I’ve Been Thinking … All Shall Be Well

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I’ve Been Thinking … All Shall Be Well

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I have a variety of coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety about our country and the world. Some are more thoughtful than others! Recently I have been re-reading Revelations of Divine Love, a book by the 14th century mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich, who is said to be the first woman to write a book in English that has survived through the ages. It’s in that book that I found a quote I’ve used as a mantra for many years: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

When I first stumbled upon her famous quote, I thought, well, it’s all fine and good for a cloistered nun living in the quaint 14th century to believe that all shall be well, but life in our times is way too volatile for a thinking person to maintain that kind of optimism. Then I studied what life was like in the 1390s when Dame Julian was writing. For most of her contemporaries, life was short, harrowing, and dangerous. Political and natural disasters ravaged several continents. In Europe, the Black Death claimed almost 200 million lives, around a third of the population. Peasants revolted throughout Europe, Persia, and the Far East. England and France fought a bloody war that lasted a hundred years. And yet, in her writing, Dame Julian encouraged people to trust that a wise and loving plan was in the works, one that was too grand and overarching for our small human minds to perceive. And this is why she assured those who came to her seeking counsel and comfort: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Dame Julian’s words are as relevant to our troubled times as they were to hers. Those of us who care about the world and its people and animals, its rivers and skies, will be better able to think clearly and act effectively if we spend some time each day in the grand embrace of the soul. That’s where I find the hope and the energy to carry on. To do this, I rely on the old standards: meditation to clear my worried mind; prayer to keep me connected to that “wise and loving plan;” exercise and sleep and good food to stay strong for my friends and family. These are tools I use to wake up, calm down, overcome fear, and be the change the world needs us to be.

But there’s one more practice I have in my toolkit. It’s something people just don’t talk about enough: historical perspective. When I hear friends and pundits trash-talking our times as if humanity has spun into the darkest ages ever known, I must object. Yes, we have big problems, some unique to the 21st century (global climate change and over-population being two of the most alarming), and some that have dogged humankind from the beginning of time (wars, terrorism, racism, sexism, and deep, pervasive inequality). But we have also evolved as a species. Spend a little time reviewing the march of history if you don’t believe me. You may decide we are living in the best of times! All over the world, right now, millions of people are making innovative progress toward the good. I find it much more helpful to hitch my wagon to the forces of fearlessness and love, and with eyes wide open to the complexity of our times, to trust that all shall be well

Here’s a prayer from Julian of Norwich that I love to repeat before heading out into each day:

“Lord, let not our souls be busy inns that have no room for thee or thine, but quiet homes of prayer and praise, where thou mayest find fit company. Where the needful cares of life are wisely ordered and put away, and wide, sweet spaces kept for thee; where holy thoughts pass up and down, and fervent longings watch and wait thy coming.”

For more about Elizabeth, go to www.elizabethlesser.org.

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