When COVID19 and quarantine hit my community, I quit exercising in my local gym and started "slogging" (slow jogging) in my neighborhood. I had forgotten how much I love the little community I live in. It is called Longview. It is an old community that lost its identity as more folks moved into town. We are just a sweet country neighborhood now.
Like lots of country communities in Mississippi, if you travel from one end of the main road to the other, you will pass at least one church. In my community there are three. I run past two of the three, on my route. First Baptist Church of Longview is the half way point of my 2-mile trek. They have a sign that shares an inspirational quote.
The sign has been the same since the beginning of the year: “Clarity and Plenty in 2020.”
When I first read those words in March, I remember thinking 2020’s “clear vision” metaphor was a cruel misnomer! In my mind the pandemic brought uncertainty and confusion. No clarity there. As for plenty, all I could see was plenty of unemployment, plenty of sickness, plenty of fear, plenty of empty aisles in grocery stores (especially the toilet paper aisle) and plenty of political polarization.
It is August now & the sign at First Baptist of Longview remains the same, but its impact has not. Almost daily the words speak to me, move me, shape me, and challenge me. Week after week the meaning has evolved & given birth to new spiritual conclusions as the world unfolds in historical ways.
From these moments of clarity, one theme emerged. I realized my life (and our world) is consumed by too much of what I call “efforting.” Efforting is the act of always striving for something. Our culture teaches us that striving is thriving and more is better – always. We are raised on an ethic of hard work where the more we effort, the more we have and the busier we are, the better our quality of life will be …. one day.
The early weeks of quarantine taught me the beauty of a slower pace. I realized how many “non-essential” tasks I was owned by and how much energy I expended that really did not serve me, my family or the world in a meaningful way.
Why was I so busy? I, like so many, was busy trying to prove my worth, to give the best to my family, to do and be the best in my profession, and to serve my community. All of these were well intended efforts, but they were not centered in love. Rather, they were fueled by a quiet, but ever-present fear of “not enoughness” - not being enough, not having enough, not giving enough. And all of this efforting drained me of joy, presence, and the feeling of
Wait for it . . . being enough.
Funny isn’t it? The very thing we long for, we often lose in our efforts to obtain it.
And what about plenty? Well, there has been plenty of fear, anger and brokenness in 2020. All one has to do is turn on the news or open social media to have negativity blasted into the spirit. But positivity abounds as well if you look for it. The Proverbs verse says: “As a man thinketh, so goes he.” If I place my attention on the positive, that shifts my experience and often the outcome.
The “plenty” I am starting to see in 2020 all falls under the category of awakenings.
While many have focused on the negative of protesting, as a lifelong Mississippian I can only focus on the miraculous shift in consciousness that allowed a surge of political will strong enough to retire the Confederate flag. I don’t know if the world really understands how huge these seeds of change are. As Fannie Lou Hammer indicated many years ago, when change happens in Mississippi, the whole country will be ready for change. Well change finally came to Mississippi. It is our responsibility to continue to nurture those seeds and PLENTY of them. I have great hope that we will.
Recent events have not only highlighted systemic racism, but also the flaws in so many of our systems – education, healthcare, government. My mom taught me that change always starts with awareness and is often brought on by pain. The course so far for 2020 feels akin to an alcoholic hitting bottom. The journey to the bottom is painful, even ugly, but it often gives rise to a new way of life – an awakening.
As we hit a spiritual bottom in 2020, individually and collectively, what new habits can we form that will create healing and give rise to new systems? How can we develop more “clarity and plenty in 2020?”
HABITS TO DEVELOP CLARITY
I am learning that clarity comes when I do three things:
when I slow down;
when I savor;
and when I practice the Sabbath.
Slowing down includes things like daily meditation, spending time in nature, connecting with our bodies and spending more time nurturing family, friends and feelings. The Spirit speaks to us in the quiet of meditation, the beauty and energy of nature and through the power and vulnerabilities of our bodies. When we slow down, we attend to these messages. We are more likely to notice to each other and our feelings versus ignoring all of the above. This noticing energy allows us to be more connected to our intuition, more in tune spiritually and therefore, more likely to respond to the world with compassion.
Savoring keeps us in the mode of being present to each experience rather than multitasking past the beauty of right now. It allows us to focus on love, joy and gratitude. These feelings help us center ourselves in worthiness and often lead to verbal expressions of appreciation. I teach my clients that appreciation is like gold for relationships. It fuels connection. When we savor another person, we become fully present in our interactions. Others feel that and are impacted positively by the increased sense of being delighted in and connected with.
The practice of the Sabbath obviously allows room for listening to God. Ironically, I learned more about the Sabbath by NOT going to church these past few months. I love my church, but I discovered I had been efforting at church too, and I don't listen well when I am efforting.
The Sabbath happens when we allow ourselves to stop doing and just be creative for no external purpose. Creativity is where we let our inner light shine through. It is the language of Our Creator. When we allow room for the creative, we come to know ourselves and that still small voice better. Being creative includes so many things from interior design, to enjoyable organization, to writing, art, visual and graphic design, listening to music, singing, etc.
HABITS OF PLENTY
Habits of plenty I am learning to develop include
Purging has been one of my favorite things to do this year. Cleaning out clutter from closets and packing up items that have become dust collectors is really freeing. My house literally feels lighter and brighter. Spiritually, I feel like I am making room for something new in my life.
There are all kinds of ways to purge. You can purge bad habits. You can purge old, unexpressed emotions through journaling. You can purge anxious energy by exercising. You can purge polarizing responses to the world through the practice of more silence. The idea is to find anything that feels heavy or toxic or out of balance in your life and let go of it.
Praying I think stands on its own without much explanation. In these hard times, I have found myself praying a LOT. I have found such peace in prayer, especially in the face of so much powerlessness. It grounds us to remember the Greater Power within and around us.
Finally – purposing - not goal setting. Purposing is different to me. It holds us to a higher standard than goal setting by calling us to be intentional about why we set goals. It demands we understand what end our goals serve. Are they serving the ego? Are we setting them out of insecurity? Or do our goals serve a higher purpose, a greater plan?
It is important to remember to go within, consult your Higher Power before setting goals or making that to do list. Having purpose that is fueled by God makes all the difference. It is no longer about being good enough or being in control. It is about surrender to the Greater Wisdom, which centers us in more love and less fear.
So know that in the midst of this historic, tumultuous year, there is a Divine purpose. The hope we long for is waiting for each of us to grab its hand and see more clearly the seeds of change that need nurturing in 2020 and beyond.
Believe that you are already enough! God made you that way. Look for and trust the signs of awakening in yourself and in the world. When you struggle, just remember to slow down, savor and engage in the Sabbath and then practice purging, praying and purposing.
With Big Love (and health) to you and yours and to our whole world!