Friday, May 31, 2019

connection image 4

"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."
~Dorothy Day

Dear Aspen Chapel Families, 

     Since we started our exploration into "connectedness" a couple of weeks ago, it seems to be a topic many people are talking about. I listened to an interview on NPR the other evening about college students suffering from anxiety and depression at alarming rates on college campuses. I have talked to parents whose college-aged children want to live back at home because they feel so isolated and lonely at school. And of course the take away from the presentation on" raising teens with family and community" was that human connection is essential for keeping kids from engaging in destructive behaviors.
     It seems that the more connections we have on our phones, the less connected we are to the people in our own homes and neighborhoods. I see it in myself! My kids ask a question, and the response is delayed as I finish a text or email on the phone. Our work demands bleed into family life with the convenience of emails on our phones! That's the modeling we're doing, so when it's time for "connecting" at the dinner table, it becomes harder and harder to set limits on kids when we don't set them for ourselves. Phones aren't the only reason for this lack of connection: we're overworked and our children are over-programmed. We're too busy to see our friends during the week, and no one is home during the down time for kids to play with. And the academic pressures are insurmountable, contributing to the unprecedented rates of anxiety among teens. 
     I came across an article written by a minister in Boulder called The epidemic of loneliness in young people and how spiritual youth groups can help. It explains how our too-full schedules and technology have replaced the connection kids have with nature and each other. 
     I am so grateful to be able to create a space at the Aspen Chapel where youth can come and explore ideas openly and without judgment. As they grow older, we'll dive deeply into these more difficult topics, such as depression, addiction, and loneliness. But for now I'm thrilled to have a platform to teach them about what connectedness means and to provide a way for them to connect with each other. This Sunday we'll discuss why our connections to people, places, and things is so important. We'll also begin discussing whether it's okay to let go of a connection. Sometimes friendships become painful for kids, and they need to know it's okay to move on. And we'll think about how our connections have enriched our lives. I do hope to see you and your children this Sunday at the Chapel! Enjoy the emergence of Spring, finally!
connectedness image 3

"If we all stand together, we'll all begin to heal."
~Sonja Linman

Dear Aspen Chapel Families,
    Early this week I had the privilege of attending a presentation called, "Helping Our Teens Through Family and Community" at the Aspen District Theater. Individuals and families who had direct experience with addiction sat on the first panel, and mental health therapists, police officers, and an ER doctor sat on the second. Sonja Linman, a prevention specialist and long-time educator, spoke in the middle.
    The first panel shared their harrowing stories of addiction and what factors they believe got them there. The second panel shared their observations of what teens are facing today: incredibly busy schedules, academic and social pressure, time on social media, and easy access to drugs and alcohol. Sonja Linman suggested that we become good at what we practice. Kids are practicing being on their devices and being over-programmed. She equated their experience to a cat watching a horror film: over-stimulation and anxiety as a result of a perceived threat, which life today offers!
    The common thread that each speaker spoke to was connection. It was stated that when kids stop connecting to their family, they become disconnected from themselves. Kids can feel lonely in their family if they don't connect on an emotional level. One of the presenters shared that as he became more distant and withdrawn from his family due to feeling overwhelmed and isolated by his emotions, he turned to drugs because he could connect just by sitting with someone else doing drugs. It was a way to be with people without sharing anything except a temporary high that numbs the pain. It wasn't until he was sent away for wilderness therapy that he realized how sad it was that he sought connection that way, now that he has learned that sharing our emotions is how we really connect with others. 
    Kids and adults alike need purpose, structure, goals, and connection. As we work towards goals, search for purpose and operate within a structure, we rely on connection to make it all worthwhile! We need to connect with people to manage all our experiences and emotions, we need to connect with what we're doing so we can be present with it and have buy-in, and we need to connect with ourselves in order to self-regulate when outside factors become out of control. 
    It was perfect timing that we began our "Connectedness" unit last Sunday. Last week we discussed the people, places, and things we're connected to. We'll continue discussing that this week, but the focus will be on what causes us to become disconnected and what it takes to reconnect. As adults, we learn to become more aware of our emotional triggers and we learn to hold space for that. We're also equipped with tools to find our equilibrium again: exercise, breathing, prayer and meditation, and conflict resolution skills. But most of us didn't learn about this when we were kids, so we're learning it now! If our kids can become aware of how they feel when they're connected and how to become connected, and further to notice when they're becoming disconnected and what they can do about it so they don't become isolated and depressed, they will be far more equipped than we were for the challenges that await them. 
    We hope to see you and your children this Sunday. Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend filled with "connectedness"! 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 11th, 2019

mothers day image chapel

"I believe the choice to become a mother is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is." 
~Oprah Winfrey

Dear Aspen Chapel Families,

     It is mid-May and we are coming upon Mother's Day. Many mothers may look forward to this day of family, brunch, flowers, and little coupons for chores. Others may meet this day with grief because it's a reminder of what they've lost or never had. And of course there are numerous emotions between joy and grief that honor the complexity of motherhood, family structure, unrelated caregivers, single parenthood, and the difficulties and heartbreaks associated with raising children, whether we're parents, step-parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts & uncles, or friends.
    Wherever we fall on the spectrum of emotions, we can probably all agree that mothering or care-giving is a spiritual experience. From the very beginning we experience the need to surrender, let go, trust, self-reflect, fail, try again, and to learn from the mirror, which is held up to us by all those we attempt to care for with our best intentions. Each time our hearts break or our strategies don't work or we're brought to our knees through care-giving, we are blessed with insight, which leads to wisdom. Unfortunately the wisdom comes after we've made numerous mistakes, but it comes when someone else needs it. That is why Mother's Day is a day to celebrate all caregivers who impart this insight. 
"So we are grateful and we appreciate both - our biological mothers and mother earth. We are here because of this mother and that mother."
"If you look closely enough, there isn't one thing in creation, without which you can exist. So I want you to look upon everything as a mother."

    Please join us this Sunday as we gather as a Chapel community to enjoy a short message, beautiful readings, and the music of ASPEN NOISE. We will also be passing the microphone around the sanctuary so everyone can share how motherhood or care-giving has touched them.

   Older children are invited to stay upstairs in the sanctuary for this special service. If your child would like to perform with ASPEN NOISE, they are having an 8:15 rehearsal at the Chapel, and we would love to have them join. Very young children will join McKenna downstairs for stories and a special craft.