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self-care -> community care

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.
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There is nothing selfish about self-care. Self-care is a foundation of community-care and a form of community-care. By allowing space for our own healing and care, we support community’s healing and care. We all are interconnected.

What are some ways to find self-care practices that are supportive for you?

-Checking in. Noticing how you are right now. How’s your body, your heart, your mind?

-Allowing space for the feelings, the sensations, and states that are present in the body, heart, and mind.

-Noticing if the feelings, sensations, and states feel familiar to you. Have you felt this way before? When have you felt this way before?

-If you have felt this way before, what have you done in the past that has been supportive and what have you done that hasn’t been supportive?

-What can you do right now to support feeling taken care of and nourished?

Engaging in this type of mindful reflection practice can allow space for you to honor your current state and offer yourself care that will support your current needs. This is a way of offering the care that the body, the heart, the mind, the spirit is asking for and will most benefit from rather than allowing an external source to guide your own care.

Be aware of when judgment takes space in this reflection process or in your self-care activities too and see if there’s space to relinquish that judgment and allow care to take whatever form feels most resonant in the current moment. Care can take many forms. Resting is care too.

In case challenging or difficult emotions arise during this process, it may be helpful to engage in a self-compassion practice if that feels of support. Here are phrases that resonate with me from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh:

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Self-care can take a lot of forms ie. being outdoors, exercise, stillness, music, creativity, connecting with loved ones, cooking, comedies, resting a palm on your belly and chest noticing your breath, etc. Find works best for you in each moment.

When you take care, you support the care of others as well. That care radiates out and a collective care begins to form. Thank you for all the ways you’ve taken care of you, of us.

—lissa

 

 

 

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heart-centered living

Please check out this regularly updated post on Coping with The Impact of Covid-19 if you are in need of support.

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13th-century poet Rumi wrote: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

What if instead of finding all the barriers we have built against love though, we find all the barriers that we have built against becoming love and let them go?

When I think of a world where everyone engages in a practice like that, I imagine a world where everyone embodies kindness, generosity, and compassion and genuinely cares about the well-being and happiness of all beings. 

In Buddhism, mind-heart qualities like loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy for the happiness of others, and equanimity are called divine abodes or the four immeasurables which are said to be the only mind states that arise once one becomes liberated.

I imagine Buddhist masters the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh as beings who emanate the divine abodes.  The Dalai Lama describes his practice as a peaceful path of kindness, love, compassion, and not harming others that has become a part of him.

Quotes from the Dalai Lama on these qualities include:

“The basic fact is that humanity survives through kindness, love, and compassion. That human beings can develop these qualities is their real blessing.”

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.”

“A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you.”

“Love is the absence of judgment.”

“The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.”

“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” 

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Supportive phrases and prayers we can offer ourselves from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Four mantras:
“1. Darling, I am here for you.
2. I know you are there, and I am very happy.
3. Darling, I know you suffer.
4. Darling, I suffer. Please help.”

Nine prayers:

~May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
~May I be free from injury. May I live in safety.
~May I be free from disturbance, fear, and anxiety.
~May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and of love.
~May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
~May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
~May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
~May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
~May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

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Certainly a heart-centered way of living has its risks and can be the polar opposite of the way many of us are raised to engage in the world and yet the opposite of it isn’t safe either. My upbringing prepared me to be in full body armor at all times and I wasn’t safe. I wasn’t protected. I was just hiding, not truly living life. Over the years of practice though it seems like that armor has slowly dissolved on its own.

Along with being with practices such as the divine abodes so frequently that they become a part of our nature, heart-centered living entails a radical self-love and care. That kind of care is expressed beautifully in these pieces by poets Khalil Gibran and Nayyirah Waheed:

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What does radical self-love and care look like for you?

For me, I feed all of my wounded parts jam and stroke their hair, deeply listening and nourishing them, and loving them as I love all the parts within me. I work with the resistances I have built to protect myself from getting hurt that have in actuality kept me from love. I relinquish my baggage, my stories, my dwellings on the past and projections of the future. I love myself in my entirety in a world set up for me not even to love the smallest aspects of myself. With a love like that emanating through my day, what could I have to fear?

 

—lissa

 

(This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on lissabliss.com)
above photo by ilsebatten
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radical self-love

I am here with you.  I am here with youI say to myself in a gentle lullaby. I will keep you safe.

