A Meditation on Loving Oneself, in Practice

(inspired by reflection on a post I made to FB a year ago)

I had an obvious revelation yesterday, but I saw it in a new way. I’m on Day 4 of a personal yoga practice, just 15 minutes in the morning. I have to do something like this daily because I have a lot of low back pain and stiffness due to tight hip flexors. I’m still in pain (it’s only Day 4) but the pain gets a little bit less each day, and I can bend a little bit more each day. I’m a notorious starter, so only time will tell whether my intentions hold over the long haul. But I’m diligently trying to learn how to be a person that maintains small, critical practices like these as I age and the body forgets how to forgive negligence.

So back to that revelation, yes. It was this:
Our society is not constructed to allow us to care for ourselves.

Duh, right? But I’m in a good, flexible job that makes reasonable demands of me. I live comfortably in my home, and I have time to see friends and family. And I still feel like I’m on a treadmill, as if the slightest misstep will cause me to tumble. I still feel like I have to run at full speed, all the time, toward “productivity”.

But that’s not real. That’s years of programming. That’s years of having value assigned to what I do, but none assigned to who I am. So I’m working on an ongoing effort to take the time I need, every day, to care for myself.

I started with foot lotion. Every day, I would take 15-30 seconds and apply a foot-specific lotion after my shower. On days that were stressful, I would have thoughts like, “You don’t have time to do this. You’ve got to get to work!”

Isn’t that ridiculous? I don’t have 30 seconds to put on foot lotion? But that exposed the lie in a way that a grander gesture could not. What kind of conscious and unconscious training led me to a place where I felt that it was so important for me to get to work that only the most basic grooming and care was warranted?

So now, at 44, pain is having its say, pain that has been caused by years of neglect or cutting corners in care. Pain says, “that’s enough. No further.” Pain slows us down until we do what’s right, or until we stop. I’m not, of course, speaking about people born with chronic pain issues, or who acquire them unavoidably along the course of their lives due to heredity or injury. I’m speaking of those of us who have good health that we neglect. For us, the neglectors, pain will keep having its say until we stop, listen, and heed.

So today, when I get up, I do two sun salutations, facing out the window of an empty bedroom in my house. I bend forward and stop where it begins to hurt, even if I don’t look anything like the model. Today, I can lift out of a forward bend to a standing position without bracing against my thighs, which I couldn’t do on Day 1. And then, when I’m done, I shower, and I put on foot lotion.

How are you loving yourselves today?

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