By Blaze Schwaller
If you’re in the healthy living profession, you’re probably spending a lot of time teaching others how to take care of themselves. You listen to your client’s troubles, help them strategize ways to combat fatigue, eliminate burn-out in their work and personal lives, eat nourishing foods, and get quality rest. You have all sorts of ideas that will help your clients achieve the life of their dreams, and you can’t wait to preach it to the world! But, if you’re anything like me, it’s easier to take care of others than it is to nurture yourself.
Especially when working with others, I find it necessary to come from a place of centeredness and true caring for myself. When I am able to do this, my clients get better ideas and empathy from me, and our work together really hits the target! When I forget and put myself last – we all lose out on an awesome interaction and the best possible outcome for all of us.
So how do we find ways to keep ourselves nurtured, peaceful and in a space that really lets our light shine brightly? It begins with finding a real appreciation for ourselves and all that we do and have done already.
I know, that sounds a bit simple and hokey. On the surface it is easy to say we appreciate what we do and our hard work, so we figure we already have a check in that box. But do you really?
If you think about all of the hard work you have done to get where you are now: able to understand nutrition, or exercise, or ways to create amazing meals – do you become filled with joy?
Or do you breeze right past all of those moments that led you to where you are now, and think – “Yeah, it was a lot of work and now I have to DO something with it!”
When you think of how you got on the path of healing and the struggles you personally had that brought you here, do you have compassion for yourself?
I find I can easily sympathize with others who are in pain and struggling with their health, emotions, thoughts or bodies because I went through a similar pain, too. But I rarely considered my transformation from pain and confusion into health and excitement as anything noteworthy because I was too busy trying to figure out what to do with my newfound health and energy.
One of the most profound exercises in learning to appreciate myself that I have ever done was to take an evening and treat myself as I would a client who was coming to me in pain or confusion. I decided to make a ritual of it. If I had so much compassion for others and I was so willing to hear what they had to say about their lives and struggles, it was time for me to gift that compassion and love to myself.
I set up the spare bedroom like an altar of sorts. I strew pillows over the floor and even draped some pretty scarves I liked over them. I brought in my glass candle holders that I never used but had bought because they were so pretty and arranged them in the center of the space. I lit incense, opened a window for a soft breeze of fresh air, and closed the door. As I lit the candles I turned out the lights and sat down on one of the pillows.
At first it was a bit awkward. I broke the silence by talking to myself. “Blaze,” I said, with a bit of a waver in my voice. “What would you like to tell me about tonight?”
I stared at the flames dancing in the little votive holders. I watched a tendril of smoke curl around itself and make a G clef. I heard birds calling their night songs to each other out the window.
Slowly, a thought surfaced. “I want you to acknowledge me.”
Attached to this thought was a deep sadness. I felt the pain of neglect, the same as I had felt when I had gotten an A+ in my hardest class as a kid but my parents merely smiled and nodded at me and then went about their day.
More thoughts bubbled up after this first one – feelings of bustle, of constantly moving forward and doing, accomplishing, researching; making things without end. I saw myself working until I couldn’t feel my hands, my heart racing and my head feeling like it was stuffed with tissues. There I was – near death and being held by my husband only a few months prior – exhausted, hurting, ill and confused.
I felt the fear I had felt then and experienced one of those “movie of your life” reels that sped me from that moment of despair to where I was now, in the spare bedroom, watching the candles burn low and the incense drift out the window in lazy curls.
My movie was full of hard work. It had terrifying doctor appointments, times where I had to stand up for myself and find new specialists because my regular doctor just wouldn’t run the tests I knew I needed. I saw myself building strength and healing injuries I had accumulated over years of repetitive work.
I watched myself change my entire diet, learn new exercises, adjust my entire daily routine and for the first time in almost two decades start to lose the chronic pain in my joints and muscles.
I watched myself quit my job and sell my business in the service of taking care of myself
I lost friends I had thought were with me to the bitter end. I made new ones that supported me in my new journey
And all of that happened in only six months!
My heart broke for myself because it was here that I witnessed the old patterns resurfacing. As soon as I was feeling better, I began to have guilt for “not doing enough.” I completely dismissed the incredible difficulty of having to leave my work and sell my business, because maybe I hadn’t really had to do that – after all, I was fine now!
I dismissed my pains because now that they were gone; perhaps they hadn’t been that bad after all. At every possible place that I could be dismissive of my accomplishments or apathetic to them, I was. And it really hurt!
It occurred to me that I would NEVER trivialize another’s journey the way I was belittling my own. If I heard this story coming from anyone else’s lips I would have nothing but love, appreciation and wonder for all that they had gone through.
I would be in AWE of their bravery in taking the difficult path of self-healing.
I would be IMPRESSED that they learned an entirely new way of eating, moving, sitting and even breathing in such a short amount of time.
I would be HAPPY that they were able to do this for themselves and see them as an example of the incredible capacity for healing and transformation that lies inside of all of us.
I was crying deep sobs for myself at this point as I committed to remembering all of my hard work and the amazing gift it was to be where I was now. I knew I must remember this feeling of love for myself, not just when it was convenient, but all of the time. If I didn’t, it would be easy to slip back into the old patterns and quickly recreate all of the events and circumstances that had led to my health’s decline. And I would forever feel unimportant, not good enough, and like the only thing I was good for was doing things for other people.
Since that day, I check in with myself on a daily basis to hear what I have to say. I hear that little voice within when it tells me I am working too hard, or that I am too worried about what someone else thinks. I am starting to hear what I think for the first time!
Since opening up the line of communication with myself, I have been inspired to create art again, and people are responding to my work in a beautiful way. By honoring myself and my desires and needs, I have been able to respond to other’s desires and needs 100% better. I feel that there is a flow that is reciprocal now, and it is a beautiful thing.
What I hadn’t factored in to all my work was how important it was for me to honor my side of the interaction! I see so many others who struggle with this concept, too. We find it easy to relate to another and feel compelled to offer solutions no matter what the cost to ourselves. But if we can treat ourselves with as much love and compassion as we do the ones we serve – miracles happen. The work happens almost effortlessly. Ideas bubble up out of nowhere. Your heart sings. Theirs sing too!
So to all of you who have struggled, worked hard and pushed through obstacles to get where you are now – I feel you! Your journey is a part of who you are, and honestly is the most important factor that separates your life and your experiences from everyone else’s. Please honor yourself and all of the amazing, incredible, unlikely and awesome actions you have taken to move yourself from your lowest point to your highest. You are remarkable!
I urge all of you to take some time for yourself today in the quiet, and ask your heart-voice within, “What do you want to tell me?” You’ll be transformed by what you hear – I guarantee it!
About the Author: Blaze Schwaller
I am a portrait and animal painter who adores traditional media like oil paint and pencils. I create empowering portraits of people celebrating their best selves just as they are!
People often ask me about my name and if my parents were hippies. Actually, Blaze is the name I took for myself when I got married.
I changed my name to Blaze because I wanted to be a bright light in all that I do.
I wanted to illuminate my little piece of the world by being me as best I can. And I hope that by being me and painting what I paint you feel the warmth of that spark, and use it to fuel your own fire.
You can see my paintings and learn more about me and my process at www.blazebrightly.com
Right now you can grab a free copy of my e-book, “How to Look Amazing in Photos (and Paintings too!), a resource for all of us who feel silly or awkward in photos and wish we looked better. You’ll learn 7 simple ways to make each photo look better and feel more comfortable in front of the camera.
(The link above is: http://eepurl.com/bkWgBD in case it doesn’t link from this document)