Monday, March 18, 2019

Self Care: Self-Reflection for the Lenten/Early Spring Season

key words:  self-care, self-reflection, mindfulness, poetry, qi gong / nei gong, tai chi, finding your current calling, clearing physical clutter and Marie Kondo's books, journaling with James Pennabaker's books or journal prompts from Wayne Jonas, MD and the Samueli Institute, and a couple self-reflection prayerwork traditions

Self-Care:  Practicing Self-reflection

If you could use an opportunity to renew your self-care, whether it is your new year resolution or just the spring-cleaning vibe, the Lenten season is as good a time as any.  Lent is 40 days before Easter from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday.  It coincides with the turning of the season from late winter to spring. 
The Christian observance of Lent focuses on self-reflection and discerning your path to your best self—to discerning your path/your calling.  It is about clearing out the (internal) debris and clutter between you and God and turning your path back toward the Light.

You don’t have to be Christian for these timeless ideas to sound familiar.

So, in your self-care practice, pick what is true to you and your path.  This blogpost is only my ideas from my limited experience.  If some of this is helpful, great!  If it’s not for you, that is okay; just let it go.

Where Self-Reflection Fits Into Self-Care Habits
So, in self-care practice, you should have some element of self-reflection.  I discussed this briefly in an earlier blogpost about different categories of self-care to include movement, self-reflection/mindset/inspiration, nutrition/food, spending time outdoors, breathwork, and recreation/socializing and connecting to your community.

How to Start Your Self-Reflection Habit
As we move from winter to spring, take quiet time to be with your heart.  Quiet, heart-listening time.
What comes up for you?  Peace or restlessness?
If it is restlessness or discontent, can you identify where this is coming from?
The energy of spring is about forward movement and new growth.

Is there a change you need to make in your life?  In self-reflection, slowly work to discern, what this discontent or restlessness is connected to.
Is this leading you forward on your life path toward the best-version-of-yourself?  Or is something in your current life or your lifestyle that has you stuck in a rut or leading you to something you do not want to be?

What do you need to do to be closer to the best-version-of-yourself?  Journal about it.  Find mentors who can help you on your path.  Keep working on it.  5 minutes/day minimum is better than no time at all.
Identify (to yourself) the clutter you are clearing out to make space and peace in your heart and in your life.

There are so many ways this can manifest, as many ways as there are individuals.  And, as an individual, you may find one pattern of clearing/de-cluttering/cleaning that works best for you.  And you may notice you have familiar ruts you get stuck in.
You may need to change up how you do your clearing/de-cluttering/cleaning when you “best way” is no longer working as well as it used to.

Change is uncomfortable.  And, change is constant.
“Often when you’re at the edge of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” -Fred Rogers
Nobody else can live the life you live.  And even though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to live in a redeeming way.”       -Fred Rogers
“Our lives change when our habits change.” –Matthew Kelly

Self-reflection—discerning your current calling
Sister Joan Chittister, in her book Following the Path: the search for a life of passion, purpose, and joy, says an individual rarely has just one calling in life.  In fact, we are called to different things throughout our lives.  But we must practice self-reflection and discernment to hear those calls and recognize what they are.  And, have the courage to follow them.  Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a calling-within-a-calling. 

Steven Pressfield and Tim Grahl talk about “shadow
careers”.  That we are following what we feel is “best fit” and “right at the time” careers that help us develop the skills we need for our “true calling”.  But that everything eventually becomes a shadow of what your next calling is. 

Links to Stephen Pressfield’s books:

Concluding Message
We should be always listening to our hearts, discerning in our self-reflection practices, and taking stock of where we are in our path toward what we are called to be, the best-version-of-ourselves, and what that looks like, in that time and space.

Ideas and resources
If you are looking for ideas to renew or start your self-reflection practice, here are some resources to learn more about mindfulness, clearing physical clutter, journaling, tai chi and qi gong, prayerwork, and poetry.


Informed Mindfulness:  The Power of Awareness and Choice in Effective Leadership by Michael Aquilino, Bonnie Horrigan, and Adam Perlman

Related blogposts and websites

Clearing the Physical Clutter
Clearing the clutter.  For clearing out the physical space to help make room in your internal (mental, emotional, spiritual) space, I recommend the book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  She also has a follow up book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up 

Journaling, proven by James Pennebaker and colleagues (published in peer-reviewed scientific journals) to be useful in processing emotions and ideas in a healthy way.  Journaling helps process experiences to find clarity.  Journaling has proven health benefits.  

Tai Chi and Qi Gong
Work with your local certified instructor or NCCAOM board-certified acupuncturist.   

If you are also interested in a book about these practices for self-care, look up Dr. Roger Janke’s The Healer Within: Using Traditional Chinese Techniques to Release Your Body’s Own Medicine ,Movement, Massage, Meditation, Breathing 

Prayer work

  • Work with a spiritual director in your faith.  The oldest Christian monastic order, the Benedictines, have a tradition of outreach to community in spiritual direction from one-on-one sessions, group sessions, and retreats that are non-denominational or Catholic. 
    • For example, see the St. Placid Priority programs in Olympia, WA, at the Priory Spirituality Center 2019 programs include art (felting, enneagram), music-facilitated imagery for the soul, and seasonal programs (Lenten retreat). 
  • Or maybe other monastic traditions in your area may offer some form of spiritual direction.
  • If you enjoy mindfulness practices and quiet contemplation, you may be interested in learning centering prayer.  The old tradition of lectio divina that leads to the practice of centering prayer is both peaceful and healing but requires a mentor due to its complexity and depths.

Poetry and Poetry-Prose
Tao De Ching
(on the Reflective Reads post)

  • Ideas for inspiration at the Reflective Reads blogpost include the following authors: John Muir, Lao-Tzu, Mary Oliver, Benjamin Franklin, William Butler Yeats, and John O’Donohue

poetry is a useful vehicle for self-reflection

If this post on self-care was helpful to you, please support this work via our website and share with a friend.  Peace to you in your self-reflection practice.  

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