I have written in my company’s At The Gate blog, that I frequently read through a little meditation guide on simplicity and I have found it particularly useful this year. When True Simplicity Is Gained: Finding Spiritual Clarity in a Complex World is a book by author and theologian Martin Marty is for any time of year, but structured for the 40 days of Lent.

This year, given our current world pandemic, I found the last 7 reflections particularly profound. In order, they are titled Understanding; Justice; Healing; Discipleship; Reordering; Transformation; and Hope.

This reminded me of my first Thrive Global article, which I wrote last fall after Ariana Huffington put out the clarion call for “how do you stack positive habits?” I wrote about how I have learned to do positive habit stacking. And then in October I followed up with a Thrive Global post about stacking positive traits.

If we are stacking positive habits on a foundation of positive traits (goodness based on knowledge, which leads to self-control, perseverance, and kindness) what are those positive traits resting on? I would like to think they are stacked on the concepts of Understanding; Justice; Healing; Discipleship; Reordering; Transformation; and Hope – stacked one on top of the other like a staircase.

Most religions and spiritual practices have these concepts as part of their core teachings. Even those who claim no religion, when pressed, will probably offer up these concepts as the basis for a good life and orderly well-functioning community. Most religions also have the concept of pilgrimage, a time of the year for discipline usually followed by a festival. The pilgrimage or epic journeys of ancient Greek literature are about human beings tested to capacity in order to learn the big lessons of life and grow strong and wise.

Well, we can’t go on any epic journeys right now – except through literature and movies! But that does not mean we can’t find ways to exercise these conceptual muscles and grow strong. And we all know that exercising and growing strong are what keep us healthy and resistant to disease. Growing mentally strong keeps us inoculated from the dis-ease of the mind, which is every bit as important as staying physically strong.

But I digress!

These concepts are also the concepts that my Torii Coaching & Consulting Co-Founder, William Rodriguez, and I used as the foundation of our business with our clients. We first seek understanding of the project and ask lots of questions that will allow for maximum efficiency, success and wellness for all involved – and that may be a company seeking corporate coaching, a nonprofit organization seeking a keynote speaker to share knowledge, or a government contract to work on a policy question. When you focus on understanding the core concepts and issues and learning more about the world your clients inhabit, you will naturally come to see the cracks and develop plans on how to set things right again (justice).

Justice leads to healing because the system has been set right again and the people who were negatively affected are afforded the space to heal and be made whole again. This is one of the concepts in William’s TEDx talk.

In his TEDx talk, he describes the need for understanding the issues of the broken military mental health system and how that leads to justice – of righting the system – so that veterans can heal, and service members can grow strong and resilient to have longer, more fulfilling, healthier careers in the military. This calls for discipline and following the wise teachers who have gone before us, such as the Vietnam veterans who have spoken out eloquently on this issue (Karl Marlantes jumps to mind). When this happens it naturally leads to a reordering. A reordering of the individual, which leads to reordering of the community, then society and then whole system-wide changes. We as a nation have done this before. It is never easy – its painful and messy and many resist change and reordering because they were benefiting from the old, unjust system.

But, nothing worth having is ever easy. There is no story or legend of the pilgrimage or epic adventure that was easy. No character in The Lord of the Rings ever declared “hey, this isn’t so bad, what a lovely journey to Mordor!”

But just like our friends the Hobbits, and military veterans, and veterans of a thousand different issue campaigns and times and places, pushing through when you know it is right and at least reordering yourself and how you conduct yourself in the world leads to transformation which always leads to a deep reserve of hope.

As William likes to say – everyone goes through transitions in their life. A divorce, marriage, move to a new city, or other major life event is significant to the person going through it. Because, when you don’t have that thing any more – what ever that is – you almost feel naked and to not have that answer is a very vulnerable place and can really affect people’s mental health. Once our mental health starts to deteriorate then our physical health follows. These concepts are very broad in their reach and affect us all as human beings. So much of our identity is surrounded by what we do or these labels that we carry – it is part of how we are conditioned. This is why we are all struggling right now, stuck at home, with altered lives from the ones we have spent so much time and energy constructing. It’s natural to feel out of control and adrift at a time like this.

So what do you do? Like anything else – muscles and your brain – you have to exercise these behavioral modalities focusing on resiliency and wellness and learn the skills to thrive without prescription medications. 

Note that “hope” comes at the end. I think this is for a very specific reason. At Torii, we say, “Hope is not a strategy. Hope is what we have after we have already implemented the strategy. Things can change, but they require action. Hope is what we have after we already have the action.”

Let comes before Easter celebrations – not after. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day and then eat with family and friends – not the other way around. In the Jewish ordering of time, evening and night comes before day. You must go through the process, through the actions, before you get to sunshine and hope.

Hope is vital, just as the sun is vital for life on earth. But it is the result, not cause of all the positive habits and traits and concepts we have stacked up like a staircase.

And of course, what always say is the most effective thing along any journey, is having someone there who understands, who is not going to judge, not going to look at you like you’re crazy – who allows you to share your story. If you are isolated at this time and have no one to share your story with, pull out some paper and a pen or your laptop or iPad and start writing. Putting your truth down in writing is sharing it with the universe and that has power.