Tag Archives: solitude

Soul Care 101

I’m currently immersed in a favorite topic of mine, Soul Care, as I prepare for another women’s event. About 15 years ago, I learned the stunning fact that my soul required care. Before that, I never thought about it and I’m a pastor. In seminary there was talk about Self Care. This was about taking some time for oneself for exercise, play, family time, study and quiet. We learned about balancing our days–not working morning, noon and night, for example. We touched on the Sabbath but not as much as you would think.

No, I learned about Soul Care the hard way through a series of Wake Up Calls that illustrated very vividly that my Soul was weak, sickly, pale, dehydrated and running breathlessly behind me asking if we might sit a while and take a breath. My Soul spoke so softly and breathlessly that she was very easy to ignore. After all, I had three children, a big job, a calling, a ministry I was passionate about and lots of people demanding my attention. I ran on fumes and it is a tribute to God that I ever managed to do anything spiritual at all in that state.

As I re-read favorite authors on the topic of Soul Care and remind myself again of what was so transforming, I thought I’d share some Soul Care tips in case you or someone you love is in need of a refresher course.

Plato and Socrates spoke of the Greek concept of therapeia of the soul which means either care or service. Socrates says it is like the care you’d give a horse on a farm: you feed it, brush it down, exercise it, give it water and clean its stall. Thomas Moore writes this is the model for Soul Care.  Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Every Day Life 

I’ve never had a horse but I have cared for children and dogs and I’m thinking it is the same. The idea is that our souls are living, fragile and in need of our attention.

What is it that your soul needs to thrive?

Your soul needs space. Space to breathe, to rest, to pay attention to unseen things.

Your soul needs solitude. It does not matter if you are an extrovert and get your energy from people. Your soul is not. She needs alone time.

Your soul needs to inhabit your body. That means your body needs to be rested, hydrated, fed, exercised and open. Emily Dickinson said the soul needs to stand ajar, ready to receive inspirations.

Your soul needs people. A soul needs to be connected to a family and a community. Thomas Moore writes, The soul prospers in an environment that is concrete, particular and vernacular….nothing is more suitable for care of the soul than family because the experience of family includes so much of the particulars of life. 

Your soul needs beauty. Sunrises, sunsets, nature’s vividness, art, music, creativity. When you see or feel beauty your soul is fed.

Your soul needs alignment. My yoga teacher speaks about alignment often. She tells us to adjust our alignment many times in each class. Your soul needs to align with God. This, to me, is what prayer is: aligning our will and thoughts with God’s will and thoughts. My soul is capable of getting off track. She needs to adjust her alignment often.

Your soul needs laughter and play. The soul has a child’s heart. My favorite almost-two- year-old has a fun sense of humor already. He thinks lots of things are funny, like putting a sponge on his head and calling it a hat. I love being silly with him and making him laugh. I can tell it feeds my soul.

I believe our world would be a better place if there was more Soul Care happening.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the needs of the world and the hurt and trauma all around me. In my better moments, I refocus on caring for my soul so at least what I toss out into the universe comes from a place of grace, God, centeredness, health and wholeness.

Jesus had his own way to advocate for Soul Care. He said, What good will it be for a person to gain the whole world but lose his/her soul? Matthew 16:26

Soul Care 101, a must-do for summer 2018.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, writer, speaker, breast cancer survivor and one who tends to her soul.

 

 

 

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When Hummingbirds Argue

Jesus was a master storyteller. He loved tackling tough topics with stories about common things that every one could relate to. Lots of time he wouldn’t even try to explain what he was talking about. He would just tell his story about the crops, the wedding, the farmer or the feast and leave it there, trusting people to figure it out. It’s kind of funny when you read scripture knowing this because you can see how many people didn’t get his parables. This didn’t seem to bother Jesus at all. He just kept telling stories.

I like to preach like that. It’s especially fun when I’m not even sure about the full point of the story I’m telling. Sometimes, as the storyteller, you have to trust that the listener will glean more from the story than you could even imagine. It’s an exercise in trust.

Last week, I purposely spent the week alone, away from my usual distractions. I wanted to do this because I believe it is a good spiritual exercise to learn to be alone with yourself and your thoughts.  I also wanted to get some writing done for a couple of upcoming projects.

At first, I had to struggle with the usual discomfort of hanging out with myself. I found I talked to my dog a lot. She didn’t say much. After a while, I listened better to other things: the sound of the wind, a storm rolling in, the difference in the birds morning noises and how they sang in the evenings. After a day or so, I started paying more attention to the hummingbirds and the buzz they made when they whirred by.

Then, I got pretty good at noticing their chirping. Mostly, though, they just argued. They had access to three full feeders. There was plenty of room around the base of each feeder for 4 or 5 to land at once and feed (They do land, by the way). The hummingbirds would have no part of group dining. They dive bombed each other and argued all week about who should feast at any given time.

