Today’s blog explores the value and importance of spiritual practices – prayer, meditation, contemplation, etc. in dealing with the on-going challenges of the human condition.
Life Stinks and then you Die
Ok, not really….but it sure feels like that on some days! The human condition is hard. And from day-to-day we face the challenges of the living in this world: disappointment, fear, doubt, loss, etc. These little (and sometimes ENORMOUS) challenges are not there as some sort of punishment for bad behavior or because we have angered a jealous “God,” but simply because it is part of being human. As they say, “Sh..t happens.”
When Life Gives You Lemons
But what are we supposed to do when sh..t happens? When we are paying the bills and wonder, “Where did all my money go?” or “How am I going to pay for that?” When we receive an unfavorable medical diagnosis or find out someone we love is dying? What happens when we lose our job or find ourselves underemployed? What about when our children are hurting and turn their pain against us? What about when we fail an important exam or lose out on a job we really wanted? What about when we hurt someone we love or are hurt by someone we care about? What happens when our best-laid plans fail or when we are in an accident or become ill or our house burns to the ground?
Temptation to Indulge Fear
For me, when these challenges of the human condition show up, the first place I go is to fear. Fear there won’t be enough money. Fear of rejection. Fear of the pain of loss. Afraid I won’t be able to control it or have control over it. Afraid I will fail. Afraid I won’t be able to handle it. Afraid of being hurt. Afraid of fear itself. If I give enough attention to these fears, I soon find myself in the downward spiral of panic, overwhelm and eventually shutdown, or I give into the fear and find myself making rash and panicked decisions that will eventually prove to be detrimental, if not disastrous. Sound familiar?
Choosing Something Other than Fear
Fortunately, through many years of learning (often through trial and error), I have found that there is another, more life-giving response to these lemons. And in the learning of this other choice, I have found a powerful and important lesson: NEVER MAKE A DECISION OR A CHOICE OUT OF FEAR!!!!! While life’s challenges, losses, struggles may be inviting new opportunities or choices in our path, making that decision or choice out of fear NEVER leads to a positive outcome. When we choose fear, that is what we get…MORE fear…or at best, a life that is small, constricted, limiting. And, I know this is not God’s wish for us. Instead, God desires and compels us toward expansion, limitlessness, inner abundance, contentment, peace, love and joy….in a word – FREEDOM! Fear is limiting. FREEDOM is not!
So, when we find ourselves faced with the pain, loss, struggles, challenges, disappointments of the human condition, we have a choice. We can indulge the naturally arising fears and tumble into the abyss of constriction, pain, limitations, paralysis, depression, despair, hopelessness…….OR we can choose something else. For me, I have found one TRIED AND TRUE remedy to these fears and to the temptation to indulge these fears. The tried and true remedy, is PRAYER. And prayer, (in the way that I define it anyway) is ANYTHING that helps us to find that place of peaceful calm and clarity within. For me prayer encompasses all that I use in the way of my daily spiritual practice: mantra chant, silent meditation, journalling. For others, prayer might be their morning run, listening to music, cleaning, cooking, painting, singing, dancing, yoga, chi qong, tai chi, drawing, sculpting, throwing a pot, sipping their favorite dark roast coffee, the rosary, scripture, attending mass. Any and everything that helps us to find that place of silence within where God can speak to us and we can be open to listening is prayer. So when we find ourselves challenged by life and tempted by the fears that arise out of these challenges, the invitation is to set time aside and pray. It is in the prayer that we will find comfort for our fears and the life-giving, expansive and supportive responses to life’s challenges. And here, in this place of peaceful clarity and expansiveness is where we find the most delicious lemonade from the lemons that life gives us!
What is your typical response to life’s challenges?
How are you being invited to choose something other than fear?
What are the spiritual practices that can help support you in this goal?
Authentic Freedom Ministries