Over the past years, my concept of what self-care means (for myself) has changed drastically.
This is good. This is to be expected when the basis for my work is about evolution and allowing/expecting things to change. The very fact that what self-care means has changed so much indicates to me that I am on my path.
This change has been disconcerting, however, as it has happened super swiftly.
Further, every time I think things have settled enough so that I can actually begin to write about it, everything changes again.
Today, I’m in this place of not even knowing where to begin to talk about what self-care means to me now.
There is now just so much more. My framework has expanded (and is still expanding).
So, let’s start with a story.
It is a while back. I have only recently been introduced to the teachings and work of Malidoma Somé.
I’m skeptical. I truly, honestly, thoroughly, don’t get the whole piece about working with your ancestors, with your lineage, for healing. Growing up in an ultra-conservative religious community, I feel oddly discomforted by the entire notion.
Yet, I’m also very drawn to the aspect of his work that involves working directly with the elements of fire, water, earth, mineral, and nature for healing and transformation.
And, I love the focus on purpose, on community, on personal empowerment, and living in relationship with nature.
My (not-yet) husband and I do a water ritual at the ocean to release some of the old, stale patterns between us that were not serving our relationship. I feel so connected to the ocean and to the earth and have this sense of being truly cleansed.
My interest grows.
In which I light the red candle.
So, on a whim, I decide to see what might happen if I light a red candle for my ancestors every day while I write in my journal.
Enter 10-14 days of the most intense emotional turmoil I’ve ever experienced.
I honestly thought I was going insane. I didn’t think it would end. I was convinced that I was just going to feel this insanely sensitive, easily triggered, and emotional for the rest of my life.
Oh, I was using *all* of my self-care tools.
They would help – while I was doing them. Then, I’d be off into this spiral of devastation, anxiety, fear, grief, etc.
The only thing that really seemed to help was spending time talking with my ancestors when I lit the candle – telling them how awful everything was and bawling my eyes out.
Then, I’d feel better. And then, some even deeper layer of something would open and I would once again be a wreck.
So, yes, 10 days of absolute awfulness, 10 days of being more emotionally sensitive than I’ve ever been (even at the height of hormonal intensity), 10 days of thinking I was going insane.
Finally, slowly, over the course of a week, the emotions began to abate.
I began to experience more and more moments of absolute calm and clarity. When the emotions would begin to rise again, I could take it all to my ancestor candle (now an altar), let it pass through me and within a matter of moments, be back to a place of stability.
In brief, spending time with my ancestors was the quickest, most effective self-care I’d ever experienced!
It was about that time that I began to notice something different when I went to light my candle and speak with my ancestors.
I could feel them!
I could feel their support and their love. When I was feeling afraid or sad or anxious, I could take it to them and just rest in their love. I would leave feeling nourished, calm, and centered.
Then, I noticed something else.
First, though, you need to know that the majority of my dreams have always been very dark.
…me, alone, in a dark city, being chased through alleys (or cornfields), not knowing who to trust, conspiratorial (against me) overtones… those types of dreams. Creepy, dark, very alone, terrified…
As I began to re-find my center and feel/accept the support of my lineage, my dreams changed.
People (who I innately knew I could trust) would all of a sudden pop up in my dream and whisk me to safety. Or, we would be side-by-side fighting and fleeing together, scheming up all sorts of unlikely and unbelievable ways to escape the dark forces threatening us.
It was amazing! I was no longer alone! I had support and allies even in my dreams!
I would *never* have guessed my dreams could change.
The thought had never even crossed my mind that that was a possibility. And, they continued to change over the next few months.
Today, I can’t even remember the last time I had a dark, conspiratorial dream. Now, I have different patterns showing up for me to work with; and, I have support in my dreams to work with the new things as well.
There is so much more I could tell…
…about how everything in my life is different now, about the various rituals I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of and to lead, and about how much more support, love, in-real-life community, and connection there is in my life.
However, what is most important to me right now is to start opening up a bit more about how self-care truly looks for me in this moment.
I’m starting here, now, with this story.
I’ve experienced so much transformation and deepening of connection with myself and my community thanks to this nature-elemental-spirit-based path I am walking. This path works for me.
What is working for you now? Do you have a spiritual (or spirit-based) path that is a part of your self-care? Where do you turn when things are difficult?
Do you feel called to work with your ancestors for healing and wisdom in a similar manner? I offer private mentoring sessions to help you cultivate a healthy, healing relationship with your lineage.