Last fall I attended a story telling workshop at Pendle Hill Quaker Center for Study and Contemplation. The workshop was led by Irish poet/theologian Padraig O’Tauma. At the beginning of our time together, Padriag told the large circle of attendees that it was our job to mind ourselves.
He went on to suggest that minding yourself is about being in conversation with the part of yourself that takes care of you. Within the context of the workshop this meant taking breaks when needed. From restroom breaks to walks and time away from the large group, to resting and any activity that resonated with the individuals in attendance. Basically, tend to your own needs.
This expression came back to me recently. When so much is happening, when the world is such a stressful place, when every moment feels fraught with risk, pain, and suffering. When the 24/7 news cycle gives us a death count and other sad and difficult details. When I am personally powerless to take on any of that in a meaningful way, it is more than ever my job to mind myself.
In recent years, the words self-care have become buzz words that mean many things. From having your nails done to retail therapy to drinking alcohol or eating chocolate and much more. They are sometimes useful words that remind me to take care of myself. And they are sometimes words that feel like a free pass to excess. (Especially in this click economy when we can think of something we want or need and buy it online in minutes.)
Under duress I find myself attracted to buying books, shopping for things I do and do not need and spending an inordinate amount of time online. I am guilty of searching for that item whatever it is, right when I think of it on my phone or e-reader or computer. It is so easy and seductive! I might not be able to go to Target, but I can go to Target without a second thought. And I can call it self-care when really, it might be more like creating a diversion from feeling the feelings of the immediate experience of grief, loss, fear, or doubt.
SEE ALSO: Echoes of Losses Past
Being in conversation with myself is something different. If I slow down enough to have a conversation with myself, I might discover that I have very painful feelings about what is happening in the world today. I am sad about the thousands of deaths across the planet. I feel incredibly powerless to help. Sometimes my grief feels overwhelming and my body aches with sorrow.
I am lucky if in the heat of despair or grief or sadness or something hard I remember to do something for myself that is truly minding myself. Some days it is so overwhelming that it is hard to remember that I have other choices. When I find myself in that position of overwhelm, I know its time to seek out grounding actions.
I start by disconnecting from screens. I can choose to stop looking at social media and trade those screens for an old-fashioned book. Poetry is one of my greatest sources of beginning a conversation with myself. During these challenging times I’ve assembled a pile of favorite poetry books to look through. A poem, especially if I read it out loud, begins to help me sink out of my head and back into my body. I can breathe a little easier by reading a poem. There are also several sources of spoken poetry available on podcast sites. I have appreciated the daily On Being poetry readings by authors of all kinds. (On Being Poetry Unbound & Friends on Instagram) Sinking into the comfort of poetry allows me to open the space for something else to happen. I know some find this true with reading scripture too.
Moving my body is another way to get re-grounded. Lately weeding and planting have been very literal ways to get in touch with the ground of my own being. Walking in my neighborhood, in nature along a nearby trail, spending time on my patio. Going barefoot when it has been warm enough to really connect with the ground. Getting grounded by feeling the earth beneath my feet.
SEE ALSO: What Are You Planting for the Future?
Recently I attended an online class where Celtic spirituality was a major theme. And in one of the sessions humming was mentioned to reconnect with self. Humming makes total sense to me as it is also a way to connect with breath and body. And it reminded me of a time when I would use sighing as a way to relax. I often find myself holding my breath, so sighing or humming feel like an excellent way to “let it out.” When I try one of these breath focused strategies I feel my shoulders sink back down to their normal position.
These may seem like tiny details. And they are. They are also ways to “mind yourself.” Getting out of your head, breaking the cycle of worry, releasing anxiety and finding presence in the moment. What are you doing to mind yourself today?
Want to try reconnecting with yourself through humming? Try humming along to Pan’s Labyrinth Lullaby in the video below.