M & M’s – Movement

I have been meditating on my management mechanisms for stress. Handling the normal stressors of life is in itself challenging. For many, adding the additional stressors resulting from a global pandemic turns everyday stress into mega-stress. I have been passing along some of my practices for managing stress in a series of blogs entitled M & M’s.

The teacher in me alliterated the practices as:

Meaningful Relationships

Meditation

Mindfulness

Movement

Music

This blog is about movement.

64DED21C-DE7B-44FF-8FEB-76B36012869F_1_105_cA couple of decades ago, a community friend and neighbor passed away. She was a young 62 at the time. Over the preceding two decades, our paths would cross at various local and church-related events. I recall engaging in simple conversations with her on those occasions. Shortly after her passing, her husband came calling at our home. He handed me her framed hand-crafted sentiment pictured with this blog, “consider any day lost on which you have not DANCE at least once.” He told me that his wife had requested that he give this gift to me after her passing. This gesture gave me pause. In my memory banks, the only dancing I could recall was in my imagination. I could not recollect any conversations with my neighbor friend regarding dance. In her mind, she had associated this sentiment with me. I settled on this thought. She had identified a grace in my life hidden behind my physical awkwardness. It was the grace to creatively flow through life with mental, emotional, and spiritual poise.

I recently came across this quote: “Regular exercise can literally remodel the physical structure of our brains, making us more receptive to joy and social connection and more resilient to stress.”  (The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal)

I might expand on this quote as:

“Regular BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT MOVEMENT can literally remodel the physical structure of our brains, making us more receptive to joy and social connection and more resilient to stress.”

207ECD5E-8E7F-4ACF-90D2-AFF953039785_1_201_aThe desire for movement, especially physical motion, exercise, and traveling, have always been part of my nature. One memory my mother enjoyed sharing with me was from a time shortly before I contracted polio at the age of two. My mother had lost track of me one day and frantically searched for me in and around the house. She finally discovered me up a neighbor’s ladder propped in a cherry tree. Cherries are ripe in Ontario, Canada in June and July. I turned age two on September 20, 1953. Seven days after my birthday, I started falling whenever I tried to walk. Polio had struck. Wholly paralyzed, I was unable for a time to even sit up. Although I do not have many memories of that time, that experience undoubtedly had a significant impact on my psyche and my consequent desire for physical movement.

The term “flattening the curve” is often heard today concerning the coronavirus pandemic. I believe I have flattened the downward curve of physical aging through the discipline of physical exercise. A few years ago, I started experiencing some of the effects of aging exacerbated by polio’s late effects. I have undergone a couple of rounds of physical therapy. After my first therapist analyzed my body’s condition, she said, “You are more flexible than some seventeen-year-olds that I have treated.” Flexibility acquired through physical exercise impacts every aspect of life. This resilience enables me to flex with the stress without breaking. It allows me to gain strength and maturity through stress.

Besides physical movement, intellectual movement and emotional movement are also beneficial in dealing with stress. We humans enjoy the ability and the need to progress in understanding and emotional health.

Progressive learning is a lifelong joy! One of the benefits of lifelong learning is a perspective adjustment. Perspective contributes to our ability to handle stress.

Stress results from a perspective of being stuck on what logicians refer to as the horns of a dilemma. Options for a decision sometimes seem to boil down to two equally unpleasant outcomes. Becoming unstuck from the horns of a dilemma involves discovering other potential options. Different perspectives are discoverable as one’s thinking progresses.

Growing in emotional maturity also aids in the management of stress. It is easy to become stuck in an emotional state. Being stuck in any area of life can be distressing.

DAB9EEC9-D5EE-4BF5-B796-E7C94A1B2EE6_1_105_cOn our first visit to Embu, Kenya, in 2006, I remember being stuck. The pastor was driving us to his house after the church service. His wife had gone ahead to prepare to offer us Kenyan hospitality. The previously known pastor who had connected us to this church in Embu was also in the car. The car descended a small hill near our destination. The pasotors’ house was located a partial way up an impending incline. In the dale between the two hills, the car stopped moving. The road was dirt. It was raining. The water descending into the dale had turned the dirt road into a muddy mess. Later we learned that the local government had recently regraded the streets in this neighborhood. This regrading made the roadways more susceptible to mucky-ness when rained on. {It wasn’t the rainy season but my wife, Mama Nafula (Mama Rain) was in town} The two pastors, adorned in very “smart’ suites and dress shoes, jumped out of the car and attempted to get our vehicle unstuck. Soon the hospitality preparing wife from their nearby house walked to the scene of our distress. She appeared equally well adorned and added her physical strength to the effort. Their combined efforts did not work. I had visions of us being physically carried to their nearby house through the mud. Happily, our hosts assured us of a successful outcome and encouraged us to stay in the car. Serendipitously, some young people happened on our scene of distress and offered to help. Their added leverage quickly freed the vehicle. In a few minutes, we were comfy in our new friends’ house, enjoying warm Kenyan hospitality.

The top two quagmires for emotions that I have noted in pastoral counseling are grief and un-forgiveness. Like physical pain, negative emotions are indicators telling us to stop, take notice, address the issue, resolve it, and move on.

Grieving is a process of healing for the wound created when anything dear to us is torn away. The more intimate the attachment, the longer and more intense the grieving process will be. When emotionally stuck, the one grieving should consult an able counselor.

Forgiveness facilitates emotional movement and progress. There are two classes of forgiveness, legal and relational. The statutory granting of a pardon is a spiritual transaction. A spiritual realm exists. As in the natural domain, there are governing laws. One of those spiritual laws stipulates that humans must grant forgiveness to those who have sinned against them.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14–15, NKJV)

“Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21–22, NKJV)

Jesus is referring here to the granting of legal forgiveness. It would be challenging to have an ongoing relationship with anyone who continually sins against us. After granting legal forgiveness it might be much wiser to relationally avoid that person until they truly repent.

Granting legal forgiveness is not dependent on emotions. It is a statutory declaration heard in the court of heaven. This declaration of forgiveness is essential even when there is no hope of relational restoration. This class of forgiveness is applicable when the offending party has already passed away, or when it is prudent to avoid a relationship with someone who continues to be abusive.

Over the years, I have often used the following format with those emotionally stuck because of un-forgiveness. The declaration is made out loud in my presence. I then take advantage of the opportunity to pray for the person.

“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV84)

“I choose to forgive ______(name of person)_________,

for ________(details of the sin committed)__________.

I forgive ______(name of person)_________

and release ______(name of person)_________

into the freedom of my forgiveness.

Jesus, forgive me for my unforgiveness and any bitterness

I have held toward ______(name of person)_________

and release me into the freedom of your forgiveness.

Relational forgiveness is a necessary step for restoring a broken relationship. It is also a step toward emotional healing caused by the relational infraction. In relational forgiveness, the party who has sinned confesses the sin to the offended party and seeks forgiveness. Once relational forgiveness is granted steps can be taken to resotre the relationship.

“Regular BODY, SOUL, AND SPIRIT MOVEMENT can literally remodel the physical structure of our brains, making us more receptive to joy and social connection and more resilient to stress.”

 


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