Self-nurturance in a Time of Need
Many people struggle with their self-worth. Blame, victimization, and feelings of being overly responsible all contribute to the feeling of “I’m not good enough”. People blame themselves for many things, most notably as of late, their financial losses and setbacks, and for what some consider their poor judgments around money matters. Others consider themselves to be victims of their circumstances, and still others are struggling with feelings of responsibility far beyond what is reasonable. At this time when our world is changing rapidly and we need most to nurture ourselves, more than ever, self-judgment and lack of self-worth rear their ugly heads.
Negative self-talk, over working, tiredness, lack of self-confidence, self-doubt, and confusion are all signs of being out of balance and lacking self-worth. Out of balance, our self-concept is weak so we look to outside sources, such as television, movies, or any other of the vast array of phantasmagoria, to tell us who we are. When we’re in balance we are steady, strong, happy and maintain our self-confidence and we look inside to know who we are.
We nurture ourselves when we are being ourselves and not forcing ourselves to fit into someone else’s construct of who they think we should be. When we peel away the layers of enculturation, familial stories, egoic knowledge, shame, guilt, resentment and so forth, and find our true selves, our essence, our very core, we can nurture ourselves from the profound center of our existence.
How can we nurture ourselves? One way is to get in touch with nature. Take a hike. Go for a swim. Dig in the garden. Breathe deeply and fully. Plant flowers. Tend the houseplants. Walk in the grass. Play in the park. Lay on Mother Earth. Get in touch with your Tuz: soul fire. The forests, mountains, oceans, prairies, deserts, and gardens are where we can nurture ourselves deeply and it is a fatal mistake to distance ourselves from and be the least invested in the very elements that we depend on for our survival.
Earth, from which we are born and to which we return, is the sacred womb that births life. We are connected to this beautiful planet from the depths of our spirits to our DNA. Our heartbeat is entrained with the earth’s heartbeat. Earth’s pulse is our pulse. Our spiritual progress relies on the nature of the Earth’s progress from which we are designed. As Gandhi said, “To forget how to dig in the soil is to forget oneself.” Therefore, to spend time each day in the elements: walk and lay on the earth, dig in the soil, swim in the waters, be full of fire, energized by breath, grateful for the bounty that we are surrounded by, is to be truly nourished.
Worshipped for thousands of years for its life-giving properties, today we are told to avoid the sun. However, the sun activates seeds to sprout including the seeds inside of us that are waiting to burst forth. Given the right conditions of an open heart and true surrender, the Sun and the Earth, who have a division of tasks yet are the same universal life energy and intelligence, can help us drink in the potent life energy that Mother Earth and the Sun so readily give. When we drink we quench a thirst: the thirst for fulfillment. When we are fulfilled, our presence is more available to be creative, wise, and loving. By being that which we want, we attract that which we are––and we truly nurture ourselves, thus, it is in nature where the survival mode and the spiritual mode interlace.
Another way to experience self-nurturance is with meditation. When we meditate in silence, we experience our own true nature in the field of pure consciousness. When we expand the field of pure consciousness, we awaken it. Creativity, intelligence, peace, and harmony come alive in this energy field and in our own life. Quite naturally, we extend these positive, nourishing qualities to our families, communities, and the world.
There are many books that instruct us on many different ways to meditate, but meditation is not about how deep, how far, or how long, it is about commitment. Commitment to self is a natural way to instill trust in oneself. Reestablishing trust in oneself is one of the most central tasks of self-nurturance. Give yourself permission to trust and thus, cultivate total trust in yourself. That alone is deeply transforming. When you trust yourself, you can love yourself.
Self-nurturance is a handmaiden of self-love. Self-love is a feeling and it’s already inside of you. Our culture teaches us that we need to look to others for love, however, this is not the case. You don’t have to look outside yourself to find love. In the 1950s, philosopher and psychologist, Erich Fromm popularized the idea of self-love and the concept that you have to love yourself in order to love others. Later, in the 1960s, Abraham Maslow created a Theory of Love and postulated that there were two types of love: Deficiency love or love to fulfill your own needs and Being love which is unselfish love by which one could attain self-realization. It is the latter, Being love, that will calm the tides of discontent when we feel that there is a lacuna in our lives.
Love has been a theme of many stories, books, television shows, and movies. We are fascinated with learning about love. Yet, we starve ourselves of love. We must be what we want to fully understand what it is. The following equation can help us.
Self-love = total acceptance = presence = self-nourishment =
self-responsibility = self-creation = self-realization.
Let’s look at the first part of this equation:
Self-love = total acceptance = presence = self-nourishment
Self-love means we are in total acceptance of, and in gratitude for, who we are with all our wonderful qualities and also those qualities that we think are unlovable that are often called “our shadow”. When we love ourselves, we love all of ourselves including our shadow. Loving our shadow helps remove any of the negativity associated with the shadow. It softens the hard edges. It reduces our negative self-talk. By loving our shadow, the energy that is tied up in repressing the shadow becomes accessible and explodes into new creative energy.
Life will always reward us for being in total acceptance of ourselves. This acceptance allows us to be fully present. When we’re fully present, we don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow. We explore more fully the time and space that we’re in and everything and everyone becomes more vibrant, more alive, and more meaningful. When one lives in the present, one is fully aware of and concentrating on each moment with undivided attention. Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, wrote, “Purity of the heart is to will one thing.” We experience purity of our heart when we are fully present and have single-pointedness.
