So I went for a spa day last Wednesday, a belated birthday gift from my Uncle and had an unexpected discovery.
I noticed that I packed my bag almost clandestinely, before Kevin was up and then stashed it on the bench near the side door by my office as if I should hide my spa adventure because…
Because I’m undeserving, it’s too indulgent, even selfish?
I watched the guilt in me build as I saw where the day was headed for the girls in my absence….long hours in front of the TV, random snack/mealtimes, and a long car ride.
And I realized something important.
There’s a profound difference between merely engaging in acts of physical self-care, and wholeheartedly loving yourself in the process. Doing it unapologetically. Soaking in every luscious part of it with all of your senses, knowing you deserve all of it and more. In other words, taking it to the next level--emotional self-care.
I consider myself to be pretty good with self-care. I wake up earlier than the kids (most days) to meditate, journal, bike/yoga and do my morning prayer and water blessing rituals. Of course, this routine gets sidelined occasionally, depending on when the kids wake up. But I always try to do something, at least ONE thing, every morning to nourish myself.
What became crystal clear to me during my spa day was that even though I am a master at cheerleading moms to make self-care a part of their routine, I was still battling a tremendous amount of guilt around my own self-care. That's how insidious this notion is that our value is derived by our ability to give care. So there is tremendous guilt that comes in the form of an inner critic, who upon seeing us indulging in something pleasurable, says we should be doing something for someone else and literally robs us of our full experience.
You see, when there is a layer of guilt in your self-care cake—whether it's a deep layer, a thin or thick layer, or just sprinkled as little adornments on top—it creates within us a level of resistance to whatever do-good act we are engaged in, and we are not able to receive the fullness of its blessings.
Later, as I lay naked on the warm bed whose curves followed and supported my body, preparing to receive my 50-minute facial, I found my head spinning, coming up with a list of all the reasons I deserved this moment….
“I am the director of this family. I create the learning environments, I look for activities to stimulate my girls, I set up the doctors appointments and camps and do all the required applications for school, insurance, passports. I do all the grocery shopping, 80% of the bedtime routines, 70% of the childcare, 70% of the meal planning and preparation, 90% of the laundry washing and folding...”
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Then I thought to myself, why do I even need to create this list?
Even if I didn’t do any of these things, I have carried, birthed, and breastfed my children. And even if I did not do that, I am human and worthy of receiving deep love, nourishment, and care.
I am worthy of well-being. I am worthy of happiness. Not only am I worthy, but my well-being and happiness have the capacity to ripple outwards to my family, amplifying exponentially through them.
Likewise, If I’m down, depressed, resentful, or angry that also translates to them, which brings another layer of guilt.
Her hands touched my face with so much care and kindness that I let that layer go too. I realized all this thinking about the guilt was keeping me from receiving completely what was being offered to me. From that moment forward I received every stroke of her massage, every luscious cream she rubbed into my face, as a magical elixir of nourishment for my tired spirit.
When the facial was over I felt a calmness and peace within my body and spirit, a kind of soft heaviness that comes from surrender.
Time seemed to have slowed down and I settled into the present moment. I was handed a glass of champagne and invited to the relaxation room.
I decided first to make a detour to the steam room, where I sat naked on a white towel and watched the room fill with steam and white light.
Coughing at first, my breath slowly deepened and I began to chant chakra sounds, focusing on my womb. Allowing the heat and moisture to penetrate and fill me with Qi, life energy.
The nidra meditation was the most profound of all. During this guided practice I became completely still, moving into listening and receptivity. The tone and cadence of her voice were like silk—soft, gentle, and soothing, her words imbued with compassion, wisdom, acceptance, understanding.
She invited me to remember my Self. And I realize that my forgetting, though a natural part of the human experience, is at the core of my journey with depression. I have gotten lost in all the stories of who I am—my various identities, roles, talents, likes, dislikes, fears, challenges, etc.
When I remember my Essence, I can then witness my thoughts, feelings, actions—without judging them, or denying them, or trying to fix them. Simply noticing but keeping some awareness on the witnessing, I am able to create a container around all the struggle, the depression, the anxiety, the so-called bad feelings.
I can hold them while I also hold joy, love, beauty, strength. Because that’s what life is-- all of it. The ups, the downs, the struggles, and triumphs. It's not about continually being happy, or blissful, sad, or angry. It’s about being it all and knowing you are none of it.
So those are my deep thoughts from the spa. By letting go of the guilt I was able to reclaim my radiance. And I invite you not only to do something kind for yourself but to notice how you are doing it and see if you can push the edge of how much pleasure or nourishment you are willing to allow in.
Notice if you are carrying just a tiny bit of guilt, or a big, heaping dose of it as you do your self-care. And then gently and lovingly see if you can let that go. You may be surprised at what you discover…