Part 2, Self-Care
“It is better to give than receive” is an old saying that is by its nature, completely unsustainable, yet so many of us fall into the trap of it. We cannot fill from an empty cup, it is simply impossible. So many well-intentioned people give all that they have – to loved ones, family, charity, or in the case of healers, intuitives, empaths, ministers, to clients. We fail to question this existing paradigm of selflessness and martyrdom, with the thinking being that if we love ourselves, if we honor ourselves first, that we are selfish. Yet not doing so depletes us in very toxic ways. When we are depleted of energy, love, and attention; when we fail to care for ourselves, we become depressed, sick, fatigued, “drained”, overwhelmed, hopeless. We lose motivation and inspiration. We go into overload burnout.We begin to take on others’ – the world’s – pain, suffering, grief, and terror, occasionally in a backward attempt to refill our own cups by making ourselves feel needed. Or worse yet, we do it consciously, really believing that we can sponge it in and somehow be okay, while doing nothing to release it, nurture, heal and take care of our own pain.Self-care is such a critical foundational piece to living a healthy life of joy and yet it’s the first thing to go from our list.
But you know what? It is possible to give that much, if you want to, in balance. It is possible to transmute and transform all of that pain and suffering, work magical healings, be witness to the world’s challenges, or at the very least, maintain your health and sanity while being inundated with it all by taking care of yourself first.
Here are some ideas on how to do that.
“In the event of a change in air pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.” Airline safety announcement
What are these boundaries you speak of?
The term boundary is actually defined as “a line that marks the limits of an area.” When psychologists, counselors, healers and spiritual people talk about boundaries, they are using a slightly different meaning. For our purposes, Personal boundaries are the line in the sand of where I end and you begin. It’s the place where we establish what we will accept and what we won’t, what we will do and not do and how we allow ourselves to be treated by others. It’s also our own personal self-containment space, where we responsibly contain ourselves (energy, moods, feelings, pain – personal SUCK) from projecting onto others. We often forget to think about whether or not we are leaking energy or crossing our own personal (and others’) boundaries by flinging our shit all through our aura and/or projecting on to others, the way we so often accuse others of doing to us.
Some examples of healthy boundaries may look like:
“I have a right to ask for ____.”
“That is not ok with me.”
“I don’t feel right about doing that.”
“I don’t have enough time for that (because it takes away from me time)”
“Not my problem.”
“I hear and understand what you’re going through, and I am still not changing my decision.”
“I am not responsible for your energy, emotions, mood or emergency.” The emergency is a big one, because who doesn’t want to rush to help a good friend, child or family member when they’re stuck? I learned this the extremely hard way with my teenage and young adult sons, who, even after my assistance to remind them not to forget ____ (backpack, lunch, phone, wallet, money, put gas in the car), inevitably, guess what? You can guess. I’m sure you’ve been there. “I’m going to be late! You have to help.” “I missed the bus, now I am going to lose my job.” “My car broke down and you’re the only one who can help.” “I have nowhere else to go.” “We have to have this fundraiser NOW and you’re the only one who can do it.”
Learn to say no. Iyanla Vanzant says “You need to work your NO muscles … and find 101 ways to have a strong NO. And you don’t have to explain your no.” Don’t back up on your no either. If it matters to you to draw that line in the sand, then STAND on that line. You matter. Your no matters.
Release responsibility for another’s healing, soul journey, life. That is not to say that we can’t help out in emergencies, we just need to remember to check in with ourselves and see if it’s crossing our personal boundary. Also, are you trying to take responsibility for some personal gain? Or just trying to stay in control of your own expectations of someone else? Honestly look. Then honey, release that shit.
Also, healthy self-containment boundaries may look like:
“Is this mine?” Feelings, mood, anxiety, fear, etc.
“Am I projecting?”
“Am I listening, or waiting to speak?”
“Where is my head/heart/energy right now?”
“Are you leading with your spirit or your wound?”
