To say that this hasn’t been an easy week for anyone in North America, Europe or in many places around the globe is an understatement. Between what is happening in work life, school life, and political life, the situation is difficult to navigate. I’ve talked to many friends and family who are feeling overwhelmed, lost, panicked, and fearful about the near future. So today’s post is about taking a breath. Its times like these that I am thankful for my druid practice, thankful for the healing nature provides, and thankful for the lessons of spirit. Let’s take a breather today, now, in this space and time, and talk through a few spiritual self-care practices that can help in times of high stress, anxiety, and intensity. I have three kinds of suggestions that have helped me get through this week–embracing nature, embracing spiritual practices, and embracing the bardic arts.
Regardless of what is happening in the broader world, the nature that embraced you last week still is there for you today. While everything is going crazy in the social sphere, the natural world has not changed. Embracing nature, letting nature heal, calm the spirit and soothe the body is critical in this time. Nature is the great healer and nurturer of the human soul, a place that we can always return to as a refuge, to seek healing and strength. Here are three suggestions for this time:
- Visit a tree. If at all possible, go to nature for your healing and strength. As this week’s situation was unfolding, particularly with my work and family, a tree in our yard–a beautiful Norway spruce friend that I can always see from my window and that I walk past every day– kept calling to me. Come closer, sit, stay awhile. Each day, 10 or 15 minutes of time with this tree. This was extremely beneficial. So spend some time in a natural area, sitting with your back to a tree, and just let nature calm you.
- Sit with a plant. Perhaps you are practicing self-isolation and social distancing and live in an urban environment where you can’t or don’t want to get out. A house plant is very much a friend in these times. Sit with the plant. Stay awhile. Simply quiet your mind and observe your plant–observe how the sunlight comes in and plays off of the leaves, how the leaves grow, how the plant smells. Be in this moment, here and now, and recognize that nature is a great healer. Practice gratitude.
- Connect with the energies of life. In a pandemic situation, the fear is fear of sickness, ill health, and death. Counter that larger cultural narrative and personal fear by focusing on things that bring in the energies of life. Start some seeds (spring equinox is right around the corner) for your garden. Be with them each day as they grow. Start some sprouts on your counter. Sit in the sun, the vital bringer of life. Find ways of connecting with life and the energies of life each day, and especially in moments where you feel overwhelmed and panicked.
Embrace Spiritual Practices
Keeping in mind simple spiritual practices during this time can help calm the mind, body, and spirit. Part of this is bringing ourselves to a place of calm but also attending to not letting others’ fears/uncertainty cloud our judgment.
- Daily meditation and breathwork. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths. Sit with a candle or simply with your eyes closed for a few minutes. Let the thoughts rise and fall, not hanging onto them, simply notice the thoughts, and let them pass. Keep breathing. If you can do this kind of work with your plant or in nature, all the better. A hot bath with candlelight also is a nice compliment for the simple breathing and mind quieting techniques.
- Daily protection. Part of what daily protective work does is help keep everything external to you away from you–and hence, during these times, daily protective work can be very beneficial. It helps you get less caught up in the fever that is happening right now. I highly recommend the AODA’s sphere of protection ritual for this, as it does multiple beneficial things: balances the elements around and within you, summons the positive qualities of the elements, banishes away the unbalanced qualities, and finally, protects you. You can learn more about this ritual here.
- Attending to thoughts and feelings (e.g. the social media purge). By its very definition, magic is the direction of the will. Magic can be intentional and conscious, and it can also be unintentional and subconscious. Right now, the entire world is essentially directing their will in a fearful and panicked manner. The fear just picked up this week here in the US, but this situation is unfolding everywhere. Yes, this is a serious situation, a situation, unlike anything many of us have ever experienced. Yes, it is dangerous for many. But panicking and allowing emotions to overtake us will cause even more anxiety and stress and essentially allow oneself to get swept up in the panic and fear wave. Recognizing that the creation of these emotions is literally a magical act can help you protect yourself from it. The more of this that you consume of this situation (via social media, news, etc) the more than your own physical and emotional selves will take on that which this collective is generating. Find ways to both limit your consumption and protect yourself from others’ emotions. I’ve limited myself to looking at social media only once a day, as its too easy to get caught up in the collective intensity and fear. What is being said now is no different than what is being said 30 minutes ago–and checking in more often than that can catch you up, physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.
Embrace the Bardic Arts
Create your way into a place of peace, calm, and balance. If you are struggling to process this experience, create something that helps you do so. The bardic arts have many benefits, especially for healing. Also, while many of us are hunkered down, the bardic arts can be a place of discovery, creativity, and refuge.
- Journaling. Acknowledging your feelings, giving them space and voice, can help you move beyond them. Write about your feelings as a way of processing what is happening. After you’ve written, you might choose to keep it or, ritually burn what you have written.
- Ugly art and healing art. I’m a big advocate of ugly art–art that has a healing purpose. If you want the feelings and thoughts out of you, express them in some ugly way, a way that nobody else has to see or know. Scribble on a page, cry, laugh, throw paint around. Make ugly art till you no longer feel overwhelemd/panick/etc–the act of creating helps bring your feelings forth. Once you have finished your ugly art, I suggest finding a way to ritually discard it (e.g. burn it, tear it up, bury it). I don’t recommend keeping these pieces long term; they serve a purpose and that purpose is generally fulfilled at the completion of the work.
- Sing, Dance, Create, and Make Merry. Obviously, this situation is a major disruption to life–so why not make the problem into a positive thing? Perhaps it’s a good time to pick up a new bardic art, to learn to sing or dance, or otherwise do movement that can help you release tension. Learn something you always wanted to, make something you always wanted to make, or work on honing a skill.
One of the axioms of permaculture is “the problem is the solution”. We can see this same wisdom in the “hanged man” card from the Tarot, where it’s about looking at a problem from a different angle. I think there is tremendous power in reframing a problem into something that is good, is beneficial, and that helps us grow in some way. Yes, our lives are being radically disrupted and what is happening is happening. But how could we turn that disruption into a good thing? Does it give us more time to spend at home, with family, with ourselves? Does it give us a break from the “grind” of modern living and give us time to be in a new space? Does it help us connect with nature or ourselves in a new way? I hope it will, for many of us.
I hope these suggestions will bring you some opportunity for peace during this challenging time. Dear readers, I would love to hear more about your own spiritual self care practices and what you are relying on during this time–please feel free to share in the comments!