Isn’t wellbeing a privilege, an indulgence in a world in so much trouble? they ask. How do I reconcile my feelings of scarcity of time and resources, the familial and cultural patterns of striving and sacrifice, the isolation, the overwhelm, with the luxury of self-care? Who would I be without my suffering, my anger, my indignation? What if opening to wellbeing means losing what makes me a great social change agent? That’s Aaron Perera, paraphrased. See his article for some surprising thoughts on this topic.
But then, isn’t it absolutely necessary for leaders (in any field) to commit to self-care, inner work, making space to be open, authentic, vulnerable in a supportive, connected community of peers?
Duh, you may say. Well, I agree. How can I help anybody if I am depleted, under-resourced, and secretly grumpy and resentful? I remember a book called Help Yourself – Give the World a Break, written for therapists by the fantastic Polish Gestalt guru Wojtek Eichelberger some twenty years ago. In it, he said in words more eloquent than these that any attempts at changing the world must be rooted in our own psychological and spiritual maturing process, or else they end up in one big disappointment, only serving to preserve the defenses of our do-goodist ego.
Yet how often in these last twenty years have I forgotten my own need for wellbeing in my passionate support of the wellbeing of others? Not to mention the vortex of having to make a living, keeping up with the extended family, the next training, the next detox diet, or my Inbox. Oh, and the inexorable entropy of perpetual maintenance!
In my intro letter to the Ashoka group, I wrote: I’m delighted to be joining you in your exploration, expression, and relaxation. Having experienced first hand the power of body based awareness practices, I have been passionately teaching them for over twenty years – and known to neglect with dangerous frequency my need for slow time, empty space, and generous self-care.
While my work is all about slowing down to pay attention, I have been my own worst student. I am only now shifting my allegiance from living in permanent overdrive toward the kind of doing that is deeply rooted in Being.
Beautiful words, no? Yet my practice is a daily negotiation between the old paradigm of struggle, fueled by terribly outdated survival terror, and the new choice to rest, to listen, to notice the confusing, amazing sense of wellness (all-is-wellness) no matter the current drama. Every time I check, I am brought in touch with the space of well-being, a deep well-spring of mysterious support.
And check this out. While I’m hanging out in a hammock, floating in warm celadon colored water, or staring into space with a cup of overly steeped tea, things take care of themselves, and the world gets a moment of rest from my overzealous need to help.PS. For an even more demanding call to leaders, see Richard Strozzi Heckler’s Claim It With Love.