This past weekend, for the first time in months, I had an entire day off, all to myself. I had no plans. The hubby was away. And I could do whatever I wanted. I invented a delicious breakfast, caught up on some reading, enjoyed a long, sweaty Yogaglo class, took a leisurely shower and then… with nearly half the day left to enjoy, I felt… lost. I kept peeking at my to do list, trying to figure out what I could accomplish. I tried to write, but no words came. I tried to nap, and couldn’t sleep. I felt restless and sad, like I was wasting a perfectly beautiful day to myself.
This, unfortunately, has happened before. After weeks of spiraling around in circles, going on trips, working on projects, moving and cleaning, running from here to there and eventually grinding to a halt at this one wonderful, beautiful day — I struggled to stop moving. To be still. To listen. To just enjoy and be.
A battle played out in my mind, one side thinking, “I deserve to do nothing — I need to rest and nourish myself,” the other, “Stop being lazy! Re-pot the plants, write an article, re-organize the closet! Be productive!” As I tried to silence the tug of war, I remembered the words of yoga teacher Sadie Nardini, who in 2010 gave me the push I needed during a weekend workshop to become a teacher:
“Don’t be selfish, be self-centered.”
These words became a bit of a mantra for me at the time: a reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves so that we can function at our best and be of service to others. I found an article online where she beautifully summarizes this message:
“…a yoga practitioner develops the skill of being aware, of listening first and foremost to their deep core voice instead of letting others’ opinions dictate their choices, and strengthening their inner relationship above all others. Where this may at first seem selfish, it’s actually healthfully self-centered. Knowing the difference, and taking action every day to promote one’s inner nourishment and understanding, not only is the path to a happy, passionate life, but it’s the biggest gift one can give to those they love.”
– Sadie Nardini, via MyYogaOnline
What I love most about this advice is the part we are less likely to recognize when we deplete ourselves, but quick to notice in others who do the same: the reality that when we don’t pause and appreciate the beauty that is simply being alive, we become so detached from our own inner source of calm that it actually affects those around us. Our loved ones notice when we are drained, tired, or frantic, and oftentimes those feelings lead to irritability, anger, or resentment. In other words, you are a better person and can give back even more if at first, you give to yourself.
For me, the trickiest part is actually getting quiet enough to listen to what it is I really need, and not what I think I need. This could be as subtle as recognizing that my yoga practice needs to be gentle and restorative one day, or as big as turning down an amazing opportunity because it doesn’t fully resonate with your heart.
To find that inner quiet that allows for that kind of clarity, we must make nourishing ourselves a serious priority. We must take that day off to ourselves, we must roll out the mat (even when we’re not up for it) and we must take a quiet seat and listen. It’s not always easy — as I realized this past weekend. Yet, even in my restlessness, I recognized my own anxiety. I saw my inability to be still. It’s the recognition itself that begins to clear away the cobwebs and make space for deeper realizations.
Like with any other major shift in thinking and action, little tiny steps begin the journey.
This week, I decided I wanted to bring more pleasure to my workday. How could I make a daily obligation more enjoyable? How could I give myself a small bit of nourishment? I brought an extra yoga mat to work, asked around to find a quiet, private space, and today — for the first time ever — I did a brief practice during my lunch break. This little gift to myself gave me the extra bounce and energy I needed for the afternoon, and was a great reminder that we can seize any moment and make it more beautiful, more ours.
So — how can you bring joy into even the most mundane parts of your life? How can you make space in each day for self-care? For rest? For pleasure?
Even if nothing immediately comes to mind, let the questions sink in. Then, perhaps the next time you are quiet, take the deepest breath you can. In that small pause, you might start to see an answer.