Acceptance of ourselves as we are is the greatest health of all.”
When I read this quote from Maya Tiwari about 18 months ago as I was diving deeper into the Ayurvedic tradition, I knew it to be utter truth. Mother Maya is a vedic monk, spiritual teacher and expert in Ayurveda. It felt like she had put into words exactly what I was experiencing. That when I began to accept and deeply nurture myself, my health was greater than I’d ever experienced. Prior to that my pursuit of health was external. I had been trying to make changes in my life from a place of non-acceptance, from a feeling that I needed to be different than I was. But when my self-care practices became a default for me and I was sincere in the belief that my own life, dreams and energy levels mattered I began to live and give from a full cup.
BUT WHAT IF OUR GLASS IS FEELING HALF EMPTY – OR EVEN TOTALLY DRAINED?
It is heartening to know that we can choose where we place our attention. We have the power to direct our energy towards our negative traits and supposed flaws with a desire to be other than who we are or alternatively, towards parts of our being that we want to nourish and expand. We can intentionally turn our minds to warm heartedness. Beginning to truly care for our self in order to shift compassion inward. As a result we can evolve from a place of self-acceptance and positive intention.
SELF-CARE IN OUR BUSY LIVES
I know how hard it is to make time for self-care as I juggle the competing demands of being a mum and wife, working as a school teacher, teaching yoga, study and housework (just to name a few). Our own needs can be put on the back burner as we’re naturally better at caring for others. It can take some targeted effort to make this our natural way of being. But through the practices of self-care we can grow resources within ourselves such as acceptance, peace, contentment and love. This helps us to face challenges with a stable sense of self and a feeling that we will be alright despite the difficulties we might face.
But how do we begin to nurture ourselves within our busy day? How do we start to value this when it’s outside our norm? If you struggle with self-compassion or regular self-care practices perhaps you have some blocks that need busting? Do you fear self-care makes you weak? Maybe you have a habit of self-criticism or equate self-care with being selfish or that you somehow don’t deserve it? Bringing awareness to this is your first step towards overcoming obstacles to self lovin’!
HERE ARE MY TOP STRATEGIES FOR NOURISHING, SUPPORTING AND RELATING TO YOURSELF WITH KINDNESS AND COMPASSION:
1. START A DAILY PRACTICE OF ‘BEING ON YOUR OWN SIDE.’
I first discovered this practice via Rick Hanson, psychologist and author of Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain one Simple Practice at a Time. Being for yourself doesn’t mean being against others. It’s simply about honouring your own needs and extending the same goodwill and concern that you have for others, towards yourself.
Being on your own side can be as simple as upon waking, pause and ask: “How do I feel?” then “ What do I need today”? It can also include offering supportive self-talk when you make mistakes or are having a difficult time. It can also mean acknowledging daily successes, however small.
2. BE WITH YOURSELF
In order to answer the questions “How do I feel?” and “What do I need?” we must carve time to listen. Eliminating distractions and turning inward for some portion of every day is a practice that underpins my own balanced state of mind and sense of self. For many this can be excruciating as in the current pace of life our nervous systems are overstimulated by too much “doing”, caffeine, extended amounts of screen time and lack of sleep.
So start small – spend 1 minute every day sitting, eyes closed, in silence. The act of closing our eyes, even withdrawing just our sense of sight during wakefulness, allows us to pause and connect with our breath. Our breath helps us to journey inward. In turn we can come to notice our internal sensations of which we may only be dimly aware during day to day activities. Practicing yoga – particularly restorative yoga or yoga nidra can help prepare the nervous system for stillness.
3. CREATE A LIST OF SELF-NOURISHING ACTS…
which you can start to put into practice on a regular basis. I have a list stuck in my diary which includes surfing one morning a week and going for a spicy chai afterwards as I write in my journal, lying in my hammock for a snooze or visiting a local spa for a soak and a steam!
