“The work of real self-care is to hold pain and hope together.”
-Pooja Lakshmin

Back in December at a pastors’ gathering, my local denominational body used a polling app to ask the group a series of questions about stress and burnout. The consensus was clear: this was a group of people reporting high amounts of stress and significant burnout. Clergy attributed the burnout to a variety of elements related to leading our churches following the pandemic. At the top of the list of stressors were financial strain, political division, and declines in worship attendance. In response, the local denomination has started naming clergy burnout as a problem and making it a priority to encourage pastors to care for themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Similar refrains show up in the fields of education, medicine, social work, and the service industry. Apart from magazine and blog articles, just take a look at the many social media ads, and it’s clear that the push to engage in self-care is everywhere. However, sometimes it comes with a silent and subtle accusation that burnout is each person’s individual responsibility. To experience burnout becomes a personal flaw of not doing enough self-care. It means you haven’t tried hard enough or balanced your commitments well enough. It can take on the quality of a moral failing, yet another source of shame for those experiencing it.

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A decorative image of a stack of smooth stones on a beach, with the ocean and sky on the horizon.

I’m re-doing my CPE. That’s right. I did it already: not just one unit, but four, and now I’m doing it again. That story will be told in a separate article. This article is about a valuable practice I learned about in my second-time-around second unit: Cognitive Based Compassion Training, or CBCT.  Read more

The familiar faces of my parishioners occupy the screen before me as I sit on my zafu, a cushion Buddhists often use while doing a seated meditation called Zazen. I started this weekly meditation group within months of my arrival at Christ Episcopal Church almost six years ago. It is modeled loosely on a recovery meeting I attended throughout my early twenties at the San Francisco Zen Center. When the Bay Area issued its shelter-in-place orders in March 2020, we started gathering remotely, which we continue to do to this day.  Read more