With constant developments in the news about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, and constantly breaking political news, these are extremely stressful times. How do we keep some equilibrium so we can be any use to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters in these dark, difficult and divisive days? Every day it seems like there are more bomb shells. How do we sustain them?
I messaged a friend the other day, “How ARE we going to keep calm these crazy days?” She wrote back:
“I’m going to be drinking! You don’t drink, so you shall have to pray, I suppose. :P”
I do plan to pray a lot, in whatever way I can, but most of all, I plan to pray in ways that simply keep me connected to God.
As a Carmelite, I have a strong belief that cultivating a constant, loving awareness of the presence of God within is a service to the world, and that it has a gracious effect on everything, and everybody.
I believe that when I am recollected, and in conscious contact with God, I have opened the fountain of living water in my soul. By doing so, I become a channel of grace for the world.
Unsealing the living fountain of the Holy Spirit in my own soul mysteriously helps others do the same, and somehow they are helping me as well. To me, this is part of the Communion of Saints.
“Let us draw from the springs of salvation
for our selves, and for the entire parched world.”
~ St. Edith Stein
Also, staying connected to God helps me to keep closer to His perspective when things get a little crazy.
It also reminds me that whether there is the earthly appearance of what I think is justice or not, God is going to win in the end, win in His kind of way, and that His win lasts forever. My sister in Carmel, Pat Thompson says that God’s will is always love. Whatever happens, I can trust that will of love is still at work.
So, in these days of fear, anger and chaos, grief, division and anxiety, I hope to remain connected and recollected.
I know I will have to be focussed about this commitment to myself, to God, and to the world. Sometimes I might become overwhelmed with what’s going on. However, I hope to make a consistent effort to draw myself back to the center every time; that center of my soul, and the center of the whole of existence, where God is. Here are some tips about staying on track for inner peace during your day.
Make a plan for your day that cultivates peace.
- Plan, whether you are at work, or at home today, and the days ahead, to cultivate serenity. It’s not going to help anything or anybody for you to freak out, right?
- It may be a good idea to limit your engagement with what’s going on during the day, and to limit your media consumption, to the minimum.
- Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Even popping in for a few seconds helps. If you can’t get there, here is adoration live.
- Plan some stopping points at certain times to settle down and re-center, and make a simple plan for what you will do. Sometimes you just need a few minutes with some calm music, a view of nature, something nice to drink.
- Go to mass if your schedule permits.
- Plan to pray The Liturgy of the Hours; however many of the set hours you can pray. (Morning, Mid Morning, Midday, Mid- afternoon, Evening and Night Prayer.) Universalis is a good site to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for free. You may also like The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on-line, a Marian version, so to speak, of the Liturgy of the Hours. Also free. Check in with the Liturgy of the Hours any time, and pray with others all over the world.
- Plan to do acts of kindness and/or sneaky good deeds. You will feel great. Leave someone a flower. Pay it forward at a drive through. Give something to a homeless person or engage him or her in conversation. Do a chore for someone else in your household or at work, to lighten their load. Here is a list of acts of kindness if you can’t think of anything.
- Make time in your day to interact with your pet. Even a quiet moment spent petting or brushing your dog or cat can raise your spirits and calm your heart.
- Look at art that uplifts you. Plan ahead to do this, or check out I Require Art on Face Book. I love looking at that page. It is also on Twitter.
- Have coffee with a friend and catch up. This does wonders.
Just for a Day
Pick one of these to do now and then. You can do something for a 24 hours period that would be overwhelming to do for a lifetime. But it is great training!
- Hug people today, whenever possible. Seriously. This helps them and you.
- Just for today, no fighting with anyone. Fight tomorrow. Not today. You can do it just for your waking hours in this next 24. Have a day like that now and then.
- Have peaceful things to read that are helpful to you, comforting, or don’t get you emotionally stirred up. Don’t read anything else, just for today.
- Plan to be extra caring with the people around you today. Remind yourself often that this is your intention today: to be kind. All day.
- If you have a baby or a little kid in your family, read with him, cuddle with her. Spending time talking with a little kid can be healing. Plan on it. Make it part of your day today.
- Eat comforting foods. It’s one day. Don’t worry about it. Plan comfort food meals for your family. Try to limit dinner talk to peaceful topics. Just for today.
- Make peace your highest priority just for one day.
“Let nothing steal your treasure.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila
If you become overwhelmed, here are some quick ways to calm down:
- Push your palms together for a moment.
- Close your eyes.
- Shake out your limbs.
- Breath in through your nose slowly (count five) and then out through your mouth (count five.) Keep going with this for a while if it helps you.
- Stop what you are doing- especially stop interacting with whatever or whoever is upsetting you. Turn off the T.V. Get away from that person. Get off social media. Whatever it is, stop it.
- Tune in to the moment: Feel the floor (of whatever you are standing on,) hear the sounds far away, the sounds near you, the feel of whatever you are touching. Be conscious of your breathing. Look out of the window, at the sun, at the sky, at the trees or whatever is around you. Notice what’s going on in this present moment.
- Go for a brisk walk. Pray the rosary or inwardly repeat the Holy Name of Jesus, or the sweet name of Mary as you walk. Let your inner, prayerful repetition fall into rhythm with your steps and your breathing. Pray with your whole body, mind and eventually, heart.
- If you can’t pray the rosary, just hold it. Think of it as holding Our Lady’s hand.
- Slow down your responses to anything agitating that people say. Think before you respond back. A good thing to remember before you speak is, “Is [what I am about to say] true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”
- Intentionally tense different muscle groups, and then release them. It’s very calming.
- Make a list of five things you are grateful for, of five people you love, and even what you love about them.
- Do a simple task you do all the time, but do it mindfully. Sweep the floor patiently. Wipe the table. Brush your hair. Water plants.
- Wash your face, or sprinkle cold water on your wrists and dab it behind your ears.
- Call a sympathetic, or light hearted friend. Say you don’t want to talk about current events. You want to talk about turtles or something.
- Watch something funny (as long as it is not snarky, sarcastic or mean spirited.)
- Litanies are awesome. My mom swore by these. She kept a notebook of them. “When you’re crazy, walk the floor if you need to, and pray a litany. Litanies are great when you’re crazy.”
- Listen to a guided prayerful meditation, like one of mine, or the Daily Disconnect podcast from the Carmelite Friars of Illinois.
- Here is a body centered, calming recording, an app that helps me sometimes. calm.com
- Have a cup of calming tea, like chamomile.
- Have a cup of coffee. Just don’t drink too much coffee.
- Try a calming essential oil, like lavender, chamomile, or any citrus essential oil. That can be really good. Rub it on your feet, or on the back of your neck. Put it in a diffuser. Splash it around.
Stay safe, stay mentally cool, drive carefully, (and as little as possible if you are overwrought,) stay connected to God all through the day. It helps everybody.
As Fr. Adrian van Kaam said, “Lord, make me a smooth channel for the outflow of your divine will into this world.”