Teaching can be notoriously difficult and draining on the soul. Take some time during the June holidays to explore these 10 guaranteed ways a teacher can recharge spiritually, emotionally, and physically!
10. Live a day of tech detox.
No phones, no computers, no TVs, no internet, no technology. Like all our precious smart devices, our lives need recharging too, and these things that we unknowingly spend so much time on seriously distracts us from the small moments of beauty in everyday life. The statement, “God is everywhere”, though we sometimes tend to read as figure of speech, is in fact meant to be understood literally.
While some daily tasks might inevitably become more challenging now that technology have integrated so much into our lives, nothing is entirely impossible. Plan ahead for this as well, so that the anxiety of being “cut-off” may not be overwhelming. Let friends and family know that you will be uncontactable for a day, and set up an emergency contact through other means such as the home phone instead. Detox yourself of all these that constantly demands your attention, and refocus your entire being on the presence of God in everything around you and in you.
9. Seek Gratitude.
Try to live a full day in a disposition of gratitude, and allow everything to be transformed by it. Imagine putting on glasses of gratitude before you start the day; everything you experience or encounter now goes through a gratitude filter first, before reaching your eyes. While this may be easier said than done, we can start with the simple things and it will grow on you more easily than expected. The sound of children playing in the distance, those quirky habits of loved ones that only you notice, or even a random inanimate object that looks like a funny face.
We often allow our thoughts to be so filled with work and busyness that naturally, the grace of gratitude is one of the first things we forget about. With a little more time during the holidays now, let us actively seek to bring this grace back into our hearts. Slowly, even seemingly negative events in life can contain a cause for gratitude to God.
8. Reconnect with someone important to you.
Your spouse, partner, parents, friends, children, and so on. Has there been someone in your life you regard with significance, but may have neglected to spend time with? The June holidays present us with the perfect opportunity to reconnect with these important people. And remember, connecting with someone implies something much more profound! The popular term we like to use is “HTHT” or “heart to heart talk”. Though a little cheesy and awkward, the term does help remind us what is truly important – the conversation, and not the activity, venue, or even context for a meeting.
Even if this is someone we see daily, or even share a house with, sincere connection can be difficult for a busy and exhausted teacher. Sincere connection requires time and effort on your part to listen as well as share about yourself. But this is one of the surest ways of feeling instantly refreshed and energised, since God has made humans social creatures, modelled after His own Trinitarian self.
7. Start an exercise regime.
This can be as simple as a 10 minute run in the morning, or as intricate as a planned workout programme. But what is important is to keep this constant, develop it into a habit and make it a regime that you follow at a constant rate. Of course, teachers will know that exercise helps with stress because of the increased production of the endorphin hormone. But exercise really should not be looked at as a quick fix, but as a constant in our lives.
Regulating the chemical make-up of our physical selves will not only lead to a healthy body, but also a healthy mind. In fact, a third dimension can benefit from a regular exercise regime as well – faith. When you feel like giving up during a run, when your muscles burn and you question why you torture yourself, you can offer this suffering as a form of prayer for someone too. By putting yourself on an exercise regime, you can in fact strengthen body, mind and faith.
6. Let the love flow.
Spend some time to volunteer at a charitable cause or in a ministry at church! While it sounds counter-productive to engage in more activities in hopes of recharging ourselves, you will realise that we often in fact receive more than we give.
One favourite analogy used to describe this is the example of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Both are lakes fed by the same waters from the Jordan River, but one lake is teeming with flora and fauna, while the other is… well, dead. Our souls are very much like these lakes, where we produce much fruit and support life if we allow love to flow both into and out of us. But if we only seek to receive love and not let it flow out, our souls might become like a dead sea. So take the opportunity this month to let the love flow! After all, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jam 2:17).
5. Rediscover God in nature.
Much like the way artists leave a signature or some form of identifying mark in their works, God has also undoubtedly left an imprint in every creation. After forming each one, God had declared every creation to be good. And this wealth of goodness still surrounds us today, given to us in love, and certainly avenues where we can revitalise our tired bones with God’s own presence. All we need to do really, is to remember to stop and smell the flowers.
Try immersing yourself in nature again, and ask yourself, Where are you?” It is a strange but charming question that reminds us to notice everything, even the tiniest details, and with all five senses of the body. It is one thing to walk past the trees and see that they are green, but it is an entire different experience to also hear them swaying in the wind, to notice the kind of fruits it bears, and to see the birds hidden in its foliage.
4. Participate in a retreat.
Retreats are one of the best ways to find spiritual solace, and to ease yourself back into God’s grace. To actively take yourself out from the world for a few days, and to fill your schedule with prayer and reflection instead certainly does wonders for the soul. In his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that, “Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift.”
By attending a retreat, you are allowing yourself the space and time to open your heart again to a God who does not stop loving us; it is often us who forget to accept this love. Thankfully, the Catholic Church in Singapore is wonderfully active when it comes to retreats. In fact, there are two retreats happening in June 2015 which you might like to consider:
You could also try exploring the many programmes organised by the several Catholic retreat centres here. Most of these programmes are also available to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or religion.
- Lifespring Canossian Spirituality Centre
- Religious of the Cenacle
- Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
- Kingsmead Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling
- Good Shepherd Oasis
- Montfort Centre
3. Spiritual reading.
Spiritual reading is the practice of reading books for the purpose of growing in holiness. Different from lectio divina which focuses on the bible, spiritual reading can be done with many different books such as the writings of the Doctors and Fathers of the Church, lives of the saints, doctrinal writings, and so on. Many saints of the Church have described spiritual reading as an invaluable source of inspiration and strength to them, and have fervently recommended this practice.
St Josemaría Escrivá likens spiritual reading to building up a store of fuel, “It looks like a lifeless heap, but I often find that my memory, of its own accord, will draw from it material which fills my prayer with life and inflames my thanksgiving after Communion.” If we commonly read self-help books on business, management, health, and so on, then what puts us off when it comes to books on spirituality? While spiritual reading does not sound particularly relaxing, especially since it involves some deep thought and reflection, we can trust the advice of St Escrivá to build a store of fuel in ourselves through reading, so that we are better prepared to handle the demands of teaching. On this page, a list of recommended reading is freely available.
2. Interior prayer.
Interior prayer, or mental prayer, is a form of prayer where one loves God through dialogue, meditation, and contemplation of God’s words. It is distinguished from other forms of prayer which uses set prayers. One of the most important writers of interior prayer is St Teresa of Avila, who describes, “Contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” If there are any similarities between the thousands of saints of the Catholic Church throughout history, it is that every one of them held a deeply personal relationship with God through prayer. What better way is there to revitalise our weary hearts than to go to the source of life?
St Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, patron saint of teachers, had been a firm advocate for interior prayer. He believed that teachers and students should be taught to pray in this way, and wrote an easy to read book, Explanation of the Method of Interior Prayer, for this purpose. It might please you to know that this work is freely available here.
1. Receive the Sacraments (more regularly).
Finally, the number one recommended and most effective way we can recharge ourselves is none other than through the sacraments! The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments.” The seven sacraments have long been a sacred tradition in the Catholic Church, instituted by Christ Himself, practiced by the apostles and the early Church, and passed on through history. Today, we are incredibly blessed with the opportunity to continue participating in such important and real signs of the faith in Jesus, through His Church.
“Sacraments are ‘powers that comes forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant.” (CCC 1116). With a little more time on our hands now, there is really no better way of refreshing yourself and preparing for the new school term, than to experience God through His sacraments, which are so easily and widely available to us!