Category Archives: Self-care

Now What? We Die. Then We Rise.

www.livingviriditas.orgNow what?

We got walloped. Many of us are grieving. Many of us are worried and afraid. Many of us are angry. Most of us are all three. Some of us can barely function.

Friends, we’re being invited into the holy cycle of death and rebirth. Dying and rising again is written in our DNA and embedded in the structure of our world. Dying and rising again is the Way of the Cross.

These times are inviting us to grow up and become stronger, luminous, loving beings we can’t presently imagine.

But only if we do the work.

We are resilient. We can do this. We can die and we can rise.

This is what faith looks like. This is what Jesus did.

I think dying and rising again will look like this, for me. If this roadmap is helpful for you, I’m glad.

1. Be terribly sad. Be heartbroken. Be angry. Feel the feelings, but don’t get too attached to them. Take the time you need, but don’t wallow.

Fear is different than sadness or anger. Please don’t give in to the fear. Fear of the future is useless and disempowering. Recognize fear, and then bring your attention back to the reality of this present moment. Avoid spinning in fear and worry. Have compassion for people stuck in fear and worry, going down that rabbit hole. Help them if you can, and then get out. Sit down, focus on your body and your breath, and let your heart tell you what comes next.

2. When it’s time to rise, rise up. When it’s time, as Mary Oliver says, “Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also, like the diligent leaves.” You don’t have to get over yourself, and you’re not overreacting or being a bad loser. Take the time you need to heal. Do what you need to do to feel stronger. When you feel like you can, please get back in the arena. When it’s time to rise up, rise up.

3. Choose positive goals and words. We can only achieve positive things. We can’t accomplish a negative, because there’s nothing there. Stop, close your eyes, and say these phrases: “No hate.” “Be kind.” Which one feels more peaceful and powerful? I’m betting it was “Be kind.” Be clear on what you want. Let go of what you don’t want. Dream big. Dream outrageously.

4. Pick one area of focus. “Be a meaningful specific rather than a wandering generality,” to quote Seth Godin. Let your passion be your guide. If we all do this, we’ll cover the bases. I’m picking the environment, specifically climate issues and public lands. Be clear on both your line in the sand, and what you want to accomplish. I’ll chain myself to a tree if I have to. I’ll go to jail if necessary, to keep Oregon’s public lands protected.

5. Be part of supportive communities. As Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Now, more than ever. Your community might be church. It might be wisdom circles, or neighborhood potlucks, or running groups.

6. Practice excellent self-care. Stay connected to your Source. Pray, meditate, take long walks, cherish your body, make music, whatever it is for you that keeps your spirit strong.

My friends, we are love warriors.

We can do this thing.

Self-Care Is Your Job, Part 4: Conflict

Episcopal coach and writerThis post on conflict has taken awhile because it’s so freaking huge for me. I’m really uncomfortable with conflict. In fact, I pretty much hate it.

Oh, well. Too bad for me.

Here’s why:

Learning how to handle conflict is an integral piece of growing up and taking care of ourselves instead of expecting others to take care of us.

Managing conflict well requires being willing to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.

Managing conflict well requires believing in our own self-worth.

Managing conflict well requires trusting in the essential goodness of others.

Like the other components of self-care we’ve been discussing, conflict management requires learning skills that most of us weren’t taught , and practicing skills that many people around us will find challenging and uncomfortable.

To recap.

  1. Self-care is our job because we’re holons – whole/parts that exist both as separate entities and as components of something greater than ourselves. We’re created to be who we are.
  1. Real self-care requires self-regard, self-knowledge, and self-compassion. We often settle for shallow imitations because giving ourselves what we really desire is so freaking scary. Truly caring for ourselves often looks and feels irrational, it’s labeled “selfish,” and it requires visibility and risk.
  1. So we require boundaries – knowing where we stop and others start – taking care of our side of the street. Knowing the difference between my business, your business, and God’s business, as Byron Katie puts it.

And all of these new skills will inevitably lead to conflict.

As we develop new ways, we disrupt old ways. As we become more ourselves, don’t expect people around us to form a cheering section. Do expect what Martha Beck calls “change back attacks.”

When we define our edges and boundaries, when we are clear on our values and goals, we’ll have more conflict in our life. It’s inevitable.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not good news for me. As I mentioned, conflict scares me to death. In my family of origin, conflict often meant someone was going to get physically and/or emotionally hurt.

In my adult life that’s no longer true, yet the pattern remains.

Note: if conflict for you means that someone will get physically hurt, please get help. You’re in an abusive situation and you need help, right now.

Most likely what I’m dealing with when, as an adult, I feel scared of conflict is my lizard brain, the source of fight/flight/freeze responses to threat. What’s required to deal with these primitive, false brain responses is to activate my higher order thinking skills (HOTS).

