Self-care for me is about discipline, and the practice of discipline seems rooted in remembering what I want and then doing it.
All of my life I’ve wanted happiness although I’ve often had confusion about what that is and what it means. And I have often pursued goals and pleasures that were shallow versions of the deeper path that joy and love really are. I feel happy when my brain produces serotonin and dopamine – the chemicals responsible for feeling good and being healthy. But my deepening commitment to self-care is focused on a few disciplines: Cultivating Connection and Gratitude.
Connection – to love and beauty, with humans and other animals (wild and domestic), and Nature (big and small).
Last night my meditation involved a long pause watching thousands of fireflies at differing heights flashing their unique blinking mating signals. I watched and studied, entranced, experiencing magic in the wild beauty of Nature. The longer I took it all in the more I felt something I would call Bliss. When I pause like this, my thoughts become less active. When I open to and experience Oneness with others, I feel so happy and well. And apparently that extended connection – that immersion in the moment – stimulates the hypothalamus in my brain which creates positive effects for my entire body and immune system.
And then there’s Gratitude – specific, expressed and savored.
Gratitude is a discipline I am always growing more fully into. Perhaps significant losses and near-death experiences have helped me to realize what an amazing and precious experience this Life truly is. The more I consciously express thankfulness for the myriad gifts that Grace my life — including having a Life at all — I grow deeper into a knowingness that I’d much rather have this Life with all its problems, sufferings, sadness and grief than have none at all. When moments go by full of challenge, when I feel small and inadequate, Gratitude shifts those feelings into wonder, and I can at last go on (at least well enough!).
Joanna Macy writes, “Gratitude is liberating. Gratitude is subversive. Gratitude helps us realize that we are sufficient. And that realization frees us.”
I practice expressing gratitude when I lay down to sleep at night, and when I am graced to awake again each morning. My hope is that remembering thankfulness at the beginning and end of each day will create a frame around my wakeful hours that will cultivate appreciation for both the joys and the challenges I am invariably offered between each rising and setting of the sun.
I’m grateful that I feel thankful as often as I do. And I commit to furthering this consciousness, remembering this discipline, as often as I can. I commit to pause and savor this wild and precious life while I breathe it. The lessons of self-care start and end with a full heart. Taking care of one’s whole full self allows us to be present to others, to the whole full world.
Gracias for this last month’s inspiration and motivation. As this Self-Care month comes to a close, may we find within ourselves the strength and gratitude to connect this bright month of May into all our futures, whatever may be.
End of May is wrapping up Abundance Self Care Month! Thank you for joining us in a month of radical self-care and sharing your tips and techniques for healing. Now, if you haven’t already, leave comments below, or head on over to our main blog, leave a comment and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a gift from our very generous local Healing Arts community (to be given out on Summer Pecha Kucha storytelling night, June 2, 2015!)
Many thanks to Leif Diamant of Wild Earth Consulting for his participation on our blog, and for his gift of a free session of healing through psychotherapy and counseling.
About the Author:
Leif Diamant is a Psychotherapist and counselor available for individuals and couples, adolescents and adults of all ages. He assists individuals on their journey towards more effective, happier, peaceful, creative, communicative, authentic, intimate lives. Leif is a skilled Naturalist and has taught Ethnobotany at UNC-CH, Duke, private classes and workshops, Central Carolina Community College, and the North Carolina Botanical Gardens. He lives on and tends a beautiful wooded paradise, raising animals including chickens, llamas and donkeys. His extensive garden is being expanded into a CSA (Want to help? Contact him). His life’s emphasis is how to appreciate, enjoy, enhance, and utilize Nature’s exuberant abundance. Find him at Wild Earth Consulting.