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Self care, dance of love

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

I was listening to a debate about obesity in the US recently. One of the speakers, Kelly Bliss, made an interesting statement. She said that the primary crisis in America is not one of obesity. The real crisis, she said, is lack of self-care.

What is self-care?

Self-care is an individual caring for him- or herself. You taking care of you. It suggests an internal relationship between different parts of the same person. The human being can be thought of as having body, mind and soul/spirit; three parts that are in continual relationship with each other. If this relationship is one that is full of love, self-care naturally happens. If not, something very different.

The body and soul are primarily the ‘feeling’ parts of the person, and the mind is the part that is responsible for making decisions and taking action. Although this relationship is very much one of interdependence, (no one part can cope very well without the others) the body and soul are most vulnerable. They can only hint at what they need, but the decision to take their needs and desires seriously, and to do what it takes to have them met, rests with the choice-making, action taking mind.

A committed, loving, attentive mind is central to a good working relationship within the self. Without the careful listening (literally, listening that is full of care!) to hints from the body and soul, and dedication to meeting their needs, we may end up with a situation where they are given what is not needed and don’t get what they are asking for.

Over the long term, this has consequences.

A body may get coffee, cigarettes, French fries and couch-time, while what it needed is wholesome food a refreshing drink and a chance to stretch and move. Alternatively, it may be getting a plate of vegetables, a vigorous workout and a late night party, when what it really needed was a bowl of pasta and an early night. Mis-reading (or simply just ignoring) what the body is asking for, can lead to physical symptoms like changes in body-weight, illness lack of energy and many others

On the soul level, we may equally neglect our needs. Mild feelings like sadness or anger and frustration that call for actions on our own behalf, if ignored, my reassert themselves more forcefully in depressions, anxiety-attacks, addictions or other variations of these.

The Dance of love

The process of internal caring is perhaps easier to understand when we talk about a relationship between individuals; we can then extrapolate the principle to the relationship within a person, and self-care.

Peter Rollins uses the following illustration to talk about caring:

“…in order to understand this, it is helpful to make a distinction between the ideas of a hint and an order. Take the example of two people in a room. If one has authority over the other and commands the other to close the door, the other will of course close it, regardless of whether or not he or she likes the authority figure, since if an authority figure gives a command, obedience is the sole requirement. Yet, in opposition to a controlling relationship, a loving one is analogous to one person saying to their equal that they are a little cold. In this way, one speaks in such a way that hints (but does not demand) that they would like the door to be closed. If the other is a caring individual, he or she will be likely to close the door, and if not, he or she will probably ignore what was said. The hint speaks to the heart and will only be heard by those with a sensitive and open ear.”

Having “sensitive and open ears” to hear hints, decipher what they mean, and take appropriate action requires effort. The motivation to make this effort continually is self-love. The love I’m talking of is not a warm fuzzy feeling, it is action. It is work. It is commitment to the well-being of the other, in this case, commitment to the well-being of our own body. The main form that the work of love takes is attention. When we love another, we give him or her our attention, we attend to their well-being. When we love ourselves, we attend to our own well-being.

This kind of caring inner relationship can be like the one between two dancers that follow each other across the floor gracefully, each one finely tuned to the other’s movements. A small shift in body weight, or light pressure from a hand signals the direction that the leading dancer is going to take, and the other follows easily.

While it may be true that dancers can get used to each other and move together in a seemingly effortless way with practice, it never becomes an automatic process. Attention to the other will always be required. Try paying attention to the subtle hints that your body and soul give you about what you need, and see if a fight and struggle can be transformed into a graceful dance.

Sound Bite

One thing only is needed: the knowledge of the simple and clear truth which finds place in every soul — the truth that for our life one law is valid — the law of love, which brings the highest happiness to every individual as well as to all mankind. Leo Tolstoy
You take care of yourself, your weight will take care of itself Kelly Bliss
Effort matters in everything, love included. Learning to love is purposeful work Michael Levine

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