Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Feed Your Spirit ...

Self care is not selfish.


Hello, Everyone,

Whether you are a family carepartner wondering how on earth to manage the holidays on top of your regular care-giving duties or a helping professional working 12 hour shifts over the holidays, self care deserves a place right at the top of your to-do list.

Genuine self care springs from a place of self compassion and self compassion means simply giving the same kindness to yourself that you would give to others in a similar situation. Self care is not selfish. It means allowing yourself time to heal, refresh and renew so you can become or remain whole and healthy. Once your depleted self is refilled, you can then give to others with more fullness and joy. (Those who have attended the Caring On Empty workshop will remember the wisdom of one of my favourite Sufi sayings - Never give from the depths of your well, only from the overflow. This requires that you actually have an overflow from which to give!)

Most of us can quickly come up with physical and emotional ideas for staying strong and healthy during the hectic holiday season - eating well, taking pauses to rest, frequent hand-washing, getting back to the essence of the holidays, booking a good therapy appointment - but how many of us take time to consider what we might need to feed our spirits during these busy and poignant days? Below are a few ideas to consider as you add a spiritual dimension to your holiday self care plan:

1.  Simplify.  For many, holiday traditions have become increasingly complex, commercial and just a little crazy. If this observation applies to you, consider choosing  the top four values by which you would like to live your holidays and then assess your usual traditions to see if there is an alignment between your values and activities. If not, consider what changes you could make to have a simpler, more authentic celebration. 
This week, someone told me the story of her sister who had moved into a new home right before Christmas. She quickly realized that her new neighbours were folks who went all-out in decorating their home and property. Rather than trying to compete and add more stress to her life, she made a sign, decorated it with lights and wrote on it a large arrow pointing to the neighbours' house and added the word,"ditto"! One of her values was to simplify her holiday customs and, in this one public act, her values and actions were aligned.
2.  Stay centred.  Spend a little time alone. (This is especially important for introverts, those who refresh and refuel through spending time in their inner world.) Use contemplative practices that are familiar and work for you - meditation, centering prayer, reading poetry, connecting with Nature, receptive photography, journalling and others. Reflect upon the meaning of the season and how it may have changed in your life over time. Be receptive to new insights. Pace yourself so you have time to process your feelings. 
3.  Use the Enneagram. Use the Enneagram to help you understand, forgive and accept yourself and others when people push your buttons at holiday gatherings. Recognizing the motivations behind the behaviour of those who irritate you can make Christmas dinners a little easier to take.
4.  Practice gratitude. The last Christmas before my husband died, he gave me one of Sara Brethnacht's Gratitude Journals and wrote on the first page, "Let's try this. I think it will help." And help it did. It didn't take away the pain of our long goodbye or the grief of our leave-taking but, in some magical way, it helped to balance the suffering. Each night we would write down 5 things for which we were grateful and then read them to each other. Later, when he no longer had the strength to hold a pen, we would lie in bed in the dark and whisper our gratefulness to each other. 
For those of you caring for loved ones this season, an intentional gratitude practice could help to balance your pain as well. If you have trouble thinking of something for which to be grateful, try looking at Bro David Steindl-Rast's latest gratefulness video for some prompts. (You will have to listen carefully in a quiet place because the speech of age now complicates Bro David's thick Austrian accent, but it's worth the effort to listen.)
5.  Be inspired. To inspire is to breathe life into something or someone. The word comes from the same Latin root as that for spirit.  We are all inspired by different things - acts of kindness, acts of courage, beautiful poetry, the wonders of nature, great works of art. Choose to spend time with the things that inspire you this season and take the time to savour them, allowing them to sink into your body, healing and energizing your life.

These are just a few ideas for feeding your spirit during the winter holidays. I'm sure you have your own as well. The question is, will you allow yourself to make space to use them ... ? I hope you do.

As I pack to leave for Vancouver Island for my own holiday festivities, I wish each one of you exactly what you need to feed your spirit this Christmas and every blessing in 2020.