by Taiga Guterres, Punta Gorda, Belize 15, Retreat Minister, St. Peter Claver Parish. Loyola Marymount University 15.
Originally posted on the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Jesuit Volunteer Reflects blog.
We slammed the breaks. A group of pigs scurried across the dirt road in front of us. Looking out the truck window, I saw another group of pigs wandering toward the river.
“Do they just wander around?”
“I don’t know, I guess so.”
“How do they know where to go? How do they know where to sleep and go home?”
“They just know.”
It’s not unusual to see pigs just wandering around here in the villages of Belize. During the day they wander around, play in the mud, and ruin anyone’s attempt at gardening. But at night, they go home, get fed, and fall soundly asleep. They just know.
Sometimes I wish it were that easy to go home. To internally be in peace and comfort. But many times, when I come back to my house with my community, I haven’t arrived at that home of internal stability.
My main job is to direct retreats but most of the time, it involves driving, being on the phone, and sending emails. Throughout the daily mundane tasks of everyday life, as well as the giving of self through work and ministry, there are days where I stray away from caring for my whole person. There are days when I find myself frazzled, stressed, and far away from feeling at peace. There are days when I get frustrated at the smallest thing, when it’s really not about that one small thing at all. There are days when I come back to my community depleted and worn down.
Coming into JVC, we created self-care plans that consist of things we do to make time for ourselves. Mine? It consisted of running, exercising, and journaling, all of which I do from time to time. But what I’ve come to better understand for myself is that these are not necessarily the indicators of myself in a healthy state mentally and spiritually. These practices are not the green flags or the red flags that tell me if I am well or not. Because, like the pigs, I know when I’m home. It’s a feeling deep down in my heart and in my core. I know when I’m home when I’m called to be more loving. I know when I’m home when I’m called to be more patient. I know when I’m home when I’m called to be more forgiving. When I’m home, I know that I have been fed through the nourishment of my soul, and that is hard to measure or put on a to do list.
An awareness of my own mental and spiritual health doesn’t come from having a checklist of do’s and don’ts. Rather, I must pay attention to the stirrings deep within me. It takes practice in noticing my desires and motivations and finding the things that bring me towards love.
The Ignatian prayer practice of the Examen has become not only a tool for my self-care, but a time to listen to myself and the Spirit within me. It’s a time to find the joy of the Gospel in my own life, and lean in to it – to fall in to it. Because when I sit down after the business of the day–the mundane, the exciting, and the depressing–I come to listen to the movements of the Spirit, that still voice within me, letting me know when I too am at home.