Pushing Away the Fog with Everyday Beauty

 In Reflections

Guest Reflection by Elota Patton 

Today, I am filled with gratitude. But that has not always been the case since the pandemic began. For 25 years, I have done Nia, a mind/body/spirit dance practice, with groups ranging from 3-50 people, two to four times a week. I have taught Nia for 10 years, in a dance practice that is physical, spiritual, and communal. When people move together to music, it creates a joyous bond – and we hug a lot before and after class. Now the classes I take and teach are online, through Zoom or Facebook Live; we are dancing small. There is no touch, and I feel the loss. I’m sure that people who regularly attend religious services feel the same; praying or meditating together in person is a powerful experience.

There are some days when I speak with no one. Days when I feel clouded, as if essential connections in my brain are withering. Sometimes I feel confused and it’s difficult to motivate myself, or I forget actions I’ve promised to take.

I am not alone. A growing body of 21st century research indicates that social isolation causes depression and may also cause real health risks. In the July/August 2020 issue of The Scientist, Catherine Offord writes, “Absence of human contact is associated with declines in cognitive function.” She quotes University of Chicago professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, Stephanie Cacioppo, who says, “We’re a social species. We really need others to survive.” 

Not only are we more apart, but the world is pressing in on us. Fires and floods and food insecurity, the need for racial and social justice, and political upheaval form the backdrop of our days. With fewer social interactions, we turn to technology; it’s hard to escape the unending news cycle drama.

So what to do? I count my blessings regularly. I am lucky to have food and home and safety. I have good neighbors, and I see them outside (apart) at the dog-walking hour. I am part of the Eremos community, where I attend online events and host the monthly Soul Support< meeting. It all helps.

This week in Soul Support, we read John O’Donohue’s poem, “For One Who Is Exhausted: A Blessing.

The poem could equally have been called, “For One Who Is Isolated…” O’Donohue describes depression with exquisite understanding:

Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

He also offers a beautiful antidote:

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

I have also found comfort in Kathleen Norris’ small book on bringing her experience as a Benedictine oblate to the practices of everyday life, “The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work.” Finding the joy in washing the dishes, making the beds, mowing the lawn, tending the garden, cooking a meal is a life practice. Living with gratitude in the moment opens a spaciousness inside me that all the TV news in the world cannot fill.

And finally, I find enormous comfort in music. I look forward to Eremos’ presentation of “The Ties That Bind,” with writer Paula D’Arcy and Conspirare’s Craig Hella-Johnson. Together, they will remind us, through powerful stories and music, that no matter the surface differences, we are all connected. Grounded in and strengthened by their wisdom, we will leave more compassionate and open to new ideas to help our world flourish.

This is not part of the Eremos event, but Conspirare’s beautiful interpretation of Sinead O’Connor’s song, “This Is to Mother You,” was a deep comfort over the last few days. If you find yourself low, give it a listen. It will wrap you in beauty.

 

Links

“The Scientist” July/August 2020 https://www.the-scientist.com/features/how-social-isolation-affects-the-brain-67701 

Eremos Soul Support https://eremos.org/group/soul-support/ 

“For One Who Is Exhausted: A Blessing” https://onbeing.org/blog/john-odonohue-for-one-who-is-exhausted-a-blessing/ 

Conspirare, “This Is to Mother You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy6DABZp0oc 

“The Ties That Bind Us” https://eremos.org/iwe-event/the-ties-that-bind-us/

Conspirare, “This Is to Mother You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy6DABZp0oc

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