by elba morales
I always wanted to be that girl who meditated. Early in the morning, the sun is peeking out. Birds are chirping. The ideal me is awake with a messy but chic bun piled on my head, caffeinated with my fair-trade locally purchased coffee, I make my way to the bay window (that I don’t have) in my spacious living room where the light shines on the perfectly clean hardwood floor. I roll out my yoga mat, and sit comfortably. No sound except for the warm breeze rustling the curtain. I close my eyes and think of nothing for twenty minutes. I focus on my breathing, I am calm. At the right time, I open my eyes and continue my day more grounded and clear minded.
This has never happened.
As someone with an anxiety disorder, sitting down and closing my eyes is a task comparable to taking on the cliffs of Mordor. Last year, I went through a particularly difficult mental health episode and anxiety controlled every aspect of my life. Doctors, as they had for more than a decade, continued to advise me to meditate to calm my nerves.
Anxiety had shaped my existence for so long, and I longed for relief. As a lifelong Bible nerd, I turned to Scripture for guidance. And with some possible divine inspiration, I made my way to good ol’ Galatians to read about the fruits of the Spirit again.
Self Awareness (sometimes translated to temperance or self control, but I’ve modified it)
It was an a-ha! moment. It was right there. Surely if I focused on becoming these things, then my anxiety would dissipate! However, what if instead of trying to become those things (like I always strived to do as a religiously dutiful child), I offered those fruits to myself? What if the fruits of the spirit were for me to join and delight in – not another list of virtues to become? I turned to myself and asked –
Kindness – how am I being kind to myself at this very moment?
Faithfulness – how am I being faithful to myself? To the vision I have for me? To who I am?
Generosity – where can I be more generous with myself? In my love languages of words of affirmation, quality, time, physical touch? Where can I be more understanding of myself?
Gentleness – Oh sweet child, life is so hard. It’s relentless. How can I show myself some gentleness right now? What part of me needs comfort?
Love – it really is everything isn’t it? How can I dip into the stream of infinite love that always surrounds me? What moments do I remember being enveloped with love? Can I tap into that feeling right now?
Joy – Where am I postponing joy? Where can I find joy? Whose joy can I partake in when I can’t find my own?
Peace – Deep belly breaths. Be still and know. What do I know right now? What is true?
Patience – How can I be more patient with myself? Where have I shown impatience with my growth?
Self Awareness – Okay, how am I actually feeling right now? Where can I find some footing? What are my needs? How can I meet them? How can I pull in my resources?
I found that my nervous system seemed to make its way back to regulation when I invited myself to some (or all if needed) of these sweet offerings. They say anxiety and fear cannot coexist with gratitude. I’m not sure wonder can co-exist with fear either. I found that once I sat and chewed on this fruit thoughtfully, the anxiety I felt diminished and I was able to see myself more clearly.
May we hold these gifts from the Spirit close to us. May we offer them to ourselves freely and in abundance. May joy course through us quicker than anxiety, quicker than fear. And when we are shaken, may we feast.
elba morales is a proud child of immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador. They hold a BA in Biblical Studies from Patten University (Oakland, CA) and a MA in Systemic and Philosophical Theology from the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA). Their research focused on the intersection between theology, race, gender, and sexuality.
elba has spent the better part of the last decade working with grassroots organizations, developing resources and raising awareness for affordable housing, immigration, workers’ rights, tenant’s rights, queer rights, and more as Director of Development and Communications for various non-profit organizations. She is a development and communications strategist, special event planner, and visionary thinker. In 2021, elba started ERM Consulting to work with burgeoning non profits where she creates and implements development and communications infrastructure, supports organizational development, designs and launches annual campaigns, engages private donors, and plans special fundraising events.
elba was raised and lives in Oakland, CA. They live with her wonderful partner and dog. elba enjoys cooking, reading comics, hitting up queer dance parties, and spending time with their niblings.