Updated: Jan 17, 2019
I have dedicated this year to taking care of myself on the daily. That means I am focusing on the practice of self-care and not just performing drive by self care.
My back. My back is a mess. Always has been. I think I trashed it in college in my last years of dance studies. I pushed myself into a corner I didn't belong in and the karma of that has been biting me in the low back ever since. It first manifested as a pinched nerve in my early 20's. I sought my first chiropractic adjustment after something went terribly wrong in my back while scrubbing a bathtub. It reached it's limit after 20 years in a corporate job. My last year before being furloughed, was spent in weekly visits to the chiropractor trying to stabilize my SI joints. That was over 10 years ago. The last three were in chronic, unrelenting pain. The first two of those three were a destabilized SI joint that took out my psoas so I could barely walk. That condition shifted into scorching sciatica for a solid year. I found relief from that pain finally with consistent weight training with a great trainer and the help of a medium. Yes, medium. That's another story for another day.
Throughout this last ten year period I was running a small business (yoga studio owner) and teaching on average 20 classes a week. I didn't have time for the pain. I pushed through. Most people didn't even know about my condition, especially in the last year when I had a functioning psoas, but was in constant nerve pain. I'm sure they could see fatigue on my face. I could and I see the residual lines under my eyes.
When people found out about my condition, their first reaction was, can't yoga help you with that? More yoga was not appealing to me in any way shape or form. It was wearing me down.
My root yoga practice is Ashtanga yoga. David Willliams is my teacher, mentor and friend for the last 10 years. He showed me how to practice ashtanga in a compassionate, sustainable way - in fact, my SI joint issues resolved during a practice with him two years ago. I knew to shrink my practice to meet me where I was each day and I think that kept me hanging on to my practice and love for yoga. Yet, I grieved for my practice the way I wanted it to be. I wanted to be in painless flow with the universe.
A friend encouraged me to join him in studies with Cyndi Lee, who had relocated to Lynchburg, Va (not far from here). I had actually found her about 20 or so years ago in her books. That self-study with her introduced me to yoga and mediation together. It set me up with a personal meditation practice and worked with my desire to move and breathe. Cyndi was a professional dancer and choreographer so there was a natural alignment in practice style. I thought it was a good idea to get away and take some dedicated time for my own practice. I had been going to California every October for the Ojai Yoga Crib and when that disbanded, I was left floundering for a yoga retreat for myself as a teacher/student.
I registered and went. I wasn't trained and certified by Cyndi, so I felt like an Ashtangi at an Iyengar kinda party. My ways were not her ways, so I got corrected/adjusted a lot. It helped me open my thinking about my practice and I came away with new resolve in my practice. It also allowed and encouraged me to expand my practice into Self Caring with way more restoratives than I was allowing myself.
Looping back to Cyndi reignited my practice and refreshed my meditation practice as well.
I met other teachers who graciously took me under their wings and have been inspiring me find myself again.
My sciatica was resolved in May last year and in October I retreated with Cyndi again. With the veil of pain lifted, I was more pliable with her teachings, but I was so burned out by my pain, pushing to get things done everyday for years despite the pain, that it was a soul retreat. I must have let my armor fall off there. I returned home and spent about 8 weeks battling a serious staph infection and an upper respiratory mess. I was sad, tired and angry that I wasn't feeling joyful despite my efforts.
When the year ticked over to 2019, I decided to do more online study with Cyndi and cultivate the practice of Self Caring (a continual practice of caring about myself and being a friend to myself). My attitude is shifting and I have freed up space to be present and relaxed. This new state of receptivity has lent itself to renewed energy and creativity.
I feel like I am finally on the upswing to living and working as myself.
My practice now is about daily meditation as a practice of befriending myself and not taking an inventory in suffering. On the mat I am taking time to settle and just be. Cyndi recommends a savasana every day. I am doing it in addition to my personal practice. Slowly but surely, I am settling and not feeling guilty for taking that kind of time for myself. Funny how I didn't feel guilty about time for training strength.
I have lined up online trainings so I have something to do every week to keep me connected to being a student. Letting go of the clench of managing all the time feels good.
I am following my dream to practice with David in Crete this year - after 10 years of wanting to go, but telling myself I couldn't. I got the last spot available this year after chatting with him yesterday.
I felt good about making the decision to do something that had been lingering on my wish list for years, but have been vacillating back and forth between the peace of the decision and the guilt of spending money on myself, being away from my business for myself, and taking time away from my always supportive husband. Funny, but I don't find the same guilt in purchasing something for the my yoga studio or concert tickets for me and my husband. These things, over the space of a year add up to more than I would spend going to a retreat with David in Crete.
It chews on my emotional self until I sit with it and understand more broadly that it will help me be a better person for myself, my family and my students. Self Caring is how we cultivate Bodhicitta - offering any merit we acquire to be of benefit to all sentient beings (which includes loved ones and students). So in the scheme of things, spending money on my own self development (retreating with my teachers, refreshing my yoga studio, doing what my husband and I love to do in our spare time is all Self Caring if it softens us to where we can share the good that comes from that with all who come in contact with us and all sentient beings). Self Caring opens us up to become conduits of good energy that is shared with all to whom we dedicate it. Selfishness constrains any merits to ourselves only.
When I was in the peak of my back pain, I was constantly conscious of masking my condition and my emotions. I was in a steady state of trying to simultaneously shrink and beat down my pain. I didn't want those ripples to effect those around me. I spent so much energy trying to keep it all in that when I softened just a little bit, the flood of emotions was big - like opening your hall closet when you have stuffed too much stuff in it.
In the last week or so, I have succumbed to the Tidying Up phenomenon. I have begun to put order to my home and business. As Marie Kondo promises, it is sparking Joy and helping me release the shrink wrap of past pain and suffering. It supports my Self Caring by giving me space to relax in. It helps me release a lot of what has surrounded me and enabled my shrink wrapping.
So maybe in the spirit of the new year and all our good intentions we open the valves of Bodhicitta and actively participate in Self Caring - doing the things that create peace, joy and harmony; doing the things that open us to our greater selves; practicing meditation and yoga and mindfulness with the intent that it will open us to a more conscious way of moving in the world. Moving in the world with mindful consideration of ourselves and those around us.
I would love to know what you do for yourself as a practice of Self Caring. Please share here. If you aren't, I encourage you to start. Do things that will help you find yourself and care about yourself.