Many of you know about the new book project in which I am currently engaged, co-authored with my good friend, Mark Minear. The working title is Finding Yourself in Chaos: A Journey of Self-Discovery for Religious Leaders.
I have been working on Chapter Three for the past few weeks, in which I write about the importance of maintaining a healthy balance in one’s life between the physical, mental and spiritual disciplines. After sharing the importance of keeping these disciplines in balance and offering suggestions that will be encouraging to the religious leader, I suggest three more things that can supplement such disciplines. I share them here because I believe that these do not just work for the religious leader’s spiritual growth but can be helpful for us all.
1.The “Full-Datebook.” Each January I take some time and mark out days and weeks for the year ahead as take time for myself time. This is something we should all do for ourselves, whether we use a phone or still use a paper calendar. These will be the times when you are not available to others. If someone calls and wants to set up a time to see you or to plan a meeting, and it is during the time that you have marked off, it is easy to say, “I am unavailable,” or “I have another appointment.” The reason you are unavailable is because you have an appointment with yourself. Also be sure and cross out times for continuing education events and times for spiritual retreat.
2. Simmering Walks. Those of you at Cincinnati Friends Meeting have heard me refer to these many times over the years, but the idea will be new to the readers of this new book! It was Howard Thurman who wrote, “our spirits resound with clashings, while something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment and resting lull.” Simmering walks offer us that ‘resting lull.’ I love the word simmering. It is a word born out of meditative silence but that has more to do with the rhythm of one’s life, rather than the lack of sound. Something about the word reaches deep into my soul. This is especially true when words like frantic, hurry and impatience describe the experiences through which I have just passed. Simmering is a calming word, a word closely associated with, if not synonymous, with lingering and savoring. (Thanks to Earl Wittrock for the Simmering walk t-shirt and sweatshirt.)
3. Gratitude Journals. On NPR’s Morning Edition on December 24, 2018, there was a segment titled, “If You Feel Thankful, Write it Down. It’s Good For Your Health.” The report said “there is a growing body of research on the benefits of gratitude. Studies have found that giving thanks and counting blessings can help people sleep better, lower stress and improve interpersonal relationships.” As an example, the report shared about a mental health counselor who had lost her job and was sleeping on her friend’s mom’s couch. “She felt like she was reaching for reasons to be grateful …. but she still tried to find some …. ultimately it helped.” She shared, “it allowed me to ground myself. It allowed me to remember what was going well in a world full of chaos.”
To maintain a healthy and balanced perspective on the world, one’s family and one’s work, we need to offset the feelings of chaos with gratitude for those things that are going well. Keeping a Gratitude Journal can help us do that.
A “Full Datebook,” “Simmering Walks,” and “Gratitude Journals.” …. three practical ways we can work on our spiritual growth.