I was listening to a radio show a few months ago just after the election, and the radio host was interviewing a minister about his view of the state of the world. This kind of interview would not normally be of interest to me, but I found myself riveted because the minister was funny and irreverent and not preachy at all. And he said something that I never forgot: “Whatever you do, remember to protect your spirit.” That statement stopped me in my tracks because I had never heard the concept. Lots of people talk about the importance of taking care of your body or your stress levels or your emotional health, but I had never had anyone tell me to protect my spirit. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what he meant at first, but after the rancor of the last year–first with a mean-spirited election and then with all the craziness of Trump’s transition and first few days in office–I know now what the minister meant. He meant that you need to buffer yourself against the insanity of the world right now, because it’s not good for your spirit.
We know that when our bodies are feeling run down or when we get sick, that we are weaker in other ways. It’s hard to feel loving and generous when you’ve been up all night coughing. I got a really bad cold recently that completely knocked me off my feet. I ended up in bed for several days, canceling everything possible. My body was grateful that I was able to stop and rest. We also know what it feels like when are emotions are run down, in small ways, like after a fight with our spouse or a confrontation at work, but also in large ways, such as after a divorce or death. Sometimes writing in a journal can help or talking it over with a friend. But if the stress is much bigger, it may take months or years to regain our equilibrium. Five years ago, my family bought a new home and sold our old one simultaneously in very complicated real estate deals (with a bridge loan so we could carry two houses) and then we renovated for two years, then I was in coaching school to get certified, and then we planned for and executed a six month trip through Asia and Oceania, while my husband did research and I homeschooled our kids. All of it was important and wonderful, but the ongoing stress did a number on my body and my emotions due to the constant demands. I developed unrelenting eye pain, which has forced me to slow down and look at how I can heal my body and my mind.
Now that every day there is bad news about the White House and Trump’s erratic behavior and decisions, I am acutely aware that my spirit is taking a hit from the constant barrage of negativity. I read the New York Times daily and go on Facebook regularly, but I don’t watch tv news. Even still, I feel spiritually drained in a way that I never have before. Emotional drain usually comes from something you can understand– a move, going back to school, extensive travel– and mind and body often go hand in hand. But spiritual drain is another animal altogether, because it’s like a slow erosion of peace from one’s soul. I’ve always been a very up-beat and joyful person and very trusting of others to do the right thing. Now I’m starting to question that. Every time I go on Facebook, there’s one “Friend” or another who is RANTING about what happened today in the news and how we need to give money and march and petition right now. Whether we like it or not, our spirits need tending as well, so that we don’t lose hope or become hardened and cynical, or just stop trying or caring, like the learned helplessness rats in the cage, who stop trying to eat the Fruit Loops because they keep getting shocked. Many of us feel shocked by the fact that we have an angry, unstable president with access to the nuclear codes, who is single- handedly trying to dismantle so much of what we have fought for over the years.
The answer for all of us is to take a break from the onslaught of bad news, and do things that are life affirming and joyful. It doesn’t mean that we can’t write letters and call our representatives. It does mean that we choose to do what makes sense for us and let go of needing to plug into the hysteria. For me, I’ve been going on long walks, meditating daily, taking hot baths with Epsom Salts (the magnesium helps clear negativity) and surrounding myself with positive people as much as possible. Yesterday, I got out my Bach and played piano and then went on a long walk with a friend and then played with her eight month-old baby. Babies have a way of putting everything into perspective; they know how to protect their spirits because they live in the moment and love to play. Sometimes it’s easy to lose this as we get older, but if we have, it’s never too late to refocus on the things that make us happy.
To find your world stage, remember to protect your spirit. If you start to feel down or out of sorts and don’t know why, it may very well be that your spirit needs tending. Take time to be alone, go on long walks in nature, and turn to the arts to lift your spirit. And if you’re religious, there’s nothing like singing an old hymn to set your spirit right.