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For the longest time I felt guilty about the amount of time I spent practicing yoga, sitting in meditation, or attending workshops and trainings.
I felt selfish for the abundance of alone time I needed in order to really feel centered and recharged.
I would sometimes feel greedy and undeserving for the amount of time, money and energy I put into my own self-development and self care.
But when that self-care would drop down on the priority list and I let my own practices fall away, I quickly experienced the negative ripple effect in the many layers of my life. Not to mention for all those around me.
The less I took care of my own space, the worse I felt.
The less I took care of my self, the quality in which I could show up for the people in my life worsened as well.
From my intimate friendships and relationships, to the brief encounters with strangers.
When there was less self care, my inner space would get very messy.
There was a lot of violence.
There were a lot of self-sabatoging beliefs and behaviours.
There was a huge lack of self-love.
When the self-care practices disappeared, I wouldn’t take ownership of my feeling and experiences. Instead, I would project them onto the world and everyone in it.
I was filled with anger and envy. I felt weighed down with sadness. I experienced an unbearable amount of anxiety.
I was be far from being even just okay.
Just to clarify, I know it’s completely normal and incredible to experience the full spectrum of human emotions. But to constantly be those states, in a state of lack, in a state of suffering, in a state of denial… is not only detrimental to ourselves, but to everyone else around us.
As a yoga teacher, a university student specializing in health promotion (and as just a regular human), I’ve heard the messages about the importance of self-care time and time again. Communicated in many different ways and demonstrated in many different forms.
But as I sat in my psychopathology psychology class last week, something my professor said resonated deeper then anything I’ve read before in any yoga philosophy or university textbook:
“Anything and everything we experience in our own individual self reverberates. It expands outwards. It effects our environment, our workplace, our family and our friends.”
Every cell in my body immediately came to attention. With my eyes wide and my whole being engaged, it left me with one thought:
What we really share the most with the people around us, is in fact, our inner state.
It directed me towards questioning the ways in which we enhance our inner state.
For me it’s through yoga, through journaling, through self-inquiry, through meditation and mindfulness. And through many other forms of self care.
Although I now do these things daily and routinely without thought, it wasn’t always the case. I used to carry this heavy, selfish feeling around as I would take the time to these things. These things that we’re so clearly and profoundly enhancing my life in many ways. It was only when the practices would fall away I really understood how necessary and transformational they really are.
As my professor spoke, her words shed a bright light on the importance of why i’m doing these things.
It reminded me that taking the time to do these practices and take care of our selves, we are both directly and indirectly taking care of those around us.
When our inner state is cultivated through love, through compassion, through high-quality care. We are able to, without effort, transmit these qualities to our environment.
From our most treasured relationships, to the brief encounters with strangers.
When our inner state is abundant in these qualities, we do not need to give love or compassion.
We can simply exist as an extension of those qualities.
An extension of love. An extension of compassion.
We all know the cliche Gandhi (or not Gandhi) quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
It’s a cliche quote for a reason: collective change occurs on an individual level.
If we want to exist in a world with more love. We need to live, speak and move from a place of love. (Including the way in which we take care of our selves).
The importance of tending to our inner world cannot be underestimated, nor can it be put on the bottom of the priority list.
As we tend to our inner world, we are simultaneously tending to, contributing to, and co-creating this global, outer world.
Self-care is not selfish.
Self-care is necessary for self-love.
When we take care and love ourselves…
We can take better care and more deeply love those around us.
Author: Alexa Torontow
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: author’s own