6 ways to feed your mind right now
We have officially entered the third year of the pandemic calendar, where things are difficult. Science Daily reported earlier this month that people with disabilities suffered from high levels of depression and anxiety, largely due to social isolation. The Center for Addiction and Mental Health released survey results in January showing Canadian adults are reporting levels of anxiety, depression and loneliness as high as they were at the start of the pandemic. And now many of the early coping strategies (remember Zoom happy hours?) are starting to fade.
We all know that we need connection with others and with ourselves. But some in-person spiritual sanctuaries either remain closed or with severely limited in-person attendance, and even empowered people may feel nervous about reentering these reopening spaces. Still others might look for food outside the church. So, for at least some time to come, we’ll have to keep finding ways to fill our cups without accessing in-person resources. So we’ve put together a few virtual activities to help refocus the soul.
1. Do you like to sing? There’s a place for you in one of the virtual choirs that have sprung up during the pandemic. Voices in Motion, a project from the University of Victoria’s Nursing, Psychology, Sociology and Music collaboration, brings people together to sing along and discover the health benefits: memory gains; reduction of stress, anxiety and depression; an increased sense of belonging. New members can rehearse at a physical location or simply register online, and there is a recommended donation of $75 per season. The Canadian company Sing the North has a similar process but on a global scale; they hold classes and concert series with participants from around the world, inviting participants to “travel” the world on cross-country tours, making music as they go.
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2. Is your Daily Beautiful Thoughts journal getting harder to fill? The University of Victoria Continuing Studies offers a spiritual memory course in April called Writing Your Sacred Story. The course will use writing exercises, readings of well-known works and group conversations to give writers the opportunity to “engage in the practice of spiritual memory”. The course takes place on Saturdays from April 2 to May 7.
3. Want to walk to meditate instead of writing? Has it been a while since you experienced the healing powers inherent in placing your feet on the ground and your nose among pine needles? Find out about community forest swim walks in your area. Forest bathing, popularized in Japan as shinrin yoku, is mindful in nature, and has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and boost the immune system. Eventbrite offers a wide variety of options for virtual forest bathing, through different organizations and at varying price points. Forest Fix offers virtual walks for groups in the Banff and Canmore area for $40 per session. Parks Canada has an excellent list of selected walks across the country that are particularly suited to this mindfulness practice. And if there aren’t any near you, remember that you don’t really need a guide or a mapped area: just go out with your heart, eyes and ears open. And leave your phone behind.
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4. One of the toughest ongoing losses of the pandemic has been that of touch, whether romantic, platonic or familial. We have also lost the healing power of touch, through practitioners of reiki, osteopathy and other forms of energy healing. But there are options to virtually receive healing energy. First United’s Healing Pathway Ministry in Ottawa, Ontario offers a remote healing circle every Sunday after service, beginning at 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time. Participants watch a video, guided by a practitioner through 10 minutes of intention and meditation to allow the Spirit to flow. There are also online Reiki sessions, some free and some paid, where practitioners channel Reiki energy virtually.
5. For more somatic healing, we turn to a practice that combines yoga and prayer. Katrina Woodworth, president of the nonprofit Christians Practicing Yoga, offers a twice-weekly centering yoga and prayer class on Zoom. Classes, which are by donation, mix gentle Hatha yoga poses with 10 to 15 minutes of mindful meditation. Woodworth teaches from the belief that contemplative yoga offers a larger container for finding a path to spirituality. Open to Grace Christian Yoga, based at Westmount Congregation in Orillia, Ontario, offers in-person and virtual classes integrating scripture, prayer, and devotional readings into practice. An eight-course package starts at $56 and videos can be replayed.
6. Is your spirituality vibrating at a slightly faster rate? Consider virtual dance lessons, which are available at all price points and in all styles. Gurdeep Pandher offers beginner Bhangra instructional videos on a pay-per-view basis. Aisha Studios offers a free combined Belly Dance and Reiki Sound Bath class. And YouTube has an endless list of courses that pop up when you type in a combination of keywords like “dance,” “spiritual,” and “meditation.”
Kate Spencer is a writer in Halifax.
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