While looking for food, a nomad in the Namib Desert might see this little Fringe-Toed Lizard doing his gymnastics to survive the otherwise unsurvivable heat. He lifts one appendage at a time, removing it momentarily from the sand’s heat. At noon he will burrow into the cooler sand beneath the surface. At dawn our nomad would enjoy the cool mist blowing in from the ocean, and with many other plants and animals, sip from its moisture left on leaves. The Sidewinder snake adapts its behavior by heaving its body across the sand, touching down in only two places at a time.
Adapting. And how do we human beings adapt our souls to meet the overwhelming challenges thrown at us by our environment? Like these desert animals, we are a resilient lot. We survive and we often thrive. Adaptation of the soul is analagous to adaptation to environments; however, unlike other animals, we can make choices- choices which get us and others into dire situations, and choices which redeem us. Apartheid imprisoned Nelson Mandella for twenty-eight years, and his spirit adapted and thrived. I can only conjecture about the details of Mandella’s adaptation. You have developed your ways of adapting to spiritual challenges, to “The Dark Night of the Soul,” as John of the Cross called it. These choices have redeemed me at times:
1. Be Faithful
To mantras that focus me, affirmations, rituals, other prayer forms.
2. Be Helpful
Seek out viable and positive service opportunities. Service takes us out of ourselves.
3. Be Creative
Paint, draw, write, compose music, play music) Creative activity often puts us into an altered state where we can forget our despair for a while, and unite with the Other.
4. Be Communal
Talk with a spiritual guide or trusted friend.
These adaptations get me through the heat of the day: Old truths embedded in a new metaphor.