When I made my decision to step away from corporate life, and focus on my wellness business and my family, I did so partly because I felt the need for more balance in my life. I felt I could not be effective at being present with the things I truly enjoy devoting my time to if I was expending my energy working all the time simply to bring in a paycheck.
I follow the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation page on Facebook, and today the daily tip they posted resonated deeply with me:
Chinese medicine understands the tremendous value of caring for oneself. True, it is often difficult, particularly for mothers, to step back and focus on ourselves. There’s always one more thing to do, yet precisely because of this, the present moment is the very best time to extend compassion to ourselves. The act of self-care radiates a healing energy outward and has an enormous impact on those around us: our family, our friends and even the world. It’s truly love in action.
Of all the things I advocate most for my clients and students, it is to make time for regular self-care. However, as a mother and small business owner, my attention is often being pulled in multiple directions. Although I do make an effort (my daily Reiki self-treatment is a must) I know I often put off what I need for my own physical and emotional balance to make sure everyone else is taken care of. Or it’s because I didn’t prioritize my time into my daily schedule to fit my self-care needs in, and can’t get caught up later.
When my Komyo Reiki teacher, Hyakuten Inamoto, was here in March, I spoke to him about these things. We spent time talking about family and spiritual practice in context with the Five Reiki Principles, and how these directives play into my daily life and relationships with others. Spiritual practice helps us learn to understand the nature of our mind, our actions, and our intentions. It helps us mindfully apply our core values to all of the interactions in our life. And it is a practice because we persist with patience, devotion and compassion even when we feel like we fall short. Sounds a lot like parenting, doesn’t it?
The love, devotion and opportunity to care for my husband and children are always there because we are in constant interrelationship with each other. Yet, at times I can find myself feeling depleted, impatient and resentful that I often end up being the one to pick up the messes, plan the dinners, coordinate activities, and remember the events (yes, we do try to delegate but ultimately, it’s me who takes responsibility for keeping the boat afloat.)
When I start feeling negative, I tend to disconnect mentally or emotionally in an effort to get my bearings, but it rarely makes me feel satisfied. While I think it’s healthy for parents to have time away from family, I don’t want to feel like I have to get away from them in order to experience peace and sanity. Spiritual practice should not be an escape from the world; it should give us the tools to be engaged and present even in the midst of the craziness of daily life.
The act of self-care and compassion is a gift we give ourselves that extends outward into the world around us. In my wellness practice, I see the effects far too often of women who have given all of themselves to everyone else and gave nothing to themselves. They sincerely believed they were doing the right thing, or were doing what they were taught, or just felt driven by our culture to be Superwoman. They come into my office exhausted, anxious, and in physical or emotional pain. At the extreme end of the spectrum are women who manifest conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, insomnia, adrenal fatigue, and depression. The healing journey is much more challenging at that point because a number of lifestyle changes are necessary to even begin to bring the mind, body and spirit back into balance.
We tend to associate love and compassion with outward action. If we don’t also direct it inward, we are forgetting the most important person in the room. We are the vehicles for love and compassion in the physical realm we occupy. If we don’t extend the same care to ourselves as we do to others, our light can’t shine as brightly and despite our best efforts, we can’t be fully present for those we love. Our vital energy is being used just to get through the mechanical actions of the day.
With Mother’s Day coming up, I am renewing my commitment to better self-care. For me, that may be getting a massage or Reiki treatment, taking time to meditate, walk, practice yoga, write, read, garden or have coffee with friends. When I am in balance, I can give more of myself emotionally, physically and spiritually to my loved ones, and truly be present for them.
Mothers of the world, give yourself a hug, a smile, and permission to turn that unconditional love you give your family towards yourself for a change. It will be a gift that keeps coming back to you, long after Mother’s Day is over.
(Photo credit: lindsay.dee.bunny)