…is that life will sometimes just expand to fill it.
I decided not to go to South Africa because I knew I needed more space in my life. Every time I sat still long enough to really notice what was going on in my body last year I got the same message: I need more space.
So I moved back out to the beach, where I can walk out my door to an ocean that stretches away as far as I can see. I committed to a more regular practice of meditation and a simple yet spacious new pranayama (breathing) practice every morning. I dropped a few commitments, let my regular posting here lapse for a while and – hardest of all – cancelled my trip to South Africa.
And behold, there was more space in my life. More space in my body, in my breath, in my day.
Space to breath deeply
I found time for walks on the beach, and for starting my day with the practices that ground me. I made time for therapy, to work through the stuff that keeps coming up every time I dive back into my manuscript or let another layer peel away in my relationship. And just yesterday, despite many interruptions, I even finished the latest round of revisions of my manuscript.
Space to sell tacos
But life still feels very full. Because the space I’ve created is also allowing me to support the people in my life who need me. I can help my sweetheart get ready to open his Mexican restaurant by selling tacos at the City Markets, writing website copy and – best of all – testing menu options. I’ve been able to open my home to a friend and her one-year-old as they transition to a new chapter in their lives. I’ve hosted family visiting from overseas, and had time sit and listen to friends when loss and grief sideswipe them.
What this all reminds me of is a conversation I had with Tara Sophia Mohr about the symbiotic relationship between self-care and service.
Life is not quite like putting on an oxygen mask
Tara and I agreed that the oxygen mask rule (i.e. that you have to look after yourself first, before you help others) didn’t quite ring true to what we had both experienced in our lives. The problem is not with the emphasis on self-care, which we both endorse whole-heartedly but with the implicit sequence (first me, then others) built into this adage.
Because taking care of ourselves is part of taking care of others. I’ve said this before, but it’s so important that I’m going to say it again.
Giving generously to others is part of giving generously to ourselves.
We don’t do one first and then, when we’ve perfected it, move onto the other. Doing one allows us to open up to the other, and vice versa. We deepen into both at once.
Naturally, we each enter into this process of opening our hearts and deepening our compassion through different doors. Our karma, our personality and our family and culture all play a role in deciding whether we are first inclined to focus externally (on serving others, as I was) or internally (on developing and healing ourselves).
And as Tara so beautiful expressed it, sometimes helping another is the perfect door for us to enter into deeper compassion for ourselves.
So am I worried that all that lovely space I carved out for myself is filling up with time spent nurturing the people I love rather than lots of long, quiet stretches to start writing my next book? Not nearly as much as I might have been a year ago. Because I’m increasingly confident there is no difference between the two.
All steps are taken on the same path
“Once I began to more consciously consider every part of my daily life as contributing to my “most important” work, I began to see everything differently. … I recognized that taking good care of my family was the same thing as taking care of the world. … Everything is connected ~ all steps are taken on the same path.”