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Lions Roar : May 2019
EFORE EVERYBODY STARTED talking about self-care, they talked about detoxing. Cleanses were the trend and many (if not most foods) were vilified. Daily emails arrived letting me know the many ways that I was toxic—food, air, relationships, inner dialogue. The programming director for a huge yoga conference told me that if I wanted my classes to sell out, I just had to put the word “detox” in the title. This consumeristic approach to ancient yogic practices was accurate in some ways: a need had been identified and a solution proposed. We feel incomplete, unloved, inadequate, and definitely not fit enough. Being toxic might be our own making, but fortunately, we could easily purify ourselves by purchasing a juice cleanse. We could even purify our- selves this way daily, which was really good because it meant we could then continue our toxic ways. So as long as we kept detoxing, we could also keep toxing. It seems to me that the purification trend has faded and evolved into the latest health directive — self-care. Now the daily emails tell me that I need to get more sleep, do restorative yoga, take time out to get together with a friend, do more barefoot walk- ing on the grass, keep a gratitude journal. Actually, I think these are all really good ideas. But none of them is going to satisfy our dissatisfaction, reduce our craving, or relieve our suffering. You might be right that your life is super stress- ful and you deserve a special treat now and then. CYNDI LEE is a teacher of meditation and yoga and an ordained lay Buddhist chaplain. She’s the author of several books, including Yoga Body, Buddha Mind and May I Be Happy. Her new online course, “Taking Refuge In Your Body,” is available at learn.lionsroar.com But applying a materialistic approach to our pain, boredom, need for attention, or aching back is just a band-aid. The discomfort will cycle back up and then we will “do” another self-care activity, and then another when we feel bad again. The momentary relief of a pedicure is like a painkiller that works so well it discourages us from trying to remove the thorn in our foot that is causing our suffering. Besides, it’s our suffering that makes us feel deserv- ing of the yummy self-care goodies. What our suffering really deserves is compassion. This is what initially inspired me to take the bod- hisattva vow. When my teacher, the late Gelek Rim- poche, introduced this concept to me, I was inspired by the idea that my life, my good efforts in practice, and my caring and compassion could be dedicated to the benefits of others. Actually, Rimpoche didn’t say that. But that’s what I heard. For about twenty years. Then I finally woke up to what he really said, which is that a bod- hisattva dedicates their practice for the benefit of all beings, and that includes me. That was against the stream of what I grew up thinking, which was that good and nice people don’t put themselves first because it’s selfish. So when I first heard about self-care, I kind of thought, “Eewww.” It seemed icky. Like taking yourselves out for a date or something. Sad and lonely. But sometimes, I am sad and lonely. And it’s nothing a bubble bath can fix because applying a band-aid is not the same as having a caring heart. As Reb Anderson writes in Being Upright, “All suf- fering is worthy of compassion.” That means that our own suffering too is worthy of our own com- passion. Self-care might be a one-off event, but self-caring is a living practice that allows our innate B LION’S ROAR | MAY 2019 37