Sunday, July 3
I sat down to meditate for 10 minutes this morning. It was a disaster.
No effort to pray contemplatively is really wasted. But I was a mess. I vacillated between almost falling asleep and my mind being a complete and total jumble thoughts and feelings and ideas and sonic ear worms and long ‘to do’ lists. I learned from Sarah MacDonald to call this, “mad monkey mind.” All the monkeys were jumping and screaming in the trees of my mind.
What I am wondering about … Is how much this might resonate for people who sit down and try to meditate in 2022?
What about you?
I think we’re all in this big a mess right now. And I don’t think I’m simply projecting. I am deeply grateful for the people in the world whose vocation it is to pray multiple times a day in silence without images or words. It is a part of my vocation also. But to be honest, it has been a neglected part lately.
Earlier in the day, I listened in the car to an interview with Robert Jones, Jr., a.k.a. Son of Baldwin. For more than a decade he devoted his work to social justice amassing a huge number of followers. Yet last week, he has ended a wildly popular social media run. Why did I only learn of him in the days when he is ending his social media presence?! (He will continue to send newsletters and write a next book.)
In the interview, Jones spoke about his own personal illness in the interview. He’s also tapping into something profoundly disturbing about how the last few years have infected all of us. He spoke about the animosity and polarization that is plaguing social platforms.
Later in the afternoon I took a walk. I determined before I stepped outside to only put my phone in my pocket. I would not text or make any phone calls. And I wouldn’t listen to a book or scroll any social media. I would not dictate this blog or any other piece of writing I needed to do. No, I wouldn’t even take a single picture.
I would just walk.
And I did.
Through my neighborhood. I heard trees rustling in the breeze. The call of mocking birds and the drill of a wood hen. I saw the effects of the lack of rain in the brown grass. Tree branches, the size of trees themselves broken out of the canopy. I have one of those in my own yard right now.
A New Word
While I walked, I thought about a new word I learned recently. I had heard of it, but I didn’t fully grasp its meaning. Now as I looked around on my walk through my neighborhood, I could witness the full force of the Anthropocene. The term refers to the period of time we’re living in now, an epoch about which scientists, philosophers, and theologians are speculating. The Anthropocene is a geological age in which the human population is the primary shaping force on the geography, geology, natural resources, landscapes, climates, and every aspect of life on planet earth.
Our influence is not very positive, friends.
I noticed the other animals and people as I walked. I could feel my feet on the pavement through my shoes. And I felt the sweat collect on my skin, and I tried to drink in the blue of the sky. And yet everywhere I looked the impact of human beings and their forced movement of indigenous plants and indigenous peoples confronted me. Even in my very green neighborhood, in every direction I saw the production of synthetic materials which shape our lives. The ubiquitous impact of humans on the earth.
Reaching for More
As I walked, I also felt my mind reach for my phone, for my work, and also for connection. I resisted all of those tugs. And I simply stayed connected with myself and the Great Spirit that remains present everywhere, ready to be noticed. My mind circulated through many things but it also quieted down. And I remembered that this is how most of my walks used to be. So long ago.
Before social media, smart phones, and the internet in our pockets became our primary connecting points. Believe me I am grateful for many aspects of this technology and depend on them daily to assist me in making human connections. Yet the isolation of the pandemic season highlights for me just how much these technologies can also hamper our human and spiritual connections.
Trade-offs between technology and connection for me so far this summer look like expending fossil fuels so I can be near to people that I care about and with whom I work. I got mobile so that I could connect with my family on vacation, co-authors about book projects, ministers to consider their spiritual well-being, and friends so we could reinvigorate long-standing friendships.
Many or most of you reading this have so much, like me. Yet we all want more and reach for more. In my research with ministers, we draw on the notion from William James of “the more” to capture the longing for deep human and spiritual connections. To get that connection, we all make trade-offs. The costs are high, and we need to count them carefully. Perhaps you, like me, feel the urgency of refocusing and recalibrating and thinking about the impact of our choices. Our future as human beings on planet earth is impacted by all the choices we make.
Self Care and Spiritual Well-Being
Since 2020 I have surveyed and interviewed over 100 pastors and leaders. I asked them about their spiritual well-being and they told me about the loss of connection, about their grief and isolation. They also told me about how they are caring for themselves and their spiritual well-being. One of the many interesting discoveries I made is the notable contrasts between the ways lay leaders and clergy take care of themselves. Here is one comparison of priorities when it comes to spiritual well-being.
Perhaps you would like to know more? You can learn more about this and other results of both surveys and interviews in the #PandemicPastoring Report coming later in July. Please sign up today to be notified when we publish it here at our site.
I’ll leave you with a few questions for your own reflection this week.
- What attention are you giving to your self care and spiritual well-being?
- How is this impacted by your relationship with personal technology?
- What are your priorities for making connections with the important people, the earth, and the holy in your life?
- How are you reaching for “the more”?