Cogitation 17 Friday 24 April 2020 Thomas a Kempis had a fitting word for me this week: “Never to be completely idle, but either reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or working at something useful for all in common.” This Christian monk was born in Kempen, Germany in 1380 and died in Zwolle, The Netherlands in 1471. He is the probable author of the devotional book, The Imitation of Christ.
I’ve applied the monk’s instruction to my not completely idle pastime: walking. Walking gives me a prelude to writing, a time to say a prayer, meditate, daydream, see the day up close. I take the monk to be saying that life’s purpose connects one with others to do and be “something useful for all in common.”
Living in the moment
“Mindfulness” has been on my mind during the cares and uncertainties of these recent weeks and months. We’ve completed the 14-day quarantine following our return from the UK. We are free to go for walks, but still subject to the state’s stay-at-home order at least until May 1.
Physical distancing, wearing a mask at the grocery store or pharmacy, essential travel only, that’s the routine we share across community, state, nation and globe. Even were we to have reason to travel to another state, arrival there could mean a 14-day quarantine.
Mindful. What’s helping us to be mindful of our own and others wellbeing? What’s helping us to live in the moment? Be calm? Hopeful? It has helped me to see, from online sources, insights on physical and mental wellbeing. It has also been super helpful to get out, breathe in fresh air, and stretch my legs, feeling the wonderful sensation of movement from hip to toe.
First, ten tips from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. They come from Dr Gregory Poland, infectious disease expert and director of Mayo’s vaccine research group and editor of the journal Vaccine.
While these and the other tips are familiar, repetition offers reassurance and underscores our common cause in getting ahead of the curve of Covid-19. We’re in this together.
- Fast from the media, pay attention maybe to 30 minutes of news in the morning and evening.
- Eat right.
- Connect with others.
- Be grateful and think positively.
- Have faith. “Believing in something bigger than yourself is important to well-being.”
- Establish a routine.
- Help others.
- Learn something new.
From the UK’s National Health Service I quote five steps to mental wellbeing:
- Connect with other people.
- Be physically active.
- Learn new skills.
- Give to others. Giving includes saying “thank you,” listening, offering DIY help, volunteering.
- Pay attention. “Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.” To help you cope with an over-busy mind, “don’t stay trapped in reliving past problems, or pre-living future worries. Name your thoughts and feelings, be gentle with yourself.”
These tips are from the California-based Open Source Wellness agency. Executive director Dr Elizabeth Markle writes, “And in case the term social distancing bums you out as much as it does for me . . . try on ‘expansive solidarity.’ We’re right here, in this together . . . spaciously.” Expansive solidarity. Right on! Markle is a primary care health psychologist.
Of her organization Markle writes, “Our core idea is that community is a form of medicine.” She notes four things to do every day for one’s mental health:
- Physically active. Move.
- Healthy meals. Nourish.
- Social support. Connect.
- Stress reduction. Be.
- Who could forget that handwashing represents a front-line super power in curtailing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kudos to the front-line health workers, scientists, international and national bodies, governments, civic organizations, faith groups and citizens finding common ground in the concerted fight against Covid-19.
Spring in the air and in my step
The sermon we heard online from College Mennonite Church last Sunday focused on atonement, or the relationship of at-one-ment that Jesus Christ made possible. Guest preacher Ron Guengerich said in Jesus, God created a new kingdom without hierarchical control, privilege or exclusion. Jesus brought about a side by side world where side by side relationships, submitting ourselves one to another, form a new creation. “May we lift our united voices to a transformed world around us,” he said, in inviting the online audience to join with the 10 people physically present, in expansive solidarity, to sing Heart with loving heart united.
Thomas a Kempis: “If you bear the cross gladly, it will bear you.”
Find moments of joy in simple pleasures.