January is for Self-Care
Updated: Jan 12, 2021
Being human continues to come with challenges. The pains of 2020 -- isms, phobias, chaos, overwhelm, fear, anger -- didn't stay behind. Those challenges are quickly seeping into 2021. Happy new year, indeed.
Now, more than ever, we need to care for ourselves -- as if we're tiny babies who need love, attention, understanding, patience, kindness and care. I'm serious, though. We. Are. Tiny. Babies. Don't ever forget it :D
How's the first week of 2021 been for you? How are you hoping or wanting to care for your mind, your body, your spirit this month?
If you need some inspiration, I'll tell you a bit about what I've been loving. First of all, I LOVE the word: HABITUATE. This word came up often during a 200hr meditation teacher training (MTT) I engaged in last year. The process of meditation compels you to easily and somewhat quickly habituate. If you're wanting to meditate like Tibetan Buddhists, you'd:
1 - Prepare your space. Have all the things you love in the space. For me, this just means candles and tea.
2 - Get my cushion out, and get into a meditative posture or sit.
3 - Explore your intentions or the WHYs. Why are you meditating in this moment? A why could be -- to be happy. To find joy. You can supercharge your intentions by thinking about others (e.g., "may I find joy so that I can help others find joy" or "may we all be happy this moment and every moment" or "may the goodness that arises from making time to meditate help others see their goodness. May I become the embodiment of unconditional love that everyone is searching for"). That last one is great, right?
4 - Meditate. I am particularly fond of practicing loving kindness meditation, where I send this magical light of love from my heart to everyone and everything. And, a Teacher meditation, where I imagine sitting across a teacher or my higher self, and I ask them for guidance, support or teachings.
I had to do this for at least 15 minutes everyday for 10 weeks during MTT. Habituate. Habituate. Habituate. This is a process of falling in love. You know that feeling -- when you first meet someone, and you're so excited. You can't wait to see them again. You eagerly wait for their text. Imagine if you had that feeling for every activity you wanted to habituate.
This is the key, I think, to self-care. Find activities that you can fall in love with. And, like all relationships, there will be moments of deep connection and painful disconnection. But, because you care so much about the practice (whatever it looks like), you come back.
And, do you know what's cool? Eventually, a practice becomes so habitual that you wake up and do it automatically (e.g., brushing your teeth, taking a shower as soon as you wake up, walking the dog, drinking a glass of wine or watching Netflix after work).
Outside of Habituate (such a fun word. Dare you to say it r e a l l y s l o w l y right now :D -- Habituaaateeeeee), I'll list three tools that I have been engaging in outside of meditation.
1 - Yoga. I loved Yoga with Adriene's 30 day journeys last year, and I'm so excited that this year, she's doing another 30-day yoga journey focusing on the breath.
2 - Michael Brown's The Presence Process. The theory is that if we make time every day -- 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening -- our past traumas can be integrated. Even ancestral traumas, and trauma from the womb. We can become more whole. We can find peace, joy, creativity.
There are two things I'm taking away so far. The first -- this really beautiful notion, that when we sit for those 15 minutes to breathe, we're sitting w/ our younger selves, and we can finally be the compassionate, loving, and accepting parent that they've longed for.
You can incorporate this idea with every practice you engage in -- when you're eating, when you're moving your body, when you're in nature. Imagine that the little you-s are with you and they're hoping that you see them and you show them some love.
The second -- whenever we're triggered by someone -- a parent, a child, a cashier, etc. -- those people are messengers. It's pointless to be mad at those folks, because they're just giving us a message. The message probably being -- this is painful. This pain from the past still hurts. Sit. Breathe. Be kind to yourself. Practice self-empathy. Be loving and caring towards present you and past you in this moment.
This perspective helps us take responsibility, and respond, rather than react to triggering situations. Brown has awesome metaphors. He says -- reacting to the messenger is like us being angry at the postal worker for delivering a bill to us. Or, us being angry at the actors as we watch the play of our lives.
And finally, 3, for people who menstruate -- I came by this one by coincidence. I was scrolling through IG, and I saw an ad for this. IG definitely knows me better than I know myself. *Scary* But, I am learning so much from these herbalists. They currently have this 14-Day PMS Reset Challenge, and again. I'm in love. They have so much to say about herbs, the importance of cruciferous veggies, vitamins, and even which ingredients in cleaning products and body care products can increase PMS symptoms. My favorite discussion so far has got to be about how the moon cycles impacts/helps/coincide with our menstrual cycles.
If I could choose any practice to continue to fall in love with, it'd have to be meditation. There's something so special about grabbing my cushion, looking at it with gratitude, and thanking my body for being able to hold me up on the cushion as I melt into the earth the deeper I get into a meditative state.
The 15 minutes of conscious, connected breathing comes to a close second. But when meditating, I'm focused on my breath, and my mind is thinking about ways to help others and love others, so that when I get up from the cushion, I'm more likely to be kinder to loved ones and strangers.
All this to say -- Go easy. Be kind to yourself. Find some quiet, if possible. And, breathe. Hug a tree. Walk on the soil barefoot (if you're in a warm climate :D). Find ways to fall in love with everything and everyone, including yourself, every second of everyday.