Spiritual Practices for Challenging Moments

What this is:1 sheet on resources for uncomfortable/spiritually challenging moments

We can dare to face ourselves in our entirety,

to understand our pain,

to feel the tears,

to listen to our frustration and confusion, and

to discover new capacities and capabilities that

will empower and transform us.

- Mel Hoover (Been in the Storm So Long)

There are many challenging moments in our justice work—there is no way around that. What we can do is bring our spiritual and religious wisdom—the words, songs, prayers, embodied practices and more that strengthen us to the day to day work of justice. Often we will find that what feeds our spirits on Sunday morning or helps us face down the uncertainty of illness, the heartbreak of loss or the tumultuousness of parenting is of use to us in facing the violence of white supremacy, the horrors of criminalization, the anxiety of planning an action, the complexities of a hard meeting and even our own internal doubts and biases.

A Note on Embodiment

Somatics teacher LaWanda H. Thompson teaches that embodiment means that under pressure I won’t revert back to the old pattern. Caitlin Breedlove often says that we respond to crisis with our highest level of training, not with our highest values. adrienne maree brown says that “what we pay attention to grows.” Rev. angel Kyodo williams writes that “Today’s progressive leaders must systematically and lovingly prepare us to tolerate the inherent discomfort of change now in order to wedge open the way to transformation in the future. To do that, they must be the leading point of that wedge, willing to meet resistance where it is and still hold space for us all to come along. They must do this under pressure; they must do this while in motion; and they must do this with and on behalf of others.”

These are all different ways of saying that it’s not that we say or understand; it’s what we do. And not what we do on a retreat or in a class or in a workshop or in our morning practice in our room (though those are crucial and key ways to get strong), but what we do under pressure: in the fight, on the subway, with our families, when we see a violent act, in the board meeting, at the direct action, when the police officer arrives - whatever we do then is what we are embodying

Here are some practices, reflections and other resources that may be of use in bringing your spiritual muscles to the challenges we face in justice work. The only way they will be of use is if we practice them under pressure. Whatever we practice we get really great at. If we practice flexibility, humility, courage - we get strong at those things. If we practice rigidness, ego, cowardice—we get strong at those things.




About the Author

Elizabeth Nguyen

Annie Gonzalez Milliken and Elizabeth Nguyen worked in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Annie supports young adult and campus ministries while Elizabeth serves youth and young adults of color.

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