We hear a lot about self-care these days, and think it has something to do with having a massage, or a glass of wine, or going on a holiday, or going without something, or having to add another list of things to do to our already too-long list.
But what if self-care was as simple as nurturing and loving your body in every move you make?
We may have been taught that self-care is selfish, and that taking time to care for yourself is not something you can or should or deserve to do.
We may think that we are too busy and that we don’t have time to take care of one’s self.
We may think that it is not needed and that if we have gotten to be this old, we must know something about how to live life, and that no-one can teach us anything more.
But what if self-care was not an instructive list of things to do or not to do, but a way of being with ourselves, of learning to be loving and caring in the way we are with everything we do?
Modern medicine is slowly catching up with what our bodies have known all along, that illness and disease are related to our lifestyles, and that true medicine is the way we live.
The rates of illness and disease are rising, and chronic disease is now the leading cause of death and disability in our community. These diseases are largely preventable, as the main causal factors are obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, eating unhealthy foods, and not exercising enough.
We need modern medicine, wonderful as it is, because we have not been living in a loving and caring way, as a society. It is great at treating acute diseases, but not always so able to treat these largely preventable chronic diseases, and this is where the way we live plays such an important part in our health and wellbeing, both in preventing these diseases and in turning them around if they do develop, by deepening the love and care we have for ourselves in the way we live.
We usually go through life doing what we think we should do, or what we want to do, until something brings us to a stop. That stop may be an accident, injury, illness, or disease. And that stop is not a punishment, but an invitation to look more deeply at the way we have been living, and to ask ourselves if we could be more loving and caring with ourselves.
I know for myself that I have been offered a few stops along the way of life… addictions, depression, death of loved ones, relationship breakups, and illnesses, including cancer.
Each one has offered me a pause moment in life, where I have questioned myself and the way I have been living; each one being an opportunity to make changes which has been profoundly healing for me.
But we don’t have to wait for life to stop us in our tracks.
In any moment of any day we can ask ourselves:
Are we truly enjoying life?
Do we feel alive, vital, and full of energy and joy?
Do we wake in the mornings feeling rested and ready to go?
Do we enjoy being in our bodies?
We don’t have to be in great physical health, or even free of illness and disease to feel like this.
Feeling vital and joyful is a quality of being that can be felt even if the physical body is ageing and showing some signs of wear and tear.
It is felt when we are connected to the essence of who we are, which is greater than the physical body, but honours the physical body deeply.
This body of ours is precious: we carry it with us everywhere we go. It has stood by us, no matter how we have treated it. It gives us messages in every moment of the day, guiding us in how to live, in how to be.
Learning to listen to our bodies again is as simple as breathing: the Gentle Breath Meditation ®. This takes but a few moments and helps us to reconnect to the loveliness within us all.
It starts with a stop.
So, if we have been brought to a stop, or have just decided we would like more love in our lives, where do we start?
Start by physically stopping, resting your body and resting your eyes by closing them gently. Bring your awareness to your body and allow it to breathe, feeling the breath entering and leaving your body at the tip of the nose. As you bring your focus to the breath, you may notice that as it comes in it feels cooler, at the top of the tip of the nose, and as it leaves lower down it feels warmer, warmed by the warmth of you.
Bringing your focus to your breath brings your mind into line with what your body is doing, and then you are consciously present in your body… and then a wonderful thing may happen… you may start to feel yourself, as you once were as a child and as you always are, deep inside; your essence pure, untouched by what has or has not happened in your life, that gorgeous delicate quality that is you.
Once we reconnect to that essence, anything is possible, for it feels so lovely to be you, that you want to do more things that make you feel more like that, and to not do things that make it hard to feel that way.
From that reconnection, we are able to move through life, guided by feeling that loveliness, or not, in everything we do.
So, if something confirms that loveliness inside us, we can do more of it, saying YES to what feels lovely.
And if something does not allow us to feel that loveliness, we can consider letting it go, saying NO to what does not.
Learning to live in this way, I have let go of 25 kg in weight. I have let go of alcohol, sugar, and other foods that do not suit my body. I have let go of old hurts, of burdens, of ideals and beliefs that were weighing me down. I have let go of hardness, bitterness, resentment and anger towards people, understanding that everyone is doing their best and no-one means to hurt anyone, that, as Plato said: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.
But the thing is, we can only care for others as much as we can care for ourselves.
So, learning to care more deeply for ourselves is actually the most loving and responsible thing we can do, as from that deep self-care, we are naturally impulsed to care not only for ourselves, but for everyone we meet.
Anne M., Australia
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