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Keeping It Together


By Father Eugene Hemrick
Catholic News Service

I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. My first year in the major seminary consisted of philosophy taught in Latin, the history of philosophy, a study of the early church, economics and music. I remember standing in the shower feeling as if my brain was going to blow a circuit. No doubt many of us, especially young people today, are experiencing similar pressures due to 24/7 news filled with one disturbing crisis after another. Without a doubt, a major challenge of our modern age is to disallow mounting pressures to topple us.

Wisdom would dictate that to combat them, serious study is a must. This I did to survive and happened to come across a book that helped me not only cope with it but to also cultivate a cherished lifelong practice for managing it.

One recommendation in the book was to take a quiet walk alone and to listen to your heartbeat, the tempo of breathing, the sensation of feet touching the pavement and to note various sounds around you. It was a simple but often overlooked lesson in getting in touch with sensations we take for granted.

When under pressure, it is usual practice to focus on its sources and the anxiety it is causing. To break pressure, however, is to focus away from the world causing it  –  to take that quiet walk and to feel the vitality stirring within us. Saint Teresa of Avila once counseled that we need to go into that secret room, called self, close its doors and let its spiritual powers soothe us. This practice is especially apropos for a new age of news addiction that is as much a disease as it is a benefit. For most of us, the day is riddled with it. Add to this are the often-disturbing news images we absorb in milliseconds that shake our cognitive faculties to the core.