I‘m going to be brutally honest with you all. As a young empath, working in a corporate office, I was HORRIBLE at self-containment. Because I was also doing so much personal spiritual work and growth, I arrogantly and ignorantly assumed that any source of office drama couldn’t possibly be me! I had a very humbling experience when my team called a meeting with my boss and proceeded to tell me just how much I flung my shit around that office unconsciously. So, Self-containment: check.
2. Self-talk: Speak like you love yourself
How you talk to yourself matters. A lot. So much so, that there are many different scientific studies that address it from various perspectives. So many of us get trapped in our heads with an endless litany of self-deprecation, castigation, and criticism. A lot of it is so habitual, we rarely notice it. Walking by a mirror in the morning, glancing at yourself, where is the first place your gaze goes to? Flaws. Instantly some negative thought forms and whisks right through our brain and boom, damage is done. Or, let’s say we do something silly, like miss our exit while driving, because we weren’t grounded . “Idiot. Moron.” Self-talk is a part of the way that we care about ourselves. What are you saying? And by the way, what you’re doing is casting a spell with those words. Words have energy and carry intent, whether conscious or unconscious…don’t curse yourself!
Start a practice of at first noticing when this occurs. Then start changing the language, and see how that makes you feel. Change it, at first to use your own name, talking directly to yourself and about yourself in the third person. “Name, you’re an idiot!” How do you feel when someone else criticizes you like that? Not very nice is it? If you wouldn’t let someone else say those things to you, why would you ever say them to yourself? Instead, practice in the morning mirror saying nice things to yourself. You can still be honest, but shift the negative speak and the judgements to something empoweringly neutral (“I have a round, soft tummy. It is a little bigger than I would like.”) or more positive (“My soft, round belly is a mama’s belly and I am proud that it gave me my children.”) Take 5 minutes while brushing your teeth to say one nice, loving affirmation to yourself. Something you want someone else to say to you. Look yourself in the eyes. Keep doing it, at least once a day.
“Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”-Michael Pollan
3. Eat Like you love yourself: Nutritiously
Here’s a term that has been widely overused for food: healthy. No food is actually ‘healthy,’ as the word is virtually bankrupt now. We could take it to mean what it used to mean, which is to promote a state of bodily health. Our bodies are healthy. Food is nutritious, delicious, and hopefully, filling.
What are you putting in your body? Are you eating foods that bring you joy or bring you down? Do you follow a 85-15 % rule (85% of the time I eat very well and 15% I eat what I want) or do you count every calorie? Do you eat unconsciously, emotionally, or like you don’t give a crap? These are ways we care for ourselves with food. Your body matters. If you have a dog, cats, children or family that you care for by feeding them, would you feed them the same way you feed yourself? Would you give them sub-standard, crappy food, even if it tastes good, but leaves them malnourished and sick? No! Most of the processed foods we have on supermarket shelves these days are absolutely poisonous and toxic. Refined, nutritionally stripped flours, isolated and chemical sugars, artificial colors, additives, preservatives and pesticide laden produce have replaced good, simple food. It’s a shitstorm, I tell you!
As a holistic health practitioner, nutrition plays a driving, primary role in my practice. Talk to any alternative medical practitioner, and the first question you’ll be asked is “how’s your diet?” Whereas unless you’re overweight or have diabetes, your allopathic physician probably won’t care too much. We need to care. Even if you don’t “have time.” You have to make time. You have to plan. If you don’t have time to plan, let a service like Blue Apron or Green Chef do it for you. If you’re a wreck in the kitchen or have no desire to learn to cook, there are services that will deliver premade, nutritious meals for you. A local one in Denver is The Spicy Radish. I am sure your city has one too. If you do like to cook, do something different, like join a local farm’s CSA or a co-op, or plant a garden! And don’t forget to drink lots of fresh, spring water.
Feeding our bodies is a way of loving ourselves that is fundamental to our survival and speaks to a very primal way of nurturing. You have to eat – so let it bring you joy. Choose foods that are fresh, nutrient-dense and aren’t in a box. Take the time to prepare them with loving thoughts and words, blessing the pot and ingredients to bring a state of health to your body. Give prayers of thanks and appreciation.
