Musings from the Well...
Copyright © 2019 Catharine Mitchell. All rights reserved.
Wow. I wrote the previous post at the end of February 2020, then left it to edit later. And then Covid. And George Floyd. Today (August 14, 2020) is the first time I've returned here. It's strange how we seemed to have stepped out of time. My plan had been to write about the need to wrestle with white privilege, and then about the trauma created by the patriarchal structure of our society. Those points are being made, daily, by others much more qualified than I am. #MeToo exploded a couple of years ago, and now #BlackLivesMatter is taking this dive further and deeper into the unjust restrictions plaguing our society. So. I have posted what I had written as I had written it half a year ago, which feels like another lifetime.
So much of what was going through my mind in February seems to have receded from the forefront of my consciousness. Now the focus has become the ability to breathe. Through Covid. Through callous brutality. We've been hammered with images which break our hearts. We've been forced to accept that we have, concsiously or not, collaborated with injustice. We've been terrified and confused and hopeless. So now what?
It was a blessed synchronicity (and mystery) that, during all of this, I was in the middle of the nine-month journey of the Ignatian Exercises in Daily Life. If you had asked me a year ago if I would have enrolled in a program developed for Jesuits, I would have laughed hysterically. My hard-won spiritual independence was far too precious to me. And yet when someone I trusted told me that she would be offering the program, I went within, listened long and deeply, and joined the group. It was a difficult journey, one in which I confronted the heartbreak caused by the betrayal of the established church (my perception), yet it ended in a profound healing. After teaching for thirty years, I know how to recognize a good teacher when I find one, and Ignatius was a master. The program begins by building a container in which we felt loved and accepted, then moved out from this into our own positive and negative impacts upon the world (I would put white privilege here), back into the loving container, back out into where we feel a call to help the world, back into the loving container, with imagination not only tolerated but encouraged as part of the experience. This I could do. As a program, it was not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for everyone. But for me, at this time, it was the medicine I needed. Having a weekly spiritual direction session as part of the program was a lifeline, and I am profoundly grateful for the blessing of a gentle guide who sat compassionately with a student who did not approach a Christian program in a way she might have anticipated! Covid and social justice could be held in this container. This is how I survived these times, times which I believe we will eventually see were even more traumatic than we realize.
So what do we do? Keep breathing. Covid and George Floyd have shown us, tragically and in a deeply visceral way, that this is not just a mindless mechanical function. Breathe. Be grateful for clean air, if you're lucky enough to have it. Find a way to help others breathe better. Help the earth herself keep breathing. Remember that respiration has Spirit in it. And be ready for what comes next.
I struggle, sweaty and tired
through the brambles snagging
my skin, leaving long, burning
scratches. Finally, the
I move the brush away, expecting
to see the landscape - hills,
or lake, or (please no)
cities encased in smog.
As I lean over, panting, struggling
for breath, I do not have
room for wonder. But You
are not me.
We look up. Into endless, velvet black, thickly
scattered with stars. The air is pure
and clean, and endlessly
I pray for a forest, for even one tree,
and You give me
I have had a deep love for language - and all forms of writing - since I was a child. Writing, especially poetry, is an integral part of my own spiritual practice, and for me, the deepest form of prayer I know.