In times of confusion, challenge, and crisis the encouragement to pay attention to one's own self-care is often heard coming from many quarters. And yet, these are the very times when, with so much of upheaval and disequilibrium all around, even the smallest act of self-nurturing can begin to feel overwhelming. Instead of reaping the positive benefits of caring for yourself, it can feel like a herculean task to focus on the step in front of you. In part, this can be due to the sheer volume of information out there. It comes through the television, the phone, well-meaning friends. Much of it is great information, but at times it can feel like a tsunami. Unfortunately, with so much guidance around what to do or what not to do, the overload of information can end up contributing to the very thing you are trying to address and resolve. Rather than bring ease to the soul in trying times, comfort to the heart in painful circumstances, and the strength to continue in the face of obstacle after obstacle, there is a risk of feeling inadequate or badgered by all the "shoulds" or "coulds." What would have been a solid foundation of self-care support instead, with the strident "Inner Critic" chastisement of inadequacy and "not good enough," becomes even more confusion, challenge, and possibly crisis.
Of course, it is important to have a baseline of self-care. For example, good nutrition can only ever be a force for good in your life. It is not the self-care that provides the challenge. It is the possibility of losing the value of positive reflection and suggestion in the raucous cacophony of ceaseless external advice-giving. It is the potential to lose connection with the innate wisdom we carry within. Wisdom that is tied to nature—both our own inner innate nature and our connection to the greater experience of Nature around us. If you ever come to a place of losing your way, of feeling like all the self-care threads that come from so many well-meaning—or sometimes not-so-well-meaning—places are threatening to truss you up, take a breath and look to the seasons. Find the wisdom in Nature that is echoed in the very bones that support you, the blood the flows through you, and the Spirit that animates you.
Self-Care Inspired by the Wheel of the Year:
Yule: Care for yourself as diligently and conscientiously as you would a precious newborn. If you are hungry, eat basic, nutritious foods. If you are tired, sleep (even if that is sneaking in a wee nap mid-day or five minutes of "resting your eyes"). Yule aligns with the Root Chakra. If there is no energy sourcing the Root, then everything else will languish. You cannot be healthy in the mind if the body is perennially depleted. You cannot meet a challenge if you "power down" mid-meet. Tune your ear to the inner call and when the body cries out, let it know that you are there. There is a beautiful self-validation that comes from attuning to the inner dialogue. Listen to your body's very basic needs.
Imbolc: Allow the freeze to melt into flow. Give your feelings full voice. This does not necessarily mean telling everyone around you what is going on for you—there is time enough for appropriate and respectful sharing and disclosure—but it does mean being absolutely, transparently honest with yourself. There will definitely be emotions that are not the most comfortable to experience: emotions that come uncomfortably close to touching shame, or ones that feel so big they seem insurmountable. That's okay. Nothing need be done with these emotions right away. You may find that you do need to express the discomfiting contents of your emotional reflection to a friend or partner. Or you may have a sense that that is not necessary. That decision may still be in the future, needing to still be determined. But unquestionably and unequivocally, you need to acknowledge those emotions to yourself. Allow your feelings to tell you how you are experiencing the world, or relationships, or situations. Allow your feelings to be the entryway into a deeper relationship with yourself. Listen to your emotions without judgement.
Ostara: Set boundaries. All equinox times bring polarities into sharp relief. Though it is important to learn how to set boundaries with others—to know the delineation between your wants, needs, and experiences and someone else's wants, needs, and experiences—it is often even more important to set internal boundaries: to differentiate between the inner critical voice and the inner supportive voice. When you take the time to slow down and listen to your thoughts, you will quickly recognize the way in which you talk to yourself. And there is nothing more important than having a kind and encouraging—if, at times, prompting and challenging—voice on your side. Leave that which is cold and hard in the dark. Listen to that which is light, and gentle, and supportive. This is the path to healthy self-esteem, self-regard, and self-respect. Set internal boundaries allowing only kind support be the voice which directs you.
