It is Time for a Break
As I sit down at my desk to write, I feel distracted. My mind is racing, thinking about recent news regarding COVID-19, states reopening, and even the NASA-SpaceX Launch. I am also feeling lost in the story of Tara Westover, who’s book, Educated, I started reading this week. As I look at my desk, I see notes reminding me what I have not accomplished, emails that need responding to, and a blog that needs to be written. There is my phone laying there too, filled with text messages and more emails. With so many distractions, it is challenging to focus on any one thing.
However, the many things that distract us are more than just news and emails. A couple years ago, I was in a season of intense grief. The feelings of sadness, anger, and fear consumed me. My mind was so preoccupied with my grief, that I could not think about anyone but myself. Then a friend reminded me of something simple, “It’s okay to think about something other than your grief.” It seemed like an obvious thing to say, but for whatever reason, I needed that permission to set my grief aside and focus on something else for a while. My mind, body, and soul needed a break from the hard realities of grief. That break freed me up to be available to others and gave me a renewed energy to reenter my grief and continue the hard work towards healing.
Learning to set aside the things that consume us, for even a brief time each day, will benefit all of us. That is why one church made it part of their rule of life, during the COVID-19 stay at home orders. A rule of life is a faith community’s agreed upon practices. The rule’s purpose is to translate one’s faith into habits and rhythms. The aim of such habits is not perfection, but rather daily attentiveness to one’s shared life with God and neighbor. Number 4 on their list is, “One ‘focal practice,’ find an activity in which you are able to give your complete focus without getting distracted or finding yourself concerned about the conditions of the outside world. This can be gardening, woodworking, cooking, reading, art, chess, etc.” By stepping away from the all-consuming things and enjoying something that brings delight, you may find you connect better with yourself, others, and your spirituality.
I took some time off work last week to rest. I knew, however, if I just sat around my mind would continue to be filled with pandemic related anxiety. I needed to completely unplug. So, I put my hand to the plow. I spent time with my wife and daughter getting our gardens ready for the Summer. It was hard work! My body was sore the next day, yet my soul and mind were rested. I found my one “focal practice” and it gave me the break I needed to be able to come back to work with fresh energy.
Perhaps, we all need permission to take a break from the difficult realities that are preoccupying our lives today. Of course, the challenges of COVID-19 are ever present, but so are the many things that caused us grief prior to this pandemic. It is even likely that these prior griefs have been exacerbated because of the isolation. That is understandable, but today might be the time to let your body, soul, and mind take a break.
What is your one “focal practice?” How will you engage in it today? Be creative! Maybe this is the permission you’ve needed to put away the phone, turn off the news, and give yourself completely to one thing that brings you rest.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson