Last night I had dinner with a girlfriend I hadn’t seen for months. We talked and cried and talked and cried ~ and then talked some more.
For each of us, the past few months have brought intense life experiences - highs and lows of grief, joy, heartache, disappointment, hope and despair. After connecting the dots of our experiences and sharing intimately for hours (we closed down the restaurant AND the late night coffee house next door), we went to part ways for the evening.
“Are you taking care of yourself?,” she asked me.
“Yes,” was my immediate reply. I paused as we were walking. “But not really. Not truly and deeply in the ways I know I’m capable.”
She looked at me encouragingly, with curiosity.
I went on to tell her about a conversation I had with my mom a few weeks prior. We were discussing how well I was coping with everything that had arisen and I had gone through. She told me she thought I was holding up remarkably well, without being repressive or escapist. I was trying to give myself credit, for I didn’t feel like I was doing well. I checked off the things I was/wasn’t doing: I wasn’t doing drugs, drinking excessively, going out with strangers, distracting myself to excess with novels or movies or other forms of escape. I was getting up every morning, doing good work, keeping my home clean, going out with friends, reaching out to family, not secluding myself. I was doing my meditation practice.
As I talked through this with her, I realized what had been missing.
“I’ve been doing surface self-care. I’ve been taking care of myself in the ways others can see, the ways in which I KNOW I have a tendency to fall into bad habits. But I haven’t really taken the time to be with myself, exploring the deeper shit that has begun to come up and express itself within these experiences. I haven’t been practicing what I know to work, I know to be true. I haven’t been willing to break open, break apart and begin to reform anew.”
My realizations and words resonated. We began to talk about our individual practices (meditation, yoga, reflection). We were doing them, yes, and often just getting yourself on your mat, on your cushion, is 90% of the work. But we weren’t fully engaging in our practice. We weren’t opening our hearts in the ways we’ve learned, making space for the grief + the growth + the opportunities that are inherent inbeing in our practice.
We weren’t truly being with ourselves.
Through this conversation and exploration, I’ve begun to seriously to reflect on what it is I think of as ‘self-care’ and how different that looks for each of us and the different levels of depth and knowing that we must care for ourselves with. I was assuaging my innate knowledge that I amnot doing alright by comparing myself + my actions to those of others and to myself ten years ago - and in that regard, I’m doing GREAT. But when I look at who I am now, what I know and what I’ve learned? Not so much.
I’ve been ‘caring’ for myself in the ways I’ve allowed myself to believe I deserve. I’ve been ‘exploring’ my habits + patterns + emotional paths only to the extent that has been required of me by the external world.
But that is not enough.
Self-care, at its core and in its truest form, is a manifestation of true, deep, self-compassion. It is the action that arises from being willing tobe with myself, to be in my shit and be willing to see the things that I don’t actually want to look at. The things that are ugly. The behaviors that are needy, usury, grasping and full of selfish attachment. The paths of emotion that are based in fear, loneliness, insecurity, jealousy and laziness, however background and disguised they may be.
The beauty of being in this, in sitting with these aspects, looking at them and not running away, is the experience of one of my favorite things Katie often shares/teaches:the observation is the dissolution.
The second we are willing to be with where we are and not ignore ourselves, the second we notice and can observe that thought pattern, that behavior, that habit, we are in the space of allowing it to transform, to dissolve. When we recognize what it is we’reactually doing, we can make a different choice. Otherwise we continue in a mode of auto-pilot, never seeing ourselves, our minds, as they really are.
Being willing to be in that space looks different for me on a moment by moment basis.
Right now, it’s writing this to share with you, breaking down in tears as I feel myself open to my experience that much more.
Last weekend it was an avocado, coconut + honey body mask, soaking in the tub without a book and filling the echoing space with mantra in my own voice.
Last night it was being 100% present for my friend as she filled me in on her past few months, without the need to share my story (that came later). This weekend it will likely be continuing to unpack into a new space, one that is for myself alone.
And the self-care, the action of self-compassion, when I’m not willing or able to go into that space? Knowing, honestly, that it’s not going anywhere. All my shit will continue to be here until I work through it. But the more willing I am to move through it now, while it’s fresh and raw, and my heart is cracked wide open, the less likely it is to get buried + solidify the habits and patterns that got me here in the first place.
I can return to this space tomorrow, tonight, in 10 minutes. Right now I may not be able to. And that’s ok.
P.S. This post brought to you by 3 months of working with Fierce Compassion. ; )
Love + flower petals,
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