But will be back soon.
Much love to you all.
Hello Lovely Readers. I will be taking a temporary break from Spiritual Snacks.
But will be back soon.
Much love to you all.
This line from the Workaholics Book of Recovery has wisdom for any of us who live in workaholic cultures:
“Recovery often requires us to go slower instead of faster . . . We are challenged to do one thing at a time and pay attention to a Higher Power, the world in which we live, and the people who care about us.”
Some of us are very practiced at keeping a running tally of all the ways we are falling short either in specific thoughts or vague feelings. How else can we improve?
In truth, this can become a default habit which blinds us to a bigger, more accurate perspective. In reality, like teachers and parents have discovered, reminding people of what they are doing right instead of pointing out what they are doing wrong can be a powerful tool.
I used to work in an alternative high school with students who had been kicked out of the traditional school and had low academic self-esteem. In our creative writing class, in the beginning, I only gave them feedback on what was working in their writing: the elegant phrase, the fresh metaphor, the heartfelt sentiment. And miraculously, as I did that, they did more of the good stuff and the less effective writing naturally melted away. Once they built confidence in the value of their own voices and in some skills, then they wanted, and were ready for, more specific feedback on areas of improvement.
If you have been a bit beat up by life or yourself, begin by regularly, systematically, with celebration, noticing and acknowledging what you are doing right. Don’t take for granted, or dismiss, all the small and big positive choices you make. Maybe even write them down. Recognizing them will give you a healthier, more accurate perspective, and more confidence in your own skin. With this solid foundation, we can then both ask for and hear suggestions for improvement and discern what feels healthy, accurate and useful, without overreaction or overwhelm.
The barrage of self-critical thoughts (about body, productivity, how short we fall from perfection) are not our thoughts. They are formed in our cultural consensus and then disguise themselves as our own thoughts. And we believe them as truth.
Know these thoughts are not personal and are not telling you the truth. Listen instead for what Love itself is telling you about you, about your innate value and worth, your true nature. Sure, we all have adjustments we can make to live a life more free and rich, but those insights come with gentleness, without self-blame, and with the ability to implement them.
(Partially inspired by the article "How God Sees You" by Barbara Horton in next week's Christian Science Sentinel.)
Today the metaphor for our spiritual snack comes from teaching.
A new teacher with a rowdy or resistant class tends to run around the room, dealing with each issue individually. As she successfully guides one student or group back on task, the rest of class dissolves around her. When she moves on to the next issue, the original group melts down again. This is the way our lives can often feel - so many problems to solve and solutions that don’t stick.
A more experienced teacher learns to stand in front of the room and use body language, tone, volume, and silence to command respect, to come from a place of confidence and self-respect, to let go of fear, and to communicate care, high expectations, and respect for the subject and the students’ capacities. This teacher has also knows her students’ needs and plan lessons accordingly: to build skills necessary for the task, provide the right level of challenge, and make tasks engaging. Of course, some students will still need individual guidance, but far fewer.
We can make this shift in our lives, too. The solution is usually not to run around solving lots of individual problems after they have started. We can begin with care for ourselves, respect for our own dignity, trust in our knowledge and motive, and the expectations that we be treated with respect by others. We can keep our eye on our core values and priorities - which helps us not fret over issues that aren’t related to them. We can do a little pre-thinking, to set ourselves up for success. What are we trying to accomplish or how are we trying to live? What structures might we put in place to support our answers? And pay attention, with kindness, to life as it is: meet others, and yourself, where you are, sometimes lowering your expectations, working more slowly, and sometimes increasing the challenge to push through fear or false beliefs about our limitations.
Today, have good classroom management for your life.
Yesterday, I was in a discussion group and the topic was focused on our response to the strain of the pandemic and frightening local fires. The group leaders pointed out that we all have habitual, go-to patterns under stress. Quite a few group members turned first to anger and blame - at the government, at anyone they believed should be doing their job differently. And then I saw that my default pattern was shame and self-blame. I’m not doing enough for others. I should be functioning better. I should be different, better, more useful, effective, generous, and inspired.
