Always. It sounds simple but how often to we put other people, places and things before our own health and peace of mind? If you are anything like me doing this or that for others has always come easier than doing that same thing for yourself. I also have a tendency to work really hard at whatever it is I’m doing, sometimes forgetting to take care of myself in the process.
I’ve had a lot going on the last couple of weeks and it has been crucial for my health and well being to pay extra close attention to my self-care practices. I am grateful to be in a place where the level I take care of myself is pretty high. For years I have slowly built self-care into my daily life and these days it’s nearly automatic. Occasionally I need reminders as I forget but for the most part I am well aware of what I need to do for myself and how that needs to come before all the other important tasks at hand.
I’ve gone through many phases on my journey towards taking better care of myself. Looking back over the last ten years I can see how I put my career and relationships needs above my own. It took me a long time to recognize that in order to thrive in my career and relationships I had to put my needs first. It took me even longer to take action in that direction (I had to get really sick and be in a few miserable relationships aka hitting bottom!).
Today it is clear that I am doing myself and others a dis-service if I don’t take care of myself. It is pretty much impossible to show up and be present if I am in a constant state of agitation, exhaustion, fear or stress. That was basically how I lived for years not knowing there was another way. Once I caught glimpses that there might be a different way to live I had to sit with that for a while until I became willing to change. I’d love to say that I became aware and boom! changed over night. That was definitely not the case. I have worked slowly and steadily to integrate self-care practices that over time have become a working part of my life.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about something I’ve heard Thich Nhat Hanh say a few times on retreat. He says that the greatest gift you can give someone is your true presence. I remember the first time I heard that I cried so hard. It was like finally someone got me. All I ever wanted growing up was for someone to give that to me. I searched and searched for it in all the wrong places and all these years later came to see that I had to be willing to give that to myself in order to receive it from another.
God. When I think about all the ways I abandoned myself as a teenager out of fear and pain it breaks my heart. I was so confused and lost. I was ultimately on a quest for love. As an adult it has been tremendously healing to practice giving myself attention, care and compassion. Through meditation, therapy and yoga I have cultivated a level of self-awareness that is key in being present. It’s been such a journey.
The last couple of days since my teacher training ended I have taken extra time to be slow and still. This afternoon I went and sat in a sauna for a long time as that always helps me relax. A few years ago these simple actions would have been very challenging for me. I was constantly running from one thing to the next and felt there was not enough time in the day to do something like take 2 hours and go to the sauna. Today I know that if I don’t put my self-care first I will not flourish in the ways that I aspire to. I want to be able to give my true presence to those around me. Putting myself first is how I make that a reality.