Joy and Self-Care by Kerry Ingram
As the old song goes, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart.” That’s right, it is down in your heart, your core, your center. It has many different names; joy, bliss, passion, light, divine; and that joy is part of you and has been since before you were born. It remains there at all times for you to access, though some days it eludes us and perhaps even weeks may pass without unlocking the golden door to the light-filled room that houses our joy. When it is unlocked and that special place is nurtured and tended to, it becomes bigger and brighter, a source of ease and presence.
But for many of us, we might need to clear away the cobwebs and bring a lantern to get there…maybe even a road map. I have personally been working on my own road map to joy, and I have noticed a consistent route to get there: self-care. I’m not talking about facials and massages self-care, though that certainly may be a part of the picture. What I am speaking of is balanced nourishment: nurturing and caring for the four parts of each human being. What four parts? Our physical body, our energy body (a.k.a., etheric, chi, prana), our soul body (astral, sentient body) and our spirit body (our highest self). When these four parts are tended to regularly, your path to joy will look like a garden path lined with white coral bells.
Nurturing your Physical Body
Give yourself a moment and check in with your body. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Notice any places on your body that are holding tension or stress. Any aches and pains? How is your posture? Mentally take note of any places that may need some extra care, send those spots some loving thoughts and keep them in mind as you move through your day. Our physical body is our foundation in which the rest of our magnificence resides. Like all living things, it needs care and attention to grow and thrive. Are you drinking enough water? Are you eating regularly? What is the quality of the foods you are eating? What are the foods and drinks that enliven your body, and what are the foods and drink that leave you feeling depleted? When do you move? What kinds of movement energize you and nurture your body? Do you feel rested? Do you have a regular bedtime? What other ways do you connect with rest, relaxation and stillness? You deserve the best care in the world, and you have an opportunity every day to give it to yourself, as well as to model a healthy sense of well-being for your family. Drink plenty of water, choose to prepare the foods that leave you feeling nourished, move every day in a way that serves your body, rest, sleep, and sit quietly, even for a moment. Make a vow to yourself to care for your precious body, the only one you will have this life.
Nurturing your Energy Body
What our energy body needs for nourishment is rhythm. The rhythm of the year may be observed through the changing of seasons, celebrating holidays and festivals that reflect your family’s values and culture. It can be seen in the tasks that we take up in each season, such as chopping wood in fall to prepare for the cold winter or planting our vegetable seeds in springtime. We can also connect with the rhythm through our week and weekend life. Is there a special day for certain housework, a day for going to the market or a gathering with friends? Of course there is also the rhythm of each day, bookended by waking and sleeping. Do you have regular mealtimes? Times to be indoors and outdoors? If you feel like you need more consistent rhythm, try noticing one thing that you are doing each day and make that one thing special. When having a family meal each day, try setting the table beautifully, lighting a candle or offering a blessing on the meal. When you are ready, add one more piece to your daily rhythm that suits you. Cultivate a rhythm that feels balanced and serves the whole of the family.
Nurturing your Soul Body
One of my very favorite quotes is, ““Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman). Answering this question for yourself will tell you what feeds your soul. Another way that I describe “soul nourishment” is living the way of beauty. When was the last time you did something creative: dancing, painting, cooking just to play with flavors, arranging flowers, singing with friends, going to the theatre? There may not be enough time, you might say, but try to create mini-moments throughout your day for your soul food. Chatting at a park with some other parents? Ask them if someone has a song they love about spring and ask if she will teach it to you. When playing outside with your children, create a nature mandala together. Take a moment to enjoy your favorite drink in the middle of your day. Join your children with crayons at the kitchen table and let yourself enjoy the movement of colors. Whatever it is that makes your heart sing, please find time or mini-moments to connect with it. Let your children see you light up and enjoy something that makes you who you are.
Nurturing your Higher Self
Our Spirit life encompasses spirituality, relationships and nature (although I think nature can be in every category). Our highest Self resides in the dynamic connections at play in our spiritual life and in our relationships and can be felt with our senses in nature. If you have a spiritual practice, are you creating time for it? It could be meditation, church, a spiritual study group or simply sitting alone in silence. Making your spiritual practice a priority will provide the kind of food that will sustain you. Think about your relationships: with your partner, your children, and your family. Are they healthy? Perhaps not perfect, but healthy? We cannot change anyone else, but we can strive to be in our best self, particularly when a relationship is not an easy one. What qualities can you cultivate to strengthen your relationships? Our relationships need nourishment! If you are in partnership, create time to support the well-being of that commitment. Lastly, get outside! Spirit is found in nature, in a warm breeze, a robin’s tiny blue egg, a sprouting seedling, the muffled silence of walking beneath snow-flocked trees. Let your children be your guides to behold the pure wonder and magic of Mother Nature. Let it feed you deeply.
When we nourish our physical body, our energy, our soul and our higher self, the road to joy is clear. Through a practice of self-care, nourishing ourselves with what truly feed us, we are more present and choose to live with joy. We can choose to respond with levity rather than react with gravity and, in time, feel a healthy balance. I invite you to create a self-care plan. Print that lovely page and share your intentions, your vows. It might say, “I vow to nurture my body by…. I vow to support my energy by… I vow to feed my soul by… I vow to nourish my spirit by…” Post it on your refrigerator and let it be an example to your family of the importance of self-care. Share it on our Facebook page and see what others have vowed to do. Support one another. As for joy, you already have all you could ever need, down in your heart. By the way, you are worthy of self-care.
I leave you with a quote from the Wizard of Oz “You had the power all along.” ~Glinda the Good Witch