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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual life’

October is such a beautiful time of the year, and especially so in North America wherein nature transforms itself right before our very eyes.  It is a very inviting time that follows that period of scurrying around that is September.  October allows us to breathe.

The good thing about being able to breathe easier is that it gives you a chance to think about things better.  Has your life been so rushed lately that you’ve barely had time for anything other than running around “doing” things?  I know mine has.  September passed by in a blur of activities.  Well, my friend, please do not forget to stop every now and then.  You and I are not automatons; we are not negligible.  In order for us to do what needs to be done, we must remember to take care of ourselves as well.

Often, in our effort to give priority to our family, we make the mistake of forgetting about ourselves.  I am not suggesting we should all spend hours in the spa or buy ourselves a whole new wardrobe!  For the most part, we do not consider our needs right away because we either feel guilty for doing so or it just doesn’t occur to us.

Let us remember, though, that we cannot take care of our family effectively without being well ourselves.  What does this entail?  Firstly, we need enough rest and sleep.  In fact, even if it seems a luxury most of us need about 7/5 to 8 hours of sleep every night.  We need to eat right – mind you, not too much but certainly not just whatever is leftover on your kid’s plate or whatever you can grab on the run.  Mealtimes are a natural way for us to stop a moment and take a break.  Do not begrudge yourself this time to replenish your energies.

Neither should you feel guilty for finding a need to buy a new item of clothing or make-up or getting a good haircut when it is needed.  Are you really doing yourself or your family any favours by not taking care of your appearance?  This is not so much for vanity’s sake as it is for your own dignity and self-confidence.

Make time to get together with your friends.  You are still an individual with your own ideas and interests – these should not have gone the way of the dustbin when you got married and started your family.

We also need to fully appreciate that we, as human beings, are composed of body and soul.  If we make the effort to take care of our bodies, we must also take great care of our souls for it is within this very part of us that our very essence is contained.  Some people make every human effort possible to keep to a strict diet, work out at the gym and exercise.  A similar and even stronger fervour should be applied to care for our spiritual needs.

That said, if after all your efforts you still find yourself at the end of the day exhausted, spent and perhaps not just a little frustrated – take heart.  There will be days like this and you mustn’t be discouraged.  At the end of every day, we need to be grateful for what we have in our lives.  As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.” Remember that, breathe and punctuate each breath with a smile.  It helps.

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On Wednesday, June 4th, I set off on a spiritual journey to a home that I’d never been:  the shrine of Our Lady of Torreciudad in Spain. Santuario de Torreciudad

It was clear from the get-go that this was no ordinary trip.  It certainly was not a vacation or a holiday jaunt to some quaint European village.  With my husband’s full support and encouragement, I gave each of my children tight, tight hugs and motherly kisses and reminded them to be good especially to each other and their dad.  I had cooked enough food for two armies and knew that — at the very least — they would not go hungry while I was away.  It was hardest to part, albeit temporarily, from my then nine-month old baby.  I knew he would be fine.  My husband assured me he would be fine and certainly he was a man of great experience with babies.  (You’d have to be after eight, you know.) So I found myself walking away, pulling on two suitcases beside me and willing myself not to break into tears at the airport.  (I so do not like good-byes at airports……) My pilgrimage had begun.

The thing with pilgrimages is that the element of some sacrifice is necessary.  No, no….I’m not talking about anything gory.  A pilgrim is one who takes a journey to a sacred place for religious reasons, according to the Oxford American online dictionary.  We’re not talking eat-all-you-can buffets at all-inclusive resorts where the party doesn’t end when the sun rises.  A pilgrimage concerns the soul and things of the spiritual life.  But while we are alive and our body and soul are still united, it is very easy for things that attract and relate to the senses to overwhelm the spirit, making it take a backseat to all the wonderful things that give us loads of pleasure.  For those who go on a pilgrimage, we need to be aware of this and make an effort to really be attuned to what our soul needs and is asking for.  So when I talk about sacrifice I mean the little things that maybe don’t seem like such a big deal but do go a long way into raising the level of our spiritual awareness because we’ve made the effort to deny ourselves a little bit of comfort or pleasure.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, my whole trip lasted from June 4th to the 14th, but my pilgrimage really started way before I even left my home for the airport.  I had cooked like a fiend the weekend before I left.  Our refrigerator was bursting with so much food.  I spent the better part of the night before I left packing, trying to make sure I did not look some tourist who’s just looking for some souvenir trinkets.  A friend had told me, as a bit of advice, that Europeans tend to dress elegantly — and I took it to heart, of course!  (Ladies, listen up:  Pilgrimage does not equal sloppy dressing.) I managed to send off some emails and toyed with idea of posting an entry on my blog — which didn’t happen in the end because by then I was so tired and just wanted to snuggle up to this little baby in my arms that I was not going to be with for the next ten days.  When I finally sat down to wait for my flight to board passengers, I was tired, wired (read: over-caffeinated) and just anxious to get the ball rolling so I could come back home already.  I had to remind myself of why I was on this trip to begin with.

It was not for sight-seeing or shopping, although these happened to be a small part of my experience.  It was not for wont of something to do because I had many things to do at home.  It was not for the thrill of something exciting, although I was certainly tickled pink to be going.  It was not a trip made on a whim with some extra money stashed away — neither existed.  It was not to get away from my family because I was tired of them — I was tired but loved being with them.  I could think of several reasons why I shouldn’t go given my circumstances.  But a pilgrimage is never convenient, never very neat, tidy and oh-so-pretty.  It doesn’t make sense to go on one if you do not believe in matters of a spiritual nature because it lacks appeal for those whose purpose is pleasure.

It did, however, make sense to someone like me who does believe that our souls need a lot of tender loving care.  I felt myself called by my Father to a journey that would help change my life forever:  as a wife and a mother, as a friend, as a neighbour.  I went to Spain — to Torreciudad — to claim without merit what was being freely given to me:  a stronger faith, a more fervent hope and the love of my Father in my heart and soul.

Nuestra Senora de TorreciudadAnd so my pilgrimage to Torreciudad has ended, but the bigger one that we are constantly on while on earth goes on.  Life continues for us here:  the family survived my absence with flying colours, thanks to my extremely capable and super husband and children.  It is as normal as normal ever gets in our family.  But there is a glimmer of something that wasn’t there before, or perhaps just needed some encouragement.  I find that I can take refuge, during slightly trying or even very trying times, in a little place inside of me where my mother, Our Lady of Torreciudad, has taken up residence.

Over the next few weeks, I will tell you stories of my experiences during my trip and hope that you too are encouraged to take care of your own spiritual needs, not just on special occasions but everyday.  Finally, know that I prayed for you, dear reader of my blog, whether you are known to me or not.  I prayed to my sweet Mother in heaven and to my Father that you would hopefully get something helpful — something good — from having read what I post on my blog.  And if there was nothing of use this time — well, I still prayed for you.  And prayer is the currency of hope.

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