I begin with a confession.
I am someone who wishes their life could be easier. I long for a computer with less emails, a calendar with less commitments, a life where things were less complex, where work was less demanding, where time off and play were valued, and sitting on my porch reflecting and visiting had merit. I long to live in a kinder world with less suffering, less abuse, less children dying from hunger, and fulfilling jobs for everyone. I long to live in a world where people feel more trust, well-being, contentment, and safety….a world where diversity is relished, difference adds meaning, and all life has value. I long to live in a world where taking care of ourselves is expected.
But these are not the times we live in. Something more is being asked of each one of us. And the question is, how can we care for ourselves enough to meet the challenges of our day and not only survive, but thrive, or in the words of Ben Wolfe, not only see obligation but also opportunity?
I was recently traveling out East. Part of my travels took me to a small community in the woods of northern Maine. I was present when the leader of this community gathered everyone around him and spoke to them some of his thoughts. He said that we live in a time of big problems. They are not going to go away and we cannot solve them by making them smaller than they are. No, he said, the only way we can meet the challenges of our day is to grow ourselves bigger.
These are times when much is being asked of us. We are being asked to do more, to do it differently, and to grow ourselves bigger than we are.
How do we pick ourselves out of the exhaustion and the dullness that often finds root in us …how can we find ways to tend to ourselves in an already overfull day?
In times like this, each of us matters so very much. And the truth is, as we all know, a depleted self has nothing to offer. So how do we care for ourselves for the benefit of all?
How can we be a people who brings kindness to an unkind world, who seeks to need less in a world of overdone greed, to move with ease and contentment in a world driven with discontent, to trust and practice generosity in a world suffocating from anxiety and fear, and finally to live with passion in a world that has retreated into denial and despair?
How do we go about this seeming lost art of self-care?
We get there by practice. If there is anything that yoga has taught me, it is the gift of practice. Change is not instantaneous; it comes through the diligence of daily attention. It comes through effort. It comes through the willingness to sacrifice something easy in the moment for a more robust tomorrow.
Practice means that we embark on a new way of doing and thinking. It means that instead of reaching for the false support of caffeine or the temporary pleasure of unneeded food or the escape of movies and alcohol, or the ease of succumbing to fear and greed, we choose a higher standard for ourselves.
Practice means we choose to tap into resources that will grow our character and fortitude and that will open our hearts to a deeper place of compassion. Practice means that we tap into the real and sustaining places of nourishment.
Practice means that we ask more of ourselves. And the irony of this is that what is being asked of us is also what will ultimately nourish and sustain us.
Next week part 2: Practice Passion