Sink Deeper

Over the past weeks I have been sitting with friends, soul mates, directees, clients, mentors, therapists, spiritual directors, and other companions as they explore and reflect on their experience of living in social distancing and in a pandemic.  I have heard details of their individual stories and listened for the deeper narratives influencing their words, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If I allow myself to sink deeper, below the details, below the narratives, I hear similar themes:

  • Grief
  • Loneliness
  • Gratitude
  • Curiosity
  • Wonder
  • Gentleness
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Weariness
  • Tiredness
  • Longing

I would like to invite all of us to sink deeper with one another. As we sink deeper, we begin to connect. We connect with our common experiences (apart from the details, which are unique to each of us), our common humanity, and with our core selves. In this connection, we soothe one another’s bodies and souls.  We validate, we see, we hear, we offer compassion and understanding. We are validated, we are seen, we are heard, we experience compassion, and we are understood. These are the best gifts we can give one another, and to ourselves. They comfort rather than weigh us down. For in the details, we stay in the spinning and the chaos, in the confusion, and in the unknown.  In sinking deeper, we rest. We rest in the knowing, “Here I am, right here, right now.” And we let others know, “Here I am with you, right here, right now.” If we welcome this, then we can welcome the next moment, and the next moment, and the next moment, and the one after that. In therapeutic terms from my training as a counselor, when we do these things, we are grounding ourselves in the present, we are soothing our central nervous systems, we are co-regulating, and we are helping ourselves and each other move through this time of uncertainty and trauma. As a fellow contemplative, when we do these things, we are living out of who we are as a child of God and offering support to our fellow travelers.…..If we listen deeply for what is beneath the surface, beneath the details, and if we allow this to teach us and transform us, then in time we will come to the other side of this. And we will come to the other side with deeper connection with God, with our own selves, and with those with whom we journey.  


Be Still…

I frequently sit with clients who are struggling with anxiety. They find themselves wrestling with worry, a mind that won’t shut off, difficulty sleeping, and even physical symptoms (heart palpitations, sweating, restlessness, tense muscles, and irritability).  Many of these clients live in a constant state of stress or tension that takes a toll on their emotional and physical well-being.

One thing I often encourage my clients to do when struggling with anxiety is to take time to still themselves and learn to breathe and be quiet.  By placing ourselves in this space several times a day, for as little as 10 minutes at a time, our bodies begin to return to a healthier state, both emotionally and physically.  As this happens, we become more aware of our bodies’ signals and can learn to still our minds and bodies when these waves of anxiety hit.

One exercise I like is deep, controlled breathing paired with reciting a verse

Deep breathing:

  1. Begin by taking a deep breath in as you count to 4, slowly:   1..…2…..3..…4…..
  2. Next, breathe out slowly to the count of 4:  1…..2…..3…..4…..
  3. Finally, hold for a count of 4:  1…..2…..3…..4….. (or, alternatively, recite a verse or calming phrase)

Below is a verse that I find helpful, especially if you slowly back out the words to a place of simply being still. Try reciting a line as you pause in step 3 of your breathing exercise.  Go through steps 1-3 in the breathing  exercise, so as to repeat one line of the verse one time with each pause, but for 5-10 repetitions (of steps 1-3) before moving on to the next line.

Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God…

Be still and know that I am…

Be still and know…

Be still…



Breathe… and be still.


Take Pause…

…Consider your words

In a moment of crisis or heightened emotions, we often act and speak without pausing to think about the consequences that may ensue.  Whether in a moment of excitement, a moment of despair, or a heated moment of conflict, our words and actions can fly through the air towards another as reactions that don’t always bring about the outcomes  we’d hoped for.  Information is carelessly shared.  Feelings are hurt.  Words are misunderstood.  Even when our intentions seem good.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown (Penguin Books, 2012) invites readers to ask the following questions as they consider their words and actions:

  1. Why am I sharing this?
  2. What outcome am I hoping for?
  3. What emotions am I experiencing?
  4. Do my intentions align with my values?
  5. Is there an outcome, response, or lack of response that will hurt my feelings?
  6. Do my intentions align with my values?
  7. Is there an outcome, response, or lack of response that will hurt my feelings?
  8. Is this sharing in service of connection
  9. Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?
  10. What need is driving this behavior?
  11. Am I trying to reach, hurt, or connect with someone specifically, and is this the right way to do it?

As you take time to stop and consider your words and actions, I hope you find these reflective questions helpful.  Intentional communication is a lifeblood for relationships.  Whether we are initiating a conversation, or responding to the words and actions of another, our words and behaviors can take us down a path of strained or broken relationship, or along a path of growth and deepening connection and understanding with another.  Chose to respond…before you react.