There was plenty of food and plenty of room for every hummingbird. Instead they argued. Soon some started posting on social media about how fed up they were with each other and how offended they were by the stance of their fellow hummingbirds. Video clips were shared of who was right and who was wrong. Whole news channels popped up around each differing hummingbird point of view. The leader type hummingbirds spoke out and made everything worse. Protests began. Outrage was high. Pretty soon they didn’t even treat each other like hummingbirds, but enemies.

All along, my dog and I just shook our heads and wondered why those silly hummingbirds couldn’t see The Truth more clearly.

Re-Entry

So, we arrived home last night.  My husband had to work first thing this morning.  I luckily, have a cushion day in which do buy groceries, do laundry and such.  I also took some time to answer a few emails, get a few things on the calendar for this week and next week.

My boys both left for other activities today so finally, back to silence.  What I learned from my silent time:

I really do need it.

It is really refreshing.

I like having long spans of time with nothing I have to do.

I really enjoy God’s handiwork out there.

Silence and solitude ought not to be a once every decade or so thing…it ought to be something I figure out a way to weave into the daily fabric of things. 

I have much to be grateful for…much.

Last Day

My family arrives late tonight. Solitude soon over. I’ve been sitting still so long the animals aren’t afraid of me. I’m like Dr. Doolittle or something.

This morning a tiny bird landed about three feet from me and started singing. He was so little but so loud, like surround sound. A giant brown shiny lizard made himself known. Yesterday I counted 10 light blue dragonflies using me as their mother ship as I lounged in the lake. I met a grasshopper as he smacked into my leg. I didn’t stay still for that. I met a turtle on my walk. He didn’t trust me and retreated into his shell. I wish we all had a retreat house on our backs.

i believe God really does speak to us in and through creation. In fact, I’m starting to think God enjoys showing off all those sights, sounds, colors and creatures. What a show!

I’m ready to see the human creatures who I share life with. Solitude is good. So is family-animal and human.

Solitude Day 2 1/2

Still enjoying my own company. I had no idea I was so pleasant to be around. Except for that part of me that works at the church 24/7. She woke up at two a.m. pondering church things that could surely wait.

I amuse myself in solitude. Even though I purposely planned these unstructured days, I keep a to-do list:

write

rest

hang out at lake

walk

read

I still check things off too. How much solitude would I need to be able to give up my list?

I talk to myself in solitude. And, I’m funny. This morning on my walk I saw a deer. I said, “I see you!.” She was rude and didn’t say anything. I also thanked a tree for some shade. She also did not reply. See how funny I am? Seriously I’m fine.

Yesterday I got to sit on the screened in porch-actually I was reclining -there’s a bed there. I know, I’m blessed. Anyway I got to watch a storm roll in.  It took about two hours and was like a good movie with almost all my senses engaged. I’ve never done that before. Even my bird friends got quiet for awhile-everyone seemed to be watching the same movie.

I’ve read three full books already, plenty of magazines too. I’ve worked lots of crosswords. I still have my phone and of course Words With Friends. In true solitude, I think you are to let go of all of that. Thank goodness I’m not that nutsy radical yet. 

So far, I still like myself. Maybe tomorrow I will get on my own nerves but not today. I have way too much solitude on my to-do list to enjoy now.

Silence Isn’t Silent

We have friends with a lakehouse. We were friends long before the lakehouse by the way. Recently they offered me a gift, “Come stay by yourself at the lakehouse for a few days before our families gather here.”

I could not resist. I crave quiet. I enjoy solitude. I think better, relax better, write better, pray better in the quiet.

As I packed up for my days alone, a tiny bit of anxiety emerged. What if I didn’t like silence as much as I thought? What if I’m not as enjoyable to be with as I think I am?

I reasoned with myself, that is the point of the spiritual discipline, to stick it out even when it isn’t comfortable.

I arrived last night. Temps are in the 70’s. I sat staring at the lake all evening; watched the sunset in pinks and blues. Just looking at a waterline is reported to reduce stress. I believe it.

This morning, I’m back to staring but also listening. Silence isn’t silent. I hear:

Birds singing all kinds of songs with a duck chiming in at awkward times.

WindImage

 

 

Hummingbirds gripe at each other as they fly.

Fishermen way down on the water, talking softly as they fish.

A woodpecker.

Squirrels arguing.

And this is funny, the only neighbor in the near vacinity, either learning to play the violin or listening to a cd of someone learning to play the violin. And I am struck by my ability to be annoyed by the one person within my hearing range.

Today’s  revelation: silence isn’t silent. It is layer after layer of God’s created ones doing their thing-singing, arguing, talking, playing the violin badly. Creation, noise, and in it and through it, God.

I’m blessed today to be able to listen for a change.

And my favorite sound, the gripey hummingbirds. Who knew?