The Art of of Self -Care

stock-photo-48674142-artist-brush-painting-picture-of-beautiful-landscapeIt has in fact occurred to me that not everyone is as passionate about simplifying as I am. Not everyone thinks that organizing a closet or an office is fun. Therefore, someone can like the idea of simplifying, but not actually ever do it. Which is perfectly fine if the idea of it is only mildly appealing anyhow.

Like so many things- exercising, losing weight, getting healthy, changing careers, creating a beloved project, giving up sugar- it is easy to like the idea of it, and quite a bit harder to do it. I suspect that to make any lasting change, we first need to fall in love with the idea of it.

We all know that doing something new, even if it’s for the best, requires bypassing that well-worn groove our old habits have created in our brain, in order to start on a new path. The new path can be steep and muddy, thick with brush, a tangle of overgrowth. We haven’t been here before, so the first hundred steps are difficult, prickly and tiring. It requires so much energy, so much of our will.

If the reason for starting down this path is not compelling enough, then who in their right mind would bother? It’s too much damn effort and life can be challenging enough without forcing ourselves to do unpleasant things on a regular basis.

If the reason for starting is not compelling enough…

The goal has to be compelling. We have to be able to envision what we want and to feel excited about the possibility. What would it look like? What would it feel like? Whatever our desire or goal is, big or small, I think that we  have to believe it will feel fantastic to reach it.

We are creatures of habit, and if we cannot imagine the rewards of something different, then that well-trodden path, the one of least resistance, will pull us back every time. Why wouldn’t it? It’s familiar, easy, and takes very little effort to travel that way. These samskaras as they are called in yoga, are deeply embedded patterns and they usually don’t change easily.

I like to think of self-care as an art. This implies that we are the artists of our own lives and have the liberty to choose our medium. Maybe simplifying does not appeal to you, but maybe something else does. (I would argue that simplifying will help you reach any goal, whatever that is, but I don’t want to be too pushy here).

I use the term self-care because I think that anything we really want that doesn’t do harm to ourselves or others is by its very nature, self-care. Greater fulfillment, a better relationship, more energy, resources, a sense of peace, a fit body, an aesthetically pleasing environment, writing a book or painting a masterpiece; getting more sleep or earning more money or having more time…..you fill in the blank… It is all self-care.

So here comes my pep talk for making your desired result more compelling:

Self-care–meeting all of your needs- does feel amazing.

It is worth it. The rewards are great.

What are they? Feeling lighter, freer, healthier and clearer, more in control of your life. Intuition is heightened, energy is increased, the right opportunities and people and ideas show up in your life.

And the momentum! One step down that new path, then another and another and it starts getting easier and then other good things get easier. For example, have you ever noticed when you work out you want to eat healthy afterwards? Or if you get rid of clutter in one room you want to go on to the next? When you get enough sleep you are clear headed and efficient, and everything goes more smoothly. One positive choice leads to the next, moving you forward. You gain traction, you notice little miracles, you put your life in order.

Momentum is awesome.

And then instead of trying to figure out how to get rid of the patterns you don’t want in your life, they are simply being replaced, or squeezed out, by the new things that you do want.

Full disclosure: Left to my own devices, or my natural temperament, I am the worst at breaking old habits and creating new ones. I have an Inner Brat who wants what she wants when she wants it (ice cream for lunch, while I sit around getting nothing done and make my blood sugar level rise? Yes please!)

I often want absolute convincing that a new pathway will be greatly rewarding before I will begin something new and good. I need research and experience and even signs from a divine source that this new way will be amazing. But the problem with this is that rewards often don’t become apparent until we’ve begun. We can’t experience it until we experience it.

I needed to know that writing and exercising nearly every day, even when I don’t feel like it, as well as mindfully choosing what I eat, and including meditation or yoga because that is what keeps my on the path-will be worth the effort.

But I couldn’t know it for sure until I did it.

And when I don’t do it, my day feels lacking, I am out-of-sorts, dissatisfied.

So if you have some desire for something new and better, whatever that is (you get to pick! ) I want to save you weeks or even years of resistance. I want to tell you that whatever it is you want, if it comes from your Better Self, your Higher Self, your Real Self, it will be so freakin’ worth it!  It can’t not be. I want to tell you that the burdensome path you may be avoiding is covered in gold, but you won’t see it until you are on it.

