What Does Self-Care Mean to You?

IMG_0566Do you have a clear sense of the things that nourish and support you through both the joys and the challenges of life?

With the holiday season already underway, now is the perfect time to pause and center deeply into those things that nourish and support you on a daily basis, into self-care.

It wasn’t that many years ago that I really didn’t know what self-care meant.

For myself, at least. It seemed that some of the people I knew had it figured out. They would talk of long baths, of going to the spa, of taking a weekend at the beach, of hours spent in meditation, etc, etc. I would kind of look at them, eyes glazed.

For one, I typically didn’t have money for a visit to the spa or a weekend at the beach.

For another, I found things like long baths and long meditations boring, not nourishing.

When asked what I did for self-care, I really didn’t have an answer.

Yes, I tried to eat well, I exercised, I was aware of the necessity of good sleep. That was about as far as it went. Other than going on long hikes (not possible on a daily basis when living in the city), I was clueless regarding what nourished and supported me.

Then, abruptly, I entered a time of extreme emotional upheaval.

Literally overnight, all the anxiety, panic, overwhelm, fear, terror, and grief that I had spent the first 29 years of my life avoiding at all costs became unavoidable.

I had no skills for handling any of the emotions, any of the pain.

Sometimes going for a run or (very) long walk would help. Mostly, though, I spent more time than I like to admit on the floor, in a fetal position, shaking and crying, completely falling apart.

My friends would tell me to take care of myself, to do some self-care.

I didn’t know what that meant. I knew hot baths really didn’t do much for me. What else was there? What worked for me?

Fortunately, with the help of several mentors, colleagues, and wise friends, I began to learn what did (and does) work for me.

Plus, I began to develop an approach to self-care and to meeting my own pain that is flexible, sustainable, and that evolves with me as I grow and evolve.

Further, as I became more and more skilled at meeting my own pain and overwhelm, I also became more and more skilled at meeting the pain and overwhelm of others.

And… at helping them to also develop an approach to self-care that nourished and supported them on a daily basis.

Now, nearly 10 years following the ‘breaking apart’ incident, I have mad self-care skills.

I use the word ‘skills’ intentionally.

What I call self-care isn’t a to-do list.

Rather, it is a set of skills that grow and deepen as I grow and deepen.

Skills like deep-listening (to my body, to nature, to spirit). Skills that help me shift my perspective when I’m overwhelmed or in pain. Skills that are constantly being refined; that are evolving and deepening as I learn more about myself and the things that nourish and support me.

Yes, I do have a list of things I know nourish and support me.

But, that is just the beginning. And, I have arrived at this list through the skills of deep-listening, knowing how to connect into my body, and through paying attention throughout the day to the people, places, situations, events… where I feel connected, relaxed, and calm.

In no particular order, here are some of the things that nourish, feed, and support me today:

  • being in nature, wandering, sitting with a tree, listening to water, watching the clouds move across the sky, listening to birdsong…
  • being in ritual and sacred space, especially with other women
  • spending time at my altar, meditating, listening, singing
  • snuggling with my husband
  • having one-on-one conversations with people I love
  • writing in my journal
  • making soup; baking pumpkin bread
  • noticing and meeting sensations (of discomfort OR comfort) as they arise in my body

So, I ask again, what does self-care mean to you?

What nourishes and supports you though both the joys and the challenges (and the holidays!!!) of life?

I’d love to hear what works for you; leave a comment below!

Celebrating the Return of the Rain and Last Spring’s Tree Ritual


It is gray and misty and almost raining outside. After what was, for me, an unbearably hot summer here in the Pacific Northwest, the return of the mist and rain is unbelievably relieving.

With a  final (fingers crossed!) 90+ degree weekend behind us, the Autumn Equinox of yesterday has ushered in fall in a big way.

Therefore, today, I am celebrating!

Welcome Fall! Welcome Rain! Welcome cool days and cooler nights! Welcome snuggling on the couch with a blanket and a good book (or my husband, or a movie, or sudoku puzzle)! Yay!!!

2014-05-08 13.41.43As I gaze out at the gray, misty loveliness, I am reminded of another very gray, and much, much rainier day.

A day last spring.

