Today, your job is to hold everything in love. The squirrel running across the lawn. The dishes in your sink. If your attention rests on something, hold it for a moment in love. Today, you don't need to change anything or fight for anything. (Of course we need change; we need to be fierce. We also need stillness and love..) Today let love rest: On your friend who talks too much. On your faded socks as you pull them on. On the weed growing out of the sidewalk.
The book of First John in the Bible says, "We are of God . . . hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
Because we are created by Spirit and by Truth, we can recognize truth when we hear it. We have the Love-given ability to cut through mental clutter and confusion. We are made to hear Love's voice and Wisdom's guidance. This process does not need to be difficult - but can be clear and instantaneous. If answers are not coming quickly, we can let go and trust that all will become clear.
First Thessalonians says, "Quench not the Spirit." The Amplified Bible expands the phrasing to "Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit.
I feel I can barely glimpse the fullness of this statement, but today, it means to feel that Spirit/Love is alive, now, renewing itself, actively working in the spaces between us, in our communication, in our connection and community. It pulses through us, renewing our thoughts and our bodies. It allows us to see wonder and power in the moment. It entreats us to stay awake to the movings of Spirit - to not be blinded or distracted by schedules, rituals, or strongly held opinions or beliefs. Quench not the Spirit. Feel fullness. Play. Discover. Be healed.
In Angela Watson's teaching book Fewer Things, Better, she shares some strategies for a sustainable lifestyle. She says she works until she hits a point where she knows "she'll be tired , resentful, and impatient with my students the next day if I did any more." She says that stopping point is different each day, based mostly on the emotional and energy demands. "Experiment with choosing your stopping point based on what's going to set you up for success the next day."
She also encourages moments of rest and renewal built into the day. "You don't have to wait until everything else is done before you rest: you can rest so that everything else can get done." "Rest and relaxation work in a reciprocal way with productivity. Many people think rest is the opposite of getting things done, but it's actually the catalyst for it." "You'll perform at your optimal level when there are moments for rest and re-energizing peppered throughout your day."
Angela Watson in her teaching book Fewer Things, Better reminds us that there is always more we can do to help others, to improve our work, our communities, and our lives. Therefore, our to do list will always be too long. We won't be able to do everything we want or think we should. We need time to take care of ourselves and renew, too. So the trick is to ask: in the time that I have, what is the choice I could make that would have the most impact? (She, of course, is talking about time teachers have for work, but that question can be translated to other areas. We can't do it all. What choice could I make that would have the most impact?)
Recently, a friend had a dramatic, complicated loss.
As I prayed and meditated on how to best be a support, I realized that being mesmerized by the shocking sadness of the events, by the story, was not a help. I need to lower the drama and be attuned to the needs of each moment. This moment. This next moment. Keep drama down and kindness up.
Lowering the drama-factor also helps keeps overwhelming emotions in proper proportion so that we don't shut down or unintentionally burden those who are suffering with our own needs. In moments of crisis, we want so much to be useful, to be helpful, to communicate love, to feel as if we have something to contribute. Underneath, without realizing it, we may also be asking for a greater sense of control in the face of senseless loss or be asking for reassurance. Do not burden another with this. As much as possible, avoid asking a person who has had a great loss to meet your needs. Turn to others for that.
Treat yourself as you would your own beloved child. You notice when your child is hungry or thirsty or needs rest - and act accordingly. You know when that child needs downtime or some encouragement. You know when to help that child process a feeling - or when to distract from a feeling and not give it too much power. You respect where that child is developmentally and provide the right amount of support and challenge. Do this for yourself. Respect where you are developmentally - and respond accordingly.
The other night I had a dream that I had a student, a teenager, who was timid and anxious because she had domineering, controlling parents who frightened her. I held her, pressed my whole body against her (in the emergency way you might try to pass your warmth to someone who is freezing to death) so that healing might flow through me into her and help restore the parts of her that had been wounded.
Today, treat your inner child with that same sort of care. Let your wise, mature, solid, settled self pass warmth, stability, care, life-giving energy to those parts of you that are nervous or sad. Don't judge yourself for those "immature" parts of yourself - only have compassion and give healing care.
Recognize that what others might most need is just to be held in your healing, caring presence - nothing more.
This morning, I was reading the article "Lessons in True Compassion" by Gabriela Mejía in the Christian Science Journal. She pointed out how much the Children of Israel grumbled and complained during their many years in the wilderness, even as God provided much evidence of care: water from a rock, manna from heaven. Yet God never left them, never stopped providing care.
Lately, I have been beating myself up when I look back over my day and recognize moments when I complained about little stuff, arrived at judgments without all the information and then shared my opinion, or shared stories about others that were not mine to share or did not show full compassion or respect. My shame makes me feel small and unworthy.
The article pointed out that even when the Israelites were small-minded, God was still with them. God was still accompanying them. God was still providing for them. Their behavior did not send God away (although it did not contribute to their happiness and sense of possibility.)
Today, feel that Love is with you. Love forgives you. A deep sense of God's love, presence, and possibility will transform your mental habits - not shame.
It is easy to see ego at work in those who demand constant affirmation, who dominate without listening, who need power and status to feel safe and worthy.
But even in those less self focused, Ego can play a big role: in our need to feel needed, in the feeling that only we can be the one to help, in an overburdened to do list, in righteous outrage and fierce opinions.
Today, to soften ego, know that there is a Mind greater than your mind, embracing us all. We can devote our attention to feeling Love loving us all, Mind directing us all - to being useful and attentive where we can, while also recognizing that our opinions are based on limited information, that people are on their own journeys and will find support and insight from many avenues. We are not alone. We have Spirit with us. We have other good people doing their good work.
Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm and numerous essays. You may read more of her work at tarnwilson.com.