Our older son is off today on another adventure, this time one that requires traveling by air. Those of you who have been following me for a while know that Everest is an aviator, got his pilot’s license at 16, and literally lives for aviation and space, so today is pure joy for him.
For my husband and I, on the other hand, the thought of our son traveling through two international airports today and being on the other side of the country for a week is, well, not exactly pure joy. I’m joyful for him, but my heart has been in my stomach for the last few days, and once again, I’ve relied on my practices to see me through my own grief and fear so that I can show up for him with the excitement and trust he needs to feel from me in order to launch fully into the world. He doesn’t need to be burdened by my worry. He needs my support, which I show him by communicating that I trust him and I trust life to hold him through these adventures.
I would not be able to show up for my children in this way without my practices. I also wouldn’t be able to show up for my husband, my friends, or my work without my practices. As I share in Episode 3 of the Gathering Gold podcast on Nighttime:
“Healthy rituals are like baskets that can catch us across these tenuous thresholds. They’re the internal places we can learn to rely on that can bring comfort because they connect us to something bigger than ourselves. We know that we need rituals; that’s why we sing to babies and rock them to sleep. That’s why we tell bedtime stories. That’s why we pray.
“We need meaningful rituals to see us across the liminal times of life – transitions both big and small, including waking up, the end of the day and entering sleep. It’s why religious traditions pray morning, afternoons, and night – and often a couple of other times throughout the day. The ancient priests and rabbi and holy leaders knew that we needed prayer and ritual; we as modern people have forgotten this. And even if/when we remember, many people aren’t connected to a religious tradition – so then what?
“The trick here is to find bedtime rituals that are meaningful for you – that offer you a sense of okay-ness, of comfort, the sense that you’re being held in safe arms, that you’re connected, that you’re not alone. For me, it comes back to practicing how to be in reciprocal relationship where there’s a giving and receiving.
“I bless the night, I bless the moon and trees and stars, and what comes back to me is a sense of safety and connection. I can almost hear them receiving my gratitude and saying goodnight to me. I’m reminded that I’m not alone, and it’s through the blessing – which can be gratitude or a short poem or just saying “goodnight and thank you” out loud – that the web of reciprocity is activated. I am now held in this web, this net, like a baby wrapped in a very warm and safe blanket.”
Every time I woke up last night with stomach-dropping nerves about Everest leaving and flying without us, I wrapped myself in a cocoon of prayer. Whenever I write the word “prayer” I feel the need to clarify that I don’t mean prayer in a religious sense; prayer, for me, is a way to establish a regular, reciprocal relationship with something both within me and greater that me. And it can be as simple as thank you.
For many years, I didn’t understand what people meant when they said they had a regular spiritual practice. As I didn’t grow up in a religious tradition, I knew I needed to find my own way to connect to this place of okay-ness, the place that soothes intrusive thoughts and helps send worry downstream. I would also hear from clients and course members weekly with these questions:
- I understand that at the core of intrusive thoughts is the need for certainty and the invitation to grow more tolerance for uncertainty, but how do I do that?
- I’m seeing that at the core of anxiety is the fear of loss, but I don’t know what to do with that fear.
- I’ve had a fear of death my whole life that has shown up as fear of my parents dying when I was young, health anxiety, and now fear of something happening to one of my kids. How do I work with this fear at the root?
- You talk about how the relationship anxiety hook “I’m not in love” in an invitation to fall in love with life itself. How do I do that?
I created Grace Through Uncertainty to address these questions by helping people learn how to create a personal and meaningful spiritual practice, a daily recipe or toolbox that, when practiced, catches uncertainty, soothes the fear of loss, and, by extension, helps us grow the rush and high of infatuation that we mistakenly place on a romantic partner.
I also touch on some of these practices in this week’s podcast episode, where Victoria and I shine light on what’s happening in the highly sensitive heart during the dark, quiet (and sometimes scary) hours of the night. Here’s the description:
“Beginning with the sense of emptiness, dread or loneliness that may arise when the light starts to shift and we dip into sunset, then twilight, Sheryl and Victoria describe feelings that have accompanied them in these liminal times, particularly during childhood. Then, we talk about fear of the dark, Victoria’s first panic attack that occurred in the middle of the night, and Sheryl’s first experience with insomnia during her transition into junior high school. Sheryl describes her practice of taking time at night to reflect on the day, with compassion and curiosity, and the importance of finding bedtime rituals that feel nourishing, comforting and enjoyable to you. We close with a guided nighttime practice from Sheryl and a bit of poetry that reflects the gold we can uncover when we turn and face the night.”
I look forward to connecting with you in the comments below, especially if you have questions about Grace Through Uncertainty or would like to share your thoughts on the podcast. As always, Victoria and I welcome your review/rate/share on Apple Podcasts or Spotify if you feel inspired! Thank you for reading and listening.