A day when a small group of intrepid adventurers braved the pouring rain to spend time in sacred space with a tree – listening, feeling, sensing for wisdom, magic, healing, and guidance.

To celebrate the return of the rain, today I am sharing with you some photos from that magical rainy day not too many months ago.

May they touch or re-enliven something deep inside, something that may be dormant, waiting for the spark of the forest to bring it (you) back to life.

The day began in front of a cozy fire in a lodge along the Sandy River.

After spending the morning settling in to our bodies and our senses and fine-tuning our deep listening skills, we ventured out into the wilds of the forest. We walked through swirling mists, water streaming from the sky and dripping from the trees surrounding us.

Eventually we arrived at a massive tree where we constructed our altar and called in the Spirits through word and song. When the time was right, each participant wandered out through the forest until they stood before their tree, the tree that contained exactly the wisdom and medicine they needed.


While it is not my place to speak about what transpired within the ritual itself, I can say without doubt that everyone received exactly what they needed.

In the weeks following the ritual, I heard stories of transformation, of deepening into purpose, of renewed connection with the aliveness of nature, and of gentle awakenings into more authentic versions of Self.

2014-05-08 15.57.50

For now, for today, as I continue to celebrate the return of the rain, I leave you with these words from my mentor, Malidoma Somé:

“Maybe we would become candidates for some serious magic if we would enter nature with a little more curiosity, a little more openness, and even a sense of a quest, a quest to commune with and to be with a realm that is far more sophisticated than its physical ruggedness reveals.”

Comment Magic:

For me, opening to the magic and teachings (the wisdom!) of nature is both profound and sacred.

I feel the most myself, the most at ease, and the most capable of living my life in a good way when I take the time to commune with nature.

What connects you to yourself, to your true nature? Have you had an experience in nature that has led to transformation, healing, or insight?


Where is the Chaos? Where is the Ease?


It’s the week leading up to the fall equinox – that magical time of the year when, for a moment, light is balanced with dark.

With dark and light poised in perfect equilibrium, this time of the year offers us the opportunity to bring whatever that is out of balance within our lives forward for reflection and healing.

To connect the upcoming Equinox with our home planet, one of the key qualities of the Earth element also happens to be balance.

When the earth is in balance, both the earth and humankind thrives. When the systems of the earth are out of balance, havoc is wrecked – for instance climate change leading to very destructive storms, drought, mudslides, etc.

I believe that the imbalances that are showing up more and more in our climate and ecosystems are mirrored within our personal and collective psyches.

Bringing whatever is out of balance in our lives into conscious awareness allows for healing to unfold on both a personal and a planetary level.

Our awareness and willingness to work with what it out of balance within ourselves and our lives opens the gates for much more healing to flow through than we might expect or even be able to understand.

One simple way to bring greater awareness around what is out of balance in our lives is to spend some time free-writing.

Here are some journal prompts to get you started.

Take a look into your life and ask:

  • Where, when, and with whom do you feel the most at ease and relaxed? Where, when, and with whom do you experience the most stress, anxiety, and overwhelm?
  • What symbols or hints of either discord or harmony are you noticing in your daily environment? (Just take a look around you: what catches your attention and how does it relate to this question?)
  • Where are the qualities of Earth (abundance, balance, nurturing, compassion, generosity, grounding, etc…) present in your life? Where are they absent?
  • How might deepening into your relationship with the Earth and tuning into the balancing energies of the upcoming Equinox bring more balance and ease into your life?
  • Is there some small ritual or symbolic action you could take to welcome in more balance and ease into your life? If so, what is it?

Bringing your attention to both the element of Earth along with the balanced energies of the upcoming Equinox allows for our emotions and our lives to find greater equilibrium as well.

Personally, I can’t think of anything better as we look forward to the increased activity and stress of the upcoming holiday season!

Comment Magic:

I welcome your thoughts on the interconnection between the imbalances/chaos of the greater systems (from interpersonal relationships to war to climate change..)  and the imbalances present in your daily lives, including your internal world of thoughts and emotions.

Do you notice a mirroring between the two? Or, is it just me? :)

What Do You Need Now?


Today I feel unsure of what I want or what I need. I have this sense of being somehow slightly off-center.

Plus, I have an even longer than normal list of things asking to be accomplished today. Things that are going to go a lot faster and easier if I feel fully present, embodied, and grounded. To get there, some self-care appears to be in order.

