I have written in an earlier post that we are in the nexus of change. I believe we are witnessing the dying of one way of life and the birth of a new way of being. Change is hard. This reminds me of the first of the four great truths of the Buddha, “Life is difficult.” According to the Buddha, if you can embrace this truth, you have already transcended the difficulty. However I don’t find this altogether true. I can accept and even embrace the idea that we are in the midst of bone-crushing change, but it does not appear to help my heart all that much. My head can accept, but my soul continues in turmoil.
Recently, I have tried several notions of feeling better and calmer in my life. I want to share a couple of these techniques that have worked for me in the hopes that these might work for some of you, dear friends. I offer these with the warning that they may make you feel awkward at first, but I believe these techniques will eventually help you focus and feel more present in this difficult time.
First, I feel that we are all harboring more anxiety and tension that we normally would. As I have said, bone-crushing change will produce some anxiety. My first technique is to sit quietly for about five minutes and intentionally focus on your feelings. Specifically, try to imagine and feel the feelings and emotions that you want to feel for the remainder of your life. I want you to intentionally feel the best emotions you are able for about five minutes. You may first need to intentionally give yourself permission to not feel anxious. I am saying this realizing that we all have real things about which to worry. But I want you to take a short five minute break from your legitimate worries. Sit quietly, breathe slowly and deliberately. Then focus on feeling the warmest and most affirming feelings that you are able. Put another way, if you can only take a few good feelings into the future, what are the best, most affirming feelings you can take? This will feel odd and awkward at first. But I believe in you and the power of your human intention. Feel with as much assurance as you are able. I have found if I practice this technique once a day, I feel better all day long and as a bonus I find that I feel more present in the moment, even in moments of high stress.
My second recommendation is to visualize a large balloon. Close your eyes and pick a good, bright color in a generous size because you are going to stuff this with all the good feelings you can. Take your time with this. Construct the strongest visual image you are able. In this floating balloon, put a picture of a joyful moment. Make it a moment you can celebrate. Live with that balloon moment. Surround this moment with feelings of love. Let yourself be extravagant in your love and support of this moment. After you have lived with this moment and your feelings of love, I want you to release this beautiful balloon with your wonderful future moment and all the love you have offered. Set this moment free and let it float out into the universe. You have seen a balloon float away into a beautiful, blue sky. That is what I want you to imagine. Finally, remember that this moment, filled with love, is out there in the universe working away for you and those you love. When I take my time, use my imagination, and really visualize this scene, I can feel the anxiety melt away. After this exercise, I feel lighter, with greater hope for the future.
I understand that these exercises may seem silly and I suspect if you try them out, you may feel uncomfortable at first. But I believe that when we intentionally use our God-like imaginations, we can create a much better space for our emotional selves. For me this goes beyond just a feel-good gesture. Because we are created in the image of God the creator, we are creating a better place for us and for those we love. This is important work, beloved friends.
This reminds me of a passage of scripture from Philippians 4:8 (NRSV):
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
In closing, I want to share a powerful quote from Anand Giridharadas that offered me a bit of hope this morning.
It is obviously a time of despair. But, on good days, it also feels like a time of hope — one of those moments that come every so often in history, when it might just be possible to reimagine the world. This hour, defined by the stench of a dying order and, no less, by the fresh scent of a new world wafting in…
Beloved, be filled with hope today, if only for a moment. A new and better world is counting on you.
Creating God, You are always more ready to hear, than we are to pray. Fill us with your peace and hope today. Help us imagine a future where justice flows down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. Show us how to share this hope with those who are hurting and broken in this world. We pray this in all Your Holy Names. Amen.
Grace and Peace,
- Ray Wheeler, Ph.D.