I was recently asked to give a talk on self-care for The Women’s March on Colorado Summit in Denver, CO. Here is the text of my talk.
I’m here to talk with you about how you are feeling and coping with the stress of the times we are living in and hopefully give you a few strategies for managing things better.
Let me start by giving you an overview of what I have seen as a psychotherapist and life coach in private practice for the past 15 years. I would have to say that in the past year or so I have seen the highest levels of stress, confusion, and fear in my clients than I’ve ever seen before.
My clients are talking more about what is going on in our country and our world in their sessions than they used to. I see a sense of disbelief, outrage, despair and grief over what is happening to our country, increasing anxiety about what will happen next, and how this will all ultimately turn out.
I think we all feel fear and a deep concern around not knowing what to do to make things better. Needless to say, stress levels are at an all time high and we are all searching for ways to make sense of it, cope, and feel better.
It’s pretty clear that the way things are being dealt with by the powers that be is not working very well.There must be a better way to approach our situation and create the changes we want and so desperately need.
I often think of the quote by Albert Einstein in which he said, “ You cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it.” It is also sometimes translated as, “ You cannot solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them.”
I think we can say that on a very basic level our problems are being perpetuated by unhealthy, toxic attitudes, behaviors and thinking. We see outright lying, manipulation, character assassination, blaming, name calling, threats, fear mongering, and illegal behaviors… The list goes on and on. I’m sure most of us would agree that if this level of consciousness or thinking continues we are in for a no-win situation at best, and possible annihilation at worst.
Who’s going to change this?
The good news and bad news is it is basically up to us to be the ones to change this. We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Many of our elected officials don’t appear to be getting the job done. And if we join them in the level of consciousness or thinking that they have been demonstrating, we just lower ourselves to a very toxic game of attack and counter attack with no one really listening to each other.
In 2009, the Dali Lama said, “The world will be saved by the western woman.” This sounded great at the time. Now in 2017, we are being called to do this like never before.
I want to read you an inspiring quote by the Hopi elders. It was written in the year 2000 and considered a prophecy at the time. Many of you have probably heard this before, but I think it applies here.
You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered…
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for your leader.
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said,
“This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ’struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. (end of quote)
—Hopi Elders’ Prophecy, June 8, 2000
You may be wondering what this has to do with self care. Well, if we are the ones we’ve been waiting for—the ones to help change and fix this situation— we have to bring nothing less than our best selves to the table.
It’s our time to step up and change the course we are on. You all know it or you wouldn’t be here. But I think we also know we have to do this in a different way and a better way than what we are currently experiencing. A new level of thinking and a higher level of consciousness must emerge or we may be doomed.
Why did the Dali Lama say the western woman would save the world? I don’t know if he has expounded on this, but I am going to give my interpretation.
I believe he was alluding to the idea that the patriarchal structures based on predominantly masculine energy and values has not worked well. Please understand I am not blaming this on men. All of us embody masculine and feminine energy and values.
In our culture, masculine energy and traits have predominated and we have lost a balance between the masculine and the feminine. I believe the Dali Lama was implying that we need to bring this balance back. We need to reclaim the feminine energy and values that have gotten lost and that this will mostly be done by women—although the enlightened men that are here today will thankfully help us do this.
By feminine qualities and values I mean such things as….compassion, connection, collaboration, community, inclusivity, insight, receptivity, harmony, healing, beauty, creativity, forgiveness, non-judgment, nurturance, balance, renewal, yielding, vulnerability and pleasure.
This is in contrast to masculine qualities and values such as…reason, logic, strength, action, acquisition, protection, accomplishment, competition, goal-oriented, outer-focused, determined, reliable, capable, stable, practical, consistent, disciplined and orderly.
Both the masculine and feminine are needed and together they make a united whole. One is not better than another.
But as a culture, we have largely disowned the feminine and created a toxic environment as a result. In the ancient Chinese divination text, the I Ching, they say, every crisis is an opportunity. We now face an opportunity to reclaim these lost parts of ourselves and heal the country at the same time.
This ties into self-care as many of the ways we can care for ourselves, —-and desperately need to care for ourselves—, are ways that honor and reclaim our feminine energy. This goes for men, too. Remember we all carry feminine and masculine energy.
How do we reclaim our feminine energy? One way we do this is by taking deep care of ourselves and taking responsibility for our own healing.