I saw that both of these responses to stress only harm us, clutter our heart and mind, take up space, and reduce our ability to see accurately and discern how we might naturally, wisely, and effectively care for ourselves and others.
Today, notice your own default patterns of feeling and reasoning under stress. If you are already in the habit of doing that, add something new. Maybe just be willing to think and feel differently. Maybe challenge a thought with “Is that true?” Maybe actively replace the thought with a more realistic one. Maybe you do something, anything, differently to gain practice in breaking habitual patterns.
Begin with blessing.
The San Francisco Bay Area, like many other places, has been bombarded with challenges: a pandemic and its resulting job losses, now followed by raging fires and evacuation. Of course, I long to help. Fret over how to help. Feel overwhelmed by the suffering.
My spiritual message this morning was inspired by this line from Eric Nelson’s testimony about healing in next week’s Christian Science Sentinel: “Healing does not begin with a problem, or a desire to fix a problem, but with God’s blessing.”
Begin by feeling Love’s love for each of us, for all living things. (Let go of mental arguing about why bad things happen to good people. You don’t need to know the answer to feel Love loving. Just feel Love loving.) Know that Love touches other people - right where they are--and brings peace, stability, clarity, direction. Know that Love is caring for you. Feel the reality of this.
With this foundation, we will see inspired ways to help. We will not impose help to ease our own anxiety. (In uninspired help, we sometimes complicate the tasks of experts trying to do their jobs. We inadvertently ask people who are struggling to take care of us - to acknowledge our generosity and worth. We might use grand gestures of care to avoid taking care of something in our own lives for which we are responsible.) Beginning with the awareness of the active presence of Blessing, we can more gracefully accept care given to us. We can be attuned to those moments of service in which Love moves uniquely through us.
Today, Nikki Mirghafori in a guided meditation used the phrase “wise effort,” words that got me thinking.
When we feel stressed or overwhelmed, we frequently over or under work a way to manage our discomfort. But we all have a wise part of ourselves that knows the right amount of effort, that knows when we need to push through fear and resistance to accomplish something, and also knows when we need to rest, trust, let go and give up the illusion that work can protect us--from a sense of uncertainty or purposeless, from failure or disapproval, from our difficult emotions.
Today, listen for your inner wisdom that knows the right amount of effort. (Even if it is too difficult for you to make a change today, practice hearing the wisdom. That is a powerful first step!)
Today, acknowledge, really acknowledge, all the ways you are living a noble life. Our standards become so high, they are really a screen that blinds us to all our good, daily choices: Your efforts to be generous and kind. Your efforts to fulfill your responsibilities. Your efforts to be honest. Your efforts to show others care. Your growing desire to care better for yourself and the positive choices you make in that direction. The causes to which you donate your attention. The daily respect you show those with whom you interact. All the ways in which you are brave. Your willingness to learn and grow, even when it’s difficult. Your persistence. Your humility.
This is not an argument for self-congratulatory complacence, or the excuse that “I have good intentions so I have done enough,” when it comes to taking the actions that match our hopes for the world.
But an honest appreciation of who we are and the positive, small, daily choices we make gives us energy, protects us from the self doubt and discouragement that can suck all our energy.
Today, tell yourself the truth about the good you are and do.
Today, feel Love around you, a warm hug. Feel love embracing those around you with a warm hug.
Sometimes we think we can’t do this - can’t feel Love embracing us and others - because there is so much suffering, so many problems to solve, so many tasks to complete. We think of the divine hug as the prize at the end, something to be earned or deserved or accomplished. Or we don’t want that hug because we are mad at God for allowing suffering.
But no matter how your human brain is reasoning, fighting, or questioning, you can release that thinking and lean into Love. Be held in the Love that passeth all understanding.
Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm and numerous essays. You may read more of her work at tarnwilson.com.