Many of us are experiencing difficult feelings at the moment and I was thinking this morning about how we can practise spiritual self-care on a daily basis.
There are two ideas I offer you to think about:
Within many of the faith traditions there are spiritual teachings about the ‘divine spark’; that part of us which is eternal. There is something very precious within each and every one of us – an authentic individuality that is something more than just our personality. Some traditions call this the ‘human spirit’. As a metaphor, think of it as a flame within, residing at the level of our mid-chest, within out heart. This flame cannot be extinguished.
When we think of ourselves and of each other it’s usually through the confines of the personality – how I think of myself, my tastes, what I like to do, what I don’t like and so on. Spiritual traditions say that a deeper part of who we are does not reside (or sit) in the brain (mind), but instead resides in the heart; the personal reservoir of the energy of unconditional love flows from this place in ourselves – and can be directed by the mind though our thoughts and intentions.
The heart’s flame cannot be blown out; it doesn’t need anything to keep it alive. Even if we turn our minds away from it, or we are going through an emotional time and really despairing, it will still be there. It represents the element of the divine in all of us that never changes. Rather, it can become the source of peace, deep happiness and an authentic conscience.
It can be reassuring to connect with this inner spark.
The second idea is this: At this time many of us are also finding a deeper connection with the natural world and understanding that we are all part of an ecosystem that works as one. (Yesterday morning, as I drove to the hospice, I passed a field of sheep and newly born lambs. Each mom had a number painted on her body – her lambs had the same number and a letter painted on their little bodies!).
I think a lot of people are becoming more aware that we’re part of a living earth. We’re not just living in sanitized houses with sanitised phones and gadgets; we’re part of a living ecosystem and we rely on food, water and natural resources to survive and to thrive.
This epidemic is reminding us that we have a responsibility to ourselves and for other human beings and for our living environment. The same energy of love that resides in your heart, resides in all creation.
The heart practice below can help us to link these two ideas together.
A daily practice
You might like to try this practice on a daily basis for perhaps five minutes at first and then make it a longer meditation as you become more settled:
Imagine that you have a flame surrounded by a gentle light within your heart and this flame has a deeper aspect that reflects who you truly are. Notice it, find yourself settling into knowing it is there.
Now, imagine it shining out and bringing light to the whole of your body, illuminating who you really are.
Become aware of your breathing and bring your attention back from your thoughts. Simply notice the gentle flame. Rest in this light and draw strength from it, knowing that it represents the eternal.
When difficult thoughts or emotions come up – perhaps feelings or thoughts such as anxiety or restlessness – just sit with them and focus on bathing in this light. Don’t try and do anything, just let the light flow through you.
After a few moments, let go of the image. And move back into your life’s activities.
The practice will help you to connect with your deeper sense of who you are – it is encouraging you to settle back into that, to just be and to trust in your deeper wisdom.
Rather than trying to work through anything that’s bothering you in an intellectual way, just sit and rest in this light, knowing that the strength you need is already within.
Wellbeing is really about letting go and you can only do that when you trust something; when you trust that you already have what you need on a deeper level and that it will always be there.
Rather than being swept along by thoughts and emotions, we need to move towards the heart of who we are. If we can connect with this aliveness in their heart, it will direct us towards making better choices for ourselves and as a community. We will then start to feel more connected to our living world and its natural cycles once more.
Please try this practice and see how it may support you.
May compassionate wisdom flow through you to others this day,