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I adore this poem by Ijeoma Umebinyuo. It says so much about radical self-love and its tenderness. “I bathe her, I play her some jazz, I feed her, I weep for her,” she writes about what she does for her lover, herself, on the days when she fears she cannot comprehend her light.

I also appreciate the way she describes that type of love as being in love. It isn’t often that I see self-love framed in that way. Yes to radical-in-love-with-self-love!

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The first of many radical-in-love-with-self letters to myself:

Dear L,

What are you believing about the world, about yourself? What are you taking in and internalizing that’s isn’t yours? What is keeping you from seeing your worth, your shine?
I vow to nourish and care for you every day. To help you remember your wholeness and value. To love you radically.  The parts that don’t know their worth. The parts that don’t believe in love. The parts in full protective gear to protect themselves from the world and also in part from me.

I vow to love you without end, a love that hums a glow into all the places that have lost their ability to shine. I love you. I am here with you.  I am here with you.  And I’m not going anywhereI say to myself in a gentle lullaby. I will always be here with you, my love.

—lissa

 

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Being with Grief

everything’s going to be okay, I tell myself. this will pass.

I find so much peace in those simple words during challenging times. this will pass.

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Grief has been increasingly present for me. A collective grief for all the beings who it feels like are gone too soon, for the state of the world, the conditions of the earth, institutional racism and all the other -isms that just repeat seemingly without end.

Grief used to scare me. The way it inhabits. It feels like water — giant waves overwhelming my heart, my body, my spirit that cannot be ignored, have to be felt, and have to be expressed. Its water-like state transforming from ebbing and flowing waves into varying forms of floods and erosion when ignored and into a soft intermittent stream when heard, acknowledged, and held.

I hardly notice grief when it arises and passes like the soft stream. When it starts to linger with the large waves that may flood though, there can often be a worry about what if it never leaves and I fall into a permanent state of grieving. There can definitely be an underlying wanting to get rid of grief and a wonder of what it would mean to never have grief again.

Is it even possible to never grieve and to have a full experience of life? With the reciprocal nature of grief and love, grief and joy — can one exist without the other when life is so precious, so impermanent?

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photo by llbolek

Deeply nourishing practices I find helpful for being with grief:

-Comforting and releasing grief through my cycle of breath, knowing that although I may feel grief that I am not grief. Breathing in, I am aware of my breath flowing in. I follow its journey through my body and feel its life and energy. I can feel my breath encounter grief as I breathe in. I shine light into the grief with my breath: touching grief with my inhale, releasing it with my exhale.

– Self-soothing with my hand at my chest, belly, or another part of my body that resonates as a reminder that I am not alone and I will always be there for myself no matter what.

-Engaging in rituals and celebrations that honor what has been lost starting with a land acknowledgment to remember the indigenous people who stewarded the land and to name all the loss and traumas taken in and healed within the land.

-Seeking support from nature. I find certain lands particularly supportive for being with grief where I can lay down all that I am carrying even for a moment and allow myself to be held by the land, to rest my body against a tree trunk, to be fully present for the way the tall grass at this particular hillside I often frequent effortlessly dances with the wind.

– Being active. Yoga, qigong, dancing, going for a walk/run, etc.

– Cooking and eating balanced, supportive meals.

– Engaging in activities that draw a deep belly laugh. I invite my favorite books and comedies to help with this.

– Communal grieving. Being around loving, welcoming people. I allow myself alone time and it’s really important to be around others as well to avoid getting too caught up in my experience. And if there isn’t anyone in your circle for you to be with in this way, please consider utilizing one of these resources from the Grief Resource Network.

– Journaling. Writing. Singing. Humming. Being creative and allowing for expression and release.

– Accepting each moment for what it is and bringing a gentle curiosity to each moment. I have started to realize the incredible peace and freedom in befriending each moment  — not just the ones that take my breath away with their joy but the more difficult moments that arise where I feel lonely or overwhelmed. Adding a layer of compassion and acceptance to challenging feelings and experiences can make them so much easier to navigate through.

-Remembering that everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. It’s really important for each person to find what works for them and to become aware of when they try to compare themselves to others or rush themselves through the grieving process.

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Writing a piece like this helps tremendously. It helps dissipate the grief, helps me to feel less isolated and more connected by sharing my experiences with others rather than keeping them a secret. We don’t have to grieve in secret. We can create space for us to grief together, allowing our collective grief and love to be held by each other.

—lissa