- Mental Health»
The Basics of Self-Nurturing
If You Don't Fully Love You, Who Will?
In previous essays I have explained the need to nurture oneself. Rather than explaining the rationale for this once again, I would like to concentrate on explaining the practical nuts and bolts of this.
In self-nurturing we are addressing the most vulnerable, open, and deeply feeling parts of ourselves.
Have you ever peeled an artichoke? We start by peeling the outer leaves, getting to the more tender inner leaves, and finally to the soft heart of the artichoke.
In self-nurturing we are peeling back the outer leaves of our being, to touch the tender inner heart.
There are three main ways we can touch the inner heart: touch, tone, and words.
One of our most basic forms of communication is tactile -- whether it is petting a dog, giving a massage, cradling an infant in our arms, snuggling up to someone, or tracing the contours of our lover's face with our fingers.
Although it is hard to explain exactly how, all of us know that a touch can communicate a variety of things. We know what it is like to hold someone's hand and feel their hand go "dead," as opposed to feeling warmth and enthusiasm in their palm. In some subtle way, the hand can communicate the intention that is animating it.
Place the palm of one hand (or both) over your heart, near the center of your chest. Feel the warmth of your hand against your chest. Feel the weight and presence of your hand there. Does it feel comforting? The intention is for your hand to communicate love and caring to your heart. From the other side, allow your heart to open and receive the warmth, love, and presence being communicated by your hand.
1. The heart area is the primary center for receiving and communicating self-nuturing. However, you can also experiment with slowly, gently, and lovingly stroking one or both of the cheeks of your face.
2. The intention behind your touch is "I love you." That is the quality of feeling that your touch needs to convey.
3. The following are equivalent intentions: I love you. I care for you. I'm here for you. I see you. I see your pain. I see your goodness. I will never abandon you. I am always here for you. I love you without conditions. I understand you and forgive you. . . . .Your touch can communicate, with physical immediacy, something equivalent to these feelings.
4. Let your heart be receptive to the touch of your hand and the message of love it is conveying. Open your heart fully and let it fully take in the feeling from your hand. Your heart is like a sponge, drawing the energy in. Your receptive heart helps to encourage the flow of energy from your loving hand.
5. In this self-communication through touch, treat yourself with the same care as you would a friend, or a child left in your care. There is nothing artificial about this exercise. The nurturing aspect of yourself is genuinely communicating love and caring to the vulnerable part of yourself.
6. After a couple of minutes of this you should notice some feeling of ease, calm, sweetness, or something pleasant.
Words - Spoken Inwardly or Out Loud
To reinforce your awareness of the feelings of love being self-communicated by your hand, you can use simple verbal communication. Make it very simple and basic, as you would with a child. Use the suggestions from above: "I love you. I care for you. You are special to me. I am here for you always. I will always be with you. I see your goodness. You are important to me," and so forth.
You can say these words to yourself mentally, but I recommend you also experiment with speaking to yourself out loud sometimes. Just as feeling the actual presence of your hand communicates something in a tangible way, hearing the sound of your voice is more tangible than just speaking the words mentally. The mental self-talk is powerful, but sometimes it is important for your ear to actually hear yourself speaking the words: "I love you."
Experimenting with talking to yourself in a normal tone of voice, and with whispering to yourself. Which feels better. Sometimes one may feel more intimate, sometimes the other.
Experimenting with incorporating your name into your words. "Sally, I'm here for you. I love you, Sally. I care about you, Sally." See if adding your name creates a deeper self-communication or not.
Tone of Voice
You can experiment with the emotional tone and rhythm of your voice. Even though an infant may not understand the words its mother says, it is comforted by the sounds and rhythms of her voice. There is a musical quality to our voices, and beyond the actual words, something in the quality of our voice can communicate tenderness, concern, comfort and affection.
Experiment with different ways of saying, "I love you," to yourself.
See what works for you. Experiment. Make this exercise your own.
Naturally you will most need to use this exercise when you are attacked by disappointment, failure, rejection, self-criticism, and so forth. However, make a point of also practicing periodically during the times when all is going well. Make a post-it reminder for yourself, or set a reminder on your cell phone. Or find a time of day when you have a moment of pause to self-nurture -- perhaps just before you go to sleep at night, or when you are sitting in your car waiting for someone.
Be here for yourself. Love yourself. Honor yourself. Believe in yourself.