When I take care of myself, I take care of all. This is because each human being affects every other human being. We are interconnected at the psychic level like all of nature is connected.
That might sound like woo, but it is also scientific. What we emanate through our hormones, through our breath, through the contraction or dilation of our pupils, is registered and received by the others.
We share the air we breathe, the microbiome, collective immunity. We share happiness and unhappiness whether we mean to or not, through a complex network of molecular communications.
Because of our interconnection, any solution I am able to forge in my own private experience is a solution that I share with others, just as any trouble that I fall into is a trouble that affects all.
Although we all fear being seen as selfish, in actual practice the more I take care of me, the more you have time, space, and encouragement to care for yourself. Also, the more I care for me, the more energy and peace of mind I have to share with you if you need me to support you in your self care.
If we each work out to build the muscles of self care, then I can spot you and you can spot me. My strength is your strength.
If it should happen that you are not able to care for yourself, as happens to all of us at some point, then what you need is someone who has a strong practice of self care to be there for you. Another depleted, hurt person will not be able to help you as much as someone who is feeling good enough, whose joy is so strong as to not shrivel in the face of another human’s need or pain.
Most of us become less generous when our needs aren’t met. If I put plenty of food on my own plate – more than enough – then I don’t mind if it turns out you need some too. If I am starving – for love, for alone time, for creative expression– that’s when I become stingy, critical and distant. From a place of deprivation, I may be jealous and small-hearted.
Self care is not gobbling up all the resources or taking from others, or guilting people into giving us what is rightfully theirs. Self care includes the awareness that all others are equally entitled and infinitely celebrated for caring for themselves. As conscious members of the citizenry of humanity, we support each other to each care for our own needs.
If you don’t have a self care practice yet, I do so highly encourage you to begin. For your own sake, and for the sake of us all.
Here is an exercise you can do to reflect on what your personal self care practice could be about, looking forward into this year.
- Identify everything you need to have a good life according to your own definition. Do not worry, yet, about how you will meet these needs. Just identify everything that matters to you, answering the question: What Do I Need to Have a Good Life?
Don’t forget that needs mean not only what the body needs to be happy, but also what heart, soul, mind, and spirit need to flourish and grow. Do not be stingy with yourself; put anything on your list that feels like it is part of a good life in your definition.
- Make a fantasy schedule of a day that meets all of the needs from your list. Please don’t worry about reality. This is playtime.
At 2:00, I meet my need for time alone in the beauty of nature by going for a long walk in the hills, which in my fantasy are right behind my house, and filled with deer and foxes.
- Finally, make a practical, realistic schedule for a day that meets as many of the needs from your list as possible. Be creative and try to fit in as many needs as you can in one day.
Before work, I do yoga for 1 hour to meet my needs for quiet, meditative time, and movement. While working I listen to beautiful choral music to meet my needs for awe and celebration of the human spirit.
Use this schedule as inspiration and a guide for how to shape your life this year. Adjust as you go along, adapt and learn. This process can be repeated at any point to get you in touch again with what you need, now. Have fun with it. 🙂