This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from Charles LaFond, an Episcopal Priest who raises money for the homeless and lives on a horse farm in New Mexico with his dog Kai. offering daily meditations and reflections
The deer or stag in First-Nation American spirituality can represent a call to self-compassion and compassion for others. It is a peaceful animal, gentle unless defending. So am I, I guess. I try to be. Gentle that is, not as much self-defending. But one must survive.
Many spiritual traditions call their people to be kind to others as one might be kind to one’s self. Being kind to others who are kind to me is so easy. So often I am with people – friends and strangers alike and I have this sudden urge to hug them. It’s weird and I don’t. Ninety percent of humans would love it and 10% would file charges of one kind or another. That would be too much paper-work in my life so I don’t hug much. I keep my distance these days. But I wonder, often, if whatever Heaven turns out to be might have more hugs and less lawyers in it. I hope so.
Of course, many say that Heaven and Hell are both bound up in this life and that time outside of human life is not so linear – not so uptight; less spendable and more fluid, circular. And I believe that Hell is not a place or a time. Hell is just getting too much of what one thought one wanted.
This Native American image made of turquoise and wood has the stag doubling back on itself like the way Kai-the-dog does when he is about to scratch. We all do this from time to time. Double-back, that is. Scratch. Watch our backs even.
When I dream about a stag, as I did last night, I often wonder if God is trying to communicate and if God was trying during the day, but I was too over-caffeinated and manic about work to stop and listen. Work-addiction is just as dangerous as alcoholism for its ability to shut-down awareness. Any addiction is, I guess. But work-addiction is harder because it is a societal norm.
Today will be like any other day – it will begin with a very long walk with Kai-the-dog. We will walk. Then swim. Then walk and shiver a bit. Then eat a huge day-off brunch. Sabbath days are good days to double-back and ask about self-care and self-compassion. I tell everyone around me to slow down and rest some – everyone except myself.
What if we Americans were a little less wealthy and defended – and a little more rested and kind?