And yet, as I run a list of possible self-care activities through my mind, nothing lights up.

Everything seems equally non-helpful… or perhaps even depleting.

This isn’t necessarily a new thing. In fact, I’m constantly on the look-out for new things that feel nourishing and supportive in large part because what works in one moment for me, often doesn’t in the next.

Further, there are also often times when I fully believe the thought that the very act of ‘doing self-care’ somehow requires more energy than what I will receive in return.

For instance, I know that I feel really relaxed and nourished during and after receiving acupuncture. However, the energy and time that is required to get to my favorite community acupuncture center often seems overwhelming. I am easily able to convince myself that just relaxing at home will actually be a better use of my time and energy.

In some moments, this is true for me. Just being home, doing nothing, is one of my highest and most preferred forms of self-care.

In other moments, it is simply as excuse and one of the ways that I sabotage myself from receiving deep nourishment and care.

So, back to today, to this  moment. Now.

What do I need?

Sinking into my body, I become aware of a shakiness that I hadn’t felt before. A shakiness and a feeling of emptiness in my belly. No, I haven’t eaten yet today and it is nearly 10:30. My blood sugar is definitely low.

Hmmm…  no wonder none of my ‘softer’ self-care skills feel right!

I haven’t met the most basic of self-care requirements yet today. Food.

Now I could take some time to judge myself for once again neglecting something so basic.

Or, I could just get up, cook breakfast, and then return to my List of Things I Want to Accomplish Today.

I’m guessing this simple act of basic self-care will allow me to shift that sense of being ‘slightly-off-centered’. And, if not, I’ll be in a much better place to truly notice what the next necessary step is to help me get there.

For you:

As we begin a new week, what do you need to feel nourished, supported, fully grounded and embodied? What will make all of your tasks flow with more ease and efficiency?

The Aftermath of Ritual: A Reflection

2014 Water Ritual

Five days have now passed since the Ritual of Letting Go was held on the banks of a shockingly cold river in the Columbia River Gorge.

My memories of the ritual are ones of laughter, of beauty, of song, and of deep connection to myself, to nature, to the other participants, and to Water.

Most often, after this ritual, I feel amazingly clean, clear, alive, and deeply connected to who I am and to what I am here to do.

The water truly does wash away all murkiness, all confusion, and all that stands in the way of my connection to my true nature and to Spirit.

This time, however, the ritual seems to have served another purpose.

It seems that this time the waters washed away all that stood in the way of me being able to truly see and feel a deep pattern of misalignment within myself.

Today, as I write, I feel raw and vulnerable.

Today I am recognizing and acknowledging there is a much deeper pattern of letting go, of release, that needs to occur.

And, it isn’t something that I want to release. In fact, it is something I have resisted releasing with every cell of my being – clutching and clinging with every fiber of my will.

I’m not certain I can speak directly about this pattern that is asking for release today.

It is too new, too raw.

So, I will share in this vague way because it seems important to acknowledge that this is one of the possible outcomes of ritual.

Yes, often, we exit ritual space feeling deeply alive, nourished, and connected.

Often, the clarity of our vision, of our thoughts, and of our being, is astonishing.

And, there are also often times when what we really needed from (in this case) the water was not exactly what we thought we needed.

Participating in ritual is an act of surrender.

We take into this Ritual of Letting Go all that we are aware needs to be released.

And then we surrender, trusting that Water and Spirit know what is truly needed and that what is truly needed may be different than what we think is needed.

Further, we trust that Water and Spirit will reveal that which needs to be released in ways that we can understand, that we can process, and that will lead to the transformation and healing that we truly need.

In my experience, this has always been the case.

While the aftermath of ritual may at times be challenging, the end result, for myself, has always been a deepening into my gifts, into my connections with Spirit, and into my ability to show up for my family and community in ways that are loving, kind, and aligned with Spirit and my purpose.

While I’m not there yet with this latest pattern asking for acknowledgment and release, I trust the water of my tears to bring the healing, release, and clarity that is needed.

I trust that the next step will reveal itself. I trust that transformation will occur.

And, I trust that I am continuing to be held by Water, by Spirit, and by all of my sisters in ritual.