Regardless of your faith or religion, if you need to take some time for a mini-Easter retreat, here are 8 questions to jumpstart your reflection and self-renewal.
Easter is a time of rebirth and renewal.
In the Christian tradition, it is the time we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross for our sins. It is the time we celebrate His power over death and sin, and a time we use to remember our own shortcomings and commit to renewing ourselves.
In other traditions, especially in the West, Easter coincides with springtime–also known to be a time of blossoming, new beginnings, and rebirth. This is the time people use to take stock of what they have in their lives, reassess their priorities, and discard what they no longer need.
While the coronavirus still looms over the whole planet, and while most of us can’t do even the most basic of Easter traditions–going to Easter Mass, doing outdoor Easter Egg Hunts with kids, celebrating with family–this season offers us a golden opportunity to ask ourselves the right questions, in order to move forward in a more meaningful way.
Regardless of your faith or religion (or even if you have none), we offer you some reflection points for your own mini-self-retreat during the Easter lockdown:
1. What are the BEST parts of my life–the ones that I am truly, deeply grateful for?
Despite everything that is going on around the world and in our own lives, there must be things that stand out as those that we can be truly, deeply grateful for. There must be people, situations–or even micro-moments–that we can say are the best parts of our lives, even at this time of crisis. What or who are they? Write them down or say them out loud. Take a moment to really feel deep gratitude for those best parts of our lives.
2. How can I concretely express gratitude for those best parts of my life?
Gratitude is best when it’s expressed and shared. Now that we know what the best parts of our lives are, and in what ways they show up, it’s time to put our gratitude into action. How can we concretely express our gratitude to and for them? If these best parts of our lives are people around us, how can we let them know how we feel? Especially now, in the time of social distancing, it’s important to strengthen our connections in different ways and be more visible with our gratitude and affection for others.
♦ Here’s a bit of homework: Write down the concrete ways to express your deep gratitude for the best parts of your life, set a date in your calendar for when you’ll do it, and actually do it! Better yet, do it right after you read this post! Let Easter be a celebration of the best parts of your life, and make sure they feel it, too. 🙂
Now, these next few questions will be a bit harder, but just stay with the reflection, and do your best to express it…
3. Which part of my life feels like I’ve hit ROCK-BOTTOM?
Perhaps it’s our health, our career or finances, some relationships that we aren’t able to rebuild because of social distancing… or perhaps it’s a feeling of loneliness and anxiety because of the self-quarantine. Whatever it is, name it and do not be ashamed of it. Do not judge yourself for what you feel. This is a safe space and a safe moment for you to check in with yourself and recognize where you are. Just write it down or say it out loud, and remember this: This, too, shall pass. Nothing in this world is ever permanent, and this place where you feel you’ve hit rock-bottom is just the same. You might be there now, but now will not last forever.
4. In which parts of my life did the WORST part of myself show up?
This is the part where we recognize and take accountability for what we might have done wrong. Even on the best of days, our tempers can flare up; we might feel jealous or envious of others’ comfort; our anxiety might have caused us to push some of our loved ones away; or the panic over the pandemic might have caused us to keep too much for ourselves and leave too little for others. It happens to the best of us–nobody is spared. But again, whatever it is, name it and do not be ashamed of it. Do not judge yourself for your worst parts, because your worst parts do not make up all of you. But it is important to be aware of them, so you can also be aware of how and when they show up, and how and when you can do things differently.
5. In what ways can I manage or change my behaviors so that I improve the way I react to negative situations?
This is not an easy question to ask. It’s always easier for us to think of how others should improve, versus how we ourselves should handle situations better. This also requires a bit of imagination: if we were to play back some negative situations in which the worst parts of ourselves showed up in the past, how would we have done it better so that we don’t end up hurting others or ourselves? And knowing this now, how can we change our future behaviors so that we respond to adverse situations a little better each time around?
6. How can I concretely express my apologies or remorse to and for the people I’ve hurt in the past?
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do: to concretely reach out to people we’ve hurt or disappointed in the past, and express our sincerest apologies or remorse for what we’ve done wrong. In some cases, it will be really impossible to do this–or it might also do more harm than good to reach out and reopen old wounds. But whatever the case might be, it could help to at least express your sincerest apology even in private, even just through a letter that you write, even if you don’t get to give it out. The point is to be able to express it, take it out of your system, and also acknowledge how you’ve done wrong in the past and how you could do better moving forward.
♦ So, here’s your next homework: Think of the top people whom you have hurt in the past, and write each of them a letter–whether or not you actually get to give that letter. Take the time to express what is in your heart, send them loving thoughts, and be kind and compassionate to yourself and to the other person as you’re doing this. It might take a few days for you to do this–and do take the time that you need–but do give it a shot. You will thank yourself for this later on.
7. How can I forgive myself for my mistakes?
One of Easter’s most important gifts for all of us is the gift of grace. For Christians, grace comes from God’s love–from the fact that He died for us because He loved us, first and foremost. We are forgiven and we are renewed because we are loved in the deepest and the most eternal of ways.
But regardless of faith, grace also comes from the act of loving and forgiving ourselves–no matter how many times we fall astray and hurt others. It comes from know that, for as long as we are alive, we have an opportunity to atone, to renew, and to come home to a higher version of ourselves–each and every time. It comes from knowing that, no matter how broken we have become, we also have the capacity to make ourselves whole again. And we, in our paradox of brokenness and wholeness, are enough.
This is, perhaps, one of the most difficult things to remember and live out. It’s easier to be critical of ourselves than to be completely loving and forgiving of ourselves. But this season of renewal and rebirth is also the perfect time to love ourselves anew and to tell ourselves: I love you no matter what– and we are going to move forward with hope and compassion for ourselves.
♦ Another homework: Write a love letter to yourself. Be honest, sincere, raw, vulnerable. Say everything you’ve ever wanted to tell yourself but didn’t have the guts to say–until now. Nobody else is going to read this letter but you, so be as honest as you can be, but also be loving and compassionate. Remember this: the only person who can truly, fully love and forgive you for everything that you are–even your deepest, darkest side–is yourself. And you owe it to yourself to express this unconditional love to and for yourself.
This is probably the most challenging homework of all–and you’ll need to give yourself time for this. But please do take the time to do this. If you feel like you’ve been carrying around a heavy burden for so long, this is one step to lighten your load and begin moving forward with greater kindness and compassion–for yourself and the world around you.
8. Now that I know what I’m grateful for, what needs to change, what I’m sorry for, and also how I can forgive myself… In which part of my life can I renew myself to show up as the best part of myself to and for others?
This question is loaded and comes with so many layers, and it might not be easy to unpack all in one go. But for the purposes of your reflection, write down the biggest aspect of your life that needs to change, and how you will take responsibility for changing it by showing up as the best version of yourself.
It could be: taking better care of your health, especially in a pandemic-stricken world, or looking for more viable career options, or spending more mindful time with your family, or restoring some relationships that have fallen by the wayside, or feeling less helpless by finding ways you can contribute… Whatever that is, identify that top area where change needs to happen, and know that YOU can improve the situation by improving YOUR RESPONSES to the situation and to people around you.
Imagine yourself showing up as a kinder, more loving, more empathetic and compassionate version for yourself, and keep on practicing it–one day at a time. Remember that change doesn’t come easy; any kind of renewal or rebirth comes in stages. Be patient with yourself, be clear about the outcome you want, celebrate your milestones, and just keep moving forward, one steady step at a time.
Have a blessed, meaningful, and renewing Easter!
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Want more resources to take these questions and reflections further? Please stay tuned, and Mindful Manila will offer more online resources for your self-paced reflections. 🙂