PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
January 2020


Dear Friends of PeerSpirit,

We start the new decade refreshed after our winter break, and thinking about the year to come. We brainstormed about practices that will help sustain us during these turbulent times, and came up with the following list. Which of these resonant with you, and what else might you include?

10 Essentials for 2020

by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

Wherever we look – climate science, politics, weather, financial markets, or even astrology – 2020 looks like a doozie of a year. As we personally head into this new decade, we are thinking about 2020 as a time of continued completion and launch, of falling apart and coming together, and of burning to the ground and rising from the ashes.

The tension of living our ordinary lives in this ambiguity is challenging. We see lots of evidence of how this tension, especially when unacknowledged, erupts to anger and violence. So, through the first month of the year we are having conversations with each other and among friends asking the question, “How do we best navigate the first 12 months of this new decade?”

The primary emerging insight is that maintaining personal practices that give us joy is an essential survival tool for troubling times. Both of us enjoy hiking in the backcountry and in our daypacks we always carry our Ten Essentials: things like extra food, basic first-aid supplies, a tiny flashlight, extra water and clothing one might need if conditions like the weather change. So, since conditions will certainly change during the course of this new year, we began making a list of TEN Essentials to get us through 2020. We hope this list inspires you to design your own master list for staying resilient and even joyful in the new year.

1)    Get outside everyday and check-in with the planet – even if you just stand on the balcony of your apartment or porch of your house.  Notice what is happening in the natural world where you live. Learn to dress for your weather. Walk with a friend or your dog. Turn off your devices and tune into the sounds, sights, and smells around you. Engage your sense of wonder.

Allow yourself time in nature

2)    Cultivate diverse relationships: between people of different generations, ethnicities, nationalities, and religious/political perspectives. Expand the way you see the world by welcoming diversity and exploring conversations that both celebrate these differences and discover commonalities.

3)    Tend and treasure your “personal village” – partners, children, parents, friends, or pets. Relationships of kinship and friendship form the social bedrock on which we stand. Do not take your peeps for granted. Surprise people with gestures of love and kindness.

Maintain and nourish your connections

4)    Look for humor that is not mean-spirited. A good laugh can erase momentary or even long-time gloom. Can’t remember a punchline? Go online and search “good jokes” – who knew that all those Reader’s Digest jokes from decades ago are now digitalized… and well, then there’s life itself, always a good source.

5)    Look for good news – and share it widely. While trying to stay informed, carefully monitor your capacity for incoming stories of despair. Ask yourself: what needs repeating? What opens my heart? What expression do I want to see on the faces of those around me? We all need stories that give us energy to carry on.

6)    Plant something – and tend to the plants and/or gardens you already have. Nurturing the growing world calls us to a higher level of attention and care – and wonderment at this other kingdom that supports all life.

Plant a  garden – with your grandchildren!

7)    Volunteer: every community is based on the assumption that people will volunteer time and energy to support one another. What and who do you care about? Do something that supports and protects those things and people: step in, you’ll be surprised at all you learn and the ways that mutual benefit emerges.

8)    Maintain an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude, being thankful for being alive, is the basis for all spirituality and religion, and you don’t have to subscribe to any religion or spiritual lineage in order to be grateful. At the end of the day, ask yourself: what am I grateful for this day? Create small check-in rituals with the people around you; keep a little notebook marking a gratitude a day.

9)    Take up an art form you’ve been meaning to explore. Enjoy music or art. Read a poem. Sing a song. Draw a picture. Make collages. Throw a pot. Write a journal. These all get your creative juices flowing: admire what you make, even if you’re just learning. (Ann still has a little pottery dish she made in Brownie Scouts 60 years ago; Christina still has her first journal pages written when she was fourteen. Both of these remind us of the continuity of life.)

Join a choir! Whidbey Island Open Circle Singers (photo by Peggy Taylor)

10) _______________________________ Here is the space for you to imagine what is essential for you to foster and support this year that will enable you to stand strong in your own life in the midst of troubling times.

It’s not likely to be an easy year, but the more of us who are carrying our Ten Essentials and passing on the practices for personal survival, the more we will get through it together.