Ruminations: Sunburn

We took a daytrip to Presque Isle a couple of weeks ago. It was a lovely, relaxing day, but I brought home an unpleasant souvenir: sunburned shoulders.

I had been very mindful of putting on sunscreen when we were spending time at the beach. And then we went on a little hike. And then we toured the lighthouse. I wasn’t so mindful about reapplying sunscreen as the day progressed. 

It made sense to be intentional about protecting my skin when all I was doing was relaxing in the sun. But for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that my skin would need just as much protection when I was standing at the top of a lighthouse enjoying the view of the lake on a summer afternoon.

Maybe we treat our principles like that sometimes. We know that there are moments when they will come in handy, when we’ll need to be particularly mindful of the life-affirming values we intend to guide our actions and decisions. On those occasions, we prepare ourselves mentally or spiritually to keep ourselves aligned with those principles.

Then there are the other moments. Times when we don’t think our principles will be particularly necessary. Or when we’re just distracted by other things and temporarily forget about having life-affirming values. Those are the times when we get burned. 

When we forget to reapply our deepest values to the mundane moments of our lives, we often wind up feeling a bit of emotional, spiritual, or psychological pain. Or irritation at least. 

Just like my skin isn’t equipped to handle an abundance of direct sunlight without some preparation, our spirits or psyches aren’t equipped to effortlessly express absolute integrity to challenging principles in every situation. We might have to prepare ourselves if we want our deepest values to consistently guide us. Slather on some spiritual practices like SPF50. 

Then I think about how our bodies need sun. Even though too much sun is dangerous without the right preparation. Maybe we also need experiences that challenge us and deepen our ability to be resilient and impeccable with how we manifest our guiding principles in the world. With the right preparation, we can draw a lot of nourishment from those experiences. When we’re less mindful of our deepest values, maybe those challenging experiences are frustrating or painful. 

Where do you experience spiritual/emotional/psychological sunburn in your life? How could your guiding principles offer meaningful protection or preparation? What practices might help you align with your deepest values more consistently?