For the Better

Father Richard Rohr writes, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” Sometimes I think of how I will explain this period in our country’s history to my children, or better yet, my grandchildren. How will this time be remembered? I think. How will the stories of this time – this cultural reckoning and my own formation – be told to them?

In many ways, the tides of culture are not representative of who I am striving to be. I am seeking not entertainment, but truth. Not prestige, but perspective. Not to call out or gossip about, but to heal. How one uncovers wisdom in one’s life is not through watching reality TV, or getting in a Twitter war, or unboxing perfume on YouTube. Of course, our lives do contain multitudes and paradoxes, both junk food and health food. But wisdom needs certain conditions to grow.

I have been sitting with Father Rohr’s words this week, with my fire evacuation emergency bag packed in the corner, as I have journaled about my anxiety, the news, my confusion, my frustration. Sifting.

Spiritual work, in whatever form we choose to undertake it, is counter-cultural work. To find our way above the fray, whether that be through meditation, creative pursuits, prayer, even therapy, requires us to find enough stillness in our bodies and peace within our hearts to develop new ways of being, ways that respond to the world’s needs rather than react out of habit. Culture develops habits that affect how we see and relate to one another, what we pay attention to, and who we believe we must become to be loved and accepted. In a world that feels more divided and as we find ourselves feeling increasingly isolated, these habits are neither healing nor connecting. They are often destructive.

So, given all of this, I have decided to look more clearly at the ways I wallow in the world’s pain to try to instead embody something better. This has led me to the question: what do I need in my life to help me restore, so that I can be more loving, more conscious, stronger, and braver?

Nearly immediately, this flipped the script. I knew immediately what I needed to soak up, in order to pour out more kindness and courage. I needed to begin my contemplative practices and yoga again, to write again in a journal, to rest more, to sit in silence more. Rumi once wrote, “The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.”

In slowing down, I am discovering the wisdom of this season of my life, which has included so much unexpected upheaval.  Despite the noise at the surface, finding stillness and silence reveals deeper, more settled truth. And this week, I remembered the phrase to practice the better in all things, big and small, for no part of our lives, however private or public they may be, is wasted space.