Earning? Allowing?  Accepting?

I’m preparing to take a week away to attend a yoga and meditation retreat with some of my favorite teachers in a wonderful setting – Molokai, Hawaii.    I have been planning this for months since making the reservations and looking forward to it with sweet anticipation. I consider “retreating” as an important part of living a whole-hearted and balanced life.  However, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I was feeling some mild agitation and found myself making lists of things to do – tasks to complete both at home and with my work and ideas of projects to start – all things to keep me busy and working.  Then I recognized this familiar pattern – when I give myself something I consider significant, I unconsciously start to balance it off with “sufficient amounts of work and busyness”.  It’s my internal accountant working the numbers for permission to “spend” my time in self attention after I have put in sufficient efforts to earn it.

I come by this pattern honestly. I grew up on a farm and the work ethic was strong – work first, play later (sometimes, much later and with some guilt).  It’s what was needed of course for the running and the management of our livelihood.  However, I formed the belief that I needed to “earn” caring for and enjoying myself.

Over the years I’ve taken on a more nourishing and beneficial belief about self-care – one that thanks my inner accountant with love.  When she asserts herself like she did recently I let her know that I don’t require her services in creating a balance sheet because self-care isn’t something to earn, it’s an essential skill that’s a significant part of a living a whole-hearted and intentional life.  Self-care fuels our heart, mind, and relationships. We are diminished when we deny it or place contingencies on it.

Do you ever struggle or tussle with yourself in taking actions of self-care?  Do you feel even a bit guilty about attending to yourself if you haven’t properly “earned” it?  If so, try this:

Take several good whole body breaths – exhaling completely and allowing a full inhale to fill you.  Then as you relax, drop this thought in, “I care for myself freely and lovingly.”  Do it several times and then let it go.  Pause for a few more moments and then go on with what you were doing.  Consider it a self-care shower.

About the author

Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne Kilkus is a Soto Zen meditation practitioner and teacher and has practiced as a therapist and counselor for over three decades. She is dedicated to assisting people in expanding their capacity for giving and receiving love, and for recognizing and expressing their basic goodness in everyday life. Her path to live with wholehearted compassion and care is an invitation to everyone. She is a teacher with Open Door Zen Community in Madison, WI.