“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world … as in being able to remake ourselves.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
I used to think that being spiritual meant not really thinking about yourself, but devoting your life to service and God, a la the asceticism of Mother Teresa and Ghandi. For over 20 years, I was deeply committed to my spiritual life, and I performed thousands of hours of spiritual practices, plus enormous amounts of seva, or “self-less service”.
But when it came time to take care of myself in other ways, I kind of thought that was not really my job. I had great faith that God would provide…and all that. No doubt about it I received much in return and have no regrets. As it became clearer that the ascetic path was not really for me, I also noticed my attitudes and behaviors around self care and subsequently self awareness had some significant gaps.
After many years of offering energy healing to clients, I sensed that my own meter was bordering on empty. Even though I did daily self-healing with Reiki I found I was not keeping up in some other significant ways. Which was strange as I certainly saw clearly the impact on many clients of not caring for self– not sleeping enough, not eating well, not having healthy relationships, and/or not tending to their spiritual needs. There were more facets to this “self-care” business than I realized.
Healer, Heal Thyself
As a healer I was dealing with so many deeply held issues, with many who struggled profoundly, I was so occupied with giving that I wasn’t very often in receiving mode, and definitely was becoming imbalanced. This showed up in many ways: I had too much month at the end of my money; I was often drained and didn’t have enough solitary time and play time to restore. I regularly worked till late into the night, rarely ate at a decent hour and always felt “I should be doing more”. I started having chronic back pain as well.
And it wasn’t as if I didn’t know better; I even had some very clear guidance for many years that I really needed to raise my rates, and receive weekly bodywork to keep myself from taking on too much without regularly releasing the excess mental/emotional layers. While I am generally really great about following my inner guidance, I resisted implementing both of these strong suggestions for years.
Self awareness is a key piece to creating what you want and mastering your life. Having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions, also allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them.
Ultimately, where you focus your energy and attention, your emotions, reactions and behavior determine where you go in life. Having self awareness allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you, and subsequently make the changes you want.
It became clear that I needed some help in the arena of self-care; everyone I had admired to this point had chosen to take care of others at the expense of themselves in some way. Yet I also deeply desired to be more effectively reaching more people so I had a greater impact. Serving less was not the option I was looking for either.
I Needed Permission and Modeling
As I became a bit more self aware regarding my husband’s and my need for better self-care, I began to become very curious about how other transformational and thought leaders were managing their lives while having a huge impact. I asked many conscious and successful people (two things I naively thought didn’t go together) what their secret to success was both personally and professionally. Fascinatingly they all said the same thing; that their income and overall success didn’t really climb until they started reclaiming their boundaries and gifting themselves more free time– for family, for fun, for self-care on all levels.
It seemed totally counter intuitive to so many hard-work ethic paradigms I was raised with. Growing up my parents both were very hardworking; my father was a surgeon and he rarely came home before 9pm. His version of a day off was doing patients rounds with no surgeries, but this often became a full day as well. My mom saw it as a badge of honor and devotion to pull all-nighters in preparation for just about any event and often got sick as a result. While I too adopted this attitude, now I can view this more often as poor planning, unhealthy boundaries and possibly over-committing. Only rarely does it feel that working that late on anything is beneficial for any purpose or person.
For the most part, it has been other people skillfully modeling major lifestyle changes that has really given me permission to make some serious shifts personally. A friend invited me to a women’s retreat with a fabulously successful business coach. Initially what intrigued me most, was not how she could help me totally restructure my business, which I really needed as well. The big draw at first was her amazingly healthy work-life balance. She shared in great detail about her weekly schedule: regular chiropractic and massage treatments, early morning riding her horses ending each evening around 6pm and watching a movie with her husband, and no weekends. This was for me!
I was hooked. A multi-millionaire mentor is assisting thousands of women to create prosperous transformational businesses while also living the dream. What a concept! For so long my spiritual life dominated my world, and I believed somewhere that I had to choose spirit over worldly success. While I do not regret my path and decisions in the least, in the end I realized I was way better at struggling to survive than I was at thriving. I clearly was missing something important.
Self Love is Key to Accomplishment
“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. ” – Lucille Ball
For instance, I had virtually no clue what healthy boundaries were. My compassion that effortlessly flowed to my clients and service work, did not seem to extend to myself! And my beloved husband was even more out of balance than I was. When he started having some serious health concerns, I knew something had to seriously shift as I really wanted to step up and support our household even more.
So I couldn’t wait to heal all my underlying blocks around increasing my self-care; I was out of time. I had to implement some of these strategies immediately even though I was not totally comfortable yet. That was part of the secret as well; the self awareness came easier as I behaved differently. Each step I took to implement more nurturing and self-worth, made it easier to understand and eliminate the underlying negative belief.
I also suspected that I was blocking my greater potential by not receiving enough for myself. This was illuminated when I met mega best-selling author Marci Shimoff, and she spoke of how she took a week long silent retreat in the midst of a book launch, as she had planned it a year in advance. She almost backed out thinking it was really bad timing and too long to be off the grid. Yet this was when she received her BIG IDEA for Chicken Soup for the Soul for Women that skyrocketed her to mega success!
