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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality


One of my favorite cartoons shows two snakes. One is resting on the ground, his body relaxed in supple curves. The other is leaning against a tree, his body stiff and straight as a board. The one on the ground says to the other, “Charlie, you gotta learn to relax already!”

Summer time is the time of relaxation—for many of us. We cook on our grills, eat outside, spend time with family and friends, enjoy a vacation, or take a dip in a pool. But some of us have a hard time relaxing. One of the main enemies of relaxation is perfectionism. Perfectionists are people who put excessive demands upon themselves—and on others too. Psychiatrists say perfectionism is sometimes a way of coping with low self-esteem. It can also arise out of fears of abandonment or shame.

In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott calls perfectionism “the voice of the oppressor.” She continues, “Perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting every stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die.” She concludes, “The truth is you will die anyway and a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Jesus knew how to relax. He frequented the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, not to preach to them, but to relax in their presence. We sense that Jesus knew how to relax when we read his parables. Where did he come up with such incredible images—bread rising, seeds germinating, children being children, lilies bobbing in the breeze, camels squeezing through narrow gates—except that he took time to observe the world around him and to reflect on what he saw and felt. In other words, he relaxed.

Not only did Jesus relax, he told his disciples to relax. On more than one occasion he said, “Come away by yourself to a deserted place and rest a while.” Other times he told his listeners things like, “Don’t worry… don’t be afraid… stop fretting.” Why? Because the God who loves you more than you imagine, is caring for you. Everything is in God’s hands, so you can afford to lighten up a little and relax!

(Adapted from my book Gracious Goodness from Loyola Press. All pictures are from Pixabay.)


On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being “a perfectionist or workaholic” and 10 being “someone who has no problem relaxing”) where do you put yourself?

What kind of activities, places, or things do you find relaxing?

What or who helps you to relax regularly? Do you help others to relax? If so, how?

Do you ever see a connection between your ability to relax and your trust in God?

PS: I am leading a retreat from Sunday, Aug. 4th to Saturday, Aug. 10th at the Sisters of Charity Retreat Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The theme is: “How Can I Keep from Singing?” I ask you to please keep this retreat in your prayers. Thank you!

Here is a simple little song entitled “Come Aside.” It is written by Leonor dela Santa and sung by Hazel Tolentino. These recent words by Pope Francis seem a fitting introduction to this song: “We live with the accelerator down morning to night… This frantic pace ruins our mental health, spiritual health, and moral health…”

I invite you to respond to this reflection and/or song below!

15 Responses

  1. Good Morning Sr. Melannie,

    I find doing yoga very relaxing. It helps me focus on my breathing and the present moment.

    God bless!


  2. Good morning, Sr, Melannie…

    I find that walking relaxes me. Not so much the walk itself because during the walk my mind is a buzz with all sorts of thoughts and things, but after the walk I feel more peaceful, more relaxed. It’s a beautiful thing!

  3. On a scale of 1 to 10 I am probably a 5. I find doing crossword puzzles and listening to Benedictine chants and sacred music very relaxing. A Blessed week to all.

  4. Sister,
    On the “relaxation scale,” I rate myself a 7, up from a 4 or 5 since I retired two years ago. Several things help me relax: prayer; spiritual reading and reflection…..spending quiet time with my wife…reading (history, biography)…listening to favorite music….spending fun time with our four year old granddaughter….playing pickleball with friends (fun, sweaty physical activity)….just sitting watching and listening to nature at work! Prayers for your upcoming retreat; what a great theme “How Can I Keep From Singing”! I especially like Audrey Assad’s version of the song. Peace and Blessings.
    Ed J.

  5. The beads relax me; I say them alone, and slowly.

    Silent prayer relaxes me. And poetry relaxes me, whether it be the writing or the reading of it. Maybe it’s apter to say that it absorbs me.

    I’m much less of a perfectionist than I used to be.

    In any event: happy Monday, all!

  6. Good Morning Sister Melanie!

    I always enjoy your blog….and this one really hit home for me. I’m a definite ’10’. Semi-retired, I find prayer, spiritual reading, and creating help me to relax, although I am certainly still a ‘work-in-progress’ with this, and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guide in it daily.

    Happy Monday!

  7. Good morning. I think I would rate myself overall a 5 on the relaxation scale. I do take time to relax by doing yoga, reading , walking and just sitting outside in a comfortable chair observing nature and my neighborhood. However what Im really searching for is a deeper relaxation that isn’t just in the moment but would carry me throughout my days. I think Sister Melanie you are right in pointing the way to a deeper trust in God and his care and love for us.

  8. I happen to be #9 on the enneagram and find relaxing something I do best.
    I have never been a go-getter, but find contentment in Painting, reading and having great discussionon perceptions of God, etc.

    I get the things done that need to be done, though it may be a day late. I am definitely a Mary (of course, that is my name as well).

    I love being retired because I can do mostly what feels life-giving to me.

    I am indeed blessed,

  9. Very timely reflection for me today Sister Melanie. I am a 1 on that scale, and your words and the song were the wisdom I needed at exactly the right moment. Thank you. I am praying your upcoming retreat will bear much fruit. Blessings to you and all on this site.


  10. I’m relaxed when I’m deep in prayer. Believe it or not, I was most relaxed (let’s rate it a 9 if 10 is totally relaxed) in recent years while battling cancer because it was like a silent retreat – every moment of every day was wrapped in prayer. I keenly knew I was in the hands of God and had no expectations from myself except to surrender to His plan. Now that I’m doing better and rejoining society, I feel like I’ve dropped to a 5 on the relaxation scale because my humanity expects me to be ‘doing’ or accomplishing something all the time. Thanks for this post and all your writings! Wishing God’s blessings on your retreat!

  11. I would rate myself about a 5 on the perfectionist/relaxation scale although my husband, who is a 10 would probably rate me a 1 or 2!
    I find it very easy to relax on my back porch or the beach with a good book and a glass of iced tea. However, if I’m washing a window, I want it to be streak free and crooked pictures literally drive me crazy! I definitely am a “jazz” pianist – not a “classical” one. If I worried about making a mistake on Sunday morning, I couldn’t handle being a Liturgical Musician.
    I loved the song and the accompanying pictures. The river scene reminded me of the St. John’s River – the place where my husband and I occasionally escape on a pontoon boat. The path in the woods reminded me of the 10 acres of woods in rural Indiana where we raised our children and the sunset reminded me of Anna Maria Island, where we annually find our respite.

  12. Good morning, Melannie,
    On the relaxing scale I’m probably a 7, a lot of the time. As a spiritual director it is so calming for me to sit with my companion and soak in God’s love and peace as we begin our session.
    I love the song…it is perfect for me as I begin my retreat this Thursday.
    My prayers are with you and all your “bloggers”. Please pray for me, too.
    Love, Josita

  13. I’m a ten. Daydreaming, birdwatching, watercolor painting, staring at trees. I’m a Walter Mitty of daydreaming.

  14. I read this and went this is probably me and it makes me sad. I just recently (and I’m 52) had to come to the realization that I may be trying to be a perfectionist and to ask myself why? The answers aren’t that easy to admit but one is definitely fear. I’m never really ever in the moment and that saddened me. I have recently been learning to point out to myself sounds, smells, how something feels like the breeze on my face or my arms and to really be aware of what is taking place as I do things, spend time with my girls, or go places. I was so happy to feel happy at that precise moment. It was a neat feeling. I’m trying to be less perfect since technically I never was nor will I ever be. God’s okay with that so that has to be enough.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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