Highs and Lows. A simple way to incorporate a balance of celebrating and lamenting in daily life is the practice of sharing ‘highs and lows.’ For many years, we have made this a part of life in our household. With long or short term guests, this adds a wonderful quality to the conversation around the table. While this can be as simple as briefly sharing the best or worst moments of our days, we learned our practice from the Ignatian contemplative tradition, which uses what they call the Examen as a regular discipline of reflecting on the presence of God in all aspects of our everyday lives. Our simplified version has been to light a candle to symbolize inviting the presence of God into the midst of the activity. Then anyone who wishes shares two parts of the day: one part that has been life-enhancing and one that has felt draining.
Listening to the pain of others. We can make it more difficult for others to lament when we express discomfort with it. Notice what happens inside you when others express pain, hurt,or anger. Many of us have little tolerance for this. Some of us dismiss those who speak their pain, while others, too quickly, offer glib reassurance or deny that there is any real reason for the suffering. Consider how you can honour the need for others to lament and model acceptance of their emotion. Perhaps your listening can transform another’s unhelpful wallowing into healthy lament. Or you may later need to lament yourself, in order to unload after the negativity you have picked up from listening.
Embody a lament. Laments are often needed by our bodies as well as our minds. Laments that are just a brief acknowledgement in our mind that we are angry or sad are weak laments. If you find a poem or song that fits, read it aloud, or share your lament with a friend. Or say words of lament, aloud or quietly, while doing a vigorous physical activity. Or try some of the expressively embodied examples that have been mentioned – play sad or angry music, express your pain in art or dance, or shout at the top of a mountain, lonely beach, or empty field.
Pray the Psalms. Praying the words of a psalm can remind us of the fullness of expression that has been often missing from our own more tempered and emotionless prayers. Try to enter into various psalms as expressions – when grateful, voice the exuberant praise of a psalm like 100. And when you recognize that you’re in the midst of pain and anguish, cry out with the psalmist with psalms like 6 or 13.
Write a lament. Sometimes the words of others simply don’t quite fit or express your own suffering. Try writing out your own lament in poetry or prose. If you are familiar with the Psalms, you can use the form of a lament psalm as a template. State your complaint and the way you feel about it; then write out whatever you hear or feel in response after the complaint. Can you find any words of hope or trust in your heart?