a few years ago, i was talking with a girlfriend about what to do when we’re stressed–anxious, overwhelmed, rushing…how to help ourselves come back to ground. she mentioned going to a spa and spending the weekend pampering herself.
at the time, i wasn’t so sure. first of all, the word “pampering” just doesn’t sit well with me. when i look up the definition of “pamper,” i find:
- from Merriam Webster: “to treat with extreme or excessive care and attention”
- and the first thing Google pops up is: “indulge with every attention, comfort, and kindness; spoil.”
the self-care i’m thinking about isn’t extreme or excessive, and it’s not about indulging or spoiling. it’s self-care. it’s mindful tending to these absolutely amazing bodies we are given to grace this world in!
the other part that didn’t sit right with me is that self-care needs to be a big deal–a weekend retreat, which is not only expensive, but also a lot of time away. if we think this is the only way we can take care of ourselves, then we won’t pay as much attention to the small, doable ways available to us.
that gets me to the title of this post: essential self-care.
i first heard this distinction from Sara Avant Stover, my feminine spirituality teacher, at her Kripalu retreat that i assisted last October. we have to distinguish between essential self-care–that which will truly nourish our essence, the deepest truth of us–and worldly self-care, for lack of a better word.
don’t get me wrong–Sara emphasized this–there is nothing wrong with so called “worldly” self-care. it can feel good to do a little retail therapy, or get a massage, or go to a spa. and if we practice being present with ourselves as we do these activities, we will receive some real self-care from them.
any time we do things to help our nervous system down-regulate from an overly sympathetic, fight or flight mode, into a parasympathetic, tend and befriend mode, we are giving ourselves self-care. (as long as we don’t overdo it into an overly unbalanced parasympathetic mode!) perhaps we could call this self-soothing.
but if we think of self-care only from the perspective of doing nice things to our body, we might be missing the boat. what about the self-care of our hearts? the self-care of our minds? the self-care of our souls? (all together i call this your bodysoul.)
Sara says: “Self-care is just this: lovingly meeting ourselves exactly where we are and allowing things to be as they are.” (The Book of SHE, p. 42)
what is essential for me might not be the same for you. in order for my whole bodysoul to feel well-tended, i have a bunch of practices over the day that include things for each part of me–body, heart, mind, and soul.
another thing to learn is to take care of ourselves in an attuned way, to lovingly meet ourselves exactly where we are…while i have a regular plan for my practices, i try to stay open to what i need on each day–maybe a poem, maybe a walk, maybe more embodiment, maybe greens for breakfast, maybe a certain type of meditation or prayer…
checking in with yourself and having a garden of practices to choose from makes all the difference!
if you are local, i’m teaching about this on March 15th at the Mississippi Market, West 7th store:
whether you’re local or not, how do you discern
between essential and “worldly” self-care?
what is essential self-care for you?