By now you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this information. Chances are you signed on because you or someone you care about is feeling distress. You were interested because the destination—spiritual resilience—struck a chord. You trusted the process was going somewhere as we took off three weeks ago, passing our two mileposts per week. Thank you for that. Today we’re going to take a little time to pull out the road map, see where we’ve been and where we're headed, and check on how the path is working for you.
We’ll start by reviewing the key landmarks framing our adventure. For this trek, we've agreed:
1) Spiritual resilience is the ability to maintain a sturdy positive spirit and a sense of purpose and meaning even in the face of suffering. There are three elements in this definition: positive spirit, purpose and meaning, and suffering. We’re tackling the first element—a sturdy positive spirit—in this course, leaving purpose, meaning and engaging with suffering for later work.
2) We’ve said a positive spirit is marked by eight positive spiritual emotions: gratitude, hope, compassion, awe, serenity, joy, inspiration and love. Our goal in this series is to deepen our experience of these emotions and support others in seeking the same.
3) We’re using six spiritual practices in our quest: Gratitude, blessing, surrender/letting go, service, music, and one-liners.
4) We’re looking at the body/spirit connection by examining and using some basic neuroscience and research from the positive psychology movement.
This is a tall order for a little blog-based online class. It’s a lot to comprehend, and at this point it may seem like you’re expected to spend hours every day trying to make this happen. On the contrary, my hope is that when you’re done you will have enough comfort with and understanding of these practice to be weaving moments of them throughout your day. You may regularly set aside ten to twenty minutes for focused effort, or you may not. (I think regular focused time is really, really helpful—but it’s just not going to happen for everyone.) Even if you “only” pull out a practice when you catch yourself heading down an anxiety, grief or anger rabbit hole, that will be a lot.
This “spiritual resilience camp” is a time to learn and deepen six spiritual practices. So far we’ve covered gratitude, blessing and music. In the next few weeks we’ll practice surrender/letting go, service and one-liners. You may already have a good rhythm for some practices; others may need more deliberate attention. My hope is that by the end of this course you will have engaged each practice to the point where it feels natural. Then you will find a way of weaving them into your life so they can shape and uplift your spirit.
I have a regular-but-not-perfect twenty-minute morning practice, focused primarily on letting go and asking blessing. I’m pretty good at spontaneous moments of gratitude throughout the day, although I can lapse into brattiness between thank-you’s. Worry and control are my personal bugaboos. My daughter is a social worker in a shelter, dealing face-to-face with people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. Her husband is an ER nurse in a designated COVID-response hospital. I am scared to death about their exposure to the virus. When I begin to mentally chase what-ifs, I call on a spiritual practice. I try to switch to thanking God for them, for moments we’ve laughed together, for their beautiful spirits. Or I ask blessing on them, their colleagues, the people they serve. Or I put on a piece of music that somehow captures sadness and hope at the same time. Or I silently repeat “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, creator of the universe.” Or I sew a few face masks. Or…
You know your own life, your time commitments, your level of distress. You know which practices already come naturally to you and which might offer a good stretch. There’s no such thing as perfect spiritual practice (at least for us), just as there’s no such thing as a perfect basketball game.
But we’re getting out there. And that’s what counts.
Click here for the Taking Stock cheat sheet.
Photo credits: Top, Adam Levine, Flickr; next, yokota.af.mil