Every Sunday morning, I practice yoga. It’s the grounding I need before a new week begins. My place on my mat is where I go to breathe, to listen to my body and to feel what it is telling me. There is a lot that I take from my yoga mat into the world.
This morning, my teacher told us to reach for our yoga props as a form of self-care in our practice. This of course got me thinking - what props do I use in my daily life as a form of self-care, and how often do I reach for them? Are my habits grounded in self-love and self-compassion, or are they just that, habits? Do I make enough time for acts that open up spaces within me?
It’s so easy to keep doing what we have always done. To never stop to ask these questions. Life gets busy and the world keeps turning. But I know that life can be short and nothing can be taken for granted.
The School of Life offers the following self-compassion practice:
To survive in this high-pressured, crazy world, most of us have to become highly adept at self-criticism. We learn how to tell ourselves off for our failures, and for not working hard or smart enough. But so good are we at this that we’re sometimes in danger of falling prey to an excessive version of self-criticism — what we might call self-flagellation: a rather dangerous state, which just ushers in depression and underperformance. We might simply lose the will to get out of bed.
For those moments, we need a corrective — we need to carve out time for an emotional state of which many of us are profoundly suspicious: self-compassion. We’re suspicious because this sounds horribly close to self-pity. But because depression and self-hatred are serious enemies of a good life, we need to appreciate the role of self-care in a good, ambitious, and fruitful life.
Sharon Salzberg says that it takes a special courage to challenge the rigid confines of our accustomed story:
It’s not that easy to radically alter our views about where happiness comes from, or what brings us joy. But it’s eminently possible. We truly can reconfigure how we see ourselves and reclaim the love for ourselves that we’re innately capable of.
What are our accustomed stories and how can we change our narratives towards a compassionate form of self-care?
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said that beautiful people ‘do not just happen’:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.
To become beautiful people, perhaps our narratives need to follow what the Buddha said - that our work is to discover our work and then with all of our heart, to give ourselves to it. Knowing what we can give with all of our heart - isn’t that the basis of self-care and self-love?