We nourish our being when we redefine who we think ourselves to be and move toward being who we truly are. The late, world leading mythologist, Joseph Campbell told us that in the religious lore of India there is:
…a formulation of five degrees of love through which a worshiper is
increased in the service and knowledge of his God…which is to say…
in the realization of his own journey…. his own identity with that being
of all beings who in the beginning said “I” and then realized, “I am all this world.”
What cannot be changed is our essence, our very core: this is what I have been, this is what I am, this is what I always will be. Thus, I am “all this world”. When we understand we are “all this world,” we are fully present. When we are fully present, we nurture ourselves.
Now, let’s take a look at the second half of this equation:
self-responsibility = self-creation = self-realization
His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama gave us the directive of the three R's: respect for self, respect for others, and responsibility for all our actions. When we take responsibility for our actions, we empower ourselves. We no longer wallow in self-pity or victimization, which is disempowering.
Feeling overly responsible is another way we starve ourselves of self-nurturance. It depletes our energy and negates the power of those we are overly responsible for. A friend, Michael, said this most eloquently when his heart was heavy until he realized why. A friend, John, had given Michael money when things got tough. For Michael, this was a welcome gift, or so he thought, until he realized that the gift of money meant that John didn’t think that Michael could do it on his own. Michael felt angry and ultimately resentful. Being overly responsible, John took away Michael’s power to provide for himself. When we’re over-responsible for others, we’re saying, “I know better than you. I can take care of you because you cannot take care of yourself.”
Being overly responsible means we are full of fear and by over-doing for others, we anesthetize ourselves to not feel the fear. Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien informs us of another culture’s way of dealing with fear. When a child of the Maasai people of Kenya and northern Tanzania becomes frightened, an adult gently reminds the child, “Go deeper. Get Bigger. Not smaller.” Fear makes us smaller. To expand, we need to go deeper, get bigger.
Instead of being overly responsible, go deeper inside and bring the expansiveness of love to the situation. In the ancient technology and revitalized science of healing, qigong provides us with a practice of expansion of the energetic body, mind, and spirit into the formless–the unlimited potential–and enables us to bring in healing energy to the form, that is, to the material manifestation.
Meditation teaches us to go inward to silence and to expand the consciousness outward. How we can find God if we go smaller? God is the unfathomable, the infinity, and the ineffable. We can only experience that that we become. In Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism, Judith Simmer-Brown writes, “Pay less attention to the problem and more to its antidote. Devote your attention, thoughts, feelings and actions to the service of that which you admire and adore. Then the difficult pattern will atrophy and disappear.” Expansion of the mind provides us with a broader perspective on the human experience and enhances truth, therefore the solutions of how to self-nurture are in us, waiting to be discovered.
Being overly responsible is one way we seek security, yet it is the most unsafe thing we can do. It places us above the Divine and doesn’t allow the Divine to work in our lives unimpeded. When we return to our heart and unconditionally love those that we think we need to save, we activate the inspiration to participate in the world in a joyful way.
Mary, a spiritual mystic, tells the story of when she was the head of one of the largest psychiatric wards in Hawaii. She was drained of energy, could barely sleep, and spent countless hours helping everyone who came through the doors. Exhausted, Mary sat down on the beach and cried. When the crying subsided, she began to meditate. In her meditation, a billowing white cloud appeared in the blue sky and out of the cloud came the Hand of God and handed her a note. It said, “You ain’t my Mrs.” How many times have we tried to be God only to exhaust ourselves and disempower those we are trying to help? The antidote for over-responsibility is laying the problem, the concern, the challenge, at God’s feet. When we truly release the responsibility of others and release the fear associated with it, we open the floodgates of energy to nurture ourselves in a sustainable way.
The Mother, co-founder of Auroville in India, wisely said, “Each time we try to realize something and meet with a resistance or an obstacle or even what seems to be a failure…we should know…that it is exclusively, absolutely, so that the realization may be more perfect.” Our perceived imperfections, our perceived failures, are merely gateways to remembering more of who we truly are: trustworthy, committed, loving, present beings.
True self-nurturance comes from the heart. When we love ourselves, we open our hearts and we become vulnerable. To the ego this brings up fear and the ego will resist, making it even harder to nurture ourselves, but persistence, commitment, and dedication to being in the present moment will allow self-nurturance to arrive gracefully and uphold us even in the most difficult times.
In these difficult, transitive times from the abyss of greed and self-loathing to a just and loving world, we need not abuse ourselves with negative self-talk, overworking, entertaining self-doubt or confusion. We are in a time of perfecting ourselves. We are retooling the lessons we’ve already learned. We are going deeper. Today’s lessons in the field of abundance are simply a time to let us hone our skills of self-nurturance at our very core.
 Jean Houston Foundation Social Artistry Conference, 2007. Ashland, Oregon. Angeles Arrien presented her work the Four-Fold Way program.
 The term “God” includes Great Spirit, Allah, the Tao, Universal Life Force, Infinite Wisdom, the Source, and so forth. In this essay, the interpretation is not limiting.