We activate our HOTS by slowing down and noticing what we’re thinking, how we feel, and what we want. The best tools I know of to do this are mindfulness, the awareness wheel, and being clear on our values and goals.

We retrain our brain by choosing to tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth.

We retrain our brain by choosing to know the truth and to tell it, for the sake of authentic, intimate relationships.

Our cultural conditioning, our training to be nice, to be good girls, goes deep.

This will take time, so let’s start today to build the skills necessary to be happy and healthy.

Resources:

This amazing little book by Rachel Alexandria called Woman Overboard: Six ways women avoid conflict and one way to live drama-free

Marshall Rosenberg’s work in nonviolent communication

Brene Brown’s work

And here’s the awareness wheel again. If you’d like me to talk you through an awareness wheel or two, please contact me. I’d be glad to assist.

I’d love to hear about your self-care journeys and practices in the comments!

Self-Care Is Your Job, part 3

Episcopal coach and writer“It turns out that the more intimate we are with what we want, the more self-aware we will be about how we spend our time.” –Elle Luna, The Crossroads of Should and Must

When we take ourselves seriously and really begin to care for ourselves, we become more ourselves.

When we become more ourselves, we recognize how to take care of ourselves better, and we become even more ourselves.

When we become even more ourselves, we can, with integrity, fully take our place as unique whole/parts (aka “holons”) in Creation’s mysterious cosmic building project.

As we become more intimate with what we yearn for and what brings us joy, we become less tolerant of making choices that waste our time.

As we become less tolerant of making choices that aren’t in alignment with our values and desires, as we begin to choose real self-care, two apparent problems arise:

  1. The ways we’ve been propping up other people become obvious, and we’ll need to stop because we’re no longer willing to treat ourselves badly and waste our time for the sake of someone else’s supposed welfare.
  2. The people around us will probably feel threatened by our choices. They will perceive our decisions as judgmental of them, and unloving. They will feel scared and will try to get us to stop. They will call us “selfish.”

This is where boundaries come in. Boundaries are simple, but not necessarily easy. Boundaries say, “This is me. That is you. I’m responsible for me. You’re responsible for you.”

Simple, but not automatically easy, because most of us, women especially, haven’t learned to set and keep good boundaries.

We’ve been taught that giving ourselves away is love.

That’s false.

What’s true is that we love better from a place of integrity. We love better from our intact, deep, strong, intentional hearts. We love better when we choose our “yes” and our “no.”

Boundaries aren’t selfish.

Boundaries are a gift we give ourselves, our families, our friends, and our world.

Boundaries allow us to love as only we can love.

And I’m firmly convinced that healthy boundaries and good self-care make Jesus happy.

Coming up: how to handle the inevitable conflicts that arise when we’re acting with integrity and self-love.

(Check out weeks one and two of this blog series on self-care for discussions about why self-care is your job, and how to tell fake self-care from the real thing.)

Self-Care Is Your Job, Part 2

Episcopal coach and writer“You can’t get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place.” – Sam Keen.

Somewhere along the way, most of us learned to substitute fake self-care for what we really wanted.  Maybe the things that really nurtured us seemed foolish, or selfish, or unimportant to the people whom we were depending on for survival, and we stopped knowing what we really wanted.

Many of us don’t trust that what we desire is okay to desire, and that we have permission to give ourselves what we want.

So we start substituting pale imitations. We eat junk food because we don’t think we deserve the real thing. The real thing takes time, preparation, and discernment. Real self-care, like real food, takes effort.

Last week we looked at what self-care is and what it isn’t, why self-care is our job, and one way to get clarity on what authentic self-care is for us.

This week’s focus is discerning real self-care from the faux self-care we’ve often substituted.

In a nutshell, like junk food, fake self-care offers short-term relief from painful emotions and leaves us feeling worse in the long run. Fake self-care is usually easy, mass-produced and ultimately unsatisfying. Fake self-care often takes the form of an addiction: something we need to do or we feel anxious, and when we do it we still feel anxious.

True self-care, on the other hand, is deeply nourishing, sustaining, and connecting. True self-care connects me to Source/God, empowers me to know what I know, and helps me grow. True self-care sustains me as I feel what I’m feeling. It connects me to my body. It nourishes my ability to let painful emotions move through me. True self-care helps me know I’m loved, no matter what, and that it’s okay to let go of what needs to be let go.

If we’re afraid that knowing what’s really true and real for us will cause all hell to break loose, we usually choose not to know it. When we don’t want to know what we know, we indulge in fake self-care.

So, how to tell the difference?

Simple. Our bodies know the difference. True self-care ultimately feels free, expansive, and authentic. Fake self-care feels caged and tight, small, and in our box.

