April 13, 2015

Why I Stopped Viewing Self-Care as Optional.

maitri compassion selfcare

It started with a moment of surrender.

Not that sweet, afternoon nap kind of surrender, but the wind gone from my sails, I give up kind.

Somewhere in the midst of feeling hopelessly behind and trying to decide which fire to put out first, I realized that I was tired, stressed out, and running on fumes. Again. Loving our obligations does not keep them from sapping our energy. In a moment of clarity, I realized that this life will consume exactly as much of my energy as I am willing to give it.

Then came a barrage of obvious questions. Why start on empty every day? How do I fill back up? How do I replace the fumes with the right kind of inspiration to fuel my daily life?

The answer appeared in the form of a memory.

I was in a crowded conference room for a yoga class with a fairly well known American teacher. There were 100+ of us in the room, moving and sweating gracefully in time with his eloquent guidance. I moved and stretched and strengthened my body while he expertly led us from one pose to the next. Even through the sweat, my movements felt effortless. My body felt balanced. My heart felt at ease.

Suddenly it was one of those moments in life where the message being delivered was crafted specifically for me, as if this teacher knew me well enough to say precisely the words the universe needed me to hear.

In that instant, I knew with every cell in my body that I was home. Not in some hotel conference room with 100 other sweaty people, but home on my mat. At home with my choices. I was finally comfortable in my own skin; comfortable with the path I had chosen in life.

I realized all of this because of an inspirational yoga class.

The depleted, stressed out version of me let this epiphany simmer for a while, which led me to call myself on my own bullshit. The truth is that I am the only one standing in the way of my own health and well-being. Yoga is a healing salve for my soul. For some reason, my excuses for not getting to class or at least rolling out my mat work hard to masquerade as legitimate reasons.

It usually has to do with feeling bad because everything else on my never-ending To Do list seems more important. And stop me if you know this one—the best efforts to recreate this experience at home usually result in the appearance of every living being in the house (insert children’s/cat’s/dog’s/other’s names here), and they all want attention. Then the doorbell rings unexpectedly and I remember I still need to find a dog sitter for next weekend and I still haven’t called someone to come look a the dishwasher and I am now embarrassingly overdue for both a haircut and a dental cleaning—before I know it, a few days, weeks or months have gone by and I’m still stressed.

And I still haven’t gone to yoga.

Guilt can be a sneaky thing. It rises slowly like the tide, swallowing intentions whole until the thought of taking just a few hours of my week to have that class experience sinks straight to the bottom of my To Do list. But I have learned the hard way that attending class is not a selfish luxury. I need it.

I just need to give myself permission to go.

After more simmering and self-reflection, here is what I know:

Most of the things on our To Do lists are probably important. The people and experiences we care about are absolutely important. But the energy that life consumes will not renew itself. Stress has a cascading effect that can quickly spiral out of control and leave us feeling overwhelmed. What we fail to remember is that unraveling that stress has its own cascading effect, but in a much more profound way.

Each one of us has had one of those experiences—an inspirational, deeply impactful moment that lingers in the heart and soul long after that moment is gone. For reasons unique to each of us, that micro-slice of joy lifted our spirits and left us feeling renewed. Of course nobody has life-altering moments of inspiration every day. But we can channel that inspiration into the more routine aspects of our lives. We can still do things that feed the soul. And whether it’s yoga or something else entirely—spending just one hour doing something that feels good and contributes to our own sense of well-being will benefit other areas of life, long after that hour is over.

As individuals, we must know what refuels our own sense of well-being, and then make a commitment to self that doing so is not just a priority, but the ultimatepriority. Given that the To Do list never ends, shouldn’t we place ourselves at the top? Hold the guilt at bay for a second and think about how much easier the tasks of life can be when approached from a place of balance and renewed energy. This is not something that just appears when we need it. An empty cup does not refill itself.

So why on earth do we keep convincing ourselves that self-care is optional?

When we are running on fumes, how can we attend to the people and experiences we love in an optimal and authentic way? Since one of the things that refuels me is a good yoga class, I know deep down that the reasons why I should go far outweigh any excuses that keep me from going.

Right here and now, I give myself permission to get out of my own way. I give my own blessing to take that hour to move and stretch and sweat on my mat under the guidance of teachers that inspire me.

I’ve decided to let someone take care of me for once.

That someone is me.





7 Tips for Practicing Radical Self-Love.




Author: Bethanie Pitsky

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: elephant archives 

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