I’ve always shied away from self-love. As an intellectual striver from a German, Protestant workaholic background, self-love always seemed too squishy to me. That might surprise friends who know that I read extensively books in the self-help and spirituality genre, and who might assume that anyone who reads the work of authors such as Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Christiane Northrup, and Catherine Ponder would be into the ‘self love thing.’ However, pushing ahead with achievements, be they in loving mothering, stellar teaching, great writing, or beautiful gardening, has always felt more comfortable to me than ‘loving myself.’
In 2013 this began to shift. I became attracted to the work of the many people who are talking about a renewal of feminine consciousness, with self-care as one feature of the gentler, nurturing, life-tending energy associated with the feminine. The way my heart opened to these ideas revealed that I needed them. My fast-paced life of setting goals, achieving them, and setting more was leaving parts of me starved for care. Watching myself struggle with stress, anxiety, and health problems, I had to admit that a healthier life would involve more time for meeting my own needs. I started to acknowledge that I very much needed the self-love that I hadn’t ever found very appealing. When an intuitive friend told me that much of my self-care was arising from a place of fear rather than love, I knew she was correct—I felt the need to take supplements, study energy healing, exercise, and watch my diet because I was fearfully trying to avoid or resolve health problems, not because I enjoyed these practices or felt deeply nourished by them.
When I read Christine Arylo’s self-love categories from her book Madly in Love with ME and her February Self-Love Kit, the one that speaks most to me this year is ‘self-trust.’ This is my year to deepen my ability to listen to my inner voice, my body, and my Higher Self. Rather than continually seeking answers from the next exciting book, supplement, or energy healing modality, I feel a need to move more into self-love by trusting myself and the guidance she is always offering, if only I can listen. I know that I’m called to make some changes in my work this year. As much as I wish that a mentor, angel, or other authority could tell me exactly when to take a big step I have in mind, I’m seeing that the decision needs to arise from within, and that self-trust is the path to discernment.
I’m better able to connect to self-love concepts and practices when I link them to my love and concern for the natural world, which is more familiar ground. One of my biggest realizations in the past year has been that self-care and Earth-care are joint endeavors. The ways we are learning to care for ourselves through the self-help movement now can be extended into Earth care, into healing our Self in its largest physical form. Just as each human needs clean air and water in order to thrive, so does every species in the natural world. Just as we need healthy ecosystems to support our lives, so do all species. Our own bodily, psychological, and spiritual needs are interwoven with the lives of Earth’s other species and ecosystems. Increasingly I see that our self-care/self-help movement has enabled me and others to increasingly deepen our care for our mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. I believe we are now ready to deepen our care for our larger Self, the Earth.
If Christine Arylo is correct that self-trust is something we all can benefit from cultivating, and if I’m right that it can help to think about this not only in a focused internal way, but also in regard to how self-trust fits into the larger life picture, then self-trust means at least two things. One, self-trust means listening to your internal guidance, whether you call it your intuition, soul, Higher Self, conscience, guardian angel, God, or something else. This inner guidance can speak through emotions, dreams, bodily feelings, and in other ways. Two, Self-trust means listening to the guidance being provided by the life community: noticing that climate change is mounting and ecosystems are struggling, how can each of us act daily in defense of life, trusting and heeding the life community’s messages that all alive today need to care more kindly for the Earth-Self, or the life community that supports our individual selves?
My self-care pledge to myself for 2014 is to explore self-trust. A year from now, I want to be able to say that it’s more a part of my life. My self-care pledge to the life community for 2014 is to heighten my teaching and writing on the topic of how individual self-care is connected to the well-being of the Earth-Self, or the community of life on this planet. On the planetary level, Self-trust is calling for us to listen lovingly to our polluted skies and waters, our sibling species facing extinction, and ecosystems in distress: trusting them as our life partners is an open pathway to healing for the life community and for our individual selves.