Self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It needs carving into the everyday. As ritual becomes daily practice we see that we are worthy, and we have needs to be met within the day as much as any other person around us. One question I ask is, what have I done of service today? And what have I done for myself? If the scales here are not so balanced then it is time for some self-care. I love to go for a walk by myself in nature. I notice that I walk mindfully when I walk alone. I walk slower and take in my environment. I hear, I see and I witness far more when I walk on my own. But are we ever alone? By that I mean to walking and witnessing animism in the everyday. This is to be in reverence that “Animism (from Latin: anima, ‘breath, spirit, life‘) is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words—as animated and alive” (Wikipedia). Taking this view into account the things we self create, the small craft projects crystal bead bracelets that make me go into that no-mind space, are those distinctly spiritual act of communion with the self and the world round us. From the herbal teas we make, ceremonially, to a ritual of washing my feet, a daily cleansing ritual, aromatherapy oils and the best homemade foot cream.
So what are your self care rituals? What makes you feel cared for? What small acts of love do you gift to yourself?
When we talk about self-care and conception this is where a full spectrum of physical health, as well as emotion, environmental and intentional routines are put into the daily care.
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In the free dictionary the word Conceive means to“ form a mental image of something “. We must conceive of a multitude of things in a lifetime. We conceive ideas, plans, and processes. We also conceive all our thoughts and emotions. And so this leads me to consider that I have conceive myself to be anxious. This is a prospect I am learning to come to terms with. If allowing myself to feel anxious, when I am not in any imminent danger, I am robbing myself of inner peace? Could I be feeling free of anxiety? I have been on a spiritual journey since childhood. I grew up in fields and amongst the tress in a small rural area. I was aware of the spirit of the land and nature from a young age. A counsellor once called me a feral child having had no adult influential learning to model discernment for boundaries. Maybe she was right, but in recent times I have come to the realisation that boundaries are not always cultivated by adults around us in our informative years. Then there is the spiritual path, the awareness of the otherly, the unseen, the imaginal, that can actually provide a level of awareness of boundaries.
My perspective is that we all have a Guardian, a spiritual guide and when we allow, really surrender and allow the connection then the guidance is quite profound and present in the everyday. Many shamanic teachers describe an awareness within dimensions of the underworld, the middle-world and the upper-world. The middle-world being the here and now. Whether we identify with a physical knowing, a third eye inner vision of knowing or a deep listening to higher knowing, this is the guidance of the Guardian or Guide. When we have deep faith in this connection and relationship that is when the boundaries of the unseen can come to give discernment and assistance in this middle-world. Many spiritual paths have this unseen understanding, whether we call it the Nous like the Teachings of Mary Magdalene, the Spirit Guide, or the Guardian, the names are not so important as the faith that we are not navigating life here alone without inner perspective.
When I take this unseen into the feelings of the anxiousness and stress it brings in some calmness. This is where I can join mindfulness meditation and guidance. This is my perspective of allowing in some self awareness of the present and also connect to what is available for my inner knowing and a calmer way of navigating the here and now. A practice of mindfulness is exactly that for me, practice. It needs to be practices not just as a mediation but throughout the day of being mindful and not skipping and leaping ahead to the chaotic thoughts of the steps ahead, the to-do-list getting out of control or the diary full of overwhelming actions if clumped together. Mindfulness has been a way first to recover and establish some sense of calm. Making time and space for myself is difficult and don’t get me wrong there are days when life gets busy. A practice of meditation is a routine, as necessary as brushing my teeth, to cultivate a living “Way” of being in meditation and prayer, lets not leave that out either. For me prayer has come after years of meditation, the hearing of my body, my spirit, I completely forgot about the asking part of spirituality. It is hard to conceive a spiritual based life practice without acknowledging prayer. After all if all I do is listening and not talking, I am hardly going to have my needs met! I don’t mean that by asking I am going to get something but in relationship to spirit and the Guardian I mentioned, if all I do is listen then I am on the outside of this relationship to myself.
