For several days, I’ve been looking for a topic for this week’s article. I just didn’t know what to write about. We’ve all been bombarded with constant up-to-the-minute news about the coronavirus. And, at least in the U.S., when it’s not been about the virus, it’s been about the prospects for the 2020 elections or the latest craziness from the Trump administration. It’s probably safe to say that we all need a break! Or as New York Times Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins wrote on March 4th, “We could so use some downtime.”

When I read that line last Thursday morning, and then attended a wonderful concert later that evening, I realized that I was longing for more than just downtime. I needed some dedicated downtime for the soul.

The concert was by the all-women Irish band Cherish the Ladies. Johnathon and I have known this group for many years through their guitarist, Mary Coogan, who was an early participant in my classes in New York City in the late 90s. We had been looking forward to this concert for more than a week, knowing that it would offer a wonderful diversion from all that has been going on.

Yet the evening ended up being much more than just a diversion. It made it clear to me just how much I needed more dedicated downtime for the soul right now.

Arriving early for the concert in the small, picturesque seaside town of Rockport, not far from where we live, we had time for a short walk. The night was cold and crisp, and the wind unusually calm. We wandered through the narrow streets of Bearskin Neck peninsula to the promontory point that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. As we walked further out beyond the few lights of Bearskin Neck, we were greeted with a spectacular winter night sky. The Big Dipper was directly above us, the Little Dipper and Orion just nearby. Thousands of stars were glittering in spectacular array. And the gentle sound of the ocean surf brought us to a deep stillness and peace within.

We stood for a long time in silence, just taking in this breathtaking moment. Leaving the concerns of the world behind, we were swept into a moment of stillness where everything was OK. In that moment, there was nothing but the sea, the sky, the stars, and us. It felt to me like a homecoming—coming back home to my soul.

Soon we had to turn around and walk back to the concert hall. Yet within a few minutes, we were nestled into cozy chairs, held in the warm intimate embrace of wood and stone in the stunningly beautiful Shalin Liu performance space. Feeling a buzz of excitement from the gathering crowd, I could feel a soft, easy smile on my face. My heart was opening to receive.

And then there was the music, the dancing, and the infectious spirit of the band and of traditional Irish music. Energizing, uplifting, touching, nostalgic. A highlight of the evening was Mary’s tender solo in a piece she had written, and her dedication from the stage of that night’s performance of the piece to us.

The whole evening was such a powerful reminder of the importance of dedicated downtime for the soul. I came home feeling more refreshed than I had in weeks and slept through the night without waking. What a gift!

The following night, we gathered for a pot-luck dinner with neighbors from our community. About 30 of us laughed a lot, told stories, talked politics and coronavirus (of course!), and clicked elbows in lieu of handshakes and hugs. Mostly, we just enjoyed being together. Johnathon and I left with our hearts filled with gratitude for the community we live in.

Dedicated downtime for the soul is not just about going out and enjoying a concert or the company of others. The soul also needs downtime with no agenda. My daily dedicated soul time usually begins with in front of the fire, coffee in hand, with Johnathon and our dogs. Often before the sun is up. Before long, I wander into my office, just off the living room, for meditation. My morning ritual concludes with my daily exercise routine. All of this usually happens in silence. Yet occasionally I add some carefully chosen music to continue feeding my soul as I exercise my body.

Short bits of soul time are scattered throughout the day, often disguised as walks with my dogs. As the weather is warming up, there are more short greetings with neighbors along the way. The sense of community feels like a warm embrace.

Several times a year, I spend time in other very special places that feed my soul—my beloved Chautauqua, Kantara in Costa Rica, and the beach in Florida.

What about you? What do you do to feed your soul? What dedicated downtime have you created with the purpose of supporting your mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being?

Caring for the soul brings us rest and resilience. As more and more things keep breaking open in these unsettled times, taking care of our souls is more important than ever. It’s more about quality of time than quantity. It’s about intention and commitment. It’s not only about doing things that are fun to do. Fun is certainly important, yet so are the specific choices you make or the things you do to feed your soul.

Give yourself that gift. As Gail Collins wrote, “We could so use some downtime.”

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