After the birth of my first child in 2012, I found myself, for the first time in my life, woefully under equipped to practice self-care. Recovering from an emergency caesarean while caring for a high-needs baby (you know, the ones, who just cry non-stop) left me utterly depleted. I began to experience crippling insomnia. Weathering the demands of grueling newborn feeding cycles plus the ‘unsettled’ nature of my baby, broke my brain. I became unable to get the sleep I so desperately craved to replenish my mental health and allow my body to heal from surgery/birth.
I was never formally diagnosed with post-natal depression and anxiety, but I can tell you now, those early months were grim. I tried everything I could think of to try to feel better but it wasn’t until I started practicing yoga nidra*, that I started seeing results and to this day yoga nidra is still the Queen of my self-care practice.
Having an intentional self-care practice is an invitation to cultivate intimacy with ourselves; here we deepen in to self-awareness and profound self-love. Moving in to greater intimacy with Self, means there will be times we walk alone, which is necessary to tune out the noise and clutter of the outside world and get more familiar with the needs and desires of the woman within. Who is she anyway? What makes her feel good? How does she need to be nourished?
But self-care doesn’t happen purely in isolation. I’m not suggesting for a moment that a newborn mother, or anyone for that matter should be solely responsible for their wellbeing. We need community care, practitioner support and loving stable relationships to sustain us and provide the kind of care we cannot give ourselves.
Community care reinforces, supports and inspires self-care because we experience ourselves within relationship; whether we are connecting or disconnecting, making ‘progress’ or back-sliding in to old habits, there are truths to be found, growth points abound and possibilities for new perspectives. Within the safe container of loving relationships and community, a radical self-care practice can truly blossom.
One of the most potent kinds of relationship I’ve stumbled upon during my years practicing self-care (apart from the sacred and dynamic relationship that is marriage) is my relationship with my Sisterhood. There is a particular flavour to a handful of these sacred relationships, they are conscious, vulnerable and through mutual respect a container is co-created in which to witness one another. This is something I feel I haven’t experienced in my life consistently, at least not in an intentional way, until these past couple of years.
Being in company with a Sister is powerful, she listens and sees me from a place that does not try to change, fix, judge, or give advice. She takes a seat as a guide from the side, listening deeply and by simply offering up her conscious presence it feels as if she has rolled out a canvas upon which I may unfold my self. What a GIFT!
To listen and witness one another in this way is RADICAL, because of our egos we all to often wait to talk, rush in and interrupt. It takes real respect, slowness, attentiveness and in my experience… practice, to relate to one another in this way.
In terms of a self-care practice, this is one thing we cannot do for ourselves; hold space. It gets tricky when we try to do it all on our own. We need a counter point to hold that safe, loving container for us through which to experience, process and even see some things. Only trusted witness can do this for us.
I now mother two young boys and over the past year especially, I’ve come to crave Sisterhood; sitting in circle with these women I see myself in them and feel their resonance with my truth. Even through all our points of difference, common threads are woven together. I know their sadness, their heart-ache, their exhaustion; I see myself in their power, their expansion in to purpose and their joy.
There is no substitute for these kinds of conscious relationships. No matter how disciplined and diligent we are at practicing self-care it can never replace the particular sweetness and fullness of being held in the care of another. Whether it’s holding space for a friend to experience themselves, providing bed-side support and nourishment to a sick family member, bringing food to a newborn mother or volunteering to support members of your community whose names you don’t even know, this kind of community care reinforces the belief that we are all in this together.
* Yoga Nidra is a powerful guided meditation technique, designed to allow the body to experience deep relaxation and rest. It is referred to as a ‘yogic sleep’ or ‘conscious sleep’ because the slow brain waves experienced in a yoga nidra are usually only accessed while we are unconscious. This has a profoundly restorative benefit on the body mind. Access a free yoga nidra meditation here.