Whether you agree or not to the concept of a spiritual life, in the believe of spirit, living energy, consider yourself as spiritual being for a second. If all we do is listen , we do not have a two way conversation, we are only present half the time. For me the act of both listening and speak had come at a cost. I was always the keen helper, I am a nurse by trade. It was in my coding to be the willing helper, but after my stress and anxiety lessons I now develop and grow my own voice within my Way of Being. My stress is lessened when I am seen, heard and witnessed. By this exchange of inter-communication with myself with others if feels there is more of a balance in communication. We all have stresses and for me some of the stresses are from giving and not receiving from myself. Sometimes I do tasks that I just don’t feel up to doing, for others and for myself. So when this happens my self talk has to ask directly, “what is it you really want to do?” establishing some positive self talk can negotiate some boundaries and solutions for myself.
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Anxiety has lived with me for many years. I have read a mountain of books on the subject from psychology, self help to spirituality and akashic records. As well as a Master’s degree in CBT I started but didn’t finish.
The emotions of anxiety include emotional pain. The pain of being stuck in a holding of “I can’t”. ” I can’t tell them how I feel, I can’t express myself enough, I can’t put myself up for that speech and so I can’t do that job”. These were not feelings brought about by others they were limitations of myself. I felt held and stuck and in pain. The moment I felt a change was when I took a small step. “I can’t do the speech in front of so many people, but what if I took one small step towards speaking up. I can’t be heard in the team but what can I do to establish my boundaries”. Small steps to the land of becoming created a small success in belonging. In my own way I experimented with challenge (with some anxiety) and saw success of achieving movement out from within the pain.
The phrase you can’t eat an elephant in one go was my mantra. What smaller steps can I make? In the words of Sandra Ingerman, “taking small steps to climb a mountain will get you there just as surely as taking giant leaps. And the steps will also allow you to climb the mountain consciously as well as in your comfort range, keeping you in a state of balance and harmony” (Soul Retrieval 2011).
For me, the smaller steps were still challenging but manageable, they also required marking, like a reward to celebrate a new threshold reached. Celebrating myself for making the steps, however small where all part of the bigger journey. Marking these achievements was key as well as repetition. The advantage I see is that repeating the small steps creates a new perspective, a new development, a new wider comfort zone. And so the repetition becomes a habit and a routine from a new challenging moment some time ago. It gives me time to focus, refocus and repeat and do-over and so the competency develops into a competent confident skill. Small steps can be seen as wise steps where a repeating pattern creates comfort as well as individuality in the endeavour just like water wearing its way over rock to carve isn’t own way forwards. It may be a slow process but it becomes a less messy one. Nature shows us over and over that repetition creates growth. Think of that old oak tree every year discarding its leaves and reaching higher with new branches.
Rushing towards goals still has me sliding into the pain of anxiety. Knowing myself, within a relationship to myself, is also about knowing how I relate to my natural way of being in this life. It has also cultivated a compassionate approach to others and how anxiety feels when it is outside in the cold causing stagnancy and misunderstandings in all areas of life and relationships. Bringing anxiety into the inner circle of a compassionate relationship has become a way of reconnecting and understanding pain. Pain is not just a physical symptom, it is also emotional.
I have cycled for 35 years. What else in life do we repeat this many times? It is still a topic of conversation not mentioned so much. Compare it to films, food or work. This repetitive experience doesn’t get much air time does it!
We are all aware of the stories of red tents and lodges within our ancestral history. Women gathered, they talked, they shared, they would bleed and be supported . And I imagine they laughed and they cried…..together. These are now just that, stories, the inter-generational support, the experience and wisdom from Grandmothers is no longer passed down. Our ancestral roots and rituals of women gathering as family, community and tribe are lost.
What does this silence repeat to our younger generations? What does the silence do to our bodies? What patterns get repeated?
How would visibility around menstruation change the nature of womanhood? Imagine a culture of cycle awareness and respect for women in their bleed time. It would possible look something like this, flexibility in the workplace and receiving space to nurture your body and emotions as you bleed. Imagine a generation of elder women supporting you and answering all your questions about your bleed.
So my question is, how does our next generation benefit from our silence?