In an era when people talk on cellphones at the same time they text and Google, Terry Hershey advocates finding sane asylums to maintain balance in life.
“The first thing is to recognize the toll it takes, having so many distractions,” said the popular author, retreat leader and humorist from Washington State.
The Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse will host Hershey for two appearances on the topic this month. A community presentation titled “Rest, Renew, Live” will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. April 28 at English Lutheran Church at 1509 King St. A retreat called “Finding Your Sanctuary” will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 28 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 29 at the spirituality center at 920 Market St.
“We need reminders that there is a different way to live,” Hershey said in a phone interview.
That awareness is particularly important for “caretakers of any kind — whether it’s in relationships, service or ministry,” he said. “It begins with self-care,” Hershey said. “If I don’t fill that tank, I’m only reacting.”
Many people have found self-care increasingly important in the wake of the presidential campaign and election, he said.
“The troubling thing about the election was how it was so polarized and polarizing, with screaming and yelling,” said Hershey, has written 15 books, with his most recent being “Sanctuary — Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life.”
The campaign’s unprecedented acrimony left many people needing to restore calm and balance to their lives, “to determine what to do now,” regardless of whom they supported, he said.
An ordained Congregational minister, Hershey said, “I did local church work for five years. I learned that church was great, except for people. It wasn’t my thing.”
He opted for a career of writing books and educational and inspirational speaking. He was living in Southern California, where he found the pace too hectic and distracting, so he moved to Vashon Island, a 37-square-mile islet in Puget Sound near Seattle.
“In my ministry career, I found that just because I was successful … didn’t mean going without pausing, slowing down and letting my soul catch up with my body,” Hershey said.
He also went back to school to study horticulture, adding landscape design to his resume.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s finding places to stay sane. The people around me have needs, some because of traumatic circumstances. I can’t be present for any of those” without a stress reliever, which gardening supplies for him.
“That’s my favoring part of living up here. I picked something I know is life giving. Sprouts of the garden bring life,” he said.
Hershey’s books and presentations are geared to helping people “how to find those pockets in your life. I call them sanctuaries. When people say they don’t have time, it doesn’t take much.”
Some also are obvious but unrecognized. When one retreatant told Hershey that he didn’t attend church and wasn’t religious, Hershey asked about his side interests. The man said he spends leisure time with model trains in his basement, which Hershey said provides a “portal” to a sanctuary.
“Portal is kind of a Buddhist thing, a place where you can leave things behind,” he said. “It’s an ‘aha’ moment that gives you permission to let yourself be in another place.”
Since there is no bridge from Vashon Island to Seattle, Hershey said the ferry ride is his portal, adding, “If I am stressed, I become calmer as soon as I am on the ferry.
He asked a woman who said she had little time but is a jogger about her pre-running routine. When she described the simple act of tying her shoes, he pinpointed that as her portal.
Another person said she enjoys having a glass of wine while stroking her cat on her lap.
“The cat is the portal,” he said.
Hershey talked of visiting his dad, who lives on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“My dad is never going to read any of my books, per se, or go to any of my talks, per se, but when we go fishing — trust me — it’s a portal,” he said.
Asked whether he has perfected the technique, after years of practicing and preaching it, the 62-year-old Hershey said with a laugh, “I have perfected them enough to know when I screw up.”
Regarding his approach to the topic as a humorist, he said, “When it’s about personal, spiritual and emotional growth, I can’t take myself too seriously. It has to be lighthearted.”
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