This week, I received a newsletter from my mentor Dr. Claudia Welch, and was inspired by her article about getting to neutral. Not getting ahead, not expanding into our full potential, but just getting to neutral. Its a wonderful article about what it takes simply to stay in balance– body, mind and soul. I found it very helpful since it is so common to short change ourselves when it comes to taking care; yet without proper care, we start walking down the disease track, taking pharmaceuticals to manage our physical and emotional distress, which can compound the original problem with side-effects and unwanted toxic accumulation in our system. For me, Dr. Claudia’s article points to the real possibility of another way entirely. But it requires our loving care and attention. A lot of it. Every day.
I think many of us grow up without ever learning how to take good care of ourselves. I grew up in a family with adults who had poor habits, addictions and lots of mental/emotional distress. They didn’t know how to take care of themselves, so they couldn’t really take care of me or model for me how to take care of myself. When we grow up without proper care and attunement (raising ourselves), we grow into adults who are essentially out of touch with our bodies. We may learn to minimize our needs, to bury them or just to get by (like we did as kids). We might develop a facade of seeming “fine,” but that is a leftover strategy from getting through a childhood where our needs were poorly attended. Sometimes our parents were less troubled and more well-meaning, but they may have lacked the understanding themselves of how to really be well.
The good news is: it’s never too late to learn self-care. I’ve been looking into this stuff for more than 30 years, but it wasn’t until I began to raise that my son, that I first began to understand how much care I really needed. Seeing his needs helped me see my own. Recognizing his huge capacity for receiving love and attention helped me to see how deep my own well was– It took me years to value myself enough to put my own care first–and then to move out into my work, relationships, social and planetary support from there without feeling guilty or lazy or both. When we haven’t been well cared for as children, it can feel overly indulgent to take time for ourselves as adults, or it may not really occur to us to do so. If we grew up taking care of siblings or our parents, we may develop a pattern of caring for everyone but ourselves. We may have learned that it is selfish to think too much about ourselves, and so we become martyrs to some greater good; but what good are if we are exhausted resentful, or sick from falling out of relationship with ourselves or never developing that relationship in the first place?
We are all so worth our precious time and energy. Self-healing is our birth-right. If we don’t take care of our organism, Nature will come in with illness or deep distress to help us get back on track. Nature never comes in heavy-handed all at once. She whispers; she coaxes; she tries to get our attention; and when we refuse to listen, she takes us down. We may be in the middle of a very demanding schedule or habituated to being busy all of the time (and Lord knows the demands of Life can be great) but my sense is that it is rarely the case that we don’t have time to devote to taking care of ourselves– there is more going on than a lack of time. If you are someone who struggles to find time for yourself, some good questions to ask are:
What can I release to clear some space for myself?
What am I afraid will happen if I take this time?
What non-essential stuff can I let go of to free myself for what I am really here to do in my life?
What does it really take for me, on a daily basis, to feel good body, mind and soul: what kind of food? how much sleep? how much contact with loved ones? time outdoors? contemplative time? creative time?
What one action can I take today to get back on track with myself? What’s really essential to my wellbeing right now?
Ayurveda, the science of life, came into being to show us the way to radiant health and wellbeing. Why? So that we can fulfill our dharma, our purpose, in the world. I hope this piece will inspire you to set your life up in a way where you can know and meet your deepest needs, so that you can shine forth in this world in the ways you feel called to shine. Our world needs that. I want to leave you with this interview I gave to Sarah Hutchinson for the Yoga Beyond the Poses tele-summit, where I talk about self-care with an emphasis on self -love. To learn more about how an ayurvedic approach can help you get back on track with your self-care in 2016, sign up for a wellness session here. They’re complimentary–my way of finding out more about you and what you need help with–and pointing you in a direction that I think will help. That’s one of the ways that I shine best.
Here’s the interview from the Summit.
Rhythm, Calm and Love - Shannon McCall
P.S. Ready for some quality time for YOU? Join me and a really sweet group of yogis at Aldermarsh on Whidbey Island Nov 20 – 22nd for a weekend retreat. Just a few spots left for this season’s get-a-way.