Beltane: Find where your passion lives. There is much about life that can be rote or responsibility. There are many things that need to be done, especially to ensure a stable, healthy foundation. Those things do need to be acknowledged and respected. But life is so much more than that. The quinoa may nourish the body, but it is the edible wildflower garnish that makes the heart sing. Beltane aligns with the Heart Chakra and invites us to find the ways in which we dance our lives. If you do not know the thing you would love to do whether anyone saw it or not, whether anyone liked it or not, whether it served any purpose or not, find it! Very often it lies in our child heart that we think lies in the dark recesses of the past. The part of us that experienced life unselfconsciously and perhaps even a bit freely. We know we have found our passion when the heart feels a bit lighter and a bit more expanded. Whatever it is, it may not speak to others or it may be that others cannot even see what it is about this thing that speaks to us so, but that is okay. It only need speak to your heart. Find the thing that not only inspires you but brings the energy of joy to many parts of your life.
Litha: Acknowledge your talents. Lying across the Wheel from Yule, Litha carries similar energies but experienced in a slightly different way. Much as you would care for your physical self as Yule guides you to do, Litha invites you to care for your non-physical self. In other words, your ego: that hardworking vessel that is the container for the Soul that is journeying through this life. When the ego is coming from positive self-esteem, self-regard, self-respect—not the dark of shame, inadequacy, and insecurity—it allows you to celebrate your accomplishments with confidence. The Summer sun invites you to shine brightly and to shine that light on all that you have done or accomplished. This does not have to be grand or monumental. This is not about amplifying grandiosity. It is about honoring your own particular contribution as significant. The ability to make someone smile. To bake an amazing cookie. To give generously of your time to a cause. Find and claim the ability that is your special contribution to the world.
Lughnasadh: See challenging experiences as containing valuable information. The first of the harvest festivals offers the opportunity for you to assess what has worked in your approach—over the past days, weeks, months, or even years—and what did not. There are going to be those situations that did not pan out the way you had hoped, those relationships that took a turn in a different way than expected, dreams that withered on the vine. Once again, as long as you are able to come at those experiences from a place of self-esteem, self-regard, and self-respect, they hold important information about you, about your needs and expectations, about your areas of strength and those areas that could benefit from some attention and growth. Celebrate successes and glean the nuggets of wisdom from the disappointments.
Mabon: Learn to let go. Perhaps the greater part of harvesting is knowing what not to pick. It is wasted effort to try to get every single apple, beet, or carrot, especially if they are mealy, wormy, or rotten. Everything in life operates on this principle. If a belief does not serve your esteem and confidence, leave it in the field. If a friendship is more draining than uplifting despite attempts to address the energy imbalance, it can hang on the tree. If the memory of a past incident has the power to wreck your day, know that it has no more nutrients for you than a rotten carrot and leave it be. When you bring discernment to the activity of harvest, you know the baggage you carry will not drag you down. You will only pick that which has the potential to nourish you. Be confident in letting go of anything that depletes you, rather than energizes you.
Samhain: Embrace the Mystery. Not everything in the dark is scary and threatening. There can be wonders in there as well. One of the biggest challenges can be learning to have faith that things will all be okay in the end. Walking towards your future, even if you are not exactly sure what that might be, or how exactly you are going to get there, can bring up a lot of feelings of trepidation and resistance. We feel far more comfortable in the bright light of day than in the dark. The time of year when the night seems to stretch on endlessly invites you to find peace in the not knowing. Let go of control. Let go of agenda. Allow a moment of surrender to the process of your life's unfolding. Listen to the whisper of Spirit that guides in the stillness of the dark.
Each of the eight spokes on the Wheel of the Year carries its own unique energetic, which has the potential to transmit a message on how to be in balance with the world, how to find equilibrium in the flow of your own process, and how to support the movement of your own self-actualization. We are not separate from Nature. We are a part of Nature. Its wisdom is our wisdom. And the place to turn to seek that wisdom is within. In this age of information when recommendations and suggestions on what you must do can seem like the loudest voice, take a breath and reach for the place within that resonates to all of Nature around you. See the seasons as the remarkable mirror they are, reflecting infinite wisdom in which you may bask. And allow that to serve as the guideline to your self-care, self-support, and self-encouragement. In that reflection, you are always divinely whole and wondrously unique.