In Which I Am Kind to Myself, through a Massage!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, September 9, 2014

best things in life aren't things

In Which I Am Kind to Myself, through a Massage!

I splurged. I really did. Since last month was my husband’s and my wedding anniversary, I took the opportunity to buy a half hour massage at the YMCA here in town. And, today was the day I enjoyed a half hour of pampering. Self-care. Being kind—to myself!

Most times, I do prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga to try to relax. Ease my stress levels. Calm my breathing and minimize my worry. But every few months, I go out of my way to try to fit in a massage.

In case anyone reading this has never experienced a massage, they are wonderful. Marvelous. Truly a splurge-worthy experience. Of course, I go to an awesome masseuse, when I can scrape together the money. Dori is absolutely fantastic. I told her, as she was working on my forearms and hands at the end of the half hour, that I thought I died and went to heaven. (And I was more than half serious.) And, I sincerely thanked her for the wonderful job she did on me—and my lower back, too.

Of course, there are other ways to be kind to myself. Slowing down, having coffee with a friend, going to the Botanic Garden, or reading a fiction book (my current favorite books are a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920’s). There are other ways to practice self-care, too. Regular exercise. Going on walks in nature. Practicing giving or encouragement. Listening to quiet music. Prayer. Meditation. Silencing my spirit and mind. And, countless other ways, besides. Self-care—caring for one’s physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual parts of the whole person, however that may happen best.

Listed above are all ways that appeal to me. I know they won’t appeal to everyone. (And for some, the thought of a few of these ways are probably like fingernails screeching across a chalk board.) I also give God a big praise for making each of us different from all the others—over the world, as well as over time. King David in Psalm 139 refers to each of us being fearfully and wonderfully made by God’s hands. No cookie cutter creation for us, no sir!

What about you? What kind of self-care particularly appeals to you, right now? Or, are you shy of making room or making time for self-care? Does caring for yourself sound selfish and thoughtless? If you are not clearing your calendar or your life for taking care of yourself, you are missing out! (And believe me when I say I am preaching this to me even more than preaching it to you.)

God, thanks for the awesome focus on self-care. Help me to not only practice this good gift from you, but to pass it on. Help others learn the importance of being Selfish—towards God, and towards each person. Individually. I’m no cookie cutter creation, and neither are you!

@chaplaineliza

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How Can I Be Kind? Be Present for Others!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday morning - Monmouth College Fall retreat, 2005 - Painting Prayers

Saturday morning – Monmouth College Fall retreat, 2005 – Painting Prayers

How Can I Be Kind? Be Present for Others!

My family took a trip today to Michigan and back. Not particularly a nice day for travel, but we had a luncheon appointment planned for this particular day. We went to a fine restaurant in a small town in Michigan and met two older relatives for lunch. Comfortable eating place, wonderful view, excellent company. I think I can safely speak for us all if I say a fine time was had by all of us.

One of the relatives has done a good bit of (lay) work for the church, for a number of decades. I had the opportunity to seriously listen to him and glean some wisdom from him and his vast experience. What an opportunity! I was very glad I could do that. I could see that he felt good, sharing his expertise. And I? I was listening with both ears open—and pen in hand—taking down all the information I could.

On the way back to Chicago this afternoon, I reflected upon the serious discussion the two of us had over the coffee cups, after lunch. Since I’ve worked as a chaplain for most of the past ten years, I could say that I am also a professional-listener. I listen to people with several aural filters: first, spiritual. Since I often act as a chaplain, I have a primary focus on people’s spiritual orientation (and I don’t mean “religious!” but instead, spiritual, internal focus). Second, emotional. I am naturally intuitive and a feeling/perceptive person, so I can actively listen to individuals and their feeling/emotional orientation.

So, I used my active listening skills at lunch today. (It was automatic—they just sort-of switched on. I found myself in the middle of this significant conversation, and I felt my internal, active listening just being there. Fully operational.) Meanwhile, something was going on under the surface inside of my head while I was cogitating on this conversation. I also reflected on something I recently heard at a gathering of friends. A new acquaintance was speaking. She said quite a number of excellent things. However, what was the most significant thing I thought she said? The most important thing she could do for people besides showing up for them was being fully present with them. I truly appreciated that, and took that thought home with me. The zinger for me? I somehow connected the two trains of thought.

I guess I could say that I was fully present with my older relative today. I listened attentively to him after lunch, with appreciation for his wisdom and expertise. I guess I could also say I took the opportunity to be kind today. Actually, the act of service was a two-way gift this afternoon—both for my relative and for me. I think it is just superb how God sovereignly acts in disparate situations and ties them together in my mind—like at lunch today, and in my remembrance of this recent conversation. Awesome job, God! Thanks so much!

@chaplaineliza

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Showing Love by Active Listening

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - "Swing Time"

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – “Swing Time”

Showing Love by Active Listening

I went to the gym again today. I didn’t have much time, but I started my workout anyhow. Gray, wet sloppy day outside, good day for staying inside. I happened to run into a workout friend while exercising. She and I fell into a conversation. Or rather, she talked more, and I listened. She had some genuine concerns, and I was happy to be of service. Service by listening—showing encouragement and support.

That’s one of the things I’ve been trained to do. Active listening—with an ear to hear primarily spiritual and emotional concerns, but also psychological and physical concerns, as well.  And sometimes, people just want to get things off their chests. I suspected this situation today was more like that. As a chaplain, I strive to listen to the best of my ability. In addition, I can try to be fully present with another person; this is a wonderful gift I can bring to them. People often rush here and there, in a hurry. Going too fast. No time to lose! But chaplaincy has a different orientation. Chaplaincy, by its very nature, takes its time. Slows down. Lowers anxiety and stress. Oh, yeah. Prays sometimes, too.

I have listened to individuals talk for some time. I mean, full range of emotions, from grief to anger to despair to joy. They earnestly share what is going on and where they are in their lives. And then—sometimes—their eyes connect with mine. “Thank you. Thanks for listening.” Then I might smile and say something like, “No problem,” or “I see how much that helped you,” or even “I hope that lightened your heart/spirit.” (depending on the religious orientation of my companion, of course)

Listening with an open mind and a non-judgmental spirit can be a challenge, though. I know I sometimes struggle with doing it! I know I can’t stay consistent. But I keep trying. Like the Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern song “Pick Yourself Up” from the Fred Astaire movie “Swing Time.” The lyrics I’m thinking of go like this: “I pick myself up, brush myself off, start all over again.”

Fred Astaire—actor in musical comedies of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, and one of the finest dancers in the 20th century in any genre —makes a fine example for me to follow. He always, always tried his hardest to excel at dancing. He kept trying, practicing, doing the steps or routines over and over and over again, until he made the most intricate or difficult steps look effortless.

God, is that what You want from me? Do You desire that I keep practicing active listening? Practice being fully present? Practice my craft, keep working at these chaplain’s skills again and again until they appear effortless?

(What about you? Where do you need to practice? How can you strive to listen to God?)

What a goal to shoot for! God willing, I’ll keep practicing.

@chaplaineliza