Spiritual Ruts, and Ways Out
Paolo Ferucci, in What We May Be, gives helpful imagery for directing the psychic energies. The psychotherapist asked one client, locked in immobility, to reflect on the concept of risk. It channeled the person's natural vitality so that he was soon doing small things to jolt him out of his "cocoon": phoning someone he hadn't seen in a long time, starting a new hobby, challenging co-workers to ping-pong games.
If we don't take our routines too seriously, we discover that the world doesn't end if we shift them a bit. Listen to jazz a lot? Try classical. A stalwart at the 9 am Mass? Try the Saturday afternoon. You may meet old friends you haven't seen in years. For a wild and crazy break from routine, attend a different parish! (Might make you appreciate your own.) If scripture is growing stale or overly familiar, spend time instead with the marvelous spiritual authors writing now: Rolheiser, Rupp, Livingston, or in a pinch, Coffey (such subtle self-promotion!)
If your routine has been centering prayer, try praying with music for a change. Or set aside your usual devotions and spend a few silent minutes each day simply listening for God's whisper. Why cling to practices that fail to nurture? The bottom line: if it's not feeding you, quit doing it, at least for a while. No hard, fast rules restrict how we read, reflect or pray.
One man vowed on his 50th birthday to do something new each day. Such openness, such a spirit of adventure challenges us all. Some days it might be a small thing like flipping to a different radio station or website. Others may be major changes, like not vacationing in the same spot we've visited for 20 years, or changing jobs.
The worst mental ruts are those of anxiety, bills, health concerns. These can be so paralyzing that our creative juices—exactly what we need to address problems—freeze. Surely the disciples on the road to Emmaus knew that experience. When a "stranger" (Jesus) joins them, Luke 24:17 records, they stood still. Stuck in the ultimate rut of grief, they don't start moving again until Jesus encourages them to share their story. Disingenuously, he asks what's been happening in Jerusalem. Those of us in ruts should take note. Telling Jesus our "stuck" situation in prayer seems to be the first step beyond it.
If we've slid into a rut, we nurture our deepest self with whatever we need: a walk, a bike ride or a swim, a latte, a new shirt, a change of routine, time with a friend or a book. Self-nurture may seem "selfish," but we are God's beloved children, who shouldn't treat others better than ourselves. God designed the human mind, soul and body exquisitely for stimulation, not stagnation.
God's creation brims with such beautiful variety, it must disappoint God when we explore only 10% of it. Read the Genesis creation story for the marvelous unspooling of sun, moon, stars, oceans, lakes, rivers, creepy crawlers, chirpy birds, lithe gazelles, and squirmy worms. All this God creates with glee --thousands of kinds of insects, 600 varieties of eucalyptus trees, innumerable shades of green, each flower, snowflake and fingerprint unique. Maybe it's time to look at the night sky, stroll through a meadow or a Botanic Garden, taste something new in the produce aisle or farmers market. Vive la difference!
Originally published in EVERYDAY CATHOLIC, St. Anthony Messenger Press.
Kathy Coffey is a national speaker, retreat leader, and the author of numerous articles in Catholic periodicals. On the web, find Kathy at: kathyjcoffey.wordpress.com