Monday, October 16, 2006

Get Into the Groove

So I didn't want to go to church yesterday. There were a couple of reasons actually. One was that I would be going by myself as my partner needed to take the whole day to study for his test today. (Since English isn't his first language, it's twice as hard for him to understand what a textbook is saying, you know how textbooks can be!) Another reason is that it was a cold, rainy day, one that discouraged getting out and about. The final reason was that we had stayed up the night before (just because we could I guess, doing nothing really- puttering around) and I just felt like curling up with a book with a cup of tea followed by a nap.

However our neighborhood parish church, Our Lady of Lourdes, has numerous services all through the day so there was really no good excuse for me to NOT go, so I hurried up, showered, dressed up and went to the one o'clock Mass.

Now many times I've heard people (mostly Protestants) criticize the Catholic Church and the rituals they have in their service. Many Protestant services are stripped bare of an liturgy whatsoever except for bare essentials, to make it more "user-friendly" to someone who is "unchurched." The more I attend churches that feature liturgy in their worship, the more I have come to appreciate "going through the motions" as more than empty actions. Called "High Church" (Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, plus Roman Catholic, etc.), these services have responses and prayers that are repeated at every service. And the service is divided up into sections like Introductory rites ,The Liturgy of the Word , The Liturgy of the Eucharist , The Communion rite and finally Concluding rite. As a Virgo, I love the organization of everything into specific categories. Growing up as an American Baptist, our worship service had a similar structure but not so clearcut.

At any rate, arriving yesterday, I was not in the frame of mind to worship God. I was rushed, tired and disoriented since I had arrived late and the service had already begun. However, as I started participating and joining in the liturgy (the prayers, the sung and spoken responses, the hymns, the kneeling and standing, making the sign of the cross, passing the peace), my mood drastically changed and by the end of the service I was very glad I had taken the trouble to attend.

This got me to wonder about this phenomenon of actions leading emotions, rather than what I've previously believed, which is the direct opposite. (If You're Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands, for example). For example when my coworker and I started taking TaeKwonDo classes our first year in Seoul, Korea, there were MANY days when we both moaned to each other about "soooooo not wanting to go" after a long day of work. But on the way back, we often expressed surprise at how great we felt and were glad that we made the effort in the first place.

I have also discovered what many of couples in committed relationships have known all along: sometimes your mate gets on your nerves and your fantasies are other-than-romantic ones! However sometimes the actions of fixing a nice dinner, a thoughtful gesture or taking the trouble to do something nice, brings out the feelings of affection that we always had.

Although I'm certainly no fan of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, there was one radio show I listened to that made an impact on me. The caller stated that they were depressed and felt there was no meaning in their life. Dr. Laura stated "To have a meaningful life, you must fill your life with meaning." She went on to suggest church, volunteer activities, visiting family and friends, taking a class to learn something new in addition to counseling. In otherwords, look out instead of always looking in. I feel like this is an extremely profound idea and granted, while there are certainly those with clinical depression that need treatment, I think that there are a lot of "pity parties of ones" out there that could benefit from her advice.

So that's my post for this first day of the workweek. Perhaps your "get up and go" has done "got up and left" and you are feeling uninspired and unmotivated to do much of anything. However give "going through the motions" a try and see if your mood and emotions follow! Let me know if it works! (or doesn't!)


Jolie said...

Good Post! Yeah, actions can definitely change your emotions. We forget how closely our mind/body/spirit are intertwined. Just simple breathing can change one's mood. I also dread exercise. I've never come to it easily and usually would rather just forget about it. I must admit, after I exercise I always feel better. I'm trying to get my mind to recognize this before I exercise as opposed to just after. So far it hasn't happened.

I always feel better after doing something crafty. If I go for periods without creating something, I feel down and lethargic. Creating really feeds my spirit, which in turn feeds my whole being. I think it keeps me sane.

connie said...

Spending time in the kitchen baking or cooking a nice meal gives me that feeling you describe. Even if I'm dragging my feet about cooking because of the big mess it will create in the kitchen, I always love the feeling of accomplishment and the satisfaction of creating something.

I also liked your comments about liturgy in worship. I love the structure of liturgy. There are those who "go through the motions" but I truly enjoy participating in the responses and following and internalizing the readings. I feel like I can melt into the crowd inside the church and have my own personal worship experience with God "inside" the liturgy. It's difficult to explain but liturgy is simply "my style", I suppose.

Record Store Geek said...

... boy. You got to prove your love for me.

Sorry - I had to. It was the first thing that came to mind when I read the title.

~ Greg

Anonymous said...

This is areally excellent post, Dan. I, too, have begun falling in love with the high church traditions for what they represent: actions which lead to a changed heart. I agree with you that amny Protestants miss out on the opportunities that rituals can provide. Thanks for your post~