Sit down with yourself
Last year, as part of my work, I attended a meeting held for those who were caring for loved ones with dementia.
These people — husbands, wives, daughters, sons, friends — were tired and stressed. Many of them experienced loneliness, and most of them were disappointed with themselves. They wished they had more love, patience and resilience to deal with the daily tasks that weren’t getting any easier. Their lives were complicated and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
The facilitator gave them coffee, iced cupcakes and a sheet of paper titled:
Ten Commandments for Carers.
It produced laughter, and a few sighs as some thought it a list of even more hard things for them to have to do. However, the ten commands included points like: Thou shalt not spread thyself too thin; Thou shalt schedule time for thyself; Thou shalt switch off and do nothing regularly.
The tenth commandment was:
Thou shalt not be thine own worst enemy but be thy best friend.
How do you treat a friend? You invite them to spend time with you. When they arrive, you welcome them. You offer refreshments. And you sit down and listen to what they have to say while they sip your special brew of elderberry wine.
So, how can you be a friend to yourself? You do the same things. You invite yourself to spend time with you. You welcome yourself, offer yourself refreshment, then sit down and listen to what you have to say.
This tenth commandment isn’t telling carers to believe in themselves, pull themselves up by their own bootlaces, or to chant ‘I can do this!’ twenty times morning, noon and night while staring tiredly at themselves in the bathroom mirror.
It’s commanding them to settle into their body, feel comfortable there, and accept who and what they are. It’s advising them to be their best friend. To be-friend themselves.
This commandment is great for carers. And it’s great for all of us.
Living with mindfulness with yourself
Don’t fill your day with negative thoughts about yourself. Stop being your own worst enemy. Stop beating yourself up in your mind. Stop disliking yourself. Stop ignoring your needs.
When you sit quietly with yourself in a friendly way, start listening to what you’ve been trying to tell yourself for a long, long time.
In The Pocket Pema Chödrön, the Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön wrote:
Sitting here, being gentle with ourselves, we’re rediscovering something. It’s like a mother reuniting with her child; having been lost to each other for a long, long time, they reunite. Be gentle with yourself.
Right now you are here on this earth, in this body, experiencing a particular situation.
Draw close to this person. Be that person’s witness.
Witness yourself on this earth, in this body, in this time, experiencing this unique situation.
Give yourself the gift of being present with who you are at your deepest level.
Care for yourself, then you can care for others.
With love, Marlane
First published on Medium.com/Illumination