“Look, listen, and feel.” These are the basic instructions of any CPR course. Why? Because we know from experience that in order to help a person who appears to be in physical distress, it is important first to see what is really going on before intervening, lest one do more harm than good. Let’s look more closely at the caring act of providing CPR to see what spiritual lessons we might find.
After shaking a person in need and asking: “Annie, Annie, are you all right?”—to make sure she is not just napping—the helper feels carefully for a pulse. She then lowers an ear to the person’s mouth with a cocked head in order to look, listen, and feel for signs of breathing. Can she see the chest rise and fall? Does she feel the victim’s breath on her cheek? Can she hear the sounds of breathing? Only once these questions are answered can the helper decide which course of action is best.
Paying attention to what is really going and checking things out with all the tools at our disposal are important lessons for all of life, but particularly for the spiritual life. It has been my experience as a spiritual companion and as one who has been well-companioned myself, that particularly because things are not always as they seem, it is important to check things out before trying to fix, change, or “improve” something in our lives.
Given the hustle and bustle and demands of everyday life, I wonder if I am attentive enough to what is really going on in my spiritual life? I wonder, too, if I might need to be shaken up a bit to find out if I am merely sleeping or if I am really out of it. “Eddie, Eddie, are you all right?” I wonder further: What about my spiritual pulse? How would I check it? Am I “breathing?” Does the Spirit’s breath cause my chest to rise from within?
As Catholics near the season of Lent and as all people of good will think about our spiritual growth, we might do well first to exercise a spirituality of CPR before we attempt a remedy for the season, such as giving up chocolate. If we find out what is truly going on inside us, perhaps we might decide to spend more quiet time alone or more time with our families or to forgive someone or ourselves….
A closing thought: Since it is often difficult to shake ourselves or check our own “pulse” or even to see if we are “breathing” adequately, we might do well to seek out a spiritual companion or friend who knows how to “look, listen, and feel.”