5 spiritual practices in a time of isolation & 'social distancing'

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Unsettled.


I think that's the best word to describe how I'm feeling today.


I imagine today you might be unsettled... or concerned, or anxious, or confident, or confused or any number of emotions... With the arrival of Coronavirus it feels to me like the world is a completely different place. I wanted to offer a few ideas about 5 spiritual practices that might help some in this global moment of crisis.



1) Say hello! Reach out daily to a friend or family member


In this moment of isolation and social distancing, we're being faced with the reality of some of our primal needs; despite our digital and technological accomplishments, we're fundamentally creatures of relationship and interaction. This moment is a raw reminder of how interdependent we all are. Many of us might find ourselves increasingly feeling isolated and alone over the next while. We might struggle to remember and feel that we're all in this together...


So, how about getting in touch with a friend or family member at least once a day. A call, a text, a whatsapp... Let's get creative! Some friends have suggested we share a virtual dinner soon!


If you're not at home in isolation, perhaps you want to intentionally say hello and smile to strangers. This morning I was grocery shopping and I had more conversations with strangers than ever before! Rather than each being stuck in our phones while we waited in the queue, we all had something in common to talk about. We shared our stories, of who we were buying food for, of loved ones near and far, of the challenges we're each facing... I felt more human in that queue than perhaps any other moment of queuing this year!


2) Love thy neighbour


If you're able, perhaps consider reaching out to friends and neighbours to see if they need any help or support. Some people are offering to pick up groceries; some people are setting up community Whatsapp groups to keep in touch; some are dropping off notes to their neighbours to connect and make themselves available; some people are offering a simple call to connect and chat.


Jesus once told a powerful story about a man who helped out a stranger on the street who was in need. I wonder what stories he would tell today to help us understand what it means to be a neighbour. I guess, in a way, we're invited to inhabit that story and make it our own.



3) Turn hand-washing into prayer


Jesus once used foot washing as a profound sacred moment. Today we're all needing to wash our hands several times a day. We could use that time to stress or busy ourselves with life and our to-do lists. Or... We could proactively 'cordon-off' that time for a quick and simple prayer.


Hand-washing can so easily be a moment when we're absent minded - thinking about something that has happened or something in the future. But it could be a beautiful spiritual moment, each time, if we stop, pause and pray.


For me, at the moment I like to draw my attention to my hands being drenched in the soapy water, and I think about how God is so present with me, with us all - that everywhere and everyone and every moment is 'drenched' in the presence of the loving and faithful God.



4) Quiet contemplative prayer


I've found myself becoming quite frazzled over the last few weeks. It feels a little like the hamster wheel in my head (or heart?) is running a little faster than normal. Quiet contemplative prayer can help when we feel frazzled, anxious or unsettled.


Find some time - maybe between 3 and 10 minutes - where you can have some peace and quiet with God. Sit down comfortably, feet flat on the ground, sitting upright. Take some deep breaths, the biggest breaths you've taken all day. Try just to 'be present' with God - don't rush back to what has happened, or forward to the future. Just sit knowing God is with you right now. Then continue to pray. This might take many forms. Here are some basic ideas:


  • Centring prayer: if you're familiar with this prayer practice, perhaps you might wish do set some time aside regular for it.

  • Pray through the phrase "Be still and know that I am God". Repeat it, but shorten it each time. First: "Be still and know that I am God". Then, "Be still and know". Then "Be still". Then, finally, "Be". Just sit quietly 'being' with God.

  • You might just want to 'practice mindfulness' in the sense of sitting quietly and choosing to be aware of God's loving, faithful presence with you in the present moment. As thoughts rush into your consciousness, just let them be. See those thoughts like a little river that you can't stop, but you can choose to not get swept up by the river. Just let specific thoughts float away down the river and return to being aware of the God who loves you, and your neighbours, and the whole entire world.


5) Notice and avoid escapism


If we're living more isolated lives over the coming months, it's likely that our body is going to be on a subconscious hunt for easy dopamine hits. This could mean, without consciously choosing to, we find ourselves binging on junk food or netflix or alcohol or social media or.... whatever! Unintentionally we could just give into activities that give an immediate dopamine fix but ultimately leave us feeling less settled, less peaceful, less healthy, and less human. The forms of escapism are different for each of us. How do things work for you? Perhaps it's worth thinking about, and telling a friend or loved one?


Maybe the active 'practice' here is not only to avoid certain escapist behaviours, but also to fill our time with with that which heals and restores and recreates? This might be simply going to bed on time, or going for a run, or drawing or painting something, or playing an instrument, or choosing to read or watch something worthy or uplifting...


The time ahead seems uncertain and unclear. We all have so many questions and challenges that lie ahead. But we can know a couple things for sure:


We're all in this together.


And no matter what we're faced with, no matter the suffering, the confusion, the inconvenience, the pain... No matter what, in the midst of it all, in any and every moment, we find the compassionate, faithful God who loves us.