I think if I had to name the key cornerstone of my coaching practice since I launched it over 20 years ago, it would be what I call “radical self-care,” cousin of “extreme self-care,” and more recently, the theme of my e-book “sacred SELF-Centeredness.”
Given how crazy all our lives seem to be right now, the big question is how do we master the art of “sacred SELF-centeredness” and still maintain our loving relationships, operate effectively in our work, and stay actively and productively engaged in the world? The idea is not to become an island onto yourself or to buy into all of the conventional labels of self-centeredness, egotistic, self-absorbed, entitled, arrogant.
Instead, think of your self-center as that still, small kernel of wisdom that lies deep within you, what the medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart called the “scintilla” or “little soul-spark.” I call it our “Circle of One,” it’s where the essence of you resides, where everything that represents the best of who you is; where you are most whole; all those qualities, gifts, and talents that make you the caring, compassionate, powerful person that you are.
Is that a place you visit regularly? Truthfully, it really has to become our favorite inner vacation destination if we’re to have any hope of creating room to breathe deeper and space to dream bigger.
With that orientation, “radical self-care” is anything but selfish, but rather all about tending to your own very real and often neglected needs on every level, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In fact, Steven Covey’s last principle in his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, addresses just that. He labels it “sharpening the saw” and describes it as “exercising all four dimensions of our nature [physical, mental, emotional & spiritual] regularly and consistently in wise and balanced ways.” In his model, it is this habit that surrounds all the others because it is the one that makes all the others possible.
What makes this notion so “radical” is the fact that so few of us do it. We have been taught to take care of everyone else first, it’s a destructive little bit of socialization that women, in particular, seem to have done a good job of internalizing. Unchecked, this tendency results in a full-blown case of co-dependent behavior in some or all of our relationships, not to mention complete exhaustion. Imagine your Circle of One as a black hole and get the idea.
So, what can we do to restore a healthy mind-body-heart-spirit balance? How can we find the right combination of energizing new projects and seed ideas, while still honoring our inner Circle of One? Start by creating a sacred space for yourself and exploring how you might do just that.
Begin by snuggling into a cozy chair with a cup of tea and a favorite journal, or at least a pretty piece of stationary. Now, either in separate categories or free-form, list all the ways you’d love to nurture your body, stimulate your mind, soothe your heart, and nourish your soul. Think simply, walk daily, read poetry, call a friend. Think big, take yourself out to dinner, clean your closets, sign up for an interesting course.
The idea is to create a vision of sacred SELF-centeredness in all areas so that, when you REALLY need a break and your brain is too fogged to function, you can pull out your list of self-care hacks and grab on to one (or more) as a lifeline.
Another way to explore self-care from a different angle is to think about activating all of your senses, taste, touch, hearing, sight, and smell. At first glance, you might want to plop them all in your “body self-care” column because after all, they’re part of your physical body. But then, think about how your heart expands when you watch a beautiful sunset or hear uplifting music.
Maybe you’re transported to a deep soul-space when you touch your rosary or mala (both sacred prayer beads from different traditions). Or your mind gets jazzed doing word puzzles or watching a fascinating documentary. And of course, we all have our favorites comfort foods, everything from rich chocolate to mashed potatoes with butter!
But the most evocative of all our senses is our sense of smell. That’s because it’s directly connected to the limbic system in our brains, the seat of our memories and emotions. The scent of freshly cut grass can immediately transport you back to summer days when you were a kid. Or your heart melts a little bit when you smell the perfume that your grandmother used to wear.
Of course, to tap into the power of your nose, you can use aromatherapy for every facet of your radical self-care. To stimulate your mind, try basil essential oil or bergamot, and to cleanse your body, go with lemon or eucalyptus. Lavender and rose are wonderful scents to soothe your heart, and sage oil or frankincense is perfect to burn for any spiritual practice. Experiment and see what scents most resonate with you. I’ve given you many more ideas in the Wellness Universe video that accompanies this blog, so I hope you’ll be overflowing with new ways to practice “sacred SELF-centeredness”!
Remember, not only will you feel better on every level, but everyone around you will benefit from your healthier mind, body, heart, and spirit.
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