In Martha Beck world, we refer to these feelings as “shackles on” and “shackles off.” And you always have the tool for discernment with you. It’s your body. Here’s a useful link about the body compass, written by coach Pamela Slim. It’s helpful to have someone lead you through this exercise. Call me and I’ll do it with you. You know the difference, I promise.

Another very helpful aid in rediscovering how to truly care for yourself is meditation. Anything that helps you see that you are not your thoughts is going to aid you on this journey. Meditation in its many forms trains us to find the space between ourselves and our thoughts.

We relearn how to take care of ourselves by paying attention to what we really want, testing our self-care habits with our bodies, and learning to notice what we’re thinking.

My guess is that when you truly care for yourself, you’ll notice some increased friction in your life. Next time, we’ll talk about what’s going on there. Hint: boundaries.

Self-Care Is Your Job, part 1

Episcopal coach and writer “Self-care.”

What’s your reaction to that word? When you read or hear “self-care,” do you light up? Do you feel warm and relaxed? Do you cringe and indulge in an inner eye-roll?

I think it’s a rare woman in our culture who hears the advice to take care of herself and responds, “Of course. Duh.” I think most of us are tired of being told to take care of ourselves. We’re either already doing it, or we’re confused about what self-care means and if it’s really okay.

If you’re struggling with whether you have the right to take care of yourself, and how to do it, you’re in good company. Self-care’s a tricky subject with lots of layers, and it can be difficult to manage.

Let’s take a deeper look at self-care. Let’s delve into what self-care is and isn’t, why it’s crucial, how to determine whether our current self-care is really serving us and what to do if it’s not, and barriers to taking good care of yourself in this four-part blog series.

(You can download a PDF to collect your answers to my questions here: Self-care lesson one pdf)

First of all, what is self-care? Self-care is anything that feeds our true selves. Self-care is doing things that strengthen our connection to Source/God and that bring us joy. Self-care is taking the time to figure out what we really want, down in our core. Figuring out what truly nourishes us.

What self-care isn’t: Self-care is NOT numbing ourselves to anger, boredom, anxiety, sadness, or any other painful feeling. Self-care is NOT finding ways to tolerate intolerable situations. Self-care is NOT behaving destructively – destructive anger, being mean, indulging in addictions.

Why is self-care crucial?

Because we are HOLONS.

The concept of holons comes from the New Cosmology, a way of describing reality rooted in modern physics. So this is science, yo. The theory of holons suggests that everything is a whole/part, that nothing is separate and distinct. Life consists of nested holons of increasing complexity. Everything is connected.

We know this is true. Our bodies are made from organs, which are made of tissues, which are made of cells, which are made of atoms, which are made of sub-atomic particles… In turn, we’re part of families and neighborhoods and communities and nations. Plants and animals are composed of atoms and cells and tissues, and in turn make up forests and biomes and ecosystems and the world. Nothing living exists apart and separate. We’re all connected.

Being a holon means that self-care is your job. When you take care of yourself you take care of both the smaller components of yourself and the larger systems of which you are a part. No one can take care of yourself but you. Self-care is crucial, and it’s your job.

So why does self-care feel like such a struggle, and how can we get better at it?

When we were little kids we were better at giving ourselves what we really needed. For most of us, that skill’s been replaced with figuring out what those around us want from us and giving them what they want. Being able to read our environment and keep ourselves safe by squashing our wants was a necessary skill when we were dependent on others for our survival. It doesn’t serve us as adults.

We’re told that self-care is selfish, and being selfish is bad. We’re usually told this by people who benefit from our selflessness. When we take care of ourselves, we set and keep boundaries and other people get uncomfortable.

We’re told that those things we used to do as kids that brought us bliss are silly and unimportant. Our lives become filled with “important things” like school and work and getting through the days. Bliss becomes a self-indulgent luxury.

How can we get in touch with what really truly feeds us?

Maybe you’re already doing a good job of this. You can be our mentors!

Many of us will need to remember the kid who loved simple, everyday things. Maybe it was finger painting or playing with your dog. Early mornings or late nights when no one else was around. A favorite tree. A game you could play for hours. What smells and sensations delighted your young self? What person or place made you happy?

Consider how those kid-bliss experiences and activities are expressed in your adult life. If they aren’t, how might they be?

Being a holon means we can hold paradox. Opposite things being true is built into our whole/part DNA. Self-care is both selfish and generous. We care for ourselves both for ourselves and for the world.

So this week, pay attention to what truly feeds you, and do more of it. Next week we’ll think about the ways we practice faux self-care, why we do that, and how to tell the difference between fake self-care and the real thing. Hint: it’s like the difference between junk food and healthy food. Healthy food takes more effort, and it’s sustaining!

You can download the PDF that supports this week’s work here: Self-care lesson one pdf

Leave a comment and let me know what your self-care challenges are. And your successes!