“No matter the nature of your individuality, you can nurture a better identity and have a mature positively rewarding life.”
Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha
Last night I had people over for a bar-b-queue and I had a very interesting discussion with an older woman who is struggling with aging and how it changes her sense of self. My discussion with her led me to thinking about self-nurturing from a slightly different vantage point.
Usually we think of self nurturing as a way of caring for ourselves through personal time, a massage, a health treatment, a good dinner, drinks with friends, a walk in nature, and so on. What if self-nurturing is also about coming to compassionate terms with who we are and our limitations?
If we look at self-nurturing from the perspective of who we are today and not who we hoped or wished we would be, compassion becomes part of the nurturing equation. Compassion is an important first step in self care. How can we love and care for ourselves if we are angry, lost, frustrated, and feel imprisoned? If we can change our perspective and see our strengths as well as limitations, use our limitations as step off points and not end points, and feel compassion for ourselves, we can then nurture ourselves at a deep level and gain as much health and vitality and wholeness as possible.
In my work I see patients who have had strokes and other chronic disabilities. It is easy to lose patience and hope and love for ourselves when we are so limited in what we can do. It is difficult to see that the most important factor here is not what we physically are limited to, but how we are limiting ourselves with through our thoughts about ourselves. Often times, the greatest limiting factor is our thoughts and our feelings.
I know a woman who had a stroke many years ago which left her right side impaired. She told me she often felt in prison because even though her daughter takes care of her, she isn’t able to take care of herself. Her body is her prison. It is true that often she doesn’t feel well and that her body is weak and injured. What she doesn’t see is that she has a very strong mind. Others who have suffered what she has wouldn’t even be alive anymore. Their bodies and minds would have given up and out. She also doesn’t see the power of her sense of humor. She can be very funny with an insightful dark sense of humor.
Her dilemma is common to many. She survived lots of trauma and she lives in a hard negative world. Though she tries to be optimistic, she doesn’t know how. She doesn’t have the tools. Her humor is a great tool, and she does use that consciously sometimes. Caring for herself would begin with accepting herself for herself, exactly as she is. By doing this, she could more easily accept the help that is freely being offered. This then could open so many channels for her to explore, which right now, can’t be explored.
An example of what can be explored is exemplified by an old Chiropractic teacher I had in school. She was in a wheel chair and was a paraplegic. She drove a van, got in and out by herself and had an active Chiropractic practice. What a role model she was. I shared this example with the woman who had suffered the stroke and encouraged her to find her own unique way to channel her strengths in service of others. Sometimes accepting and then overcoming our limitations is the greatest form of self-nurturing we can give ourselves.
Shift Your Story: Guided Visualizations/Meditation
No matter where we are in life and what our limitations are, there are inherent gifts within those limitations. Gifts we can give ourselves and gifts we can give others.
Often, by recognizing this fact and then working within those limations we are able to shift our internal story and find meaning. We all have a purpose in life; our purpose is not suffering.
Find a comfortable place to sit and place your feet gently on the floor. If you are moved for it to be a place in the sun, or with a view, then absolutely, find that place.
Sit and just breathe. Close your eyes. Take a moment and think about a certain limitation you are experiencing that is challenging you. It may be physical, may be spiritual, may be circumstantial, etc.
Think about how it limits you. What does it keep you from doing or thinking or being? What does it allow you to do and be? What is its gift to you?
Take a moment with each of the above three questions. Allow yourself to be with what it keeps you from doing and see what comes to you. Do the same with the next questions.
Just breathe again and become aware of where you are and orient yourself and smell the smells, see what is around you, feel the ground underneath your feet.
Next, get a piece of paper and write down what you remember.
Do this exercise for the next week and remember to write down your experience. If you feel like it, let me know what you have learned or gained from this experience.
Here’s to your full and vital and soul purposed life!