Photo Credit: Tanja Heffner
By Emelda De Coteau
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti
School shootings. Police brutality. Xenophobia. Rampant racism. Daily threats to our civil liberties and ability to fully thrive…
As the world erupts, how do we sustain our sanity and thrive? How can communities and individuals cultivate practices which both fortify our minds, bodies and spirits while nourishing these pieces of ourselves simultaneously? It’s certainly not easy, but then nothing worthwhile comes without effort.
If ever there were a time to consciously cultivate wellness and the path towards wholeness it is now. Chaos offers a clarity foreign in times of calm when many of us passively accept our circumstances. And the challenges we face are a call for remaining committed to our well-being. And the good news? We can start where we are with some everyday steps rooted in mindfulness. Greater Good Magazine defines this way of thinking as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
Moving through the world with this outlook is difficult, because it requires a certain amount of openness. And yet through exploring these personal vulnerabilities we expand our consciousness. Within her book, The Temple of My Familiar, Alice Walker writes: “In blocking off what hurts us, we think we are walling ourselves off from pain. But in the long run, the wall, which prevents growth, hurts us more than the pain, which, if we only bear it, passes over us…”
And so we come back to the question of what can be done, in the immediate, to nurture wellness in these tough times. There are three core practices you can start now:
Digital Detox: There is life without your phone. I, too, struggle with beginning the day by telling myself I am checking out the weather or time. Then I easily wander down a rabbit hole of posts, my phone buzzing with the latest news and status updates.
Studies increasingly show being plugged in all the time has mounting negative effects from increasing narcissism (selfie overload anyone?) to the impact on our sleep due to hours of staring at screens. But digital detox, setting aside specific times of the day to be unplugged while also taking longer periods away from technology, is possible. It requires us to become more intentional about how we use our devices, and what we consume.
Begin by asking these kinds of questions – particularly as it relates to social media: Do certain pages or people you follow feed you, or drain your energy? Are you ready to read about the latest incident of police brutality? It’s okay to listen to your body and spirit, and come back to it when you are feeling more grounded. There is even an app, Mute, to help you track your phone usage, offering incentives for unplugging longer.
Earlier this week I listened to lifestyle influencer Fran (Hey Fran Hey) speak on the Food Heaven podcast about choosing what we allow into our mental space, and that reminder resonates so deeply. When we realize being well is a choice, we are on the road to meaningful and lasting liberation.
Prayer & Meditation: The simple act of breathing, slowing down enough to inhale and exhale without rushing, centering our minds, is incredibly transformative. Meditation is an ancient practice, transcending religion, ethnicity and socioeconomic levels. Each one of us can practice it anywhere at anytime for any length of time. It is a way of observing our own hearts and going inward, but not excluding others and the world around us. Instead, often we develop a deeper sense of compassion and awareness.
According to an article in US News, later published by The Huffington Post, there are numerous health benefits of meditation; it is certainly a ritual which is especially suited to help our bodies cope with the fast-paced culture: “Meditation allows people to take charge of their own nervous system and emotions. “Studies have shown improved ability to [permanently] regulate emotions in the brain,” adds Seppälä, who is also the associate director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford. “It’s very empowering.”
Committing to prayer, another affirming practice, means we are invested in developing and maintaining a relationship with God. We begin to understand the issues we face are not ours alone to tackle, but rather we are co-creators, working with the divine to manifest change.
Priscilla Shirer writes, in Fervent Prayer: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer: “We pray because our own solutions don’t work and because prayer deploys, activates, and fortifies us against the attacks of the enemy. We pray because we’re serious about taking back the ground he has sought to take from us.” Prayer now becomes an empowering strategy, instead of a passive ritual with little meaning.
James Baldwin once said, “Not everything can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Ultimately, our wellness is in our hands. Every day we must choose, with deeper intentionality, to work through the hurt, anger, pain and chaos, while using these emotions to propel us forward. I am reminded of something the poet Rumi wrote about love, which applies to our health, too: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” May you cultivate an unrelenting commitment to your own wellness and health, tearing down any walls blocking its full blossoming. You are worth it.
Photo Credit: Marcelo Matarazzo
Emelda is a loving wife, mama, creative, and believer seeking God anew in each moment. She serves as the founder of Women Creatives Chat, a community dedicated to empowering all creative women through events (launching in the fall of 2017), workshops and daily inspiration on Instagram and Facebook.
She is also a founding member of Black Womyn Rising, a radical intergenerational organizing collective for Black womyn and girls rooted in global sistahood. She blogs at Live In Color, about faith, activism, and inspiration, is a columnist for Beautifully Said magazine, and contributing writer for the Pretty Entrepreneur blog (a community which empowers women of color in business).
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