A time to heal
Gavin Thomas Murphy runs a website called Gratitude In All Things where he looks to Ignatian Spirituality for strength and inspiration.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
We all have a desire to be happy and free from depression, anxiety and trauma symptoms. These challenges were particularly common during the intense period of the pandemic, and many of us continue to struggle with its residue.
Meditation teacher James Baraz offers us hope with the story of his then 89-year-old mother Selma. He noticed that she struggled with finding gratitude in her life. She was so used to complaining that the power of negativity usually trumped any light of positivity.
He tried to relate to her through her everyday experiences such as how she would react if there was a problem with the reception on her TV. She perked up on this issue and was open to growing in gratitude.
After a while, she agreed to play a game with her son. Each time she turned to complain, he would remind her to add “and my life is really very blessed”. Over time, this game had a very positive shift on her mood.
Without pressure, she kept tuning into a sense of blessedness until it became a habit, and the change was revolutionary. The simple shift toward grateful consciousness made an amazing difference (Awakening Joy).
The famous poem Footprints in the Sand can also inspire divine compassion and love within us. If we remember, it tells the story of a man looking back over his life with his Lord or Compassionate Friend.
He becomes upset because he sees two sets of footprints in the sand during the bright sunny days of his life, while there is only one set of footprints in the sand during the very dark and gloomy days.
The man sees clearly in the end when his Compassionate Friend tells him that he didn’t abandon him during those deeply challenging times, but he actually picked him up and carried him.
This inner presence is also available to us right now, to free us from any guilt, shame, fear or anguish. To fill us with confidence and happiness, to burst out in laughter!
Discerning with Pope Francis
It is thought that Pope Francis would affirm the authenticity of Selma’s story and the message of the moving poem. In his book Let Us Dream, he offers his own perspective on the ‘discernment of spirits’ inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola.
Francis speaks powerfully of how the good spirit promotes healing. But first let us listen to what he says about recognising the negative source.
“The bad spirit, conversely, closes me in on myself, and makes me rigid and intolerant. It is the spirit of fear and grievance. It makes me sad, fearful, and irritable. Rather than freeing me, it enslaves me.”
We can imagine the 89-year-old Selma being picked up and carried during times of negativity and despair. Her Compassionate Friend would have looked on her lovingly, he would have recognised her goodness and potential, he would have freed her from the bad spirit to bring about a wonderful transformation.
Pope Francis continues: “The voice of God might correct us, but gently, always encouraging, consoling, giving us hope… the voice of God speaks to the present, helping us to move ahead in the here and now. What comes from God asks: ‘What is good for me, what is good for us?’”
It seems that Selma’s son tuned into a positive source to gently correct her lack of gratitude. He met her as she was, listened to her deeply, and accompanied her every step of the way until the game of gratefulness became a lifestyle of gratefulness.
He realised that this change of habit was good for his mother, good for her mind and body, good for her heart. He also knew it was good for those around her: her carers, friends, family, perhaps even for strangers who connected with her.
Our journey of healing is not an easy one. We may often feel like giving up. But with our Compassionate Friend, a habit of gratitude and a discerning spirit, we can dig deep and face the challenges of our time.
We can accompany Pope Francis and our Church. We can make love and compassion our home and experience it in our bodies.