“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
My biggest learning in India enabled me to love myself and others more deeply. It changed my ability to serve others and strengthened my relationship with God. Every week I had a meeting with a member of Sari Bari (Sarah), she was my spiritual and emotional director. Initially I didn’t really know how to use the sessions and thought I didn’t need the help. But eventually I learnt, with her guidance that everyone needs help and time to nurture and grow through love.
“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly attach judgement to giving help.” Brene Brown, The Gift of Imperfection
She taught me about self love. What I now know to be the key to wholehearted living and to loving/serving with no boundaries. I now believe self love and self acceptance is not optional, they are priorities.
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and know…Love is not something we give or get; it is something we nurture and grow…” Brene Brown, The Gift of Imperfection
Recently I attended the away day with St Marys which focused on mindfulness and in some of the discussions it became apparent that people felt if they took time for themselves it was selfish and not living the humble Christian life. I used to feel the same, I would rarely take any time for myself and always put what others wanted to do or say first. But I was exhausted, I would burn out and get that dreaded Christmas bug or summer cold or Easter Virus (basically as soon as I stopped I crashed).
To me, self love means to take the time to put my soul into a good place, rest, be expressive and let my heart speak – Hopi Indians say “To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.” My first 4 months in India I lived as closely as I could to the women. I had little clothes, no beauty products, basic food and even rationed my shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste – I dealt with the guilt of wealth and possessions on a daily basis. I will never forget Sarah telling me, once I had decided to stay longer than 6 months, I needed to stop living how I was. I needed some luxuries and to have some “me time” in order to keep going to serve the women to the best of my ability. Don’t get me wrong, this was not an overnight lifestyle change. I had to change my thinking completely; I was in a tough environment which speeded up that process as I had no choice. It was either look after myself/ love myself or go home.
So every week I would set aside time (not having the distraction of TV, going out and the western mindset of work coming first helped a lot) to sit, read, paint, draw, pray, crafts or whatever I felt I needed to be emotionally present, happy and feel the most alive I ever have with those women. That time, be it 30 mins or 3 hours gave me the energy to serve with my whole heart, mind and soul as I knew God wanted me to. I found there is always enough time – we constantly make ourselves inadequate by looking at what we didn’t achieve that day, that week, that month which can lead to unfulfilment on many different levels.
However there is a balance that needs to be found, there is a danger with focusing on ourselves that we will become self centred, absorbed in our own needs and wants. I listened to the lent talk by Rev. Andrew Sweeney about the Liberal and Radical Streams of Christianity. He provided a reminder that our Origin is God, all self love should be done through Him, with Him so we may follow His path for us. We should rest through God in the knowledge he will provide and protect – see Psalm 121. Within the Bible there are several points in which Jesus or his disciples took rest after serving and teaching others, it was a chance for them to rejuvenate their souls with the Holy Spirit and find peace, just as I believe we should.
Mark 6:31 – Words of Jesus
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
Psalm 23 – He Restores our Soul
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Exodus 33:14 – Jesus is with us
And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Our faith is still human, just as Jesus was. He suffered with us but he also rested with us. I found taking the time to rest, doing things I enjoy, loving myself and practicing spirituality gave me a sense of perspective, meaning, and a purpose in my life.
For Lent I am denying myself of several things, however I have also set aside time on a Friday to practice self love so that I may go out and serve others wholeheartedly and be filled with Joy and Hope. I want to really live, not survive with a sense of unfulfillment.
“Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love” – Brene Brown, The Gift of Imperfection.
I leave you with the words of Mark Twain “Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth.”
Notes: The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown changed my life she recommended “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink and “Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul” by Dr Stuart Brown in The Gift of Imperfection.