Time Again to Pause

invite stillness

News of the new variant is breaking at this moment, on the heels of eighteen months of deadly virus fatigue. We wait to understand the data, to gauge our safety, to predict the new end of the scourge.

Clouds have slid over the optimism of reopening. Masks are being unearthed from purses and gloveboxes. Vaccination mandates are coming down from governments to corporations. News of the setback affects us deeply—we’re a social people whose freedom was this close to returning to us.

In any life transition, it’s important to stand apart from the emotion–anxiety, fear, frustration–that the time incites. One way to do this is through a regular practice of silence.

The media will spin with stories and accounts meant to get our attention, hook our emotions, and keep us dependent on the next story.

And I want to remind myself: we’ve been here before. I’m fully vaccinated. I will gladly pull out the wrinkled mask in my purse, wash it (because God only knows what state it’s in), and wear it again to the grocery store.

I will get takeout again to support my favorite restaurants. Dammit, I only just started sitting in cafes again, but I’ll pause that also. The absolute hardest for me though will be wearing a mask to my exercise class; I can’t entertain the possibility of giving it up when I just returned.

This blog’s focus is on transitions. Our society, the world, is not yet through the transition of Covid.

In any life transition, it’s important to stand apart from the emotion—anxiety, fear, frustration—that the time incites. One way to do this is through a regular practice of silence, where you can observe what emotions are present. Centering prayer is a practice that allows us to sit with what is present, and then bring our thoughts back to an anchoring word or phrase. This branch of meditation leads us out of reactive thinking and settles our nervous system. In the throes of uncertainty, it gives us a calmer way forward.

Simple instructions for centering prayer:

  1. Set an intention to sit in the presence of the divine source or God. Choose whatever spiritual language works for you. The point is to allow something deeper to arise from this practice than your personal dramas. By sitting in silence, we are not seeking an exalted state, but instead an opening of the heart.
  2. The point of this exercise is to let go of thinking. When you catch yourself thinking, let it go. Drop it no matter what the thought is—good or bad. Letting go is the action and it carries you deeper into the practice. (You will have to do this over and over again and that’s okay.)
  3. A method for dropping one’s thoughts is to select a “sacred word” for a point of reference—a reminder. Choose a word that is meaningful to you, which will remind you to let go of thinking. Unlike other forms of meditation, this word is not a mantra that you repeat. In the words of spiritual teacher Cythia Bourgeault, the sacred word functions like a windshield wiper, to clear the thought and bring you back to your intention—to sit in the presence of divine source.

There are public actions we’re called again to do to end this virulent time, and there are also personal choices we can make to care for ourselves now. I am all in, still.

We know how to do this. We know the consequences if we don’t. Please join me?

Lisa Groen is a writer and listener for people in transition. Her course, Figuring Out What’s Next, helps people identify the first step to take in a life transition. If this blog post appeals to you, check out the course. I wrote it for you.

Published by Lisa

Instructor, author, and part-time mountain monk.

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