Cloistered Intention

From the desk of Doreen Olson
April 1, 2020

During this period of necessary self-isolation I admit that it’s been somewhat challenging to maintain my equilibrium. In the midst of constant updates as to the severity of this pandemic I’ve pondered how to avoid being overcome by fear. Perhaps you have experienced a similar challenge.
In light of this, my gratitude to the Cistercians is understandable. They’ve been self-isolating for centuries. For nearly a thousand years in fact. A recent post by the nuns of Mount Saint Joseph Abbey in Ireland offered four concrete tips.

1.Write down a weekly schedule.
It needn’t be too complex or specific. In fact, it’s important that you don’t regiment yourself so much that you become like a soldier. But having a basic schedule will structure your week and give you the time and freedom to live a productive life. You may want to color-code the entries according to whether they are daily, weekly or monthly occurrences.

2.Add at least two prayer times to this.
They needn’t be for more than ten minutes. Set aside a quiet place, and a good time, and make this your chosen meeting place with God.

Everyone can have access to books if they want.

Many online stores are still operating.

4.Try to live in the present moment.
One of the thoughts that short-circuits self isolation is the “What-to-do-next” thought. It makes you restless, unable to engage with staying in one place. Your weekly schedule is a good start. And books will give you a ‘mental space’ to lose yourself in.
I’m grateful for this hard-earned wisdom. Though I’ve developed and followed a “Rule of Life” for many years I’m feeling that the current season necessitates a change. My morning meditation and evening prayer of examen needs to be bolstered by mid-day prayer in order to keep my soul focused on what is essential. Thankfully, there are many opportunities available. Among my favorites is the Pray-as-you-Go app. There are also numerous podcasts that have fed my soul. A current go-to is James Finley’s Turning to the Mystics. These mid-day messages ground me once again in truth. 
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
In what ways are you finding equilibrium
as you face the very real fears of this current reality? 
As you go about creating a schedule for your days and weeks I hope you will be gentle with yourself. Find ways to add rituals that nurture you. Is that through taking a walk or listening to music or baking some muffins or writing an actual pen and paper letter to a friend? What rituals might you add to your week that nourish your soul? 
Be well, my friends.