The Spirituality of Self Care
Self care is not all about bubble baths and vacations.
In fact, I do very little of either.
In observing the Horse as Teacher and within the practice of Yoga, I have come to embrace, not only the physical aspects, but also the spirituality of self care.
In Ayurveda, we have a concept of self care within daily rituals that change depending on the season or imbalances to personal constitution (dosha). This concept is called "Dinacharya":
Dinacharya (Sanskrit: दिनचर्या "daily-routine") is a concept in Ayurvedic medicine that looks at the cycles of nature and bases daily activities around these cycles. Ayurveda contends that routines help establish balance and that understanding daily cycles are useful for promoting health.
These daily routines include prayers, personal hygiene, mindful diet, yoga, meditation, and rest.
As I observe the Herd, I notice that there is an even higher level of self care that embodies a certain spirituality that is difficult to articulate in words.
These are non-predatory animals that live within a Herd, without access to bubble baths or shopping malls. They are in the moment. With each other. Having to be consistently aware of, not only themselves, but their Herd mates.
As humans, we like to believe that our stewardship to these incredible creatures warrants their "care", including our replacing what may have once been considered their "self care" before their domestication.
Perhaps on a physical level, that stands as correct, though there are ways in which we can increase their ability to make more of their own self care decisions even on a physical level (offering herb selections, choice of essential oils etc), but that is another in depth topic of its own.
“But the real secret to lifelong good health is actually the opposite: Let your body take care of you.” –Deepak Chopra
Horses have an innate ability to connect with the wisdom of their bodies, being intuitively guided to what they need at any given moment. This not only extends to their physical needs, but their higher needs as well.
Here are a few of my key observations in how they exercise this wisdom out in the field:
BOUNDARIES: The Horses live with each other 24/7 all year long. Rain, show or shine, there they are, with each other. When one of the Horses requires physical space, they will set a clear boundary to their Herd mate, sending the message that their body needs space in order for their mind to be present. This really resonates with me as I have worked with many clients whose lives are changed by simply learning this skill that is very natural but, for some reason, has largely been stripped from our culture. We seem to either build walls around ourselves so that relationships (if any) become extremely difficult or we have no boundaries at all so that we adopt the "doormat" mentality, aimlessly trying to please others without regard for what our own body, mind and spirit needs. The Horses show that boundaries are healthy and flexible. They can be changed with the situation, moment by moment.
BEING PRESENT FOR YOUR SELF: Having pointed out that the Horses live with each other all day, all year long, you can imagine that they would need some time alone now and then. Each Herd member takes this time to step out of the Herd dynamic and enter into a meditative state in their own presence. Who really knows that happens in this state, but it is often accompanied with a cocked leg, soft eye and energy of peaceful contentment. I have come to see this is a daily spiritual practice of sorts. One that can be compared to meditation or contemplation in the language of Yoga. Meditation can be defined as a practice of going beyond the mind and experiencing our authentic nature and pure consciousness. As anyone who has practiced meditation knows, the human mind can be difficult to quiet long enough to reach this place of higher awareness. Well, for the Horses, they don't have the mind-stuff (citta) to get in the way of their experience, therefore they are arriving for themselves entirely. For their human counterparts, meditation is referred to as a "practice" because it remains as such no matter if you have been meditating for a week or a decade. What is most important is that we show up. Just like the Horses do. Carve out the time to be present for our Self.
MUTUAL GROOMING: If you have ever witnessed two horses grooming one another, it is surely one of the most beautiful exchanges that can be felt in the heart of the observer. One can only imagine what is felt between the Horses engaged in the act of mutual grooming. When I see the Horses involved in this exchange it reflects back to me the heart connection I feel when I am serving others. I feel filled with light and pure love energy, no judgment or interference of the ego mind. When I am serving this way, I am fully present for another, thus truly present for myself. This is profound in my interpretation of the concept of self care. Often times when I see clients who are stumped by imbalance of the mind and body, in addition to therapeutic protocols, I will recommend volunteer work. Showing up and being fully present for a complete stranger is incredibly impactful in one's own healing and self discovery journey. While making a difference for someone else, we make a difference for our selves.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Mahatma Gandhi
NEGATIVE SELF TALK: Well, obviously the Horses don't sit around and judge themselves with nasty self talk, leaving themselves feeling tired and defeated. So that's it for this point. Let's learn from the Herd and allow the negative self talk to be drawn away with the exhale of the breath, as we arrive in the moment where we are one in mind, body and soul. There is no room for negative self talk here, only the breath and the beauty of the moment. Horses are incredible examples of this as the white horse takes a roll in the mud, reminding us to love ourselves how we are. The good, the bad and the ugly. It is all a part of our journey and embracing it all makes us shine with beauty from the inside out.
The spirituality of self care is surrounded by present moment awareness, thus building the bridge from head to heart, where we can truly care for our selves from the river of endless love.
The Horses continue to effortlessly teach us, by simply be-ing who they are. We are thankful to be able to observe them and share their teachings with you.
Tomorrow we are graced by the light of the Blue Moon, second of its kind in this calendar year, making for an auspicious evening of revelation and transformation. If you have said "once in a blue moon" around caring for yourself deeply in some way, it is timely to now come forth with deepening the spirituality of your self care.
Wishing you a happy Easter long weekend for those who are in honor of its celebration!
Fotini Chandrika and the Herd of Horse Teachers