Welcoming the Darkness

As daylight saving time approaches, a noticeable shift is taking place between the hours of light and the hours of darkness. This natural rhythm invites us to notice the animals preparing for the winter months and observe the trees shedding their leaves, resting for the new life that will blossom in spring. Nature seems to know how to anticipate this season of darkness and welcome its purpose without resistance.

As modern humans living with artificial light and glowing screens we can easily lose touch with life’s natural rhythms of rest and preparation. We may experience an emptiness or dread of the approaching season of increased darkness.  Unlike the animals around us, we may find ourselves resisting this natural cycle of light and dark.

Personally, I love light. I feel increased energy when I can be outside in the warmth of the sun. Similarly, I notice that I much prefer the light, happy emotions and would rather ignore my more painful feelings, like sadness or anxiety. Perhaps some of the resistance to the outside darkness is that it reminds me of this uncomfortable, inside darkness. 

What if we could see this upcoming natural cycle of longer dark days as purposeful? Perhaps we need more rest, quiet, or solitude. Maybe, like a dark womb, it could be a preparation time for something that is waiting to be birthed.  Like the trees that have shed their old, dry leaves, we too, may have patterns that no longer serve us and need to be shed. 

Are there questions you have pushed aside for another time? Are there difficult emotions begging for your attention? Maybe grief, fear, anxiety, sadness, shame or anger.  As creatures on this planet we have an invitation to attend to this season of increased darkness. We can listen to what lies beneath the surface of our discomfort or dissatisfaction in life imagining with hope what may be waiting to blossom when spring comes. 

So as another dark evening arrives early, if you sense the invitation to slow down and pay attention to your difficult emotions, we are here at Mansio Center to provide a safe and welcoming place for you. 

-by Donna Scott

Seasons of Change

Even though summer weather has been lingering outside, it is officially the first week of fall. School is back in session, stores are filled with autumn-themed décor, and football season has begun. The shift from one season to another is clearly defined in our annual calendars, but the seasons of our personal lives are much more ambiguous and unpredictable. While we may recognize a general pattern of life development, we each have a unique experience that doesn’t fit neatly into a timeline.

Some seasons of life are characterized by joy and possibility, while others are branded by pain and struggle. Some periods we willingly choose to step into, while others are unexpectedly thrust upon us. Even if a new stage itself is not inherently negative, the process of transitioning from one season to another can be a source of difficulty. Without an intentional effort, we tend to maintain our old patterns even when they are no longer helpful. Maybe a routine or coping mechanism that has always worked before now fails us. Perhaps a relationship that used to be invigorating and intimate now feels draining and distant. If we fail to accept and adjust to our new season, we will continually find ourselves frustrated and dissatisfied both personally and relationally, often without even knowing why.

So what do you do when you are stuck in a difficult season or struggling to transition? Remember that seasons are temporary and will steadily flow from one to the next. Whether painful or peaceful, every season helps us grow.Give yourself permission to be where you are. Make time to slow down and assess. As you identify past, present, or upcoming changes in your life, you will better understand yourself, including your needs and how they can best be met.

Maybe you’re in a sweet and exciting season, and you need to make time to savor it more intentionally. Maybe you’re in a season of exhaustion, and you need to find new ways to rest and recharge. Or maybe you just feel lost, and don’t know what you need or where to find it. Whatever season you’re in, here at Mansio we would love to join you right where you are. Learn more about our professional counseling and soul care services here!

-by Kelsey Abiera

What is Spiritual Direction

“So…what is spiritual direction?” is a question I am often asked. The words seem to escape from the questioner with a tinge of embarrassment for not knowing yet backed by a heft of genuine curiosity. I can appreciate this sentiment, as Spiritual Direction is something that is both defined by words, but also experienced, and one understands it more clearly as it is experienced. 
 
While it may seem amorphous to define something according to one’s own experience, think of it as defining a person. Yes, they’ve got structure to their physicality that all others would similarly define, but each friend’s experience of them will be slightly different. It could sound like “she’s so kind-hearted”, “she keeps me laughing all day long”, “I wouldn’t have made it through that time without her”, “she’s so helpful”.  All of these describe the same person, but each person has his or her own experience of her, and thus describe her differently.
 
At Mansio, Spiritual Direction isn’t an afterthought to our services.  Spiritual direction is the essential space to care for your soul and to search those deeper interior questions with a spiritual companion.  You cannot fully transform your life without engaging your soul on the journey. Whatever your background spiritually or religiously, whatever your questions and doubts, you will feel welcomed.
 
