There are many ways for us to keep up the commitment to our health and sanity: helping others, being in community, staying honest, working our program (whatever that may be). Whatever we’re doing, wherever we are in our recovery/discovery/uncovery process, we can be supported by some form of consistent daily practice.
I recommend daily practice to everyone! We can all benefit from a time of communing with spirit and stating intentions for the day, then doing some form of check-in before sleep. Nothing obsessive, just a few moments to think about what’s gone on and whether we could have done it differently.
A primary tenet of my lineage is self-forgiveness. We consider guilt to be a message, like pain is for the body, that something is unwell and needs tending. It’s important to set aside a time to let that come, so that we can take action to resolve it.
It’s important to note that many of us come from disadvantaged situations, as women, people of color, LGBT people. We may have been abused, discriminated against, ostracized, for our circumstances, our race, our faith. We may have begun with our addictive behaviors as a way of gaining some measure of control in situations where we felt powerless. Using those behaviors as a stick to hit ourselves with is not helpful. The Serenity Prayer isn’t only about serenity. It’s about courage as well. It’s about seeking peace, but also recognizing when there is injustice and moving toward action. Sometimes we feel guilty because our feeler is oversensitive, but sometimes we really do need to take a stand, make a change, be that person.
Daily practice can support all these things. So what does it look like?
Engaging the physical body is important, for physical and spiritual health. Yoga, walking, dancing or simply stretching is a good way to invite the wisdom of the body to be with us in our day. Eating healthy food in the morning is also a good way to be reminded of how we value our flesh. Since what we take in literally becomes us, this can be an excellent practice on how we craft our being.
Writing can be very helpful to loosen up the mind and provide an outlet for those thoughts we’ve not had the opportunity (or the inclination) to share with others. Sometimes we are trying out the best way to say a thing. Other times we write those deep, but unhelpful, thoughts, to get them out of our heads and onto the page. We can intellectually process our hamster-wheel brain and do a little personal cognitive behavioral therapy (AKA ‘reality check’).
Then the piece de resistance comes with the sitting practice: 5 or 10 or 15 minutes of sitting in silence. If it’s loud where you live, you can either shift your perspective and enjoy the music of your surroundings or play some nature sounds or inspirational tunes. Focusing on the breath is a great way to attune to the rising and falling of the cycle that animates all things. Watch with kindness how your thoughts rise and fall. Watch your frustrations that you can’t stop thinking rise and fall. Watch yourself thinking about your frustrations that…and so on. It’s very Meta and very Metta!
You can charge a piece of jewelry which you put on in the morning and take off at night, with a prayer as you do so:
I am your child
And I call on the bond of blood and love between us.
Help me this day to see clearly and with kindness,
Speak honestly and with courage,
Listen wisely and with compassion.
I thank you Mother, for your presence and your gifts.
Be with me through the night,
Grace my dreams with Power and Beauty,
That I may practice in the darkness and grow strong in my Work.
Of course, you can substitute any prayer here. Sometimes the old classics are classic because they are deeply powerful and speak to nearly every situation (see: The Serenity Prayer).
Helpful for everyone, but particularly people who are sensitive to others’ energy, is to do a conjure style cleansing bath at least once a month (new moon is good for this) and in between to use a cleansing soap or spray every day. This helps avoid the buildup of resentments and/or expectations.
Taking a few minutes before sleep to quickly review the day’s activities will help us catch those places where we may have acted in haste or without regard for others’ feelings. Careful with this, though, as some of us are very prone to blame ourselves for other’s reactions. This is a good time to revisit our boundaries and, if necessary, to put some energy into their maintenance.
A good exercise for feeling our edges is to take a few calming breaths and let your energy drop into a solid place. Allow the image to arise in your mind’s eye of a sphere, like a soap bubble, beautiful and shimmering with light. See it strong around you. Notice whether there is any sound it makes. Touch it with your spirit hands. How is that? Allow the bubble to become more translucent. Now more opaque. Make it bigger and watch it push things away from you. Make it smaller and see your troubles and concerns move closer, but still outside the sphere. Play with that a bit until you are comfortable with it. Know that this is your safe space, and that you are in charge of who comes into it. Sleep safe within your tiny sanctuary. If you want, give it some juice again in the morning by visioning it in your mind’s eye. Breathe deeply and send your breath to it to strengthen it. Let it be as permeable as you like.
Giving some energy to the start and the end of our day can help us to stay centered and avoid the behaviors that aggravate our addictions. In the evening, we attune to the moment when day dies and night is born, and vice versa in the morning, as day awakens and night fades. The coming and going of the light is only one way that this pattern manifests. Our angers and frustrations, our desires and our resistance, our thoughts and our pain, all come and go. When we can let them come and go with equanimity, we have better access to the joy and creativity that are our birthright.