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Lions Roar : May 2019
capacity for caring to emerge and, even more, to ripen and increase. As a yoga and Buddhist meditation teacher, when I talk about practice I’m usually referring to yoga asana or meditation or breath work. When we engage in these practices, we don’t say that we’re doing “self-yoga,” “self-meditation,” or “self- pranayama.” So when we think of “self-caring” as just “caring,” we are already moving toward a larger view of this practice, one that is for benefit of all beings, including ourselves. How can we shift from the band-aid approach to a practice of self-caring? Even asking the ques- tion is a good start. The Tibetan word for practice is gom, which means “getting familiar.” The prac- tice of self-caring is about getting familiar with the part of us that is naturally caring and getting familiar with what it feels like to apply that tender- ness to ourselves. Sometimes I think about how much I suffered when I was a dancer in my twenties. I saw myself in the mirror every day and I was never, ever good enough, thin enough, special enough. I was grumpy a lot of the time and all those drugs I did didn’t make me like myself better. Now that I am in my sixties, my heart breaks when I remember that young woman, and I vow to be kinder to myself. I don’t want to be that way to myself any- more because I don’t deserve it. I also know that when I am not caring to myself, I am more difficult to be around. This is motivation. It is how we start all spiritual practices. You can say to yourself anytime, “I am going to cultivate my innate ability to be caring, for the benefit of all beings, including myself.” Or you can say, “I am going to get familiar with when I am uncaring toward myself and vow not to go there. I vow to grow my capacity for being a caring person.” If you like, you can place your hands over your chest and feel your heartbeat, as you say this. Even if you don’t think you can do it or you label it as “magical thinking,” you can still say it because you’re getting familiar with opening to your own potential. This is how you begin to move into tend and befriend. “Tending” is when you engage in nurtur- ing activities and attitudes that help you feel safe and calm. “Befriending” means spending time with com- munity and family—experiences that also support “tending.” By attending to yourself with kindness and being willing to take responsibility for your own car- ing, you are tending and befriending yourself. “Tend and befriend” increases the anti-stress hormone oxy- tocin, which lowers cortisol, blood pressure, and other stress responses. In other words, self-caring feels good. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2019 38