My friend recently posted Martha Ethington’s article “Women Tending to Their Basic Needs Is Not Self-Care” to her feed to remind us that a few stolen moments alone, such as a trip to the grocery store or a moment to pee should not be considered “self-care”. Being able to shower, refresh your household supply of hand wash, or get a hair cut are not self-care. They are simply survival.
Especially during the pandemic as we find ourselves increasingly spending time inside, managing the business of the household, I want to reach out to my fellow ladies. Please do not neglect your most important work, the work of your soul!
The work of the soul requires some self-reflection, creativity, and/or processing time. It could mean time spent in the company or community of trusted chosen ones, time experiencing nature, or time creating something which is a freeform expression. Thomas Moore’s book “The Care of the Soul” has many good recommendations on how this can be done, and Clarissa Pinkola Estes provides us the masterwork on how to understand and nourish the female psyche in The Women Who Run with Wolves.
Here are a few methods that work for me:
Meditation and Journaling
No matter the type of meditation, the idea of this is that we quiet our minds enough to let the subconscious concerns and insights surface to the conscious mind. We spend so much time of our day in autopilot, it’s easy for that autopilot to really take us off course. I pair meditation with journaling my thoughts, reflecting on different questions, or listing out gratitudes. Focusing on what we are grateful for has been proven in my studies to improve our levels or happiness.
Being in Nature
Spending time with the Mother Earth always benefits us and provides perspective to the world around us that we can lose sight of when spending too much time indoors. I find that time outdoors connects me to the wider web of existence, the physical and spiritual essence of the wildlife around us, and the reminder that we are just one of many beings on this great earth. Indigenous teachers would also remind us that we gain wisdom through further one-ness with the earth and its’ creatures.
Being in Awe
You may be struck with awe in looking up at the stars and planets in our solar system, or more struck by a well crafted song or particular piece of poetry. Allowing yourself to be overcome by the awesomeness of this world or the perfect expression of someone else’s creativity helps us to think beyond the everyday doldrums that we can become lodged within. Moore reminds us that developing the passion of the soul and witnessing in awe is a skill or muscle that must be developed with practice.
“The word passion means basically “to be affected,” and passion is the essential energy of the soul. The poet Rilke describes this passive power in the imagery of the flower’s structure, when he calls it a “muscle of infinite reception.” We don’t often think of the capacity to be affected as strength and as the work of a powerful muscle, and yet for the soul, as for the flower, this is its toughest work and its main role in our lives.”Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
From a purely physical standpoint, moving the body is helpful for overall mental and physical health but also for the health of your brain itself and the formation of neural connections and learning. From a spiritual perspective, doing something with your body brings you back into mindfulness of the present moment. That could be gardening, painting, walking, dancing, or even some wonderful laughing yoga.
Our bodies can also be an instrument of our joy if we use them and appreciate when they enable us to do. To dance, to walk, to creep, to stretch! So much is possible when we appreciate and use our bodies for physicality or hobbies.
Connecting with Others
A soul-affirming activity if there ever was one, connecting with others, one-on-one, in circle or in community has refreshed the soul of humankind since we began. We are no cold-blooded solitary reptile, we thrive on connecting with each other and sharing stories with each other. Societies were formed and bound by gathering together by the fireside to share experiences and wisdom.
It can be particularly hard to initiate a connection if you are overwhelmed with life, especially if you are an introvert. But remember, it’s so freeing to share some time with someone you trust and can be yourself with! Make the time to see your friends, whether over a coffee outside, taking a walk, or video chat.