As we move toward the end of the school year, the need for intentional and radical self-care becomes even more critical as our professional obligations and responsibilities increase and the calendar opportunities for fun and downtime dwindle.
But that’s why I’m here: to remind you to take care of YOU.
Recently, I saw the meme pictured above* on Facebook and I thought it was an idea that my fellow Zen Teachers should hear about and learn to embrace. So I want to spend some time here sharing why I think you should have a date with yourself just as soon as you can manage it. A recent edition of Brainpickings.com, discusses psychoanalyst Adam Phillips’ idea of “fertile solitude” and Brainpickings.com says it is “absolutely essential not only for our creativity but for the basic fabric of our happiness — without time and space unburdened from external input and social strain, we’d be unable to fully inhabit our interior life. . .”
All true. Plus, it’s fun.
So if you take the leap and make a date with yourself, here are 6 suggestions about how to have an awesome time taking care of yourself and discovering the beauty of “fertile solitude.”:
1. Clear your schedule and turn off your phone. First of all, no one is going to give you time for
a date with yourself, so you’ll have to schedule it yourself. Be brave enough and strong enough
to lift the pen to your kitchen calendar and mark it in. Then, at the appointed time, leave your ball and chain (read: cell phone, Blackberry–are they even a thing anymore?–, iPad, or other personal device
turned off and shoved in a drawer). Recently, writer Elizabeth Gilbert posted on her Facebook
page that she was going to do a “digital sabbath,” and spend the weekend unplugged, and I thought this was a marvelous idea.
2. Take a bath or shower and think only about great it feels. Bubble bath? Essential oils? Foo-
foo lotion on your skin.? All of it can be such an amazingly mindful experience, for both women AND men.
Being mindful during a bath or shower can be incredibly invigorating and rejuvenating. In fact, I wrote an
entire chapter for The Zen Teacher about the sensuality of a mindful shower, but wiser minds prevailed
and I was asked to cut it so that the publisher didn’t get slapped with an NC-17 rating. Nevertheless,
consider being mindfully present and luxuriating during your next bath or shower and you’ll definitely
understand the benefits of this approach.
3. Change into your coziest pajamas. It took most of my life before I realized that I don’t have to
tolerate clothes that are not comfortable. I’ve had itchy shirts, baggy pants, saggy socks, and
pinchy shoes. No more. Now I wear loafers most everywhere I go because they’re like slippers,
blue jeans are like a second skin to me, and I slip into my pajamas whenever I can, and having
a date with oneself is the perfect time to wear comfortable clothes. In truth, I’m probably only a
half-step away from pants with elastic waistbands and sandals with black socks, but who cares?
4. Cook up your very favorite treat. If you read this blog regularly, it’s no secret that my favorite treat is hot, buttered popcorn in a big bowl, usually accompanied by a rom-com or documentary on Netflix or some Joe Cocker from my Classic Rock playlist on my phone or boombox. But for you, of course, it can be anything: Rice Krispie treats, cupcakes, oatmeal raisin cookies, a lemon meringue pie, or raspberry turnovers. The key is return over and over again to your favorites. Your date with yourself should pamper all of your senses, including your culinary ones.
5. Make a list of what you love about yourself, and what you’d love to achieve. Some of us do
the second part, but almost NONE of us do the first part. Your date with yourself is a time to
celebrate YOU. If you were on a date with a significant other and wanted to score some points,
you would almost certainly spend some of that time signing his or her praises. No different here.
Extend that kindness to your current date (that’s YOU!) and show that date some sugar.
6. Celebrate the things you already are, and make the plans to turn the rest into reality. Wow, TWO suggestions to honor and compliment ourselves. I’m sure you’re all like, “Slow
down, Turbo!”, but we do it so infrequently that perhaps we NEED two nudges to really make it happen.
Being alone and celebrating ourselves are often two things that couldn’t be LESS accepted in our
society. So if you put them together, you’ll probably get a front row, window seat on the Weirdo Train.
So what? Do it, anyway.
Use these suggestions as is or modify them to your own needs and rhythms. How you approach your date is up to you. But one thing I want you to understand is that you are an awesome person. So as this school year winds to a close, don’t forget that you deserve to take some time for you.
No one is suggesting that you be lazy, irresponsible, or self-indulgent. We just want to see you take care of yourself so you have the passion and energy to continue your best work. We also want to see you recognize your own worth and the worth of spending some quality time with yourself so you can continue to give more to the others who are special to you. TZT
ZEN TEACHER ACTION STEP:
I challenge you to do exactly what #5 suggests. Make a list of ten things you love about
yourself. Scary, I know. But keep in mind that no one needs to see it but you. Also keep in mind that there’s a difference between vanity and a sense of self-worth. Vanity is not healthy, whereas Self-worth is indispensable. As teachers, we often confuse the two. Now go be nice to you.
*Forgive me for not citing an original source, but this was just a meme on the Internet and, well,
you know how that goes.