If you are currently doing nothing to nourish yourself or your self-care at present looks more like a packet of tim tams washed down with a late night netflix sesh it may be time to revision what is deeply supportive for you. Many of us think of TV as a great way to unwind and perhaps it can be in small doses if we have a favourite show. But if it’s becoming a pattern of “checking out” for a couple of hours each night, it’s worth some inquiry as to whether you are using it to avoid how you’re truly feeling. Perhaps you’re using is as a buffer to distance yourself from the stress or anxiety in the body?
Start your Self Nourishing Acts by trying something out once a week. Turn towards activities that are deeply soul sustaining and replenishing of your energy that you can find time for in your busy schedule. Make the time. Lock it in. Self-nourishing acts do not need to cost a thing. Resting on a day bed in the afternoon sun, self-massage with some cooling coconut oil from your pantry or preparing and enjoying a pot of tea while devouring a good book for the afternoon can be the sorts of activities that revive and rejuvenate us when turned into intentional acts of self-nourishment.
If you have children, call in your support network and reciprocate the favour to give each other this time out. Notice how you feel after your “Self Nourishing Act” to determine whether it’s nourishing your energy and positive outlook. Your activities might change over time as you become aware of the effects of different activities.
4. GET INTO NATURE
Our natural environment whether forest, mountain, ocean, garden or park has a way of restoring our energy. Nature also has a way of allowing our breath to deepen and expand. When we allow ourselves time to connect to the creative energy of the natural world we come to realise our connection to every living thing on the planet.
We appreciate the magnificence of nature and with time and self-love we may see that we too are a part of this wonder and beauty. When we begin to connect to our own self-worth and magnificence and deeply care for ourselves, we can extend this to others and to the environment that supports us.
5. GET CREATIVE
All of us have the power to create. Using this power rather than stifling it opens us up to the creative energy of the universe – pure inspiration! Whether it’s painting, sketching, cooking, journaling, sewing, playing music or candle making find something you love and dive deep. You don’t have to be the next Picasso, simply enjoy!
These simple (but not always easy to implement) strategies are ways that I have found a tremendous help in changing my inner dialogue as well as outer care practices to support and nurture myself. In turn I can give to those around me from a place of fullness. I have truly found that my own self-talk and care has impacted every facet of my life, confidence, energy and wellness. It is my hope that if you can implement even one of these suggestions tomorrow you will begin on the path to true self-love and belief.
Emma Waters, Jala Yoga
Emma Waters is a 200-hr trained Akhanda yoga teacher. She has practised Iyengar Yoga for most of the 15 years of her practice, including 2 months with Pankaj Sharma in Rishikesh, India, in 2003 and many years under the guidance of Iyengar teacher Susan Stackhouse. She has attended various intensives and retreats with Nicky Knoff, Clive Sheridan, Glenn Ceresoli, Peter Scott and Simon Marrocco.
Emma has been a primary school teacher for 14 years and currently teaches in Byron Bay. Not only is she a talented teacher and yogi but she is also an experienced surfer having travelled to surf destinations around the world. Most importantly Emma is a mum to her 6 year old daughter Mali.
Self-Compassion daily check-in in 3-5 minutes!
Do you make yourself a cup of tea nearly everyday? If so, why not make your tea break an act of self-care? It’s simple. As you walk to your kitchen, put the kettle on to boil, get your Tulsi ready and ask yourself a few simple questions:
- How am I feeling today / right now?
- What do I need today / right now?
- Am I being on my side?
Take a few deep breaths and try to listen to what your body wants you to know. You could even challenge yourself to sit still with your eyes closed while the kettle boils. Ask yourself “what act of self-care have I done (or do I plan to do) today?” Remember, this could be doing NOTHING (!). Before long as you do this daily, self-compassion will be “on your radar”. You will be thinking about it, setting intentions, and noticing that you’re being more compassionate with yourself at other times of the day.
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