Every so often, it’s good to change things up, to re-invent ourselves, to grow and to evolve. Sometimes we initiate those changes, and sometimes the Universe makes that decision for us.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness – especially kindness to myself. You know, even though I’ve taught self-care, self-love, self-compassion for years, I could be a lot kinder to myself. I haven’t been mindful enough of the natural changes in my life and my body. I’m happy, and a little surprised to say, that I’m going to be 73 this October. This really makes me think about redefining my priorities in life, and asking, “How well am I taking care of my health? How well am I taking care of my relationships? What is most important to me now?”
I realize the tendency I have (and maybe you do too?) to go along, doing the things I’ve always done. But now, I realize it is time to stop, take a breath, and look with self-compassion at all the areas of my life. At 73, in the Hindu tradition, this would be the time to take off into the forest and say, “Life as a householder and as a careerist is done. It’s time to pay more attention to your inner life.”
I do want to spend more time meditating, journaling and reflecting, and looking back at the patterns of my life (which is one of my favorite spiritual activities). I do, in fact, a memoir retreat called, “The Spiritual Art of Memoir, Finding the Invisible Thread of Grace”. Whenever I teach it, I write a couple of my life’s stories, which is always followed by a big “Aha” moment – I learn something so valuable every time. This “metabolism” of my life is something I want to do more of. By giving my soul a chance to speak, I am doing a great kindness to myself.
I truly love my work. I love to learn, to share, to write. But my typical pattern of work, more work, then hopping on an airplane to give a lecture or retreat to work some more, sometimes comes at the expense of other priority activities, like exercising, stretching, meditating, writing, and just being with myself and those I love. I am blessed with a wonderful husband, wonderful children and 7 grandkids, and many wonderful friends, all of whom I want to enjoy more time with, as time goes on.
Here’s what happened a few weeks ago. The Universe demanded that I make over the whole way I live my life, and how I deal with myself.
I want to start this story by telling you I’m perfectly fine and healthy.
I had an episode of transient global amnesia. It sounds much worse that it is. I was sitting with my husband and a friend, having breakfast and chatting. Later in day, I had the sudden awareness that I had no recollection of those 2 hours. It would have been much more distressing if I hadn’t already heard about this from a friend who had a similar experience.
I had an MRI which was completely normal, and I’ve learned that fortunately, transient global amnesia is rare, seemingly harmless and unlikely to happen again. Interestingly, it is related to migraines, with which I’ve had a lifelong history.
What else happened that week? I hadn’t been kind to myself. I way over-committed myself with a local conference, friends visiting from out-of-town, along with my normal, heavy workload. Not to mention re-wiring the house with new internet service. Then my computer died. I was stressed. I overlooked the little warning symptoms of impending migraine and tried to push through. Over-commitment is so common in our busy, busy culture, even for a “stress management expert” like me.
So, what is my new plan to manage my stress, and to be kinder to myself?
I’m working shorter stints, no more than 4 hours at a time. I’m taking my entire weekend for R&R, unless there is something truly urgent to complete. I’m exercising. I’m stretching. I’m eating mindfully. I’m meditating.
And every time someone asks me to do something, even though my heart leaps with the desire to do it for them, I’m not automatically saying “yes” right away. I’m being mindful and saying, “I’ll get back to you shortly about that.”
And now, I’m making a promise to you. That I’m going to be much more kind to myself.
And I hope you’ll make the same promise to someone –that you are going to be much kinder to yourself!
So, that is the makeover that the Universe insisted I do. What will your makeover look like?
P.S. My website has gotten a makeover too! We’re adding more free content, and it’s easier to navigate. There’s also a daily quote from my new audio version of “Pocketful of Miracles”. Check it out at http://joanborysenko.com.