I was recently asked to define self-care. The first thoughts that came to me were the typical answers: a massage, a day totally off work, exercise, sleep. All good examples of self-care. However, as I went deeper, I realized that every time I am intentional about something, about ANYTHING, I am caring for myself. I am taking the time to act from my soul. The most arduous task done from the soul is an act of self-care. The most luxurious task done without soul is empty of care for the self.
When I take a minute to think about my response to a difficult situation instead of flying off the handle, I am allowing myself the luxury of a second more considered thought and giving the Holy Spirit a minute to work.
When I carefully prepare my menu for the week and thoughtfully shop, prepare and serve a meal, it is an act of caring for my body, prioritizing my health and my family’s as well.
When I drive with full attention, attending to other drivers, seeking to be courteous and not rushed, it calms my spirit, makes me more attuned to others and my surroundings.
When I take a minute before I buy something to think about whether I really need it and if this is the best use of my financial resources, I feel better about how I’m using the resources I’ve been given and I also have the opportunity to bless others with generosity.
When I start and end my day with moments of prayer and reflection, the intentionality often brings a different perspective to the agenda before me or to the events behind me and reminds me that grace is with me each step of the way.
Intentionality. It’s essential to a well-lived life. It’s essential to living in good spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health. It doesn’t take much longer and is probably more efficient in the end, but it can be the most difficult decision we make when our world and our minds are telling us to rush ahead.
The Psalmist was encouraging us toward intentionality where it’s said, “Teach us to count our days so that we may gain a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12) When self-care is seen in this light, it is in no way selfish. It can be a profoundly communal act as well. Intentionality leads us to wisdom and this world’s greatest need is people who are living wisely.
Mark Nepo (Book of Awakening) says, “It is no secret that slowness remembers and hurry forgets; that softness remembers and hardness forgets; that surrender remembers and fear forgets.” Slowness. Softness. Surrender. These are the marks of intentionality. They help us remember who we are and whose we are.
So, here’s my plan for 2014: to take those deep breaths, to say the quick prayer, to write the thank you note, to carve out time to stop completely – to be slower, softer, more surrendered to the God who is present in this moment.