There I was, inside a circle of 30 workshop participants. I’ve never liked being in the spotlight, never saw myself teaching, and I was feeling quite nervous and scared. And then, within the span of about one minute, I felt calm, safe, and totally impassioned about moving on. What could have brought about such change so quickly?
I was self-connected and vulnerably honest. I shared exactly what was going on in me—not just my feelings, but also my attached thoughts, like “will they like it, will this benefit them?” From there I moved on to what was behind these feelings and thoughts—my NEEDS for contribution, meaning, making a difference. Yes, this is why I was standing there in that circle. While focusing on these things that drive me, I had space to experience compassion toward myself, which gave me the boost to move on with trust as opposed to getting stuck in fear.
And with that, I had plenty of space and desire in me to spread the compassion – especially in this room full of fulltime multi-tasking mothers, all attempting on a daily basis to:
- Raise/nurture one or more children
- Invest in/nurture relationship with partner (most)
- Manage household duties
- Manage a paid job (many)
- Build skills for future paid work (some)
- Keep the peace with extended family and/or neighbors (some)
- Deal with chronic sickness (a few)
The most common theme was that most time is spent helping/supporting others, and there’s precious little time invested in self-care.
What is this concept of self-care? So many desired strategies, e.g. massage, yoga, meditation, reading a book, taking a nap, soaking in a bath. Yet, how frustrating, when you’re up to your ears in “to-do lists,” to hear others advise “take time for yourself!” I remember always thinking, “Yes, I know, but how/when?!”
After getting plenty of coaching support and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) training in recent years, now my preferred version of self-care is what I consider a very first step . . . getting clarity on what I really want. Only then can I even begin to know what I think and do versus what I actually long for.
Typically, thoughts can be very loud and dominating in one’s head—lots and lots of “should/must/have-to’s,” along with convictions (right vs. wrong thinking), comparisons (“she’s better than me”), interpretations (as opposed to what actually happened), and judgments/labels (“not good enough!”). In short, quite a bit of chaos between our ears. There’s a whole other “reality” inside—feelings and needs—residing in the rest of the body. When the whole picture is seen, clarity can happen, along with new insights and choice about possible next steps. Here’s an example taken from the workshop:
When this particular working mother was asked to simply sit with what is most important to her (i.e. get out of her head and just feel compassion towards herself), she let out a sigh of relief. New ideas came to her about how she might move forward, without the pressure of being stuck in one certain way (her ongoing strategy). Others had advice for her, but she knew her own answers already. It was powerful.
In my own life and with my clients, I use this NVC-based exercise regularly—when I have clarity about what I really want, stripped down to its basics, I almost always have the same experience as this woman. It’s like a warm bath to receive compassion (especially from myself)! It’s freeing to experience choice! And when I have these two things, I have not only the will, but also the ability to explore all kinds of ways to take care of myself.
By the end of the workshop, I felt quite positive about having contributed to these 30 mothers. They learned about how we can suffer as a result of believing our thoughts, how awareness of our inner-world contributes to clarity and the ability to make requests that bring about a much more fulfilling life.
Note of the writer: Cara coaches busy people looking for clarity and connection, mediates for couples, and provides on-site trainings for organizations and courses in Haarlem (near CS). Learn more about “Connecting via Communication”, a course for NVC beginners, 4 March-27 May, 2015, by filling in the form below.
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