4. Move your body like you love yourself
Our bodies were made to move. Your body wants to move, stretch and use it’s muscles. Let it. You don’t have to join a gym and do rigorous exercise, weight training and cardio (unless you want to), but ride your bike, go for a swim, take a yoga class, dance, walk around the block, do Tai Chi, pilates, take the stairs. Moving your body until you sweat is absolutely fundamental to your self-care routine. Not only does it strengthen, lengthen and tone your muscles, keeping joints and ligaments lubricated and in shape, it also grounds you and helps clear energy blockages and stagnations. Try it out. The next time someone or something brings your energy down, start dancing, go for a walk or do some stretching. Shake your hands out and jump up and down. Imagine the negative, sucky stuff coming right off of you and returning to the earth for transformation. See if that doesn’t help.
5. Meditation, prayer, solitude or quiet time
We all need to get away once in a while. Some of us need it more often than others. You can think of it like needing to put your phone on the charger. Your phone won’t function without that recharge time, it has no power left. Neither can you. Only it’s rather like the opposite of that isn’t it? We are essentially unplugging ourselves from the world, and in the case of meditation or prayer, plugging in to Source/Universe/God/Goddess to revitalize, renew and recharge.
I used to like to go to the really early Sunday service at Unity church. It was a silent meditation service, and filled me with such peace. After my children were born, it was much more difficult, if not impossible to get to church at 7 on a Sunday. Also, it was extremely difficult to find any alone time at all, not to mention make time for my own meditation. I started to do things like wake up 15 minutes earlier (or more) and before waking them to get ready for their day, I would meditate then. I have locked myself in the bathroom, my bedroom and even, gasp, called a sitter, so I could have some alone time. I need my solitude and reflection time like I need to breathe. I absolutely can not function without it.
Take some time in your day, even if it’s only a few minutes at first, to be alone and collect yourself. Shake off the needs, wants and desires of others. Let go of work, responsibilities and worries. If you don’t meditate or pray, let that go. Just use this time to simply BE. Pay attention to your breath and close your eyes. Visualize everything melting away, creating some distance between you and it. If you do pray, send out a prayer now. Pray for assistance and guidance to remain calm, focused and recharged with peaceful love and light so that you can take it back out into your family, workplace, or community. By remaining serene with ourselves, in solitude and quiet, we become magnets for peace and harmony in the world.
Two-point breath meditation
Sit in a comfortable position and practice deep belly (pranic) breathing. Slow your breath. Imagine yourself grounded through your root chakra to the earth with a green light (I picture an ivy vine of light) and visualize a beam of golden silver white light inside your central vertical column, or spinal cord, that runs through all of your chakras and out the top of your head, out the upper chakras 10 (6″ above your head), 11 (18″ above your head) and chakra 14 (36″ above your head) send it out with your breath all the way up to connect to Source/God/Goddess, which is where it originates from. Then, send it back down through you and into the Earth’s core. If you can, do what is called a 2-point breath and pull the earth’s core energy up through your feet and out the top of your head, connecting to Source, while simultaneously pulling Source energy down. On an inhale, visualize these two streams pulling from above and below, meeting and merging in your heart chakra. Hold on your inhale and allow the two energies to mix within you. Then on your exhale, push them both up and down, respectively. Allow your breath to slow, but continue the visualization with each breath, until you feel balanced, at ease and deeply connected.
Dearest God/Goddess/Universe, guides, Faerie allies, angels and friends,
I call to you now and ask humbly for your help in transforming my negativity, stress and pain into harmony, peace and joy. With harm to none and for the good of all, in gratitude and reverence. Amen/Namaste/So it is.
