Soul-tending

How can we tend to our souls in these difficult days?

Each day, I say to myself, I will pray. I will center. I will show compassion for those around me. Then, I falter. Then, anxiety calls me, like a siren, into a fog of haphazard distraction. Mindlessly, I scroll the fire updates and the national news. My nerve pain spikes as I respond frantically to the needs of my community and colleagues. I stay on my computer far too late, struggling to fulfill my obligations, and then, I am often unable to sleep. As I lay awake late into the night, I chastise myself for my failure to tend to my own well-being. I knew what would be good for my soul, so why couldn’t I just do it?

Today, in a place of great spiritual solace, I was reminded of the dying words of desert father Abba Agathon. He writes, …there is no labor greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him… Prayer is warfare to the last breath.

Stay with me. The language may not be of our time or taste, but I was touched again by his ardent vulnerability. If at the end of a radically monastic life, a great Christian mystic, a founder of our faith, says, The most difficult thing was prayer, maybe we, too, can be honest with ourselves and with one another.

Here’s my truth: Prayer is difficult for me, more so now than ever before. I imagine it is because prayer involves surrender, and it feels as though we have given up so much already. It may also be because prayer requires acknowledging a higher power, and so many of the powers-that-be in this world are actively failing. But mostly, I think prayer has become so difficult, because prayer demands, somewhat ironically, that our eyes behold the world exactly as it is at our present moment.

How do we do we tend to our souls in these days? For me, this urgent question is not a matter of theory, but of practice.

Tending to our souls must begin with grace. When evening comes, that which is undone, remains undone, regardless of how much time I stew in regret. Grace reminds me that even if I substituted Netflix for meditation, I am still of sacred worth. I am still beloved.

That grace, though, is not simply a free pass. Because if I am of sacred worth, then at my very heart, I was made for a purpose. I must have something to offer. Regardless of how I may have faltered yesterday, today is the day that the world needs me. And for the sake the world, I must care for my soul, so that I can open that soul in relationship and service to others.

Grace reminds us not only of our worth and responsibility, but also of our interconnectedness. I often falter, because I attempt to behold the suffering of this world on our own. I am then stifled by the weight. But when I remember that you, too, are witness to injustice, and that so is the one who made both of us, then I am empowered. We are empowered.

Today, I am going to pray with another. Today, I am going to reach with others who are working to transform the world. Today, I

How do we do we tend to our souls in these days?

With grace. With persistence. Together.

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