Self Care Essentials
by Jennifer Louden
I've spent the last 14 years delving into what self-care is and why it's vital for our well-being. It's a journey that started with The Woman's Comfort Book and it's most recent expression was facilitating a Sacred Pause retreat this past weekend in Sedona (My everlasting gratitude to the amazing circle of wise women who gathered and to A Woman's Way for inviting me). Every time I teach or speak, I spend time diving deeper into what the elements or essentials of self-care. Self-nurturing essentials:
- Practices that put us in touch with our self, our core, and something larger than our elf, self with a capital S or God or Spirit. These include daily listening practices to create inner balance; daily minimum requirements for self-care; and listening through meditation, prayer, or journaling.
- Allowing and cultivating desire, allowing yourself to know what you want (even if you can't have it or can't have it now or end up not choosing to have it.)
- Working with language, replacing shoulds, and naming thought distortions; Speaking to yourself with care and compassion as in having a relationship with inner nurturer or inner Comfort Queen.
- Receiving - love, energy, compliments, ideas, the Divine.
- Living from an embodied center and loving what the soft animal of your body loves; acknowledging you have a body and that body has wisdom.
What these essentials have in common and what they help you create is strength and courage to live your values and your passion. It doesn't take courage to hide your light. It doesn't take courage to stay numb. Shadow comfort serves that kind of life just fine for that. Living with passion and consciousness, being an offer to the world that takes immense courage - it means constantly stretching ourselves to our learning edge. Self-nurturing feeds that courage and determination. Living by the status quo versus living by what you treasure - one exists on a foundation of healthy self-nurturing, the other doesn't.
Self-nurturing essentials also provide another vital service. These practices and ways of seeing aid you in discovering and naming your constantly unfolding interests and desires, showing you the crooked path to develop your natural gifts. Making a difference in the world in a way that is joyful and sustainable requires self-care and requires being comfortable with desire so you can mold that desire into an offer that meets one of the world's great needs.
Self-nurturing leads us to know our desires and to filter out the choices, relationships, places, and habits that don't fit or support our vision.
At it's heart, self-nurturing is about designing practices that allow you to touch and dwell in your self and the Big Kosmic Self (God / Spirit / All that Is). Authentic balance comes from bringing this internal, self-referenced process together with the needs and demands of others (family, career, world) in a teeter-totter of constantly adjusting, slippery, messy, exhilarating balance. Two hands meeting, two rivers creating a new river, two musical lines uniting in harmony.
I want to address a common fear or block to self-care, the idea that if you go inside (through meditation, movement, journaling, yoga, nature time, a retreat, sitting down and breathing for five minutes), you won't find anything there. What if there is no self to listen to? What if I discover I'm empty, shallow, that there just isn't anything in there? What does it mean to be in touch with your self?
What a exquisite paradox - the only way to disprove this fear of nothing inside is to go inside but because the fear can be so strong, it can be too daunting to begin a practice that will prove your fear wrong! Yet consider this: what if it's not that you lack a rich, interesting, vital self but that you don't know how to recognize the experience of being in touch with that self? What if you simply lack parameters to assess when you are in touch with your deep self? What if you began or added new self-care practices in the spirit of learning what is inside, in the spirit of getting familiar with your inner experience, cataloguing it?
Think about it: we can't hug or sniff or any way measure being in touch with our self or soul. It is an entirely interior experience. We attempt to share this experience through words, music, and images but we can never experience from the inside someone else's experience of being a deep, rich self. Yet we often make up assessments that other people have a deeper or more soulful self. What do we base those assessments on? Nothing.
How do you measure being self-referenced?
How do you know what a deep, rich inner directed life is - for you?
On what do you base your assessments that you are or aren't in touch with your self? (This is vital for those of you who do know you are in touch with your self- let's all quantify the experience, ground our assessments.)
There is no objective truth here. It is up to you to decide what will satisfy you - and what will help you live by what you treasure.
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of five books, including the classic The Woman's Comfort Book and her newest The Life Organizer. She has appeared on numerous TV and radio programs, including Oprah. She's also a certified coach, creator of learning events and unique life balance products. Visit http://www.comfortqueen.com.