A few days ago, I posted about my Rhythm of Resilience, a collection of habits I’ve developed and committed to. It is my hope that doing these things regularly will help keep my resilience up so that I can more easily weather the mental health storms that come my way. It’s kind of regular set of exercises I’m doing to keep my mind and spirit in shape. As a connection to the New Year, I thought it would be helpful to talk about what specifically is in this toolbox. In that post, I wrote about the things I’m doing daily, which includes walking, writing, meditation, and devotional reading. That’s only one portion of my rhythm, though. I’m thinking of this in concentric circles, that there are certain things I commit to do every day, others I commit to do every week, others I commit to do every month, and one thing I commit to do every year.
On a weekly basis, my rhythm includes walking two labyrinths each week. Any long-time reader of this blog will know that I love to walk labyrinths. Just click “Select Category” on the right column of this blog, and then click “Labyrinths,” and you’ll find posts about over forty labyrinths I’ve walked, and about the insights or wisdom I gained from each journey. I’ve found that if I enter a labyrinth with a particular question in mind, I virtually always receive some sort of response to the question. It’s certainly not always an answer, and it’s sometimes an unpleasant response, but somehow I am always able to connect spiritually through this simple journey. Perhaps it’s a placebo effect of sorts — maybe simply because I have such faith that the labyrinth will always provide insight, I find it. I don’t know, and honestly I don’t care. I’m just so grateful that walking them yields so much.
So in order to keep my spiritual energy flowing, I’m committing to walking two labyrinths a week. That sounds like a lot, and it would be, if I were trying to actually get out and find two new labyrinths a week to walk. (I need to drive more than an hour now to get to any labyrinth I haven’t already walked…at least any labyrinth I’m aware of.) So that’s not the goal. The goal is to walk any labyrinth, which more often than not will probably be the one nearest to my home, the wonderful labyrinth located on the grounds of Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center, also accessible from Columcille Megalith Park. And even getting out there twice a week, to be honest, would be a bit of a stretch, especially when you factor weather into it. Fortunately, I have another option for labyrinth-walking. I have a hand-held miniature metal labyrinth that I can “walk” with a stylus.
I find that using this miniature labyrinth can also provide spiritual insigth as well. It’s not quite the same as actually getting out and walking a full-size one, but it is a good alternative when time or weather or other concerns prevents me from getting out.
I am also committing to connecting with at least one friend each week. This can be in a phone call or a Zoom meeting, or even (crazy as it sounds) in person. I have the great fortune of having made some very good friendships with some outstanding and amazing people over the years. I’ve met people who changed my life in good ways, many of them from church youth group events, college, seminary, or through the letterboxing hobby I used to participate in. I’m still in contact with a dear friend I met in kindergarten. My mother always told me that I had good taste in friends. She was right. (Actually, she’s been right about just about everything.) I know that keeping in touch with these people is so important, and that even if I don’t talk with them about what’s going on in my head, it keeps me grounded and hopeful. Many of these friends are all over the country now, and one nice side effect of the pandemic is that connecting with people online has become more and more convenient.
The third thing I’m committing to doing weekly is to pick a particular event or issue that’s caused me some stress that week, and to deliberately use a tool I learned at Alternatives on that event. Usually that tool is a technique from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or Cognitive Behavior Therapy, a way of processing the event and looking at it from a different perspective. These tools help me to gain some perspective on things that upset me, particularly things that trigger guilty feelings inside me. The goal of these tools is to use them in the moment those feelings arise, and to gain some perspective. But deliberately practicing them like this is a good way to internalize them, so that I can be more likely to turn to them when I need them.
So how well have I been doing at this? Looking back on the past few weeks, I’ve been doing okay, but not perfect. I’ve probably done each of these things about three out of every four weeks. Part of the challenge on these weekly commitments is that I don’t have a particular day of the week I schedule them — I just try to get to them when I get to them. That has left me on some Saturdays trying to fit it all in. (Which gets really silly if I have two labyrinths left to walk.) I’m not beating myself up over this, though. I’m still doing these things, and if they’re done three times a month instead of weekly, that’s still helping. If I find myself slipping further, I might institute some particular days of the week for some of them, but for now I think it’s working well enough. I’m trying to remember not to “make the perfect the enemy of the good.”
So that’s my weekly plan for right now. I’ll share my monthly and yearly commitments in a future post.