We all need a place to rejuvenate. With ever newer technology, we have both improved our ability to communicate with one another and to gather information. This has resulted in real and sometimes deep connections with people that would have been much more difficult to establish in other ways, especially with people from afar. We have also, however, paid a price for the luxury of this technology which has made our days busier and our time even more precious. As a result of this busyness in our lives, we are often missing the opportunity to stop, “smell the roses,” and renew ourselves.
I was reminded of this recently on a drive across the American West. My partner and I were driving on a busy freeway when we passed a spot along a river that bordered the freeway. I had noticed this specific spot many times on this particular route, but had never taken the time to stop. This trip was different.
It was a hot, scorching summer day as we drove across the great desert of the American West. Once again we drove by this intriguing spot by the road. Today, however, we decided to finally stop and see what was there on the other side of the ridge by the side of the road.
We marked the mile marker on the freeway as we drove by, found a place to turn around and backtracked, slowing down on the road as we approached once again the abrupt exit off of the freeway. After parking, we climbed up a massive mound of boulders and peered over the edge of a large rock outcropping. To our delight, below was a serene and magical swimming hole hidden from the busy freeway and without another sole in sight.
With our dog, we climbed down a narrow path between the rocks, pushed our way through thick willow branches, and came to the water’s edge. We dipped our hot, dusty feet into the cool desert river waters. It was an absolute delight. It was a magical oasis indeed. We swam and played with the dog in the blue, clear and beautiful water for over an hour. The busy freeway above, less than 100 yards away, was over the ridge and out of sight. The cool waters were a balm for the soul, and a rejuvenating oasis in the desert.
Self-care in a busy world is necessary for the soul. Most of us forget about feeding our soul in our busyness. We work ten, twelve hour days, and barely find the time to think about such a thing as “feeding our soul.” We work two jobs and moonlight at night to keep up with the demands of living in this down economy and recession. We cling to the quality of life that we have known for ourselves and our children. We make sacrifices every day.
In spite of these things, we need to continue to both make and take the time for self-care. Our deeper Self knows how busy we are. It knows that the economy is struggling. It knows that we are struggling. Yet, the Self also knows that we must continue to live our lives in a way that also cares for the soul.
In my psychology practice I regularly see clients struggling with this topic. It is not uncommon for clients’ dreams to bring up the topic of nourishing the soul when they are neglecting to do so. In spite of this, however, sometime clients still feel guilty if they take precious time or money away from their busy lives to nourish the soul. The irony is that these can be the precise times when self-care and feeding the soul is even more necessary for your overall well-being and mental health. Like the oasis in the desert, there is a symbolic “living water” in your desert.
This symbolic “living water” or soul water is necessary to keep you connected to your life and its deeper rhythm. It is in these depths that you can be provided with nourishment, hope and healing.
Carlo Carretto, the inspiring Catholic activist, heard a “voice” while he was in the middle of living a busy life. This “voice” said to him, “Leave everything, come with me into the desert. I don’t want your action any longer, I want your prayer, your love.” As a result of listening to and following this voice, he left his prominent role in society and went deep into the desert where he discovered profound spiritual truths. This life in the desert resulted in his classic spiritual text Letters from the Desert, that has inspired numerous readers over the years, of which I am one of them.
Carretto learned to love the darkness, and the night while in the desert. It became his friend, rather than something to shun. He was opened up to a part of himself and a deeper process that he would have never found or had a chance to embrace if not for following this inner “voice” and guidance.
The point is that things of great substance can be found in your own symbolic oasis in the desert. But entering this oasis will mean being okay with and choosing to leave the busyness behind, even if only for an hour at a time. You do not need to abandon all things societal like Carretto did in his literal move into the desert. There are opportunities for you to re-connect with your soul and care for the self even right off to the side of your busy day and life. The “living water” of your own oasis in the desert is waiting for you.
© 2012, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.