Self-Care = Alignment = Happy!
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Ghandi
When we make other peoples’ happiness and well-being a priority over ourselves, we are setting up a dissonance, a discord. We are sending a conflicting double message, and therefore we are out of alignment.
I saw how I wasn’t totally “walking my talk” as I was counseling my clients how to better care for themselves on all levels, but was not always accomplishing this personally either. So instead of just telling them, I realized I had to model it myself.
My journey of giving myself more spaciousness, more time focusing on what was important in my life involved many aspects. This was not a “quick fix”. I had to begin delegating out some tasks both in my household and in my business; I had to learn how to set boundaries with clients and family, I had to really rearrange some priorities and let go of activities and clients that weren’t a good fit anymore; and I had to heal core aspects of the need to over-give, the lack of self-worth if I wasn’t “giving my all” by totally exhausting myself; and a core resistance to fully receiving.
Of course, a big bonus was that as soon as I was able to do this more skillfully, I was able to help all my clients as well.
Ultimately, I now view my spiritual practices much more expansively. Rather than hours of formal meditation, chanting, and mantra repetition, my “spiritual” practice now seems to include time to just unplug, taking care of my body, even preparing healthy meals is infused with more soul. I now know that Spirit is able to work through me so much clearer when I am in receiving mode, when I love my self enough to allow more time and space for contemplation, for pondering, for meandering in my garden, for doing things I love, for nurturing relationships, for being HAPPY.
Self-care really raises your happy meter; which of course naturally raises your vibration, a key to all spiritual and healing endeavors. Once my teacher exclaimed: “You have all done so much ego-death work; so much past karma has been released; it is now time to be HAPPY!” I embraced this as Truth in that very moment, and everything in my life began to shift as a result.
It is the core of all desires anyway…if you break them down underneath everything you want, is the goal of feeling happy. So why not go directly for happy?
For the past few years, I have been receiving weekly 90 minute massage/healing work. My back is hardly ever a problem as this seems to diffuse any tensions and imbalances before they manifest structurally. Not to mention how divine I feel and how grateful I am …it is truly wonderful to feel this good in your body! Once I began to receive it, my husband started getting regular bodywork as well and it has really shifted a lot of pressure to deal with each other’s aches and pains and general grumpiness of being overextended.
Ultimately, if we choose to live at ever increasing levels of harmony, happiness and fulfillment, self-care becomes a necessity. Rather than see these actions as occasional “treats”, this is now just what we do.
Ease, Freedom and Accomplishment
My mentors have helped me see that you can have a huge impact in the world, while still enjoying a happy, healthy and balanced lifestyle. Maybe even because of that balanced lifestyle. I now see self care as a pre-requisite for the “ease and grace” I choose to emulate.
Energetically, I have consciously reset my vibration to the higher dimensional template of “ease, freedom and accomplishment”. The more that my consciousness evolves, the more that Balance and Ease is not only my mantra, but the access key to the higher states of being. It is almost as if the “gear” of struggle and self-sacrifice has been eliminated; and it is barely possible for me anymore to get out of sync with ease, harmony and happy. My whole being just shuts down and says “not happening”. At first this was a bit unnerving at times as I wondered if I no longer had the drive and devotion to accomplish my goals and give it my all.
But the truth is, I feel I am totally supported to maintain these boundaries so I can remain even keeled more often than not. So I am truly walking my talk, and feeling more accomplished than ever. And for that I am grateful. And aligned. And happy. And that is the vibration– the possibility paradigm –that is the ripple I wish to be sending out to the world.
So if you are looking for someone to “give you permission” to enjoy more self-care, more “you” time, more nurturing of self–body, mind and spirit–I certainly give you permission today. Now. Don’t wait. I fully believe taking better care of YOU is one of the best gifts you can give to the world.
Today I am proud to report I pretty much have accomplished the dinner and movie every night around 6pm, the weekly 90 min reiki massage, regular and much less working hours, and having early mornings to do a little gardening or just sitting with cup of coffee, contemplating…not rushing. I have created spaciousness in my schedule to accommodate more teaching and writing which enables me to reach more people… so I am serving more efficiently and effectively. I feel ease and balance and joy most of the time. Trust has replaced worry. More and more, I am being the change.
Contemplations to Increase Your Self Awareness around Self Care:
1. Ultimately, what do you feel when you do things that are for you only? Do you feel guilty? Do you feel you don’t deserve it? Do you feel like you are taking away from someone else (kids, parents, spouses, business or clients)? How can you re-frame this for yourself? Does it help to reformulate your goals to be more of a sustainable long term solution rather than a constant crisis mentality?
2. What do you think could open up for you if you begin to nurture yourself a bit more? What else may ease up in your life if you are more in balance?
3. What might be possible if you begin to unplug from outdated “shoulds” and begin to follow your “inner happy meter”? If you find it difficult to say “no”, can you focus on what you are actually saying “yes” to instead?
4. Who do you know that has self care habits that you admire? Take them out for coffee and ask them for tips. Hang out with them. Just one of these ideas that others are demonstrating can change your life dramatically!