What do you think of when you hear the words, ‘self-care’?
What does ‘self-care’ even mean?
From my experience there are many different understandings and levels of self- care.
I know I have always practised self-care in one way or another, even when I was not conscious of it being a ‘thing.’ The question is, “Could what was considered to be self-care in the past, now be considered as disregard or self-abuse?”
As a child I practised the basics that were to shower daily, wash my hair and clean, file and paint my fingernails and toenails. I ate food that I thought nourished my body. As a teen I would take the time to apply my makeup and choose beautiful outfits to wear. I had little rituals like moisturising my lips and always doing some form of exercise so my body was strong.
As I grew into adulthood, I continued this basic level of self-care and added in some newfound practices of self-care as well. I became interested in eating healthy food, continued with exercise in the form of yoga and different styles of dance.
I was also living an outdoor lifestyle that at the time I considered to be a healthy way to live after having spent my first twenty years living in a house in the suburbs with a television on.
At that same time I also began to choose some behaviours that I now consider quite harmful to the body. Given that a lot of people around me were also doing it, they were considered normal. For example, drinking alcohol.
As time moved on I became committed to certain self-care practices that I lived religiously, like drinking a fresh fruit and vegetable juice every morning, practising strong yoga poses every day, and drinking lots of water. Other practices I considered healthy at the time were swimming in a cold creek/beach for my morning shower, drinking one cup of coffee in the morning and none for the rest of the day, having honey or maple syrup instead of sugar and not eating red meat.
Whilst these practices were important for me at the time as part of my self-care routine, I can now see that they were a counterbalance to the abusive behaviours. Although some of these so-called rituals that I had practised for many years were not what I now understand true self-care to be, they did in fact build a foundation for me to stand on and develop a deeper level of truly caring for myself. After attending a local Meditation Group a few times, where we practiced the Gentle Breath Meditation™ (presented by Serge Benhayon, founder of Universal Medicine), I started to develop a deeper connection with myself and my body.
In developing this deeper connection, the harmful behaviours started to drop away.
It was this deeper connection to myself that showed me very quickly and obviously that the use of caffeine or alcohol or eating certain foods was, in fact, harmful and destructive to my body and well-being. But after living more lovingly and making choices based on how I felt in my body, many of the so-called ‘self- care’ practices of the past also dropped away.
The level of ‘self-care’ I now live continues to refine and deepen. When I first started to feel a newfound love for myself and wanted to practice this in the way I lived through ‘self-care,’ I changed my morning coffee ritual to a morning chai (spiced soy milk low caffeine tea with honey). Less caffeine but something very yummy so I could cope with not having my morning cup of coffee, or liquid gold as I used to call it. At the time, this was definitely a more loving choice than the strong caffeine hit I had been assaulting my body with for over a decade (I continued to drink decaffeinated coffee in a café sometimes because I liked the taste and the ritual, although that also went after about 3 years.) After a year of morning chai, I woke one morning knowing that I could not drink another. The ritual changed to a cup of Rooibos tea with soymilk. Soon the milk changed to homemade almond milk. Then after some time, it became a herbal tea without the milk.
Now, some six years after the last cup of full strength coffee, I drink my two cups of warm water upon waking (which I have done for decades, as this has always felt like a loving and supportive way to begin my day) and I actually don’t need the tea at all.
So as you can see from this example, as my level of ‘self-care’ deepened, what was considered self-care a few years ago I can now feel as disregard. Now I almost never feel to have hot, sweet milky drinks. And if I do find myself wanting such a thing, I know that there is a reason I want it, which is to feel comfort from a situation, or that I am not wanting to feel something I am not willing or ready to face.
This is just one simple example. I have realised that self-care comes into every aspect of my everyday living. For me, I have changed and continue to change the way I move, the thoughts I allow in, the way I exercise my body, the work I do, the way I am in my relationships, the food I eat, my verbal expression, just to name a few. The more I deepen my relationship with myself and the more I feel the love that I am and feel my body responding to this level of ‘self-care,’ the more aware I am if my self-care needs further refinement.
So ‘self-care’ can never be about a set of rules and regulations that are fixed, because as we evolve and live with more clarity, we can feel the effects of all of our choices as they naturally change or drop away as we deepen the quality of our life. As the connection with ourselves deepens, certain things or behaviours do not match where we are at and can no longer be considered true ‘self-care.’
I had been heading for ‘purity’ (as I used to call it) since I was twenty years of age. I knew I wanted to live and feel clear and clean. I worked towards this from ideals and beliefs in my head and after ‘sticking to the discipline’ for a period of time, found myself always back to the destructive behaviours. It wasn’t until I listened to some interviews by Gayle Cue with the founder of Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, about ‘true self-care,’ that I really understood how to make these changes sustainable in my everyday living.
What Serge presented was very simple. Connect to yourself, your innermost self and feel the love that you are – that we all already are – and with every choice, ask if it is a ‘self-loving’ choice OR not. I simply started to make my choices from this place.
What really has helped me is the awareness that there is no in-between. Every choice is either from Love or not from love.
As soon as I had this realisation, I found that I could self-care from love – the love I have for myself – rather than from ideals. Therefore the changes became sustainable without trying or disciplining myself. This naturally led to living every day with a consistency that has deepened and brings me the love, joy, harmony, stillness and vitality that I now live with every day.
There is no perfection. I do not beat myself up when I make non-loving choices but instead just feel the consequences of that choice and look at ‘why’ I chose something ‘less than love.’
To come from the exhausted, emotional, non-committed place I was at in my body and my life, thinking I was ‘self-caring,’ to the place I am at now, has been a health revelation that speaks for itself.
By Mary-Lou Reed, Bendigo, Australia