Human beings are incredible creatures, capable of doing so much good.
Many folks spend their entire day giving to others—physical care, emotional support, intellectual ideas, and more—and they do it without a second thought.
BUT, we “two-leggeds” are not always great at taking care of our own needs. We frequently prioritize other people and projects over our own basic care, whether that is spiritual support and nourishment, or something more immediate and physical.
When it comes down to it, knowing how to listen to our body and spirit is an inner skill that is vital for living a healthy life.
A few years ago, during an ayahuasca ceremony in the High Andes, I had a subtle yet extremely transformative experience that conveyed this message to me in a powerful way. As it often happens when working with grandma ayahuasca, I was going through some painful emotions and feeling very uncomfortable.
The intensity got to a point where I began gasping for air as if I couldn’t
breathe, and I was about to overheat when a voice inside me said something mind-blowing:
“Take off your sweatshirt.”
I was wearing three layers of thick clothing and was too caught up in the experience to notice that my body had a basic need that wasn’t being tended to. Too caught up. This was a pattern I’d seen over and over in my life.
So often I was too caught up in the importance of some obligation, some interaction, some distraction, to take care of my own immediate needs.
What was at the root of this lack of attentiveness to my own self? Turns out that one of the silent underlying beliefs was that I was “tough” and didn’t need any coddling or softness from anyone. Unfortunately, it turned out that anyone included myself.
When you’re withholding love and care from yourself, you usually don’t know it.
I’m not talking about material things or frivolous expenditures. I’m talking about knowing when to take a nap, when to feed myself, even when I needed to stop what I was doing and go to the bathroom. It’s embarrassing to admit, but the realization and healing of this blindspot has been a big part of my spiritual growth.
For years, I was totally dialed in to what other people needed or thought of me, but completely deaf to what I needed for myself.
Part of my work has been to realize that I am my own best ally, and through honoring this alliance and the needs that underscore it, I can be more effective on my mission of service to others. When I respect, love, and care for me, I nurture a fearlessness in my mission to serve others.
But when I begin to neglect this alliance, that’s when internal mayhem and illusion begins.
Can you relate to this experience?
Check in with yourself to see. What are your immediate needs right now? I’m talking about needs that you yourself can fulfill, without the help of others.
Are your immediate needs being met by you in this moment?
I encourage you to ask yourself this throughout the day, and open yourself up to whatever the answer answer may be.
If we don’t love and honor ourselves, it’s very hard to do the same for others.