My path of self-mastery began consciously when I became a Tai Chi student and now it is teaching me about self-care. It was in recognizing the intricate process of moving through the slow-moving meditation form that I started to understand the way we are capable of bringing all our small and large decisions under our conscious control. Practicing in a disciplined way moving my body, relaxing muscles, relaxing internally, noticing where the majority of my weight was, leading with the wrist as I moved my arms, sinking my breath deeply into my body as I breathed, remaining focused on what I was choosing, bringing my mind back if it wandered from the process, these were just some of the many facets of learning to master the Tai Chi form.
Lately I have felt quite strong in many ways. Perhaps I am noticing my process of self-mastery in a new way. I have become aware of any thoughts that seem to be in resistance to precisely what I am doing in the moment. Finding myself in the throes of connecting with my family of origin regularly, wanting to be supportive and help my parents through a time of crisis, I am willingly offering vast amounts of my daily energy to the process. During the past week when I became greatly fatigued, my energy waning, I found myself wishing I was home in the solitude of my weekday life, going at my own pace, writing, reflecting frequently. Recognizing the resistance to being fully in the moment, I would regroup, remind myself of my purpose and look for a space to rest, if only for a few moments. As the time of service there headed to its end, I found my energy rebounding with the anticipation of my return home.
Home, now resting my body and emotions, I am reflecting on the experience. And mostly what surfaces is, who is taking care of me? Who is making sure I get rested, who is asking what I might like for a meal; who is urging me to sit and do nothing, or whatever I want so that I might regain my strength and be prepared to do it again in a week’s time? Who is looking at my face, into my eyes to see how fatigued I am, to really see me and what I have been doing and the resulting effects it is having on my body, my spirit? Who is concerned about my health and how it is holding up in all of this?
Gratefully, I can acknowledge that I have people in my life that are doing some of these things. But most importantly, I am doing these things for me now. I can remember times in my life when I would go into auto-pilot mode, care-taking and doing the next thing that needed getting-done, the next and then the next without a thought about how I was holding up. Fortunately, I had enormous stores of energy and could do this. But that is not the case any longer, and so in my desire to serve others, I am learning how to monitor myself and factor in what I need as well. And what I realize is that this is an important form of self-mastery, much to my surprise.
I spent such a large portion of my life automatically rising to the occasion, being responsible, you know, doing the “helpful” thing. There were many reasons for my behavior, some with healthy intentions, some not so much. But because I was doing the “good” thing, I was praised and admired and was seen as a “good” person for the “do-gooding”. But amidst those choices, the unconscious ones when I automatically just did “the good thing”, I also felt some resentment at times. I might feel angry that others were not rising to the occasion too, or I would want someone else to care the way I did and not see those individuals around me. My anger wouldn’t be expressed and so it went underground, turning to resentment, not necessarily directed anywhere, just poisoning me internally.
So today, as I notice my fatigue and my choices to be of service, I also notice my feelings. And now I make sure I see myself moment to moment and know what I need and how to treat myself. I consciously choose where to give my energy and make sure I don’t cross a line of giving too much without recharging in some way. Listening carefully to my voice for the anger, the resentment that can creep in if I have expectations of others and they don’t meet them. Self-care is about asking for help when I need it, letting others be kind to me, and taking the time I need for myself in the ways that I know will rejuvenate me. And in doing this well, I find I feel in balance, even in my fatigue. This is a new sense of self-mastery.