that we haven’t had to think about before. Should I go to the grocery store or order online? Should I go see my friends for an outside meal or will I put someone else at risk? There are ongoing losses of many kinds. Individuals and the collective are daily experiencing different circumstances that may be considered traumatizing because they are too much, too fast, and it is difficult to process it all in real time. These are unprecedented times of stress.
What we need in times of great trouble are ways of cultivating resilience and leaning into support from this horizontal plane as well as beyond. We need ways of regulating our individual nervous system in support of the collective nervous system. We need to get quiet enough to hear the Wisdom inside of us so that we know how to move forward in our day to day lives with a sense of integrity and prudence. That’s why having practices that nurture and support finding the place deep within where wisdom is available to us is so important. That’s why we gather for these contemplative pauses and practice centering prayer, a form of meditation that cultivates letting go over and over again into the Mystery we call God. That is why wisdom schools are important. Cynthia Bourgeault says, “Wisdom Schools are a format for integral learning that’s based in some of the deepest roots for transformation and change in the Christian tradition. Wisdom Schools are about awakening the yearning for a different kind of presence in the world and then developing the skills and the knowledge base to apply that, to transform your own life and the life of people around you.” Check out the wisdom school offerings below and put them on your calendar. More information about registration will be coming soon.
When we think about supporting our nervous systems it is important to remember that small things go a long way. Here are a few things for you to work with in these times. They will be familiar to many of you but I cannot stress enough what a difference they can make. Presence Practice (also called ‘orienting’ in Organic Intelligence) Practice: Come into the present moment by connecting to your environment through your senses. Engage what is around you with neutrality. You are simply being present to what is without judging it or evaluating whether you enjoy it or don’t, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant.
Purpose: When our physiology gets stuck in reviewing what has happened, planning for the future, or scanning our environment for what’s wrong, we often become activated. We feel a sense of unease and it is difficult to be present right here, right now. When we are present we are more able to respond to the circumstance with what is needed rather than reactively. This practice helps our physiology register the safety or calm of the present moment and has a deactivating quality to it, bringing a momentary sense of ease which has a regulating effect on our nervous system. Enjoyment Practice (also called ‘orienting to pleasure’ in Organic Intelligence) Practice: Our brain and nervous system are wired to pay attention to what is wrong in our environment in order to fix it. This is not a problem necessarily but ‘what’s wrong’ can take up too much of our attention, contributing to a sense of overwhelm and dis-ease. As you go about your day, notice when you are experiencing enjoyment, pause and see if you can identify what is enjoyable about the moment, begin to identify where that enjoyable experience is landing in your body (stomach, face, shoulders, etc.) and what the sensation is (tingling, loosening, calming, etc.). Take 30-60 seconds to enjoy that sensation. Purpose: This practice is about breaking our addiction to the ‘what’s wrong’ habit. It has a deactivating effect that supports the nervous system in returning to an oscillatory rhythm rather than stuck on activation. Fully deactivating the nervous system can take 30-60 seconds or longer. Therefore growing our capacity to keep our attention in or on pleasant sensation will increase our nervous system resiliency and ability to stay out of the conditioned focus on 'what's wrong.' Finding Your Rootedness Practice: Sense your feet on the ground imagining roots going into the ground. Picture your legs like the trunk of a tree and sense the substantialness and strength here. See if you can sense into this even when life feels unmanageable and the winds seem to be blowing hard. Allow the top of the tree to bend in the wind without losing contact with the base of the tree.
Purpose: This practice helps us get in touch with our connection to the earth and the essential reality that we are a part of it. It brings a sense of equilibrium especially when times are challenging and reminds us that we are more than the branches and leaves being toppled around.
Quotes from the 'pauses' this week: “Contemplation is the art of paying profound attention to reality, which is to bring our minds completely into the present moment. It is the most intimate expression of prayer. In contemplation, as we become increasingly aware of the depths of this moment, we see that fundamentally we do not know anything. We see that we live in the midst of breath taking mystery." ― Simon Small "As we sit in Centering Prayer, in those moments when we are really at rest…when all thoughts seem to sit just above the surface of our being present to and in God, when all is quiet and still, when we touch that mystery of oneness with God…we also experience the vastness of God’s loving presence. It is where we come to know that there is no place like home and home is also no place. There is no returning and no going away…we are suspended in that place and time where we have always been. We are eternally, as Tillich says, simply in the 'ground of being'.” ― Colleen Thomas “Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention: mangoes, grandnieces, Bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectation as possible. If you say, "Well, that's pretty much what I thought I'd see," you are in trouble. At that point you have to ask yourself why you are even here. Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.” ― Anne Lamott Only my Nothingness When I learn to let go of who I think I am and relinquished all I think I need to be me, You cannot resist entering my heart, and do, for when I let go of thinking that my life is mine You finally have room to make it Yours and cannot help but come to fill what is empty, for You want only my nothingness and to that You give Your alleles, and so I shall know Your heart as mine and mine as Yours. ― Meister Eckhart “You are a light. You are the light! Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don't be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.” ― John Lewis We will all get through this together and more than that we have an opportunity to shape a different future moving forward. With Love, Heather