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Shambhala Life Skills: Self-Care

Originally the word "health" meant "whole" or "undivided." However, today the word "health" has come to mean something quite different. Today, it is more likely to mean free from illness or able to pursue your daily activities.

Shambhala Black Belt Life-Skills bring us back to the original meaning of the word "health" by recognizing the interconnectedness of the mind, the body and the spirit. Shambhala Black Belt Life-Skills unify and strengthen the bond between the mind and the body, resulting in a powerful spirit that becomes your guiding Life-force.

Shambhala Black Belt Life-Skill Number Four Self-Care

SELF-CARE is doing for yourself rather than being reliant on others to do for you. Knowing you can do for yourself, however, never means you cannot ever allow others to also attend to you. On the contrary, the Shambhala Life-Skill of SELF-CARE requires you to learn the difference between allowing others to do for you vs. burdening others with the responsibility of doing for you.

SELF-CARE is more than health care. You need to learn to use the Shambhala Life-Skill of SELF-CARE long before any symptoms appear that indicate potential health problems. SELF-CARE is a constant, on-going attending to yourself or "Self-Attending." SELF-CARE is an investment in yourself. It is a Shambhala Life-Skill which allows you to learn how to take good care of what is important … you. This kind of self-investment increases your self-worth, which in turn justifies more and more personal investment.

SELF-CARE is so basic and simple that you often overlook its importance. With SELF-CARE it is the little things, the everyday things, that make a powerful difference in the long run. It is, for example, the extra few minutes you take to sit down for breakfast rather then rushing through toast and orange juice over the sink, that sets the tone for the rest of your day.

SELF-CARE is crucial to your ability to maintain Integrity within yourself and with the outer world. Only if you develop the art of attending to yourself can you restore the vigor that is drained by the complexities of day-to-day living. A commitment to this restoration needs to be an all day, in every way, process. It begins with awakening and continues throughout the day, to your last moments of consciousness, and then throughout your sleep. Individuals dedicated to their Integrity do not find this process a burdensome task. Instead, this constant attending to Self is enlivening.

Awakening, Grooming and Dressing

SELF-CARE begins when you first awaken by assessing yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Not necessarily each aspect separately, but often in a more general way, by spending a few moments with yourself quietly monitoring the awakening of your entire self.

As you begin your day with Integrity and the quality of your Life being your focus, you can become skilled in turning daily, ordinary rituals into frequent opportunities to attend to yourself. Grooming and dressing are examples of such opportunities. Grooming is perhaps your best daily opportunity to give yourself the kind of attention you deserve.

The daily rituals of awakening/grooming/dressing set the tone for the rest of your day. They give your day a quality of direction, and they give you a sense of Self that will affect everything you do and everything done to you. To rob yourself of this kind of attention, to abandon yourself because of a poorly planned schedule, too little time, fears of vanity, or concerns about non-masculine behavior is to communicate to yourself that you are not worth your own time.

On the other hand, requiring yourself to participate in so-called “healthy” activities simply because you have been told they are "good for you" jeopardizes your ability to practice genuine SELF-CARE. The Shambhala Life-Skill of SELF-CARE encourages you to assess independently, for yourself, what activities add to or diminish your Integrity. If the activities that you are encouraged to do by others (i.e., jog, diet, meditate, socialize, vote, date, marry, procreate, go to church, financially succeed, etc.) deplete your Integrity, their apparent benefits will not be worth what they cost you.

At Work

After you begin your day attending to yourself via your waking, grooming and dressing, it is important to continue the process throughout your working day. You need to live close to your work or find ways to make commuting time well spent. You need to create a working environment which enables you to continue investing in yourself.

You need to check your daily activities to ensure that they are enlivening. Monitor the relationship between the activities you are participating in and the degree to which these activities add to or detract from your Integrity. By doing so you can turn tedious and non-gratifying work into creative challenges and rewarding Self-involvement.

At Home

Home has a special meaning for Shambhala Black Belts. They realize the disharmonious toll daily life can take on them. Consequently, they create homes that are sanctuaries. They vigilantly guard the ambience and privacy of their sanctuaries. They know the value of having a place to go to collect themselves, to be quiet with themselves and recover from the disintegrating toll life can take on them.

Homes belonging to Shambhala Black Belts, regardless of income, are likely to evidence peacefulness, orderliness and a welcoming warmth. Such homes are also likely to reflect much of their owner's identity. These sanctuaries are the first place Shambhala Black Belts go to restore their own Integrity.

Friends and Acquaintances

Guarding the ambience and privacy of your home requires the screening and training of the individuals with whom you share your home. Because Shambhala Black Belts are committed to their Integrity they are also committed to the quality of their relationships with others. Without such a commitment you risk not only the disruption of your sanctuary, but also risk the complete deterioration of your relationships and your life.

Shambhala Black Belts recognize the destructiveness of disharmonious relationships. You need to take a great deal of care in the selection and training of the people with whom you share your time. This cautious selection and training does not guarantee quality relationships, but it reduces the time spent in relationships that eat away at your Integrity.

The Shambhala Life-Skill of SELF-CARE encourages you to create relationships that add to your quality of Life, and at the same time it fosters a quality relationship with your Self. Through the art of SELF-CARE you learn how to listen to that barely audible voice deep within yourself that guides you towards regaining your original Integrity. You can not hear this whispered guidance if you are drowning in your own culturally acquired thoughts. You cannot discern whispers if you are angry and yelling at yourself.

Through this Shambhala Life-Skill you learn how to be patient with yourself. You learn how to take pressure off yourself and how to turn negative experiences into wisdom and creative wealth. Seldom will you find Shambhala Black Belts "on their own backs." Seldom will you find them berating themselves, raking themselves over the coals or putting pressure on themselves to be what they think others would have them be. Shambhala Black Belts avoid activities and people that drain them of their vitality for life.

End of the Day

As with the beginning of the day, the end of the day closes with quiet time for Shambhala Black Belts practicing Self-Care. They end their days in much the same way as they begin, preparing for bed by taking the time to attend to themselves. It is a time for reassessing the day, and thinking about how to make tomorrow even more interesting and enlivening. Perhaps the most important part of ending the day is preparation for sleep. Your sleep needs to be re-energizing. Your sleep needs to bring the revitalization necessary to move forward tomorrow with Integrity.

Sleeping is more than something you do just because you are tired. During sleep your entire system sorts and sifts through past events. Every thought and feeling is assimilated and assigned meaning. Shambhala Black Belts use sleep to re-energize their physiological, mental and emotional systems. Your sleep, be it three or nine hours a night, needs to prepare you to awake with a clear mind and renewed emotional stamina for creating a life well-lived.

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