"With Beauty's questions in mind, I went to work to establish very practical steps, daily habits and rituals that would enable me to tap into the rich, fertile soil deep down inside me. What I needed was to slowly and patiently replant myself in Beauty. Looking back now, I can identify five habits of Beauty.
"On my daily beach walks at low tide I would commune with the graceful pelicans and the white egrets and the skittering sand crabs, while allowing the natural rhythms of the sea to embrace me in the larger Flow of things. I learned firsthand what Rachel Carson believed, that 'Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.'
"The arts and creativity
"I took several minutes each day to listen on my iPod to the calming, balancing keyboard works of J. S. Bach. Besides music, I needed creative mental work, so I carved out time to write, even if it was only a journal entry.
"Mindfulness meditation enabled me to hold everything gently – even my terror and rage – like a parent caring for a child. Meditation, even in tiny increments, trains us not to grasp too hard or demand too much; it also teaches us not to push away our fears. It teaches us to open wide to the moving, undulating, 'never final' universe which sustains us.
" 'Only connect' is the continuing refrain of E. M. Forster's novel Howard's End which I read and re-read on my Kindle during my year of terror. My connection to nature is easy, but when it comes to people I tend to be an introvert. Nevertheless, my husband and I both reached out to find community support with other expats from North America. And we have extended that sense of community to the Ecuadorians around us, despite the language difficulties. This sense of ever-widening circles of community and cultural enrichment has given us a sense of belonging in our new world.
"Here is where our philosophy of life, our meaning-making comes into play. Our favorite books such as sacred texts, theology, philosophy, psychology, 'Jesus, Jazz, and Buddhism' essays, novels, and poetry help feed the mind with thoughts that create harmony of mind and soul. Journaling helps, too. I found a form of cognitive therapy called REBT particularly useful in my journaling as I rooted our flaws in my thinking. I also memorized bits of Rilke's poetry verses from the Bible, and many calming affirmations. The affirmation-oriented writings of process theologian Bruce Epperly have been particularly helpful."