…finding peace through a simple awareness
A year and a half before I lost Adam, I took up the practice of meditation. I had tried it before but never persevered. Fortunately, this time it stuck; and it facilitated a gradual discovery of some sort of a foundation within myself, a source that helped carry me through in the aftermath, supported my healing, and where I find myself returning a lot lately.
I happen to be catholic; and my religious upbringing provided the structure within which my faith and spirituality evolved. I don’t need to tell anyone that can read or hear that my religion is not perfect. On many levels, like the rest of the world, I’ve been disheartened, embarrassed, angry, frustrated, and discouraged. But I guess you could compare the relationship I have to my catholicism with how many experience their family – you might not have chosen them, but there is something deeper that holds you. Despite everything, I’m still able to get a lot from the experiences of the sacraments, rituals, music, sacred texts, and many of the priests and consecrated people who have chosen to live out their lives within a catholic vocation. (Despite what we see or hear on TV or social media, there are still good ones.)
But my personal experience of faith and religion is not the case for many, and one thing that has not accompanied loosening covid restrictions is returning crowds in my church – especially of young adults. Without going into the how, why, or who is to blame for the empty pews in churches – or even how or whether to address it, it’s worth acknowledging that there are important things we lose when that compartment is removed from our lives: the opportunity to transcend this mess of a world we find ourselves in, an awareness and connection to something real and bigger than our cultural chaos, or even just an hour once a week to be forced to put away our phone, and even if we don’t really buy in, to at least contemplate it all.
We’re in tough times, and most know and experience it daily. … In just the last 36 hours, I have talked to a young adult who doesn’t know how he can make it, an adult who feels crushed under her ‘to do’s’, a once enthusiastic and passionate teacher who’s tired and calculating retirement, a priest who is discouraged and questioning, a young woman with a good job and seemingly everything together who doesn’t feel like she can get her sh– together, a parent of a child with serious mental health issues who can’t get an appointment before January. … So many of us are feeling it – anxiety, nervous tension, crushing pressure, loneliness, and discouragement about the state of things … and nowhere to turn.
The influences that have shaped my meditation practices – and in turn my deeper spirituality – are more broad than my religion, including Thomas Merton, Mooji, Lawrence Kushner, Brene Brown, Howard Thurman, Deepak Chopra, Rumi, Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr, and Echkart Tolle among many others. They share little in common, at least from the standpoint of religion, or in some cases, even a notion of or reference to God. Yet there’s something almost too simple, and far more powerful than anything I get from religion that I’ve been able to distill from all of it… a peace that exists within each of us.
In a split second, our frenetic occupied brain can flit from one thing to another, completely changing our mood, even when the outward circumstances we are in, perhaps standing at the kitchen sink, remain unchanged. We normally identify with our frenzied brain, and those emotions and moods that generate from it become our reality. But when I separate my awareness from my mind and thoughts, realizing that I can watch, notice, and observe them, it becomes obvious that the spinning self can’t be all that I am. Meditation trained up and enabled that awareness, helping me to become more tuned in and connect to my bigger reality beneath the ruckus. It doesn’t matter what we decide to call it… the Inner Self, consciousness, the Holy Spirit, a divine presence, our Source, silence, etc. …. or whether you’re a mom who’s worried about her wayward kid, a young adult feeling crushed by the future, an adult in midlife who’s ready to implode trying to juggle life’s demands and details… I think most of us could benefit from learning to go there, to discern the peace … maybe even cry a little … and rest.
I’ve learned – and just this past week needed to go there a lot – that it only takes one minute to stop, become aware, and to recognize what is real under all the noise.
Check it out, if you have not read my (still) new book, “Not to Spoil the Ending, but Everything is Going to be Ok.” … If you still haven’t, it’s a book about hope, an antidote to the anxiety felt by so many and only exacerbated at this time of year. If you like the blog you will love the book, and still have time to read it and give it out for Christmas. More info here: www.naomibrickel.com.