Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

For many of us this year has been a series of months filled with frustration and loss.

Our 2020 has not turned out the way we expected it would. Spring breaks and summer vacations, our trips to visit faraway places have been wiped away.

Some of us have spent most of this year by ourselves. Day after day has melted into each other. It has been easy for us to lose track of just which day it is today.

It has been, and continues to be, a year of loss. We may have lost opportunities. Some of us have lost people we love. We have lost time we planned to spend doing what we love with people we enjoy. Many of us have lost jobs which allowed us to turn our dreams into action.

There have been times this year when fear or anxiety or exhaustion has drained the joy from our days and kept us awake during our nights.

It has felt, at times, like we are trapped on a downward spiral losing the hope and celebration we associate with spiritual life.

Some of us believe spiritual life is about feeling good or centered or pleasant. We like to think spiritual life contributes to our sense of wellbeing and overall health. The stronger the spiritual life within us, we assume, the happier we will be.

We believe spiritual life is like good craft beer. A good amount anesthetizes us and leaves us slightly intoxicated. Spiritual life, like craft beer, takes some of the pain away helps us through the rough patches.

The last nine or ten months have left us looking for a new infusion of spiritual life. We have been lonely and stretched, working hard to hold onto what we thought our lives were supposed to be like.

I see spiritual life differently. This year is reminding me spiritual life is not all about being happy or feeling a little buzzed.

For me, spiritual life is at least as important when times are difficult as when we are celebrating. Spiritual life is not about making everything come out well. It is when we feel challenged or hopeless, when we cannot remember which day this is supposed to be, spiritual life is particularly significant.

This year has felt full of loss and death to me. We are at risk of losing hope, not being able to find our reasons for persevering. It feels like death and darkness are all around us. We lose our way, flailing around in the dark.

It is easy for us to be overwhelmed by so many deaths all around us. We see the numbers change like miles on an odometer. The challenge for us is to recognize each change, each new number is the death of a real person.

The pandemic is not a “public health” nor a “statistical” problem. Every single one of the more than 200,000 people is the end of a life.

Each time that number changes families are devastated. The potential of a unique person is erased.

Part of the difficulty for us is there seems to be so little we can do to change the relentless death and loss. We do what we can, but we feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of loss.

It is a year of frustration and anger for many of us. We do what we can to protect ourselves and the people we love. Many of us stay at home as much as we can and wear masks when we go out. We wash our hands and we help where we can.

Staying at home has given me time to reflect during the last few months. As we spend time contemplating we can begin to learn to release our grip on anxieties and fears. Slowly, one day at a time, we start to experience life in new ways.

Spiritual life does not turn painful days into experiences of sweetness and light. We take our time and, through the hard work of reflection, we come to understanding.

A good craft beer can help us.

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg has served as an assistant district attorney and an associate university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on http://www.patheos.com.

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