Recently I had my face and some words on the pages of a magazine. This introvert did not quite know what to do with it. Old familiar feelings around my self-worth reared their ugly head. While being published in a nationally circulated magazine should theoretically infuse a sense of pride and provide a boost to my self-esteem, quite the contrary occurred. I retreated, withdrew, and turned inward as a way of coping. While these actions towards oneself are not necessarily negative, my experience became as such. The voices of self-doubt and shame were at the forefront and were screaming. I humbly continue to unravel why this was my response and how I can fully step into my life's purpose without the old, unnecessary, and seriously counterproductive voices of shame and self-doubt. As with many uncomfortable life experiences I found incredible healing, wisdom, and medicine from the internal backlash and it certainly clarified my perspective on self-care and what that constitutes. The entire experienced unearthed an undying desire to tend to myself in my body, heart, and soul.
As a woman with a long history of eating disordered behaviors, dysmorphic body image, and a severe imbalance in my intake vs. my outtake, I have always considered the act of taking care of oneself in the realm of what I ate or didn’t eat, how much I exercised, and how many calories I burned.
I felt as though I was taking care of myself if I looked in the mirror and saw a slender and toned body – never looking into my own eyes and seeing the emptiness and disconnection.
If I looked good, then all must be well in my world of self-care.
This is clearly not a sustainable way of living, being and interacting with oneself and as I have gotten older, (yes, things do shift in your 40s!) I have recognized the dysfunction in my self-care choices through timely and potent messages that my body and spirit send me.
My soul has been crying out to be heard and truly attended to and it has become non-negotiable to ignore the signals.
My ears can no longer ignore the cries.
My entire way of relating to myself has taken shape in a very different direction than ever before.
There is a palpable honoring and embracing of who I am on every level. What actually feels nourishing to my soul? How can I honor my heart in each moment and tend to the various layers of emotion that it beholds? What ways can I move my body that feel integrated, accepting, loving, and celebratory? How can I take care of myself in ways that are grounding and that acknowledge and appreciate exactly where I am in my life in every moment -- in body, heart, and soul? This has been uncharted territory and a place that is in continual investigation, exploration, and unfoldment.
I have finally surrendered to myself – gotten out of my own way – tuned in – and landed.
I offer you my top 5 ways in which I tend to my body, my heart, and my soul. I never in my life thought that I would consider some of these things self-care much less give myself permission to do. The level of surrender and attunement with my body, heart and souls true needs feel to be nothing short of miraculous. If I can do it, I truly believe that anyone can. The desire must be there, any and all pretenses must be dropped, and a sincere openness and willingness to being uncomfortable in the unknown during this exploration of Self and ones awakening.
~Take a bath in the middle of the day. Yes, you heard me correctly and this one has to be on the top of my list as it definitely was a challenge for me to surrender to. I live in the mecca of beauty and everyone is extremely active in the outdoor playground surrounding me. For me to give myself permission to get into the bath on a gorgeous sunny day is the ultimate act of surrender. It is attunement at its finest and when I do make this choice -- when I listen to my body, heart, and souls pleas for this level of care, I am fed at the deepest level possible. My entire being softens and I feel held.
~Take a walk in nature. A walk, not a run. Not a power walk. Not to burn calories. Not to run away from oneself or life. A walk to drop in. A walk to connect to your body, to your breath, and to honor your true pacing. A walk to feel your body’s subtleties in motion. A time to tune in and take inventory. A walk that supports, nourishes, fills your heart, and empties your mind of stress. A time of breath and movement. A walk to enliven all of your senses and call you home.
~Practice yoga. I am not referring to a hot, power yoga class. I am talking about rolling out your mat and tuning in to what your body truly needs. I find that some days my body loves being in motion – even moving in and out of various poses at a more rapid pace. Most days, however, when I tune in my body is craving slow, deep, fluid, and organic movement. Some days I don’t even “do” an official asana (posture) – rather I am so in the moment with how my body wants to move and when I honor that, anything is possible. I spend a lot of my practice time these days on the ground – breathing – stretching – twisting – rolling around – and resting. This feels like a level of self-care that is essential, supportive, and truly honoring my body, heart, and soul.
~Meditate. Meditation is one of most powerful ways of tending to ourselves. The attunement with our inner selves is palpable and enhances who we are and how we live our lives. I never thought that I would be saying this. I always thought of meditation as torture – truly. I see now that sitting with myself for decades was difficult, painful, and really unbearable on so many levels. As I have now been meditating daily for several years, my entire perspective has shifted. I have a motto that I say to myself, “When all else fails, meditate”. Meditation is my go-to. It is like home base for me. Life sometimes feels as though it is spinning wildly and even my self-care practices feel like just another thing to “do”. Meditation is my faithful and trustworthy friend and I feel held by my practice. It is self-care at its finest.
~Retreat at home. This one has been huge in my world. I completely understand that many people do not ever have their house to themselves for an hour, much less an entire day. Dare I say that it is one of the “perks” of being a single mom?? I am blessed to have my house to myself for 6 days a month. Carving out the time and space for a “retreat” is a different story and a challenge in and of itself; and is something that I strive to do at least once a month. When I do, everything in me sings. Parts of me that have lain dormant awaken. Areas of my body that have felt like they were going to implode from the amount of tension soften. My heart feels honored. My soul feels heard. This doesn’t always mean that I have no connection with the outer world – as a mom that is difficult to do. Every time is different and unique, but what I can say is that I strive to: ignore my phone, stay off the social media, be quiet, give myself permission to not clean my house, cook and bake yummy food and then consume it, spend time on the couch with a book wrapped in a cozy blanket, remain in jammies or comfies for hours -- clothes that feel good on your body and allow you to move and breathe freely, journal, read uplifting material, take baths with Epsom salts and essential oils, say positive affirmations to myself often, take lots of deep belly breaths, long walks listening to Sanskrit chants, meditate, dance, and practice restorative yoga.
These are just some of the many ways in which I have cultivated a depth of self-care that goes beyond my physical body and it’s esthetics. It feels revolutionary for me to be living from this place and, sometimes, scary. Many times of tending to myself in this way feel like uncharted territory -- as if I am a foreigner in a foreign land without a map. And the truth is there is no map. There is no guidebook towards ourselves.
There is no direct and easy way to truly go IN on the level of the heart and soul.
It is a leap of faith – every single time.
The only thing that I know for certain is that making this choice to attune on the deepest levels is absolutely the most profound declaration of self-love and self-acceptance. Life becomes an exploration, an honoring, and a celebration.
The ripples of this union with Self are endless, beautiful, life enhancing, empowering, enlivening, contagious, and full of possibility.
Take the leap.
Jump off that cliff.
And come home.