Spiritual Practices: Self-Care for Activists

Spiritual Practices: Self-Care for Activists

by Lis Valle

Five women are sitting in a circle around a lit candle in the library of the Scarritt Bennett Center. We are journeying deep within our souls to dialogue with the Imago Dei in us, to find our inner wisdom. We still our bodies, our speech, our thoughts and focus on the sacred knowledge that we hold. Or we stop thinking and we listen intensely and intently to our bodies because they hold wisdom too.

As the pastoral care intern of the Belle H. Bennett fellows at Scarritt Bennett Center, it is an honor for me to lead them and the Assistant Director of Education, Marie Campbell, in weekly spiritual practices to nurture our beings and recharge for another day of activism. The fellows, Krysten Cherkaski, Monica McDougal, and Tieranny Woods, are exploring social justice at local non-profits and discerning vocations with mentors. This is hard work and it drains us. Thus, we need to have a good number of self-care practices that will keep us alive and energized to keep doing the work of justice. Because activists need self-care practices to be well another day to stay in the struggle, we tap into our inner wisdom and learn to pay attention to the Sacred within and beyond us.

Every Tuesday morning, usually in the library, we explore different spiritual practices as self-care for activists. From August to December of 2016 we have been exploring journaling, breath prayers, lectio divina, visio and audio divina, and embodied meditation. These spiritual disciplines have in common intentionality, structure, and repetition. We began with practices centuries old and moved into contemporary adaptations. As we go, we use our multiple intelligences and our particular identities and religious traditions. We also have each other as traveling partners in this journey to meet the sacred within us, around us, and in the world.

Typically, we focus our attention on a source of inspiration. It might be a sacred text, a poem, a song, a photo, or our own bodies. We listen attentively discerning what wisdom we can find there for this very moment, in very particular situations in our lives. We meditate on what we find. First, we meditate in silence individually. Then we have a time to share with each other what we find. Usually we have time for the others to ask open honest questions that might lead us into more insights. We sit with our discernments, with our feelings, with our thoughts, in our whole bodies. We gain strength, discernment, fellowship, and solidarity. Around the table, among the books, walking around or sitting under a tree, we are powerful together. We take care of ourselves, we take care of each other, and our spiritual practices prepare our whole beings to live as activists one more day.


lisLis Valle-Ruiz is the 2016-2017 Pastoral Care Intern with the Belle H. Bennett Fellowship. She is in the Homiletics and Liturgics doctoral program at Vanderbilt University. Lis was born and raised in Puerto Rico, is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA), an eternal student, an educator, an actress, and artistic director. She is interested in homiletical perspectives on relational violence and on embodiment, performance aspects of preaching, and the interaction between preaching, performing arts, healing, and liberation. She is also completing a minor in Women and Gender Studies.