Caring for Ourselves

A new post from Deacon David

Thomas Paine’s words about experiencing America’s revolution to mind: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Last week’s events tried my soul to the breaking point. The world feels chaotic and my insides are reeling at human suffering caused by nature and by human beings. My soul is being assaulted and my heart wants to hide.

Amidst the constant churn, what does it look like to “…love your neighbor as yourself.” How do we love our neighbors in such a complex society? How do we love ourselves so that we have the heart to love our neighbors? Life these days calls for emergency first aid, so I need to pay attention to caring for ourselves. What to do begins with intentions.

I want to be creative and effective. I don’t want to be either a pious recluse or an impertinent loud mouth. So I experiment with a balance between contemplation and action. I begin the day with 30 minutes of silent meditation. I’m learning how to do this. I’ve gotten as far as establishing a new habit. I see evidence that I’m a little less neurotic and a little more loving. And I can make a to do list that includes counseling our elected representatives about what I believe they should be doing. Doing something about human suffering and the political paralysis that sustains it is energizing. Building silent time into the day is energizing in a calming way.

I want to think clearly about the causes of and cures for human suffering. So I keep up with the news and listen to audio books about American society and how our economy works (or not). I also appreciate Thomas Moore’s collection of short essays, The Soul’s Religion. Burna recommended Byron Katie’s Loving What Is, a practical complement to meditative practice. I don’t follow events so closely that I become overwhelmed. When the world begins to make my head hurt and my heart ache, I take a break and do something completely different just for refreshment.

I want to be able to get out of bed in the morning. Strange as it may sound, I’ve just realized that I could listen to music. I’ve always loved listening to music, but have never made it a habit to intentionally listen to the music I love. I’m not talking about having music in the background while I do something else. I’m talking about making a pot of tea, sitting down, and letting the music take me somewhere I haven’t visited for a while. It was a small revelation: “I love to listen to music; I think I’ll start listening to music.” I had discovered that something I deeply love that gives me life had been buried under a pile of busyness and distraction. It seems so obvious, now that I think of it.

I hope you find hidden treasures for caring for yourself. I hope that we make it our practice to regularly check in with one another to share what we’re learning about taking care of ourselves for the sake of the world.

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