Faith Matters: Learning to defrag our lives

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, pictured at Tilton Library in South Deerfield.

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, pictured at Tilton Library in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By THE REV. LINDA M. RHINEHART NEAS

Published: 09-15-2023 10:45 AM

Defrag or defragment is a technical term that was coined in the early 1990s to explain the process of reducing the number of fragmented files by bringing parts stored in separate locations on a disc back together, thus requiring the computer to find things quickly and processing commands smoother. If we could defrag our lives, how much better would that be!

Let’s look for a second at all the daily demands that pull us in various directions. There are jobs, family, friends, school, faith communities, libraries, food, health issues and recreation just to name a few things that take up space in our brains and subsequently within our minds and spirits. With so much going on in our heads, how do we deal with keeping it all in balance?

Years ago, when I was studying how the mind, body and spirit work together, I learned that if one part of our beings was off kilter, the rest would not be far behind. Keeping things in balance is much like keeping a computer from being fragmented.

I have come to realize that fragmented lives cannot be avoided. However, we can balance things out if we are mindfully aware of what is happening.

Take for instance getting bad news. Bad news can cause a tailspin of emotions that then raise our blood pressure and cause anxiety. Or we can hear the bad news, breathe deeply and then do what needs to be done to work through whatever comes our way. On the other hand, we can get good news, freak out about what we should do and when, or give thanks for good fortune and move gracefully through the days ahead.

This might sound simplistic, but it actually takes practice and determination to master. American research psychologist and educator Janet Taylor Spence said, “Live from the inside out. Your mind, body and spirit are interconnected. Nourish your soul with mental and physical wellness.”

For some, this idea of mind, body, spirit wellness is like looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Life is full of sickness, pain, anxiety and weakness. What we don’t understand is that we can be full of wellness in the midst of the most horrifying illnesses and situations.

Being well is about healing ourselves. This is different from being cured of something. Cures are something medical science attempts to find. Healing comes from within the individual. When we are able to rise above our imperfections, our issues, and our pain, then we are able to come into balance to be the very best we can be.

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Some of the most profound teachings that I have received in this life came from people ravaged by fatal or chronic diseases.

A friend dying of cancer taught me grace, courage and compassion for those around me by continuing to care for those she loved.

My mother, who had a chronic disease, taught me to see joy and beauty, even when everything around me was falling apart. At her lowest moments, she would point out the beauty of the nurses’ eyes or be filled with joy at seeing the sunset color the sky.

My brother, who also died of cancer, taught me to laugh at myself and to see humor as healing. Just days before he died, he was cracking jokes and saying silly, outlandish things to make people around him laugh.

Finally, another friend, with cognitive issues, taught me that being childlike was very different from being childish. Being childlike is finding awe in the ordinary and joy in the moment, like watching a bee travel from flower to flower filling up the pollen sacs on its legs. Childish is acting like a 2-year-old that isn’t getting the treat they want.

Just like defragging the computer takes time, pulling our lives back together takes time and work, but the rewards are endless. When we are able to live our crazy lives in the eye of the tornado, or when we are able to ride the waves of life’s storms to the calm of the harbor, then we are able to find the balance that brings us to a place of serenity, hope and gratitude.

The Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas is an ordained interfaith minister. She maintains an international, online ministry through Facebook.