Living with major changes is never easy, and the older I get, the more of a challenge it is to have established practices upset or schedules altered.
The past month, along with the world in upheaval now that Trump is trying to run the White House, has seen the shocking death of a friend, 55, who hid her terminal cancer from everyone. She emailed us in early January and by the end of the month was gone. We had relied on her for advice, legal and otherwise.
Soon thereafter, our long-time family physician announced his retirement, effective almost at once. More turmoil. The YMCA near me, where I have been exercising and meeting friends, is being torn down and replaced, in two years, by something grandiose, taking away from hundreds of locals a familiar "second home." How can I adjust to all this change?
One constant in this cycle of turmoil and change are the daily email meditations from Richard Rohr, the recent ones reminding me of the importance of contemplation. After years of reading and practicing this, it is still a challenge, but the advice of Rohr, along with that of Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating and other spiritual masters, helps me understand the importance of gazing at something I like, paying such rapt attention to the reality of the present that I can stop analyzing and judging; I can stop thinking.
To take in an entire scene or object (a tree, for example), whether attractive or not, without labeling it good or bad, is a pure and positive act that stops time, as it were, for fifteen minutes or so as I breathe deeply and relax my body as well as my mind.
For me, this silent period of calm contemplation is prayerful, but it doesn't ask for anything or require established beliefs. It implies gratitude for the chance to step back from our thinking selves and just look at what is real in front of us, but the free flow of consciousness need not include intentional gratitude.
If I don't take time to do this--and it is not as easy as it sounds--I will be jerked around by distracting information, noise, fears and worries, caught up in the turbulence of the world around me, ready to shout, "Stop, world! I want to get off!"
As for the political madness and mayhem, my other remedy is to turn to satire (Andy Borowitz and others) and comedy to gain some detachment from the anger I tend to feel, as I remind myself of the growing resistance movements that are afoot. The world, then, begins to look less bleak.