This morning, before anyone woke up, I did a few really important things.
First, I brushed my teeth, showered, and warmed up some tea (shatavari root, cardamom, and rose).
Then, I went downstairs to spend almost two uninterrupted hours completely to myself. I meditated with the spring equinox full moon pouring silver light onto my back. I journaled a bit, and then practiced asana as the sun filled the sky.
And then I went upstairs, when the real part of my Self-care practice began.
After my daughter wakes, my time is no longer uninterrupted. She is tossing toys around the house. Asking unanswerable questions (“Mama, but why can’t we touch the ceiling?”). Refusing a sweater, only to run around the house screaming, “I’m coooold!”
All of that is before we sit down to breakfast.
If I didn’t have the understanding that she is offering me a million opportunities to meet my higher Self, I would lose my mind every single day.
What Self-Care Actually Means
Self-care is a really common topic among women who know they need something different than what life is offering. The popular ethos around self-care goes something like this: Treat yourself. You deserve it! But sometimes the “it,” when it is chosen from a place of depletion or lack, or can be quite the opposite of what we truly need.
I used to think of self-care as a toolbox of rituals and practices, things that I could draw upon when I needed a pick-me-up. A facial with green clay and honey. A bath with sweet-smelling essential oils. A night out with the girls. All of these are lovely, but in my newer perspective, they are just externalizations of what begs to be an internal experience.
When I speak of self-care, I speak of Self-care. The higher Self. The huge essence of us that we recognize when we are brave enough to pause. It is something a pedicure cannot easily reach (though I have had a few divine pedicures). But when Self-care is reshaped as a deep commitment to falling in love with the sweetness of who you are, the “it” you choose will illuminate your divine beauty.
A New Definition of Self-Care
Self-care is huge. It, like the Self, is unfathomable. It is a process of peering over the edges of us, the parts that are hidden between the cracks of the day. At times, my Self-care looks like picking up all the blocks my child left lying in her bedroom — by myself — because living in a safe and organized environment brings calm to my family and me. Other times it may look like stepping past the blocks, ignoring my craving to exercise control over that which is uncontrollable. The trick is knowing which response is the right response when. And then forgiving yourself when you are wrong.
How to Choose Your Self-Care
Most of us are pulled along in life by our attachments or aversions. So the choices in how we care for ourselves can be a reflection of that. At least until we recognize it is happening.
A simple example: My daughter has an aversion to green vegetables and an attachment to dates. If it were up to her, she would only eat dates. But my job is to act as her steward, so I continue to introduce green veggies, without pushing her to eat them. My hope is that one day, she will see that eating a balanced range of foods is Self-care. (And as I offer her this seva, I, too am practicing Self-care through divine service.)
Rather than justifying doing the things you like to do in the name of self-care, evaluate these acts with these questions: Will this lead to a soft, expansive feeling of satisfaction? Or, will it leave me hollow?
A few dates here and there satisfy, but a diet built entirely on dates undernourishes.
Practices of Self-Care
From this vantage point, Self-care can be anything that supports your expansive beauty.
Self-care can be expressing emotions, such as anger or grief in healthy, productive ways (journaling, moving your body, crying, burning copious amounts of palo santo, etc.).
Self-care can be taking 10 minutes to yourself at the end of your day to pause and reflect on all that happened.
Self-care can be declining an invitation for a night out, or accepting one (depending on your tendencies).
And, my personal favorite, Self-care can be the radical act of accepting the reality in which you find yourself at any part of your day.
With all things, it is the intention that determines the outcome. If it creates more softness, welcome it.
A Prayer(ish) for Self-Care
I was not raised with religion. My family taught me to be suspicious of prayer. I still don’t like that word too much, but there is nothing else that quite gets to the meaning. Somehow, despite all this skepticism, I find myself talking to the Divine a whole lot. I use Sanskrit mantras often. But sometimes a well-phrased statement in English brings me to my knees. Like this one:
“May I have the strength to soften in this moment.”
This is what is in my Self-care toolbox these days. I pull it out far more often than anything else. I say it whenever I find myself holding the last little frayed pieces of a badly weathered rope. I say it when I feel proud of something I’ve done and don’t want to let my ego take all the credit. I say it when I feel uncomfortable. I say it when there is nothing else to say.
And now, I offer this prayer to you. Use it, modify it, share it again.
I’d love to know: How do you define Self-care? What kinds of practices do you incorporate into your day to bring forth a sense of soft satisfaction? Leave a comment with your thoughts. You never know how much you could inspire another reader.