I have created a handout with 10 self care strategies, (see previous post), to help us balance our energy and deal more effectively with the collective stress.
The first step I have listed here is that we need to feel our pain. Each of us needs to heal our own disappointments, wounds and broken hearts so we don’t carry those unresolved feelings into the mix and simply project our pain onto others. When we do that, we unconsciously act as if all the pain is out there, and if only something out there would change, everything would be better, and we would then feel ok.
This is very short-sighted and a form of denial that keeps us from taking self-responsibility for our own lives. If we start at home in looking at our own lives, at how we are showing up in our families, our relationships and our work environments, and straighten things out there first, we are able to bring a more authentic self to the table.
As we become more healed and peaceful in our own individual lives, we are more able to elevate our thinking to a place that can access higher level solutions to these seemingly impossible problems we are facing.
This is why self-care is so important.
I think sometimes many of us think self care is trivial and we don’t have time for that. The world is falling apart, I don’t have time to meditate or take a walk in nature so I can actually feel my feelings. My clients often say to me, but I feel I’m being selfish if I take care of myself.
However, let’s look at what happens if we don’t take care of ourselves. Tensions run high, we attack each other on social media, ruin friendships, eat poorly, gain 10 pounds, become depressed, anxious, addicted to the news and to our devices, develop insomnia, get on anti-depressants…the list goes on and on. Any of this sound familiar?
Then we bring this stressed out self to the political realm and want to help turn things around. It’s simply going to create more of the same.
So #1, you need to feel your pain and do something about it.
#2, Be vulnerable and talk about it with at least one other person. If you don’t have a safe friend or family member to talk with, find a counselor, a therapist, a coach, or a spiritual mentor. You cannot heal what you do not feel. It becomes suppressed pain, festers and erupts in unexpected ways.
#3  Can be combined. It’s important to seek balance and have healthy boundaries. We live in a culture of over stimulation and busyness as if being “so busy” gives us a sense of value and importance. This leads to disconnection and burnout. You are valuable for being you, not for what you do. Trying to solve problems from a place of burnout will not lead to high level solutions.
5. Practice non-judgment for self and others. There’s a lot of toxic judgment and mud slinging going on out there. Judgment will not lead to the elevated thinking that we need in order to find more enlightened solutions. Watch the stories you are creating in your own mind about any given situation. Our stories are often created from fear and are frequently wrong. Let go of your judgment as much as possible. Refer to the work of Byron Katie for more help in how to do this.
6. Practice compassion for self and others. This goes hand-in-hand with letting go of judgment. Try to walk in the other person’s shoes. We do not know the pain another person is carrying and how this is affecting them. See if you can shift into your heart and feel compassion for both yourself and others when difficult emotions arise. This takes practice, but it is also one of the most effective and transformative practices you can do to create peace of mind.
7. Create community—We live in a society of isolation, disconnection and loneliness. 40% of the population reports being lonely. Loneliness increases your risk of dying by 45%. Human beings are by nature collaborative and communal. Make time for connection and friendship.
8. Express gratitude. The energy that we put out tends to come back to us. Be thankful for all that you do have and for all that is going well in your life. It will enhance your sense of peace and well-being. Enlightened solutions come from a peaceful mind.
9. Seek solitude. We live in a world full of noise and constant stimulation. Without peace and quiet you cannot hear your inner voice and find your own center. It is from this connection with yourself that elevated solutions will arise. Sit in silence, meditate, walk in nature. Spend some time alone to regroup and recharge.
10. Connect with what brings you pleasure. Without pleasure we become parched, dry, brittle and depleted. Enjoy the simple things in life. Slow down and play with your kids, your pets, take a bath, cook a good meal, read a book, find your joy. You need to refill your own tank in order to be effective.
I want to end on a positive note by reading this little zen buddhist story:
There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
The obvious point here is that we never really know whether any given event is ultimately good or bad, fortunate or unfortunate. We tend to be quick to judge based on an immediate assessment with no real way to know the long term outcome. We must remain optimistic.
Let’s rise to the occasion and make the Dali Lama proud as we do our best to right this situation. Let’s hope and pray that the seeming chaos and craziness that we are living in right now will lead to a better future that we can’t quite envision at the moment.
And let’s make sure we take care of ourselves and each other in the process. We need to become the best versions of ourselves so we can raise to the level of consciousness that is needed to heal this situation from the inside out.