Our community consists of powerful caretakers. We do a great job of assisting and loving those around us. However, many of us fall short when it comes to taking good care of ourselves. We expend our energies giving to our kids, our jobs, our partners, our schedules and more. Then, at the end of the day, we have nothing left for us. If this goes on for too long, we can begin to experience our lives as less than fulfilling.
However, more of us are becoming dedicated to the idea of putting ourselves first through radical self-care and self-love. If this sounds selfish, it's only because we've been conditioned to value the needs of others over our own. But, consider for a moment that being run-down, exhausted and stressed-out lessens our ability to take care of other people. So taking good care of our selves is actually very unselfish. Following are some ways to immediately begin the journey toward more peace.
Our community of men and women are argumentatively the most prayer-minded people on earth. We're incredibly spiritual, and seem to have a special connection to inspiration. However, when the word meditation is mentioned many of us shy away. It's time to change that paradigm. Meditation is not a replacement for prayer and no formal religion shuns its practice. Meditation is the practice of attuning to one's own spirit, mind and body through focused awareness.
In many formal religions we tend to pray to an entity outside of ourselves. In meditation we focus inwardly, on the spirit within. We become aware of our aliveness through our breath and listening closely to what Spirit wants to express through our lives. This may come as an answer to a question you have about your life. It may also show up as a strong desire to move in a certain direction or make an important decision. Meditation is quite simply the attuning to the wisdom within.
The additional benefits are deep, calming stress-relief and a stronger mind-body connection.
Nature Walking or Hiking is gaining popularity within our community. We're beginning to spend more time in nature in an effort to connect deeply with the spirit within. The alertness that is required to observe the natural beauty around us is calming, energizing and edifying. Noticing the colors on the trees, listening to the sounds of the birds, and overlooking scenic landscapes or wonderful bodies of water can heal the soul very profoundly.
To be alone with your private thoughts in the space of your own company can be highly euphoric. Moving at you own pace and experiencing the freedom to take any path that looks interesting or simply stop to relax or read is very liberating. You can listen to inspirational music, messages of personal growth or a guided meditation on a portable CD player. Other times it's better to simply listen to the sound of our beautiful natural world. Stop to journal when hiking. The insights you'll get while hiking are rarely achieved during the hustle and bustle of work and family life.
Hiking with a Partner
If you feel uncomfortable hiking alone a partner is a great alternative. You can still get that special time with your own thoughts and feelings by hiking together to a destination, then separating enough to get some private space where you can be alone with your thoughts or listen to some media of your choosing. Agree upon an amount of time for this (a half-hour to an hour is usually good) then re-commune and hike back to the car. Try to keep the conversation as positive as possible. Use this valuable time for spiritual reflection and healing. Give encouragement, love and support to each other every step of the way and hiking with a partner can be powerfully rejuvenating and healing.
Practical Items for Hiking:
Always bring water. And, if you're hiking for more than a couple of miles it's a good idea to bring some food, i.e. sandwiches, trail-mix and/or fruit.
You don't have to invest a lot of money, but a good pair of hiking shoes will make your experience more pleasurable. They absorb the rocks and irregularities of the trails/paths you'll be walking on.
Dress in layers that are easily adjustable for body temperature. Wear a breathable shirt next to your skin, and a jacket with a good zipper for variability.
If you bring a backpack, it should contain the following items:
Water and Food
A camera ? I always see something I wish to capture on film
A flashlight and fresh batteries
An extra shirt
Something to sit on such as a sheet, blanket of other pad.v
I also pack my journal and a pen
The most important thing about hiking is your personal space. View it as a
If you haven't already done so, please start keeping a journal today. It is one of the most effective ways to hear your own voice. You should not share the information in your journal with anyone. These are your private and innermost sacred thoughts. You should not hold back in any way when expressing yourself within your journal. Let it flow freely, using any language that most accurately conveys your true thoughts. It is incredibly healing and calming to get your thoughts down in written form. Later, you can return to your entries to see how you've grown or are handling similar situations differently. The key is in knowing that no one else will ever see your entries.
Keeping a paper journal offers you the advantage of being able to make entries at any time you feel. You can also express yourself through drawings or sketching as well. I've even pasted pictures inside. You'll notice that you write larger and with a heavier strokes when angry or anxious. While feelings of appreciation and peace will show up differently in your handwriting. All of this is a wealth of great information when looking back on your earlier entries of several months or years ago.
If you can type privately, an on-line journal offers the maximum in privacy. You will log-on with a unique user name and password (Just remember to log-off each time you finish an entry). You can set up your journal to contain categories such as: daily entries, goals, gratitude, nighttime dreams, etc. Later, it's easy to search your entries using key words or dates. Just think about this for a minute, the possibilities are awesome.
I suggest using the journal on the Oprah.com site. She takes incredible measures to ensure privacy. I've been using it for over four years now and have more than 2000 entries. It only takes a few minutes and you'll be up and journal keeping. Be sure to use a very unique, but easy to remember user name and password. Try to make a minimum of one entry per day. You'll be amazed at how good it feels.
Reading great books or listening to audio on the issues of spirituality and personal growth is yet another way to get stronger and move more consistently toward the life your desire. What we absorb into our spirits through reading is vitally important to our personal growth and sense of well being. Try to place a high priority on reading a spiritually engaging book at least every two months. During times of life-transition and change, read more.
As you move forward on this path, you will notice that you have more patience for others, and that the constant chatter in your head will be quieted. You will begin putting yourself first in an unapologetic way, with the understanding that the healthier you are, the more positively you affect the people around you.
Copyright 2005 Shades and Reflections All Rights Reserved
Delano Garner is a writer for Shades and Reflections, a resources site for African-American self care - http://www.shadesandreflections.com.