(The inspiration for this post came from reading When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair by Geneen Roth.)
If eating is the only way that you practise self-care, the only way that you fill yourself up, you are likely to run into trouble with food and weight. What else can you do every day to take exquisite care of yourself? One’s first instinct is to think – hmm…it should be something that doesn't require too much time, effort or money. Stop for a second - what is wrong with taking some effort to throw a little kindness in your own direction? What would make you feel alive, celebrated, cared for? There is a big difference between self-indulgence and self-kindness.
When you're rushing to the finish line without stopping to be mindful about what you're doing, you often end up feeling hollow, as if your body is somehow uninhabited. You find yourself wondering where the day went and how you arrived at the drive-thru window when you don't even remember leaving the house.
What are you passionately in love with? A flavour of coffee, a bright colour, a soft robe, a favourite quilt? What says "I was here"? My mother was known for the colour purple (the actual colour, not the book) and for ladybugs. If we came home to find a wall freshly painted mauve or a charming little ladybug stenciled onto a stool, it was evidence that "Mom was here."
I know that you have two kids, three dogs (yikes!), a full-time and an extra part-time job, relatives to visit, emails to send, medications to refill, lists to make and laundry to fold. But here are some suggestions for practising self-kindness. Keep in mind that the point is to perform a mindful activity and remain focused on it, for as long as it takes to ‘fill up’.
· Burn some candles (careful with those dogs!) and bask in the soft light
· Have a hot mug of tea
· Put a warm compress on your belly or a warm washcloth on your face
· Take a bath (try epsom salts!)
· Take at least five minutes to meditate (There are tons of simple ones to pick from. I'm currently working on one where you focus on the area three inches below your navel and count to 20. Start over when your mind begins to wander.)
· Put ice on your back (this is where you'll find me most days)
· Pet your dog (this is not where you'll find me most days)
· Smell your baby's head
· Sketch, paint or embroider something
· Give yourself a foot rub with a tennis ball
I had a Zen teacher once who tried to teach me about mindfulness and taking care. I get it now - it's not that happiness is out there if and only if you go after it - by losing weight, getting a better job, getting pregnant, finishing the basement or buying new shoes. It is what it is right now, if you stop to sense your arms and legs, to show up. It’s about landing in your own body, exactly where you are and telling the physical truth, instead of letting your thoughts overrun you. Geneen says that when you are fully present, nothing is missing.