“If I can summon the energy to put on my bathrobe and go outside, the night sky will heal me—not by reassuring me that I will be just fine, but by reminding me of my place in the universe. Looking up at the same stars that human beings have been looking at for millennia, I find my place near the end of the long, long line of stargazers who stood here before me.”
~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
In our recent survey, one question that people asked was how I keep going. This post is more personal than usual, but I wanted to share a practice that is timely and, in my own experience, vital to staying on the path toward a kind and thriving world: retreat.
For four years, the bright light of my cell phone and laptop have been bringing me news and connecting me to so many caring, committed people. Since the outcome of the 2016 election, I (like many people) have stayed up late looking at my screens with dread or sleepless with anxiety.
Four years is a long time. For you, it may be much longer. We know, somewhere deep down, that this full-bore exposure is not sustainable. I sometimes forget that I am an animal living in nature part of nature’s rhythms. Maybe you do too.
Here at the threshold of winter solstice, I admit that my screens—while useful—do not provide sufficient light for my soul.
Like Barbara’s night sky in the above quote and the inner workings of our hearts, we can’t appreciate light without also visiting the dark. In our stressed out, stretched-thin world, it takes discipline to claim this sacred time.
So, while the new year is still on the horizon, I’m going to let my screens go dark for two weeks and surrender to the winter’s long nights. I trust that going to bed early, stargazing before dawn, and reveling in the moon’s phases will bring renewal. At nature’s pace, I can give my soul the silence it needs to winnow the last four years and discern what comes next.
I don’t need to be afraid. While the world continues to spin, I trust that others who’ve rested earlier are doing their part now. If you’re among them, check out our short list of actions to take for our this last Checklist of the year.
Over the last four years, I’ve learned that taking breaks makes it possible to keep going. And while I will acknowledge that sabbatical is a privilege (made possible thanks in large part to our AoCC angels), I will not add the unnecessary burden of shame or guilt to it. Rest is essential. Rest is one way we support our mental, emotional, and physical health. Surely, everyone benefits when we take good care of our own well being.
Whether for an hour or a week, I wish the same self-nourishment for you. May you surrender to the possibility that lives in the dark and devote yourself to sacred rest.
Blessings to you in this season of light. I am eager for the journey that awaits us in 2021!
Wow, 2 weeks without screens, good for you! Your life is much more involved than mine as a retired lady. I take time every day for my mental health; doing just something for me. Bike rides, Pickleball, watching a show, reading my book. I also pat myself on the back for doing at least 1 household chore every day. Life is good.😊
Good for you Jen. I just heard this podcast and one of the many good quotes was something to this effect: ” The more digital we are, the more ritual we need.” Coming into sacred balance. I applaud you listening and recognizing this. Take good care, you do amazing work and rest is so important.
Caring for the earth and ourselves
Thank you, Jen. I am wishing for renewed hope and love and peace.
I am truly grateful for you, for your wisdom and commitment and the goodness and hope you put into our world so freely.
I am heartened that you are taking this time to care for yourself. So many of us need you to help us do things to remedy the wrongs this administration has unleashed on our Nation and our World. You are a light that dispels fear and confusion in the darkness so many of us have experienced every day for 4 years. I do a lot of the things you tell us about, but I don’t always tell you. Just know that I am grateful and that I wish you a refreshing, healing time during this time of retreat and rejuvenation.
Jen. I won’t go on and on. Suffice it to say, you are wise. Learning what you need, and then making space and time for it, are enormous learnings. I hope you know how much your vision and leadership mean to hundreds of us – nay, thousands of us – are. Please. Continue to nourish your vision and energy, so that you can nourish both vision and ACTION by all of us. God bless you!