Lessons on Self-Care

Last weekend I had the opportunity to be at a panel on self-care with two other women at Wild Goose West Festival. It was about how to keep our justice work going in a sustainable way and I remember making sure three things came out of my pitch: 1. Do not do it alone; have a community to support you. 2. Pay attention to your spiritual life and make sure you rest in God and 3. You cannot do justice work unless you believe in resurrection. Whether you are a Christian or not, things we encounter in Justice work get sometimes extremely hard and dark and I have been challenged to review my faith and my Christian commitments as I enter more deeply into sharing brokenness with others.  This, I must say, hasn’t come out of piety but out of feeling helpless and vulnerable and, more strikingly, from seeing over and over again how oppressed people choose to deal with injustice—they turn to God.

But today I heard something on Weekday (NPR) that was curious enough to add to my pitch. This had a similar effect on me as that scene where Juno decides not to abort her baby because her schoolmate told her that her baby had nails. It was Superman’s practices of Self-Care.

As it turns out, Superman was adapted to radio dramas in the 1940s. The shows ran five days a week all year long. The host of the show asked the expert, ‘When would superman’s actor, then, go on vacation?’ Well, as it turns out, the writers of the show would get around this by writing episodes where Superman was ‘out of commission,’ thus kryptonite came up for the first time in the radio dramas and not in the comic books. For the same reason, Batman would also sometimes come to “fill in” for Superman. They met for the first time at a radio show. 

So, take it from the Super Hero himself: If you need to rest, take a sick day and don’t feel self-conscious about getting a replacement. The world is not going to end. Even Super heroes manage to get a day off. 

It is hard to remain content with the prototypical notion of “being American” when one sees a collective Islamic prayer unfolding in the middle of a major U.S. airport. The world is now different from the last century—we are in close contact with “cultural others,” and all our social-psychological adaptations to this innovation acquire a cultural accent.
Jaan Valsiner, The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology, 2012

To put it simply, human connections shape neural connections, and each contributes to mind. Relationships and neural linkages together shape the mind. It is more than the sum of its parts; this is the essence of emergence.’
Daniel J Siegel —the Developing Mind

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

'You are blessed when you care. At the moment of being “care-full,” you find yourselves cared for.' —Matthew 5:7 (The Message).

This morning I visited Sandra* at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma. After visiting the NWDC for over 2 years now, I have been intrigued by the spontaneous expressions of spirituality that the detainees manage to organize under situations of absurdity—the absurdity of the current immigration system, the absurdity of victims of violence being detained for trying to keep themselves out of harm’s way, the absurdity of families being separated for no other reason than crossing the border to feed their children… My heart is taken by people whose response to absurdity is to seek God faithfully when life does not measure up to who they are; something difficult to do for me, a woman of privilege. 

I was seeing Sandra to provide more evidence to her U-visa application. The idea was to assess her psychological responses to a crime she was victim of here in the US. She had been detained for 15 months after being deported back to Guatemala, but she was too afraid to go back—that is a separate story.

As I began asking her questions, Sandra shared glimpses of how these 15 months have been transformative for her because she ‘found God at the NWDC.’ I was intrigued. My research process has lead me to pay particular attention to the role of spiritual healing in the resilience of victims of violence. What are the locations of such spiritual resilience? What does spiritual healing have to do with trauma treatment?

When Sandra came to the NWDC she was going through a deep depression. She was prescribed medication but the secondary effects were too heavy and she had to stop taking it. However, she said, she was able to ‘rest [her] burdens in God.’ She was feeling better now. The ‘now’ is 15 months detained at the most depressing place one could imagine, away from family and friends. What about God can be so powerful to her?

Sandra shared that she has been part of a Bible study that meets every day and that they hold a prayer meeting every night at 9pm. I needed to keep our conversation within our agenda, but part of me was being moved to tears by the strength she was projecting and bringing into the space between us. 

I found myself wanting to participate in that sacred sense of strength. I wanted to be part of the bible studies and of the prayer meetings. I wanted to take part in that group of women who had chosen to move beyond the absurdity of their oppressive circumstances and connect with a greater sense of communion. Without knowing it, Sandra was inviting me to step out of my own comfortable darkness. 

As our meeting ended and all the professional goals had been accomplished, I asked Sandra to remember me in her evening prayers. We were both in discrete tears. She held my hand and without any pretense, she shared words that spoke directly to deep longings that have been taking much life away from me for a while—words about the need to ministry the ones who have hurt us in the past; words about forgiveness. 

Sandra is a victim of brutal violence. She was calling me to love and to forgive. I felt cared for. 


*Her name has been changed.

'Reason, in fact, can at last divorce the unsatisfactory wife he has been complaining of since the eighteenth century [the body], and live comfortably for ever among the boys playing computer-games in the solitudes of space. Is that not touching?'
Mary Midgley in Philosophy and the Body, commenting on the artificial intelligence project.

'Reason is not a faculty or capacity that can free itself from its historical context and horizons. Reason is historical or situated reason which gains its distinctive power always within a living tradition. For Gadamer this is not a limitation or deficiency of reason, but rather the essence of reason rooted in human finitude.'
Richard Bernstein—Beyond Objectivism and Relativism

Happiness is a big blackboard to think out loud (Taken with Instagram)

Happiness is a big blackboard to think out loud (Taken with Instagram)

'A view of knowledge that acknowledges that the sphere of knowledge is wider than the sphere of “science” seems to me to be a cultural necessity if we are to arrive at a sane and human view of ourselves or of science.'
Hilary Putnam, Meaning and the Moral Sciences

'A true conversation—which is not to be confused with idle chatter or a violent babble of competing voices—is an extended and open dialogue which presupposes a background of intersubjective agreements and a tacit sense of relevance.'
Richard Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis

'The autonomy of the self will appear then to be tightly bound up with solicitude for one’s neighbor and with justice for each individual.’
Paul Ricœur, Oneself as Another