Soul Conversations: Cultivating Grace in Times of Change

I have been thinking about Grace a lot lately. You see, Grace is my word for 2020. Rather than create resolutions every year, I have been choosing a word to guide my choices and intentions through the upcoming year. This year, I decided I would meet what the year brought me with grace.
Don’t get me wrong. Like everyone else, I had plans for 2020! This year happens to be one of those big, round-number birthdays for me and my dearest friends. My personal plans included travel and lots of time celebrating this milestone with them as well as family.
I also knew that not everything would work out as planned. So, I chose to focus on Grace—graciously accepting changes in my plans. Like many people, I find it challenging to accept change. In fact, I tend to resist change—or perhaps “fight change” is a more apt description. This year, however, was going to be different. Travel. Friend time. Yes, that is what I wanted to focus on!
But as author Michael Chabon says, “Man makes plans . . . and God laughs.”
Here we are mid-September of 2020 and, well, I don’t have to tell you what a strange year it has been! Living under stay-at-home orders in the Spring meant our homes became our “bubbles” that only technology shone through without breaking that bubble. Spending time with people outside of those in our homes was discouraged and travel impossible.
Although the summer brought an ease to our restricted lifestyles, my big plans for 2020—along with everyone else’s—have been shelved for the foreseeable future.
So, I wanted to focus on Grace, did I? Well the universe has given me exactly what I asked for.
Grace is “a divine saving and strengthening influence.”
Let me clarify what Grace means to me. It is finding equanimity or balance when the world seems turbulent. It means recognizing that change is occurring and choosing one of two courses of action: adjusting or adapting the change to make it more palatable, or accepting the change if it is entirely beyond my control.
Ideally, change can be managed, particularly if you are the one choosing to make a change. Need a break from your everyday routine? Book a flight and see the world. Yearning for closer connections? Schedule more time for friends and family. Eat healthier? Lots of online recipes and cooking channels. You get the idea.
But most often in life change happens to us. Very few of us seek change, most likely because we have safe and comfy routines. After all, it’s much easier to adjust a flight date than it is to upend your life. It’s only when those routines are shaken—sometimes powerfully—that we are forced to change.
This year has dramatically forced changes that have entirely upended our lives: a pandemic, followed by the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, and now wildfires along the west coast of America. We cannot escape the physical and emotional upheaval.
All these changes haven’t dramatically altered my everyday life: I work from home, making my own hours, and scheduling visits with friends and family. However, I have felt all of this mentally and emotionally. Not going out into the world much, rarely seeing my extended family or friends, except by technology, trying to figure out how I can support artists and BIPOC-owned small businesses, these are my “travel destinations” now.
Clearly, I am not alone. There are online posts, morning show stories, Instagram pics outlining ways to work out our existence in this current reality. Like you, I’m reading and watching all that I can without it adding to my stress. That is why I have been thinking about Grace a lot lately.
You are where you need to be.
Now is the time to find Grace. And that mantra, “You are where you need to be right now,” is a gentle reminder for when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Mother nature—the Universe—is saying, stay put, stay healthy, stay aware.
But the “strengthening influence” of Grace, like any muscle, requires work. So what other practices am I incorporating to support building equanimity or balance in the face of change?
1. Allowing myself to feel the emotions. In the Spring I would yell “I want to go see my family” to an empty room or sniffle happy tears seeing videos of the littlest ones in my family. Acknowledging feelings let them flow and move on so I could return to my mantra.
2. Focusing on my breath. Let’s face it, this is a tough one because venturing out now means wearing a mask in public, which makes breathing a challenge. But I’ve discovered breathing evenly will reduce the stress of wearing the mask as well as the stress of encountering those who are choosing not to follow safety precautions. A slow count to 4 on inhalations and exhalations really helps.
3. Learning something new. In the Spring, it seemed that everyone was diving into new projects. I thought I was the only one not learning how to bake bread or paint with oils. With the Black Lives Matter movement, I adjusted my social media to include more BIPOC postings and started reading novels by Black authors—righting an egregious lack in my formal education. Whether it is discovering something as simple as the meaning behind a mudra, a new word, or a new favorite author, my physically distanced life feels bigger and the world is opening up.
4. Practising gratitude. This can be tough when I’m feeling trapped. That’s when I focus on what I have: my health, food in the kitchen, and technology for connecting with family and friends. I savor the things I have—morning coffee, a joke shared online, a photo of a loved one—and recognize them as my good fortune, the abundance of my life.
5. Getting on my yoga mat. For me, yoga gets me moving but also clears my head. That is why I am better able to meditate immediately following time on my mat. The combination is a “one-two” heartbeat of calm
Change is inevitable. Finding Grace with change is work. But the results are incredibly worthwhile.
About Margaret @magpi60
After working in educational publishing for almost 30 years, Margaret currently works as a freelance editor. She is also a writer and has published the first in a series of romance novels under the name Emma Henry. Margaret is currently working on the next book in the series. In 2015, Margaret completed her YTT-200 to gain a deeper understanding of yoga for her personal practice, something she is most grateful for as we move into Fall and Winter with the potential of more self-isolation. She is @magpi60 on Instagram.