Practicing the Art of Radical Self-Care: Seven Tenets of a Balanced Life.
The human body is an incredibly fine-tuned example of divine engineering — an impossibly complex system of symbiotic elements.
Yet fundamentally we are stardust, same as everything else in this mind-bogglingly vast universe. Simplicity leads to complexity. This is the fractal nature of things.
Any natural system depends upon sustaining balance for its optimal functioning. Take the pH level of our bodies — the closer our pH level is to 7.35–7.45, the better we are able to resist the onset of disease. If this deviates, even very slightly, the effects can be catastrophic.
Transposing this natural law to the way we live is the essence of the practice that I like to term radical self-care.
Modern societies feed imbalance. Overeating and overworking are commonplace. The lack of play, community, creativity and ceremony burn strong. Our disconnection from the natural world only serves to reinforce this.
To operate at our best, it’s essential to gently keep returning ourselves to a state of balance. We can begin by becoming attentive to our behaviors, desires and emotions, meditating on the silent question Where am I out of balance? With an awareness of where the scale has tipped, we can gently make adjustments.
1. Slow down.
That our pace of living is too fast is thankfully becoming more widely acknowledged in this age of insatiable progress. Time is money, and we are all taught to chase the trappings of a successful life by overworking, spending less time with the people we love and more time in front of a computer screen, our eyes complaining in silent spasm.
Our connectivity means that the expectation of being freely available to anyone at any time is sadly commonplace. Social media is a wonderful publishing platform and a crowd-sourced library of experience, but if we’re honest, who really wants to live through a screen? As complex, multidimensional beings, it’s just not who we are.
Start slowing down by dedicating space in the day for yourself. Meditate, or go for a walk in the woods. Make these times personal and sacred to you.
Turn bedtime into a ritual of deliberate and conscious unplugging from the matrix. Remember to breathe. Remember the inherent joy in stillness.
2. Reach out (and touch faith).
Everyone needs alone time to recharge but we are not here to spend our lives in isolation. We are inherently social creatures.
Strike up a conversation with the old lady at the bus stop, pull a face at that kid in the park, ask someone in a shop how they are today and actually listen to their reply. Reach out and make a connection, offer your help and make a difference to someone else’s day.
Notice how it makes you feel. Does your heart feel warmer? Your step a little lighter? Does a smile creep upon your lips?
Our very survival depends not on competition but on collaboration, on sharing. Competition breeds greed, greed breeds selfishness. Who has accumulated the most glittery goods, who can most aggressively flaunt their status as a winner, meanwhile millions go hungry hovering around the poverty line.
And what do we do? Turn back to our glowing blue screens and bury our heads in the digital sand.
You are everything and everything is you. When you help another, you help yourself. So what are you waiting for?
3. Keep on moving.
We all know the weighty feeling that comes from not having pumped our hearts above resting for a couple of days. The feeling of one too many lunches spent scrolling Instagram. Our energy fields become like pools of stagnant water.
Now don’t flip out and guilt-buy yourself a gym membership! You have the awareness, and consequently you have the power to decide. How will you move, how will you get back to balance? This doesn’t have to cost a penny.
These days life moves at such a swift pace. To adapt, we need to keep mentally agile, be able to think clearly and make important decisions. Likewise, we need to keep our bodies moving for our longer-term health and well-being.
Getting your sweat on regularly can help these meat-bodies work at their best, while burning off pent-up mental garbage. Coupled with sensible nutrition, the mind and body can become flexible, adaptive and powerful forces to support us.
4. Spiral out.
Take a step back. Zoom out from your worries. The Earth was around for millennia before we were here, and will exist long after we die. Our problems quickly lose importance when we remember that we are tiny ants dancing on a space rock. We are barely specks of dust in the unfathomable vastness of the universe.
We humans like to think we are important by virtue of our divine self-awareness. I call bullshit. We are simply another facet of the Universe experiencing itself. Highly adapted animals, but animals nonetheless. The Earth loves us, but sure as shit owes us no favors.
I find employing this change in perspective to be quickly humbling. To remember that life is one great exhale, spiraling its way through time and space reminds us not to sweat the small stuff, that we don’t need to take everything so seriously.
We are here and we are alive! That alone is worth celebrating. Take pleasure in simple things. Accept the joys and the pain, the laughter and the sorrows. They are all part of the ride we signed up for. Jump back into your day with playfulness and a glint in your eye.
5. In Your Time of Dying…
Everything will eventually die. This includes you.
We love to avoid confronting the inevitability of our dying. We are brought up to fear death. Our hospitals will keep us alive for months rather than simply allow us our dying. As if somehow that would be failing.
We speak little of death as transformation, as a great shift into higher consciousness. Indigenous stories and ancient spiritual philosophies provide our only guidance.
In the West, it is still a highly uncomfortable taboo in need of serious integration. Fear of death is the root of 99% of our anxieties and fears. If we desire liberation, we must accept the truth that someday we too will die.
This gift of life is not permanent, and it can be over in a flash. Seize opportunity when it comes, take risks. We don’t know when our days will be up, so let’s make the effort to live accordingly – carry kindness in our hearts, be generous with our love and our time. Put energy into the things that truly excite us.
Make life worth living, so when the day comes and we leave it all behind, we can smile.
6. Embrace Duality.
This Earthly playground is a paradoxical place. In it there exists good and evil, pain and pleasure, dark and light. Balance requires acceptance of these dualities, both inside us and out in the world.
If we’re desperate to be happy all the time, rejecting shame and suffering, then we deny an essential part of the human experience. When we stand in our vulnerability, we grow into true warriors. Personal and cultural grief, shame and guilt, can be carefully made conscious and transformed.
Balance means sometimes letting go into pure hedonism – letting the devil into your party, because that guy knows how to get down! Yet balance also means being comfortable in your aloneness. Sit with your own silence for a few hours, days, or even a week.
7. Rewild Yourself.
All these have at their root a single common cause: our disconnection from the natural world. When we remember our place as human animals, as an integral part of the planetary community, deep healing can occur.
By spending time in nature, we automatically slow down. We start to notice the interconnectedness of plant and animal life, of the fungi and the trees. We see growth, decay, birth and death, all within four short seasons. We see the play of young birds in Spring juxtaposed against those that didn’t make it through Winter.
Nature is the quintessential balanced system, an ancient symbiosis that will outlast us all. However much society tries to persuade us otherwise, we too are part of it. Remembering this, we begin the vital process of unlearning separation.
Accepting our inherent wildness cultivates balance, the practice of radical self-care becomes internalized and the benefits radiate out to all beings.
Jody White is a Creative and Healer working across multiple disciplines. A lifelong musician, he is currently working on his first book. He is a passionate home herbalist and fermentation addict with a penchant for wild food. He cultivates a deep reverence for nature, and promotes the urgent need for re-connection to the natural world. You can find him at Life In Fractals, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.