Father Mark, Reflections

Which Way is Up … Or Down?

Can you identify?

Priests are “wordsmiths.”  We play with words, searching for their underlying meanings, pondering how they fit together.  Words are symbols, representing objects, thoughts or used as metaphors to point to some deeper meta message beyond themselves. 

Hearing the word, “suspended” used ad nauseam these last two months to indicate life as we know it being postponed, I pondered not just the status of “suspended” but what actually what the experience of “suspension” is.  I remember in science class that a suspension is when one part of a liquid no longer blends with another and separates from it.  So suspension leaves one with a feeling of separation.  Then I thought about astronauts. 

Weightlessness, in zero gravity, is being in suspended.  Doing a little background on the effects of weightlessness I discovered there are some real effects from feeling suspended.

The inability to bear weight on one’s feet, I relish at the end of the day as I recline in my La-Z-Boy.  But we all know what happens if we remain too long in a reclined position.  As in weightlessness, the body stiffens, muscles and bones weaken and even our various systems in our bodies become confused, even at a genetic level when the body becomes confused due to a lack of gravity.  Astronauts’ sense of “up and down” gets confused because the vestibular system in the ear affecting our sense of balance can no longer discern where the ground is. Even cognition slows after time.  The body gets anxious because it’s looking for a place to physically and metaphorically meaning wise, stand. How do you say, “disoriented?”

Does any of this sound or feel familiar?   Metaphorically speaking, we’re still getting used to being suspended from what we once normally did, or at a minimum have to go about what we normally do with other tasks which complicate it.  Being suspended has its long term effects on us spiritually, mentally and physically.

So we look for ways to “ground” in new forms.  I have noticed that some of us have become avid gardeners, finding our ground on the ground, growing things.  A neighborhood couple plays their guitars in their living room.  Kathy is even taking voice lessons and I personally benefit from these good vibrations.  People are looking for ways to become grounded, some in different ways that before and others more involved in creating what they have done in the past. 

In spiritual practices, besides deepening one’s prayer life which may face its own challenges, “grounding” spiritually (on earth as it is in heaven) can be a new learning for us.  For example, take a moment to recall the times you have been walking around these last few days.  Where is your attention focused while you walk?   I’ll bet that 95% of the time when we’re walking we’re thinking about something or talking to someone on the phone, without one moment of awareness of the sensation of our feet.  When people visit with me with extreme anxiety, I often will often simply go outside with them for a walk and have them focus on their feet—the bottom of their feet.  Focusing only on the bottom of the feet and the difference in pressure between lifting and placing each foot on the ground begins to decrease the anxiety.  Why?  Because we are grounding—connecting mind to body to spirit.  There is actually a walking meditation, a form of prayer, when one walks slowing, being aware of one’s breath, the sensations on the feet and observing visually what is in their line of sight.  This helps to quiet the mind, relax the body and places a person in readiness to experience the presence of God.  This isn’t rocket science (pardon the pun) but is all a part of our human make up. 

So go take a walk, and then get out of your head (get “out of your mind” – again pardon the pun) by allowing your breath to fall into a rhythm and allowing your complete attention to focus on the bottom of your feet, noticing the sensations of setting and lifting.  There’s nothing you have to do except focus.   David said something about “even though I walk in the shadow…I will not fear.” 

Where the presence of God is, there is no fear.  Which is more real?  Fear?  Or God?


Fr. Mark