6. Massage, Bodywork or energy work
Most of us long to be touched, in some way, by others. We crave affection and tenderness and we give it to others. A small touch on the hand, shoulder or back. A hug. A kiss. Our bodies need to be touched, not only intimately, but also therapeutically. Taking care of yourself, especially if you care for others or are in service to others for your work, requires you to maintain your physical body as well. Massage and other forms of bodywork release chronic muscular tension and pain, improve blood circulation, increase joint flexibility, reduce mental and physical stress, promote faster healing of injuries, improve posture, and reduce blood pressure. Massage is also known to promote better sleep, improve concentration, reduce anxiety and create an overall sense of well-being and peace. Other forms of bodywork therapy include: chiropractic, Alexander technique, Rolfing, acupressure, acupuncture, Feldenkrais, and craniosacral. Bodywork is generally defined as therapeutic or personal development techniques that involve working with the body in various forms of touch (such as massage, yoga, rocking and those listed above) as well as non-touch (breath work, energy work like reiki, qi gong, and tai chi).
7. Clear your energy fields
It is well-known, even by science these days, that the human body has an “aura” or “energy field” comprised of electromagnetic energy that surrounds and envelops the entire body, its tissues, organs and skeletal frame. This bio-energetic structure, filled with thousands of tiny passageways called nadis and large energy centers called chakras, is a complex, dynamic system that works together with the physical body to maintain the integrity of the whole. It is a circulatory system, very much like our physical one, used to transport and recycle energy throughout our physical and subtle bodies. As Masaru Emoto demonstrated in his ground-breaking work “Hidden Messages in Water,” our bodies are physically affected by negative energy – thoughts, words, deeds, and images that evoke negative emotion – literally transforming the crystalline structure at the atomic level. Our energy fields are affected in the same way, and require regular maintenance to be kept clean, strong and free from emotional detritus. Three ways to do that are:
Sea salt and soda baths – pure sea salt (not table salt, kosher salt, or epsom salt) and baking soda/bicarbonate in a bath is alkalizing to your body, increases negative ions, and draws out toxins in both the physical and energetic, subtle bodies. These baths assist in the release of heavy or negative energy build-ups and blockages, as well as physical toxicity. You will be amazed at how clear you feel afterward. Using aromatherapy can enhance this experience greatly. Good oils for purification are: White sage, Palo Santo, Rosemary verbenone and Tulsi (holy basil).
Smudging – Chances are that you’ve heard of smudging, even if you haven’t quite tried it yet. Smudging is a Native American ritual of purification in which powerful herbs are burned, and the resulting smoke used to clear away negative energies from your body, mind, and spirit. It is also used to clear spaces, such as rooms, houses and ritual chambers before magic work is undertaken or ceremonies held. White sage (although other herbs are sometimes used) is generally dried and bundled with string into a wand. The end is lit and the herb smokes profusely, giving off a wonderfully clean aroma and then is waved or blown, by itself or with a feather, around the person or area to be purified. Another form of smudging is the use of incense for the same purposes and was used as far back in history as Egypt.
Crystals – Because of the unique patterns of their atoms, crystals can hold and emit electromagnetic charges, and not unlike batteries, also need to be recharged routinely. It makes sense then that you might call on your crystal allies to aid you in purifying your bio-energetic body, also electromagnetic energy. There are many crystals that work well for purification, strengthening the aura, repairing holes in the aura, etc. For our basic technique, use a good grounding crystal such as obsidian, black tourmaline or smoky quartz down by your feet while laying down, and a relatively large clear quartz crystal up above your head, with the terminating end pointing toward your crown chakra. Call upon the overseeing devas of the crystals. Ask for their help in clearing your energy fields. Intend that the clear quartz crystal is emitting pure white light and bathing you in it.Visualize any negative energy, blockages, stagnation or holes being repaired or drawn up and into the crystal above your head. Remember to cleanse your crystal in salt water and recharge it in the sun when you have finished.
Other ways to practice self-care:
- Have your hair done
- Take yourself on a date
- Go on a weekend retreat at a spiritual center or better yet, plan a weekend retreat for you and some close friends
- Join a club
- Have a hobby that is only yours
- Keep a journal
- Pull a daily affirmation card from an oracle deck that you love
Obviously, some things are more interesting and available for certain people and not others. The most important thing is that you make yourself a priority. Put your own oxygen mask on first! I can’t emphasize enough how different your life will be – how much more energy, love and vitality you will have to share with others and the world – when you do.
Part one of this series can be found here. Next time we’ll talk about Shielding – what it is, when, how and why to do it.