First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on May 20, 2021 – https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/you-re-not-a-robot-and-god-can-prove-it
I am not a robot. I have emotions, a heart, an intellect, and a will. I have learned that “feelings are not facts,” from the cognitive behavioural techniques of Dr. Abraham Low. However, feelings can indicate truth to us: how we feel in a situation, where we need support, or our need to find peace.
My colleague Sandy Marshall, associate superintendent of the Catholic Independent Schools of Vancouver Archdiocese, shared her prayer time reflections with me recently. Staff of the superintendent’s office gather every morning at 9 a.m. to pray together. We take turns leading the prayer. We pray a decade of the Rosary for each staff member during their birthday month, and for deceased members of our community and those who need healing.
We stand at our cubicles or at our office doors – spaced out due to COVID safety restrictions, and yet we are still united. I have noticed Sandy facing towards her office window as she sits in her chair. It overlooks a beautiful view of the Vancouver neighbourhood we are situated in.
Sandy told me that she looks out of the window and focuses on the trees and then on the houses and buildings. She calls it her “I am not a robot” game, inspired by the online test to purchase tickets or to log into a website. You may have come across this when a site asks you to click on the boxes with cars or bridges or fire hydrants, and once you answer correctly, you have proven you are not a robot.
When she told me this, I exclaimed, “That’s a great grounding exercise.” As someone who deals with anxiety and panic attacks, using techniques to bring myself back to the present moment is helpful. Her window reflections are a mindfulness practice that she created on her own. I was inspired. Her exercise made me think of all the things that I have learned to help my mental health.
I have found that there is practical wisdom in mindfulness exercises. Dr. Gregory Bottaro has written a book on Catholic mindfulness, The Mindful Catholic, Finding God One Moment at a Time. In it he talks about trusting in God more and finding peace. We could all use a little more of that.
I often need reminders to bring my thoughts back to the present moment. It is so easy to get caught in thinking traps and to forget that God is taking care of me.
I work in an office that celebrates growing spiritually, intellectually, and relationally. It is such a blessing to work with people who follow Steve Farber’s motto, expressed in The Radical Edge: “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.”
Sandy is one of my mentors in work and in life. As Nick Schneider, director of finance, said about Sandy, “Everything you say is quotable.” Her attention to the little things is inviting, like how she decorates a prayer centre for each liturgical season in our office. She is someone I turn to for recipes, party décor ideas, and how to gather a room.
What I love about the mission of the CISVA is the task to “develop as balanced persons spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually.” The Lord has granted us natural means to heal and grow. I have recently taken to eating more healthily with a delicious array of vegetables, protein, and grains. Everything we need to live well the Lord has provided.
It is a common mistake to dismiss practical help like medicines, therapy, and other secular resources in favour of praying harder for healing. We have the bounty of choosing good means to find peace, health, and wellness. We are human. Our energy fluctuates, and we need time to rest too.
Prayer is a gift of time to rest in God’s presence. And finding the balance of our priorities is an ongoing journey. St. Faustina wrote in her diary, “My one occupation is to live in the presence of my Heavenly Father.”
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.