What Does It Mean To ‘Keep Yourself’?
There’s an exercise I use with groups where I ask them to visualise a pleasant parenting moment. I encourage them to really see it and feel it in all its colour. Who was there, what was happening… actually come to think of it, I should do it with you right now. Ok here goes. Ready?
Take a moment now to remember a moment of really pleasant parenting.
Think about that experience. Who was there?
Where were you?
What was happening exactly?
Notice the colours, sounds and scents around you.
Really allow yourself to feel the goodness of that moment.
Notice where you feel the good feelings most strongly in your body.
Just enjoy this remembering.
Now I want to ask you, who is experiencing all this? Who is at the centre of this experience?
Yes, of course it’s you.
I’m often struck by people’s deep, surprised responses to this exercise. I think it’s because we are not often reminded to feel and experience things from the inside of us. We kinda forget that we live our life from the inside out. Because actually we DRIVE it from inside – it is the YOU that lives INSIDE who is experiencing everything that you experience. But we don’t often live INSIDE ourselves, engaging with the world from inside. Instead we tend to overlook ourselves, to respond to the outside more than the inside, to ‘give ourselves away’… And it’s a weird thing to do because actually this is YOUR life. You ARE living it from inside yourself. There’s no other way to do it. So why would you distract yourself from that?
That’s like being the driver of a car and pretending you are the passenger – all while you turn the wheel and press the pedals.
With kids around it’s so easy to lose myself. So busy and focused on dealing with all the external demands. I fed them but didn’t eat, I got them dressed but I’m still half-dressed, I hold my bladder because going to the toilet takes time and there’s just this one more thing to do first and I have to get us all ready to start our day. Those moments when I realise, “Actually I’ve needed the toilet for an hour now” tell me I wasn’t looking after myself. I wasn’t really aware, I wasn’t driving consciously.
So how do we even do this thing – how can you keep your self while in the midst of life, in the swirl of everyone’s demands? How do you hold onto living life from the inside and listening to yourself while the kids for example are fighting, or wanting food or your full attention?
It’s easy – and it’s not. See what you think.
You know how it is when you look after someone else’s child? On a play-date for example, you keep an eye on your own as usual but then keep reminding yourself to check in with the other child too? It’s like that. You need to keep reminding yourself that there’s another person to consider too. You are also a person. ”Ok they want to eat this – and what do I want? They want to do that – what do I feel about it? Let’s find a compromise.”
Keeping touch with your self is relevant all the time. It means living from within the experience that is your life AT ALL TIMES. That includes when you are with your kids, your partner, your work, eating, showering, exercising and even doing your spiritual practice.
It is through re-membering my self that I can find deep satisfaction in everything I do – parenting, praying, being in service, dancing, making love…
So check in with yourself at every moment. Consider yourself. Like you would that extra child you are caring for.
Like I said, it’s easy – and it’s not.