Here are some thoughts from others who have journeyed with a spiritual director:
 
A place where I feel safe to explore my misunderstandings about God. 
 
Where I truly understood myself as loved by God for the first time. 
 
A place where I can just be. 
 
I have seen myself more clearly, and now I see God more clearly as well. 
 
I’ve gained so much peace about my life and who I am.
 
I feel like I understand how to really hear God’s voice because of Spiritual Direction.
 
It’s the deep wisdom I am really longing for. 
 
I wonder, how would you define Spiritual Direction if you experienced it? I wonder what do you need from spiritual direction that you don’t yet even know? We would love you to find out. As we launch Mansio Soul Care we are offering $35 OFF your first Spiritual Direction session when you book for September (regularly $75/session). While all the kids are journeying back into their education, maybe it’s time to for you to take a journey into your soul. Your life could be completely different by the time school is out next year.

-by Kimberly Pelletier, Director of Soul Care

Self-Care

Thankfully, self-care is getting more attention these days than it did just a couple of decades ago. However, I often find myself wondering if the general message I see is getting at the heart of it. Is the “you deserve it” mantra really true when it pertains to chocolate, wine, Netflix, or tools? When seeing the advertisement I’m easily drawn in for the moment. The idea of respite the ad offers is welcomed in the midst of whatever harried moment I might find myself. But when I really think about it, I wonder, “Is that all I am worth? Chocolate. A Netflix binge. A new power tool." Sure those things might be nice, but when conflated with self-care we are losing something much more powerful: true self-care.

To really care for ourselves we need to do more than feel good for a moment or have some time to check out from life’s responsibilities. What we need is to engage in something that helps us check in to life. True self-care will be that which helps us be more present to our life. The point of being more present is that we can feel more fully alive, and be more present to joy, and more present to the people who matter most to us. What we really want is more fulfillment, not more numbing.

But therein can lie a problem. While becoming present is often very good, the reality is there are times when what we become present to is not always positive.  Maybe the joy we hope for isn’t there, or the relationships we become present to offer pain rather than connection. Sometimes deeper existential questions arise and we don’t know where to take them. In those moments self-care can feel a bit more like fear, and we would prefer checking OUT rather than checking IN. But I have great news.

While being present to life's moments can be a gift in and of itself, it can be helpful to remember that there is also more to your life than any moment may suggest. This is especially helpful to remember when those moments bring pain. This is why the Mansio Center exists, to be your place of transforming your what is, into what it can beWe want what you become present to in life to be more fulfilling and connective than you have believed possible.

Wherever you find yourself this midsummer, here are some simple do-it-right-now self-care ideas!

Summer Self-Care Ideas:

  • Unplug and get outside. Turn off all devices and notifications. Bike, walk, sit, picnic. Take some time to notice what is always going on around you while you rush about. Be present to nature and allow it to ease your soul into true rest and presence. Bonus: watch a sunset without distraction on one of these longer summer evenings.
  • Try meditation. There are apps, articles, and always the availability of just taking time to simply focus on your breath. There are numerous physiological benefits to meditation, but also psychological ones as well. You can feel more centered and grounded and ready to live life more fully after meditation. Bonus: sign up for our upcoming 6-week mindfulness & relaxation class being held at the Mansio Center beginning mid-September.
  • Notice kids playing. Maybe your own kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews. Watch their creativity and consider their joy as they are present to the world just as it is. Bonus: play a game with them.
  • Be playful and get outside of comfort zone. Far too many adults underestimate the simple refreshment that comes from doing something even slightly silly. Dance at a wedding this summer if you normally would not, play peek-a-boo with a baby and laugh with her, make a special dessert and invite others to share, grab some fresh flowers just for the fun of it. Simple pleasures can have profound impact. Taking in the seriousness of life requires us to take ourselves less seriously at times. Bonus:  say “yes” to the next (healthy, safe) outside of your comfort zone request you receive.
  • Schedule therapy or spiritual direction. I know this doesn’t exactly sound like all the fun things mentioned above, but tending to your inner life is paramount for your overall health and enjoyment of life. This inner work will lead to more freedom and life than you can right now imagine. Bonus: do it now

 

There are so many things you can do to become more present to life; I hope some of these ideas will get you started. Cheers to a summer of self-care!

Kimberly Pelletier
Director of Soul Care

Kimberly is a trained spiritual director through Christos Center for Spiritual Formation. She has been facilitating group and individual spiritual direction for 6 years and is the Director of Soul Care at the Mansio Center. Kimberly is currently accepting new directees. You can read more about Kimberly here