Self-care in every form will never let you down. Positive change is exciting and rewarding every single time, even when it starts out scary or daunting or difficult- perhaps especially when it starts out that way.

The act- the actual physical act– of beginning down that difficult new path, whatever that is, is pretty quickly rewarded. You won’t have to wait long to notice the fabulous results, and as you continue, step by step, the whole landscape comes into view, your own sweet masterpiece.

Simplify your way to a healthy weight

Clutter makes you fat. I came across an article with this title, and it instantly made perfect sense to me.  Peter Walsh, professional organizer, writer and media personality, writes about why a cluttered life and home can make you overweight and unhealthy, and what you can do to change that. I recommend his article to anyone who struggles with eating habits.  If you detest the idea of a diet, or simply want some tips on how to permanently change your lifestyle, read on!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2061094/Clutter-makes-fat-If-house-mess-chances-eating-habits-says-new-book.html

The main points that Walsh covers are these:

* We live in a “more is better” culture and this is reflected in our overstuffed schedules, crammed drawers, and skyrocketing obesity rates.

*Clutter accumulates because we are out of control, and if you let it invade your home you are much more likely to mindlessly stuff your body as well.

*Chaos and disorder are often reflected in the physical space, mental space and the body. One affects the other and if you clean up one, you begin to clear up the others as well.

Simply Yoga

Yoga is my answer to everything.  Can’t sleep?  Achy joints, back, knees?  Practice yoga.  Anxious, depressed, fearful, angry, sad, hyper?  Yoga.   Overweight, overwhelmed, over worked? Yoga, yoga, yoga.  After practicing yoga for several years, I became certified to teach.  To stop myself from sounding like an evangelical, preaching yoga from the rooftops, I figured I’d lead some classes, and therefore help make it available to those who came to it of their own free will. I am mostly a student though, coming to my mat over and over because it brings me peace and presence in a distracting world.  It offers me creative inspiration and some physical fitness too.

Speaking of evangelicals though, one appeared at my front door one day and asked me what I thought should be done about the ‘sad state of the world’.

“Everyone should practice yoga”, was my response.  Really.  It’s pure magic. Or rather, it invites the magic that is already ours. My visitor promptly left, speechless.  I hadn’t meant to surprise or offend. It really is my answer.  It’s at least a mindful place from which to view the world.

What else besides yoga can so effectively improve physical and mental health, making thoughtful decisions, a good mood, and deep peace so available? And it’s legal!  (Well, mediation can do all these things too, minus the physical part, but it seems more people are likely to try yoga because it’s exercise).  Yoga is really a meditation in motion.  It’s an exercise practice that gets you out of your head and into your body.  It allows and invites your own life force energy to flow through you, healing and rejuvenating, strengthening and calming.

I’ve seen people fall asleep in class and I’ve seen someone break down and cry. That’s because they needed to sleep and cry. Yoga brings about whatever needs to be.  My favorite class I ever taught was for overweight students. They were all so serene by the end of class, their natural beauty shining through.  I could almost feel the increment of change a single class could bring about.   They instinctively knew that if they had the courage and commitment to keep practicing, the balance that yoga brings about would give them a real chance at a healthier weight.

Since physical yoga has boomed in the west, some would say we’ve lost the depth of its origins. We’ve added music, and advertisements of how it will tone and strengthen and shape. We offer yoga in our gyms, machines clanking outside the door of a class. We have expensive classes and expensive clothes .  We have Lululemon!  Luluemon is magical too, though.  If you want to look like you exercise without actually doing it, just try on a pair of  Lululemon’s  $90 yoga pants. They are amazing.  You will look like you do power yoga even if you never get off the couch.

The physical part of yoga will produce benefits that only physical exercise can give. But that is only one aspect of yoga.  Patanjali’s eight-fold path describes the whole of yoga, the guidelines for a meaningful and purposeful life. Pantanjali was a very cool guy from the eastern world who recognized our cerebral limitations.   But the beauty of yoga is, you don’t have to know about these guidelines to benefit. You don’t need to read about, talk about, or even think about the origins or purpose of yoga to reap the rewards.  Higher consciousness or a spiritual path needn’t be your goal. You can come to yoga because you want stronger biceps or to be more flexible. You can come to yoga because you didn’t have anything better to do on a Thursday evening.   Even then, you won’t escape its magic. You merely have to show up and breathe.  It’s that simple.