Updated: Sep 17, 2021
Depending on where in the world you live, and what the current spread of the COVID-19 virus in your area is, you may or may not be experiencing a shift in your life yet. Here in Colorado, the United States, where I live we have begun the process of recovery and rebuilding our lives as we enter the post-pandemic period. Each of us experiences this gradual change differently, of course, but I dare to assume that many of us are faced with some consideration to the question "Now what?". How do I want to rebuild, rearrange and re-engage with my life? What about the pre-pandemic life do I miss and want to seek out again? And how did the pandemic change me and what does that mean to my life now and moving forward?
Late April this year, The Washington Post published an article titled "A Better Normal" where they asked parents at the end of this pandemic tunnel: "What is one change you’d like to carry with you into post-pandemic life?" Many talked about increased family connection, time together and slower rhythm of life. In this article, I will share a host of life rhythms and practices that spiritually and emotionally nurtured me during the pandemic (and prior), as well as rhythms that I yearn to re-engage, strengthen or try out. It is also important to point out that I do not engage in ALL the practices at once and neither do I recommend this to anyone! Instead, I engage in one or two from each seasonal rhythm (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly) in different periods of life. Choosing soul care rhythms and spiritual practices is a practice in discernment in itself.
01 Daily Rhythms: Prayer and Work
“Our Lord moves amidst the pots and pans."
― St. Teresa of Avila
Most of us have heard the saying "How we spend our days is, how we spend our lives." This, of course, is true for our spiritual lives as well. Over the years I have been encouraged to find communion with God in and through the daily work, a short chat with a passer-by, household chores and the other ordinary business of life. And yet, I keep coming back to my desire to return to old and discover new rhythms for intentional, unhurried moments of connectedness that nurture my spirit.
I know that I am not alone in this. Christians over the centuries have relied on the ordinary routines and ancient rituals as reminders or "calls" to prayer. The circular passing of time offers a reliable structure for a life of prayer. There is always another morning, day and night. Some examples of daily prayer are Fixed-Hour Prayer and Praying the Hours. You may want to create your own Book of Hours including seven traditional hours of the monastic day: vigils (night), lauds (dawn), terce (morning), sext (noon), none (mid-afternoon), vesper (evening, and compline (night), or simply use the four main movements of the day: dawn, day, dusk and dark.
Families with children often utilize a visual day rhythm wall decoration that includes familiar rituals. These nurture the child's need for safety and connection, varying between times together and "alone", (naturally, the alone time for young children needs to be still supervised, but offers unstructured quiet play time) and form an early foundation for the child's spiritual life.
The transition from sleep to awake is a "thin place"for many, a time when heaven and earth seem closer together. I have listed a few practices that I have found especially nurturing during the moments soon after waking up or before going to sleep.
Contemplative walk or yoga (listening to body with God)
Scripture reading and journaling
Guided audio prayer (e.g. Pray-as-you-go)
Service and work; gardening, housekeeping, giving, helping others
Teatime art, chat, reading
Table blessing Evening walk in the neighborhood Bedtime prayer + reading
"Give children time for moments of solitude and silence during the day. A consideration of those things that are of ultimate value and meaning requires times of silence."
― Brendan Hyde, Children and Spirituality: Searching for Meaning and Connectedness
For more inspiration, view a list of creative prayer guides and practices here.
What daily rhythms are sustainable, and nurture your life with God currently?
02 Weekly Rhythms: Sabbath & Community
“To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.”
― Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Plan for the World
Sabbath is one of the grace gifts of God. It is not only a permission to rest but a commandment to prioritize rest and an invitation to celebrate life. In a culture of productivity and constant striving it is our radical obedience to God when we mark out a day each week when there is nothing for us to accomplish, achieve or show for. Sabbath rest reminds us that we were made to be delighted in and the goodness of life is to be noticed, enjoyed and savored.
Here are a few examples of the ways I have observed the Sabbath.
Worship with local gathered church
Share a meal with friends, neighbors, family...
Call family and friends far away
Spend time outdoors (prayer walk and other ways of resting in nature)
Play: do things that you enjoy just for the sake of pleasure as an end in itself (read, make art, bake, watch a movie..)
“We do not pray so that we can get God's attention. We pray so that God will get our attention.”
― David Benner, Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer
How are you invited to protect the Sabbath, and mark the transition from work to rest? What opportunities are there for you in this season to enjoy life with others?
03 Monthly Rhythms: Spiritual Direction Appointment or Retreat
“Soul cannot thrive in a fast-paced life, because being affected, taking things in and chewing on them, requires time.”
― Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul
One-with-one spiritual direction appointments and retreats, where spiritual companioning is offered are helpful rhythms to anyone who wants to deepen their life with God. All ages and people from all walks of life can benefit from a regular meeting with a trained listener and co-discerner. I have met with a spiritual director once a month (with the exception of a few holiday months) for over seven years now. Never did I realize before starting this practice how much of my life with God went unnoticed and not fully listened to. I also witness this in the people who I am honored to accompany through the practice of spiritual direction.
Yet not everyone feels comfortable with one-with-one spiritual companioning, and they may prefer to meet with a small group for group spiritual direction, prayer circle, soul care retreat, or a similar space that holds their personal experiences with God sacred in a caring, listening community. And still others will benefit most from meeting with a counselor, therapist or a coach (e.g. Enneagram coach). Engaging in spiritual direction should never be experienced as a duty or done out of a religious obligation. It is a gift and grace, like any spiritual practice is.
Meet with a spiritual director for 1:1 spiritual direction appointment
Join a prayer workshop, day retreat, Scripture circle or a short course on a topic of interest
Meet with a coach, counselor or therapist
Who is supporting you in your journey of faith and listening to God with you?
04 Seasonal Rhythms: Season Retreat and Liturgical Celebrations
"We experience the thresholds of the year unfolding, so that each new season beckons us into a renewed awareness of the nearness of the holy presence."
— Christine Valters Paintner, The Soul's Slow Ripening
Finally, the changes in season that can be observed in nature and the liturgical calendar offer nurturing rhythms for our lives with God and one another. People who spent much of their time outdoors often are more attuned to the changes of season, and I wonder, perhaps live more balanced lives because of that. Over the years, honoring the invitations of the natural world and liturgical calendar (that follows the life of Jesus) have become meaningful practices to me that I am keen to continue cultivating and growing deeper into.
Make a visual nature's sacred seasons calendar or liturgical church calendar
Revisit your prayer practice, word of the year and rule of life.
Create or rotate seasonal prayer table at home or other place of worship and prayer
Join an intergenerational nature day retreat
Journey through the Scripture following the liturgical church holidays
Take a private silent retreat
Embark on a guided or self-guided pilgrimage hike
Visit a monastery, prayer labyrinth or other special prayer site
What is it a season for? How are your body, mind, heart and spirit doing? What is God asking of you in this new season? What do you need from God? What is the invitation of this season?
Some More Resources... Here are a few other resources that have helped me to develop nurturing rhythms in my life with God.
I would love to hear what rhythms and practices you have found most grounding in this challenging season and how you are hoping to move forward? What spiritual needs do you desire to attend to?