Monday 5 October 2020

Tricking Myself into Self-Care

 Recently, I have been reading and writing a bit about the importance of self-knowledge as part of the spiritual journey. Getting to know myself has been an an extremely significant aspect of my spiritual life. Learning to accept who I am, with all the joys and struggles that holds, has been valuable and formative. So, after being on this path for some time now, what have I learnt? 

1. Learning and new experiences are near the top of my priority list. I am a perpetual student, which has its advantages, but also locks me inside my head at times.

2. I have to be really attentive to what my body is telling me. Listening to my 'gut' and slowing down and looking after myself don't come naturally.

3. I can be very in tune with the emotions of others, but when it comes to my own I am quick to retreat to my bubble. Being vulnerable is something I have to practice.

My list could go on and on. But the reason I am sharing this is I have figured out a way to trick myself into looking after myself a little better - I hope.

In the past, I have tried being self-disciplined, creating some program of exercise in order to live a healthier life. Each time I have centred my goals around weight loss or particular fitness goals. None of these have been successful beyond a few months. I pondered, what would motivate me to get outside and start walking? My immediate reaction - if someone invited me to walk the Camino de Santiago, I would make sure I was fit enough and ready. A new experience! A spiritual pilgrimage! Travel and learning about a new place! Perfect!

But then, there's COVID, and money, and time, and family, and study, and...

So, I have found the perfect solution. Today I begin a virtual walk of the Camino. It's cost me $50. I don't have to leave home for weeks and weeks. And I can do it over a longer period of time. I'm giving myself 6 months. Sure, it's not quite the same as being there (maybe one day), but the app I have chosen shows

me where I am on the map, sends me postcards telling me about the different stops and sends me a medal at the end (not so fussed about the medal). It is the perfect way to trick myself into self-care. This is not a weight loss program or a get fit for Summer goal. This is a spiritual pilgrimage - a new experience that is the best I can do anyway in these non-travelling times.

And the final part of my cunning plan - I have now put it out in public. Another thing I know about myself is I hate to look incapable. So, if you happen to see me, hold me accountable. I won't be sharing how many KGs I've lost, but I might share about the wonderful places I've been.

Friday 26 June 2020

Methodology of Life

A lot of my writing energy in the last few months has been spent writing my thesis and other related projects. The current task is completing the draft of my methodology chapter. I anticipated this to be a dry, boring section to write, but, to my surprise, I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge.

Yes, there are some parts that are simply outlining the details; making sure all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted. However, there are also those big question to answer. What do I believe about the nature of knowledge? How is knowledge formed? And what are my non-negotiable underlying principles? I am using a lot of big words that a few years ago would have me running to the dictionary.

I am also asking deep questions about who I am, particularly in the context of my research. What does it mean to be a woman? A contemplative spiritual director? A church minister? These ponderings are especially significant as I see my self as co-creator of the knowledge I am seeking. The answers to all of these questions determine how I collect data, how I approach my sample group, how I analyse the data and the shape of my final thesis. Creating my framework of reference will colour all of my research. It will be the foundation to which I will refer when questions and doubts arise. Justifying my choices is a little like "soul searching". In grappling with this chapter I am addressing issues of integrity, good relationship, and my view of the spiritual life.

My thesis may be large and looming in my life, but in the whole scheme of things is a mere speck. I am wondering what our world would look like if we all had to create our methodology of life. What if we had to examine, in the same way, what is truly important to us? What if we really had to question how we were involved in the lives of others? What is we truly understood the underlying principles in our own lives that hold so much significance? 

I dare say it would be extremely confronting.  Instead of reacting to life around us, each choice made and each interaction or conversation would be held against our plumb line. I wonder what would change. I wonder what parts of my life I would need to look at closely in the mirror. If I'm honest, the "thesis"of my life would not pass. I am not saying this in a defeatist or "Woe is me - a sinner" type of manner, but more an acknowledgment of human nature.

The methodology I have chosen for my research comes from a subjective viewpoint. I am acknowledging that, as the researcher, I cannot be a passive, unbiased voice. This requires me to be extremely transparent in my writing about my insights and reactions to the data. It demands moving beyond reflective practice to a high level of reflexivity where I examine myself as I engage in my analysis.

We cannot go through life as an objective observer and, therefore, this same transparency and reflexivity is needed in a methodology of life. Perhaps knowledge of our own nature, an awareness of strengths, weaknesses and passions, is a great place to start. Recognising when we are not operating at our best and  knowing how our own needs trigger unhealthy responses all affect how we relate to others and our world. Taking a step back from the to-ing and fro-ing of life is a bit like asking those big questions. What is it that makes me tick? It may appear like a dry and tedious task, but perhaps surprises await just around the corner. 

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Toward the Horizon

Happy New Year!! Today many people will begin their year with steely determination to achieve their new year's resolutions in order to be a better person. I discovered long ago that such resolutions were counterproductive for me. Being a person who already sets the bar too high for myself, the last thing I need is another unreachable expectation forced upon myself. Instead, I have enjoyed the tradition of giving myself a word for the year. Rather than a challenge that seems to set me up for failure, my word of the year is a constant, gentle reminder throughout the year. Some years it seems more present than others, however, when I reflect back over the year, I can always see how the word has formed and guided me. My word for 2019 was "behold". It is not a commonly used word, but I have been surprised how many times I have heard it and been reminded of my intentions in choosing this word. 

This year the word came easily. I began reflecting a few weeks ago and thought the process was going to be difficult. In many ways, the words of the last few years have served me well; courage, integrity, awaken, cherish. The coming year holds many uncertainties and I seem continually plagued with the question of what lies beyond it. While being very peaceful about the path I am following, it still feels like a journey into the unknown. I was pondering this as I was driving last week. Looking way out ahead of me, I wondered how many people have headed towards the horizon a little unsure of their destination. 

And so, I have chosen the word "horizon" for 2020. It is that perceived line where earth and sky meet. It is not something you can touch and one could argue it doesn't physically exist
Eden Beach Sunset - Christmas Day
. The horizon is a place of mystery and beauty. It is here that we watch the sun rise and set. But, no matter how ambiguous the horizon may be, it still offers direction and draws people to explore further. The horizon is always beyond our reach, but is the steadfast point that helps us to get our bearings, orient ourselves in the world and foster a sense of wonder in life.

In 2020 I need a horizon to remind me of the journey ahead. The horizon will remind me to pause and appreciate. It will serve as a catalyst to draw me onwards to an unknown destination. That imaginary line will give me direction and orientation when I feel a little lost. But even though the horizon may seem unchanging, the points along it change from day to day. I am hoping that this word will carry me through 2020 with a wider vision, a broader hope and an everpresent spirit that will guide me through the uncertainties.