Radical Self-Care Step Four – Authenticity

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

Our world is like a department store. There are so many choices, so many different aisles we can walk down, we hardly know which way to turn. And there is such a wide variety of items we can buy. So how do we choose? Which way do we go? We usually have more possibilities than we often realize.

tea party grrlOne of the hardest things we face can be making the choice to be different. By this I mean following a path that radically diverges from the one that is expected of us. For instance, we might go to school and get a degree in something and then decide after a great deal of work that it’s not the right career for us after all.

I once had a friend who was an MD who used to refer a lot of patients to me for massage. She told me she was looking for another doctor to share her office. A month later she said she had found someone she really liked but just when the lease was about to be signed the doctor told my friend that she changed her mind and was leaving medicine to study with her spiritual teacher. I was quite surprised by that. You can do that, I thought? When I considered the time and expense of going to medical school and becoming a doctor, giving that up seemed like an awfully big decision. But It also sounded incredibly brave for someone to change their course because of a deep longing for something else. To choose self-discovery rather than a safe, solid career was an act of pure courage. It made me curious. What does it take to be that confident?

I have been studying self-development for a long time. Since, as a massage therapist and hypnotherapist, I am in the relaxation business, understanding what makes people feel good (or not) has been of special interest to me.

This same doctor friend told me that if I became a psychotherapist she would fill my practice, since she was looking for good therapists to refer patients to. She even told me what school I should attend to get my Masters. I followed her advice and enrolled in a Transpersonal Psychology MA program. About two years in, due to an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, I left the graduate program and moved my massage practice into a shopping center and turned it into a day spa. I made a very similar choice as that aforementioned Doctor. I suspended my education, where I had spent a lot of time and incurred considerable debt to pursue a different career path. The circumstances to do this made sense even though it was a difficult decision and one that many people might not understand.

Sometimes when I’m faced with a tough choice, I imagine myself on my death bed, looking back on my life and I ask myself, what do I wish I had done?

It takes me away from the immediate situation and the expectations of my peers, my family, and our cultural paradigm. I ask myself, what choice would really make my soul feel good? What is the memory I want to have when I look back on my life?

It really helps.

There are so many expectations and pressures we carry from our upbringing, our friends and teachers, that it can be extremely challenging to even know what our hearts want to do. What would we do if there was no one else we had to please? Sometimes it can be a challenge to even dare to consider a path that would greatly diverge from what would be considered, by many, the logical next step.

And yet, it is this very way of thinking that honors our most authentic self. Sometimes this can be the beginning of a most amazing life journey.

Authentic choices don’t only involve major life decisions. It’s a way of thinking that affects choices you make every day in both small and large ways. What you decide to eat, where you shop, how you spend your day off are all opportunities to make authentic choices. Ask yourself what you would do, if you could have total freedom to do anything you want. What makes your whole being want to say “Yes”?

Living as closely as possible to this ideal is honoring your truest self, an important practice of Radical Self-Care. The more you can live like this, the more you will see your life transform. You’ll find that you’ll attract different people and different opportunities.

You will also notice that regardless of anything else, you will be a lot happier, because a great weight of trying to fit into the wrong shaped spot will be lifted from you. And this will not only transform your energy, but it will change the entire way you experience your life.

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Radical Self-Care Step One – Journaling

“Tell me Everything” She Said. And I Did.

One of the tools I have used for as long as I can remember is journal writing. From the very earliest age in high school when the entries were more like poems of coming of age torment, I clung to my tiny notebook. It was as though it were part of my body, clutched tightly underneath my arm. Certainly, it was part of my soul.

As time evolved, so did the journal. Julia Cameron, in “The Artist’s Way” recommends that we write three pages every morning. She even suggests that they be pages we don’t ever read again, so rather than try to do a beautiful piece of writing, she advises us to let every bit of icky goop just pour out, so that, in essence, we could be free of it. It was from her encouragement that my journal became my “free therapist.”

Now my journal writing has become a session for transformation. After writing, I am never the same. It is the place to pour out the swirl of contradictions that do their gyrating dance inside me. Thoughts of desire, hope and angst are released into those pages, clearing my head, opening my heart.

JournalBut there’s something else that happens when I write in my journal. Thoughts and ideas that completely surprise me come up. Just like in a person-to-person therapy session, when you are speaking and suddenly you have insights that surprise you, because for the first time you are actually verbalizing a feeling, the same sorts of light bulbs go off when journal writing.

For a couple of years I was in college, training for a completely different profession that did not at all suit me. I was doing this because the economy was crashing and I was terrified that I would not be able to survive as a massage therapist. They were the hardest 2 years of my life. So tough, that when it was over the only way to cope with the craziness was to write a book about it, which I will someday publish. The way I managed the stress was with a journal writing routine. Every Sunday morning I went to a local café bakery, got a cup of tea and a cinnamon walnut croissant and wrote in my journal. It was a holy ritual where I wrote about my tough week. I ranted about the things I was hating. I voiced my fears. I wailed about my absolute total misery.

Each session ended with a list of things I was grateful for and a list of prayers for the coming week. It kept me sane. Because, you see, even though I was in an environment where I did not fit at all, each time I wrote I came back to myself. The journal helped remind me who I was. And even in the midst of recalling the worst weeks, I remembered the parts of myself that I loved. In fact, writing in that journal was a pure act of self-love. Some part of me was saying, “Here, let me take care of you. Have a nice cup of tea and a croissant and tell me everything.”

And that, dear friends, is the way we use the “Free Therapist” journal to heal. Do you journal?

P.S. I love to hear your comments and please add where you are from. Thanks!