Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Core Strength, a Post by Nancy L. Agneberg

Just a week ago my father had back surgery and his recovery has been amazing, especially for a man of almost 90. He is thrilled, as we are all are, with his  new "no pain" status. After only two nights and three days in the hospital we moved him to rehab for another short stay and finally, home.  Although the results are indeed happy ones, full of relief, the last few weeks have been intense physically and emotionally and will continue to be so as we find the right assisted living situation and facilitate that move. These busy days don't include much time for my usual quiet mornings of meditation and prayer, which brings me to our 10 year-old granddaughter, Maren.
     Recently, she purchased with her own money a ripstick which is similar to a skateboard, but only has one wheel at each end and has a bar in the middle making the board flexible and very tricky to ride! Learning to maneuver it successfully has taken Maren lots of practice, and there have been the inevitable falls, (Yes, she wears a helmet,) but her father is thrilled for she is developing core strength, which will be an advantage during basketball and volleyball seasons. 
     Thanks to Maren, I have been thinking about Core Strength
     Where does your core strength come from? How have you developed it and how are you maintaining it? What shape is it in today?
     I know that in optimal times what sustains me is enough quiet and alone time for meditation and reflection--time to pray, time to meditate, time to write, to read and study. Lots of emphasis on time, which is not always possible in crisis or the anticipation of or follow-up to crisis. However,  because I have been intentional about building my core strength, I have some reserves, a backlog of core strength to draw upon. The body, the soul and the heart seem to remember that I have followed a long time routine of spiritual practices in my life, and I feel supported, even though I am not practicing them daily now in a disciplined way. 
     However, there are still opportunities in the moment, even stressful, full ones, for spiritual nourishment, spiritual care taking,  that can help maintain and replenish one's level of core strength. A few suggestions:
     * Breathe. Just stop, even for a minute or two, wherever you are and become still and breathe. Close your eyes or gaze through soft eyes. This was my main practice as I stood in the hall outside my father's hospital room or as a nurse checked my Dad's vital signs or as I waited for the elevator.  
     * Stretch. Raise your arms. Bend at the waist--whatever. Feel yourself in your body. Remind yourself that you are a creation of the Divine. 
     * Do one different thing today. Drive to the grocery store a different way. Don't make the bed (or make it!). The point is to make a different choice and notice how that feels and what that brings up for you.
    * Notice. Become aware of the moments of beauty or gift in your day, your surroundings. This is not about being a PollyAnna if you are in the midst of a difficult situation, but instead it is about being a witness in the world. As I looked out my Dad's hospital windows, I could watch spring finally come to Minnesota and  sitting on his three-season porch, I watched a cardinal couple creating a nest. 
    * Give thanks. My Dad received such excellent care, and I am so grateful. It seemed he had just the right nurse at the right time--the one who took time to get to know him before taking his blood pressure and the one who in the middle of his first night after surgery, when he was quite agitated, was so calm and sweet and respectful. My gratitude list is long. 
All these suggestions can build your core strength.
     Margaret Silf in her book At Sea With God, A Spiritual Guidebook to the Heart and Soul says, "One practical way to 'collect' the fresh water in prayer is to foster the habit of noticing God's presence and action in every day things, in the people around us and the ordinary events and encounters that happen to us, and to notice any ways in which God has rewoven the brokenness of our experience into new designs for fuller living. When you feel you are adrift, especially, try taking a little time each day to ask yourself: 'What has awakened new life, fresh energy in me today? What has caught my attention and reminded me that I and my life-raft are not the center of the universe? What has made me rejoice,or even feel compassion, or a desire to speak out for justice? What has made me feel loved today?' Where love is, there is God You may find at the end of the day that you have collected more living water than you expected and that God has recycled the apparent 'waste' of the past into pure water for the future."
    How do you build your core strength and what ways do you have for maintaining it when life intervenes?

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