Caring for Self and Others in Times of Trouble
April 1, 2020
Warm greetings of peace, dear fellow travelers in this uncharted terrain of our common life. Here in Boston, and across Northeastern University’s global network of campuses, we wish you safety, health, comfort, and strength and the steadfast hope that rises in times of trouble.
In recent days, I’ve discovered that hope comes quietly, imperceptibly sometimes, and sometimes in great waves of love. My vocation as an interfaith and Quaker leader – and as a University chaplain and executive director of our Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service – teaches me that we practice our faith and our love each moment, each day, one breath at a time, one relationship and another and another. So, I offer you this piece, “Caring for Self and Others in Times of Trouble: Some Spiritual Tools and Tips.” I invite you to share however you wish, to take what you need and leave the rest, to add your own tools, and to share those with me and with your other circles. Together, I’m certain we will make our way. Stay steadfast in that Love that knows no end.
1. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe some more. Take time in your day, at any moment, to take ten deep even breaths. Carve out 5-10 minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness or contemplative prayer. Start here, now, wherever you are.
2. Ground yourself in the present moment. Focus your awareness on something real, enduring, or beautiful in your surroundings. Look up often. Discover the wonder and awe that is already here.
3. Acknowledge your fears, anxieties, concerns. Offer them up in prayer, if you pray. Write them in your journal. Share them with others. Feel what you feel, honor it, and know that it is not the final word.
4. Remember you are not alone. Ever. You are surrounded by care and support. Reach out.
5. Create and sustain community. Show up for one another. Listen compassionately. Practice empathy. Even while avoiding “close physical contact,” message the people you care about. Stand with those most vulnerable and those who suffer the brunt of prejudice and fear. Check in on folks. Call your mother, father, guardian, mentor, little sibling, long lost friend.
6. Unplug, judiciously. While staying aware of developments, do not let the Corona-chaos govern you, but forgive yourself when and if it does.
7. Practice kindness. There is a temptation in health scares to view others as potential threats. Remember we are in this together. While practicing health guidelines and appropriate caution, remember to engage one another. Smile when you can. Bring good deeds and good energy into our world.
8. Stay healthy through sleep, diet, exercise. See healing and wellness holistically – mind, body, and spirit.
9. Make art. Discover, imagine, engage your hopes and fears, the beauty and ugliness of our world. Write, paint, sing, dance, soar.
10. Practice gratitude. In the face of crises, make note of the things for which you are grateful: your breath, the particular shade of the sky at dusk – or dawn. The color blue, the color green, the gifts and strengths you have, other people in your life, the ability to laugh. A pet.
11. Connect with your spiritual, religious, humanist, cultural, or other communities. Find strength and solace and power in traditions, texts, rituals, practices, holy times and seasons.
12. Pray as you are able, silently, through song, in readings, through ancestors. Remember the long view of history, the rhythms and cycles of nature, the invisible threads that connect us all.
13. Practice hope. Trust in the future and our power to endure and persist, to live fully into the goodness that awaits.