Taking care of life

Peace in oneself, peace in the world.

When we think of taking care of ourselves, often the first thing to come to mind is looking after the body. Or maybe sleeping a bit more. Or buying a nice treat to enjoy when we get home after a long day. But this kind of care offers only limited results. To truly take care of ourselves is to understand ourselves deeply, with compassion, and with a capacity for self-love that nourishes our capacity to love others too.

Over the weekend I attended the 10th annual mindfulness day hosted by émergences and was happy to meet some of you there. This year the theme was ‘Prendre soin de la vie,’ meaning not only taking care of our own life but also taking care of the living, breathing world around us, in every sense.

The atmosphere at these events is always inspiring, uplifting and motivating, and it’s so wonderful to be reminded of how many people genuinely care and are truly working towards a better society. We don’t always see these people because they rarely get media attention and most of them are working quietly in ways that often go unnoticed, but they (you?!) are there and always welcoming new people into their fold.

We also had the wonderful opportunity to listen to several pieces of music – Bach, Schubert, piano, cello, flute… – as a way of inviting our awareness inward and staying present to what we experience through feelings and emotions. Each changing note brings us deeper inside while remaining keenly aware of their sounds. Music is a beautiful meditation.*

It had me thinking about the people I meet in my work – and everywhere, for that matter! Often people come to me with a problem in the form of a relationship – sometimes they will tell me that they don’t have a problem but their spouse/child/parent/boss does. The good and bad news is: It’s all coming from us regardless of the object of our perceived problems! 

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

~ Mark Twain

Bluntly put, if you feel you have a problem, the problem is you. It’s all you. Suffering is in the eye of the beholder, if I may. I’m not saying there is nothing to do or resolve or change, but the place to start that process will never be outside of you.

We operate from our perceptions (which become our projections) in such a way that everything we believe, think or feel is coming from within, and never caused by an outside factor, even if it appears as an instigator. Often, what we are experiencing as problematic with another person, for example, is the result of years of stuffing down our own feelings around various painful moments and personal life experiences.

Too often we make the self-limiting mistake of binary thinking around our feelings and choices: this or that, in or out, good or bad, power or weakness. Yet there is always a connection between polarities – can you find it? How might it look? What do we need to do for a win-win outcome? We have so many options at any given moment, and thinking differently about who or what is in front of us will open up a new approach to what we experience now and going forward in our relationship with our self and others.

Wherever our emotions are repressed we will find ourselves limited and dumbed down. Expressing emotions won’t harm others if we have fully understood them ourselves; if we haven’t, the issue at hand becomes conflated with every other time we felt this way, and we explode. So our first priority in self-care should be to recognise and understand our emotions and take care of them.

Not only are we our own worst enemy in this regard, our (disempowering) emotions are also fed, used and manipulated by people seeking power or wanting to sell us something. We are ever more exposed to manipulation by the constant stream of information and an expectation of non-stop entertainment which even comes to us in the form of “news”.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, 
you can be good.

~ John Steinbeck

This emotional instability is the root of our suffering. If we can recognise it for what it is, and see that it contributes to the unwelcome background noise of our dissatisfaction in our relationships and in life itself, we can minimise our own suffering and stop perpetuating more of it around us.

By finding this inner harmony we can find a better balance between expecting too much and asking too little in all of our relationships – to ourselves, our loved ones and to life itself. This starts with self-care in the form of self-acceptance, especially the recognition of our true nature and our capacity to see it in others.

With much love and light as always,

(*If you have difficulty meditating, you could practice training the mind by following complex classical music or just focusing on the sounds of birds or urban sounds to stay with what is happening around you while still aware of your immediate relationship to it. You can follow a guided meditation of this kind of expanding awareness on SoundCloud.)

Reach out if you want to go within. I can help you or a loved one return to balance.