In this environment, Self-Care is its own form of Activism


A few years ago, when I first considered whether to describe myself as an activist, I worried that to do so would make me a fraud.

I wholeheartedly support the Black Lives Matter and Women’s Marches. I think the March for our Lives movement is inspiring and powerful (especially since they don’t let the adults do the talking.) But I admit that I’m not really comfortable packed into large groups, so group protesting doesn’t appeal to me. Making signs and marching has never called to me. And I don’t even like repeating chants in a yoga class, much less while walking down the street.

It’s just not my thing.

Still, in a world where suddenly wrong was right, lies and insults were “telling it like it is,” and Donald Trump was the beloved face of the “family values” party, I knew I knew I needed to be active. But how?

Well, I decided, I could write.

So, the night before the 2016 election, I wrote a last-minute plea to folks who were only lukewarm on Hillary, and who, for that reason, were staying home or voting third party. I begged them to let lukewarm be enough this time. I argued now was not the time to expect perfection, but to vote for her to save us from — well, children yanked away from their parents and locked into cages, for one.

Obviously my one single post did not change enough minds. But I do have it for posterity. I will be able to show it to my grandchildren someday, when they ask me, “What did you do when it appeared America had sold its soul to a reality show swindler?”

When the first Women’s March happened in January of 2017, I allowed myself to be inspired from far, on my screen. I wrote two articles that day. The first one was about growing compassion through loosing up our boundaries. The other was about learning how to take up space in a world that often tells us to get small. I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but while I wasn’t being an activist in the traditional sense of the word, I was an activist that day for something that matters deeply to me: self-care.

As a yoga teacher for 10 years, I regularly encouraged self-care practices, in whatever form we could get it. It was never an easy sell. The practice of self-care has always been viewed as ancillary. Optional. Something we could focus on and invest in once all the other pieces of our life were in place. Which, of course, was never. When has there ever been a moment when all that’s left to do is take an Epsom salts bath?

Except for now. Self-care can no longer be ancillary. Now, we need it more than ever. Because the poisoning occurring in our political realm is threatening to impact each of our individual hearts and minds.

Skeptical of the connection between the two? Well, recall the invisible workings and rules of the universe in which we live:

“What is here is elsewhere, what is not here is nowhere.”

“As above, so below.”

“As within, so without.”

We can try to ward off the poison with shopping, or television, or alcohol, and we probably all do to some degree. We can make rules over dinnertime discussions. We can block, unfriend, hide, ignore. But in the end, we cannot hide forever. We cannot escape permanently. What is happening in America — no matter how much we think we’re turned away, or turned off — is happening inside our bodies and minds. We are all a microcosm of the giant macrocosm. There is no division between politics and real life other than imaginary divisions we create with our minds. No matter how much we believe in or wish for peace and love, the same toxins of hate, intolerance and destruction that threaten the health of America threaten the health of our own bodies and minds.

This means that now is not the time to further bury or re-bury pain that might be coming up. It’s time to reach out to others and remember that none of us is alone on this wild human journey. That our wounds, while unique, are not unknown to others in a slightly different outfit. It is never easy to relive pain. Now is the time to love ourselves enough to let our pain surface. To see it honestly. To engage with it. To understand it. And to begin to let it heal.

Now is not the time to wallow in isolation or helplessness. It is the time to pull up some old loves. Maybe it’s singing, or volunteering, or reading fiction novels set in Medieval times. Maybe it’s time to start playing the piano again, or take an art class, or reach out to an old friend. Creativity is a stalwart ally against despair. In the name of self-care, let’s resurrect some things that bring us joy.

Now is not the time to downgrade our standards. What we said we wanted five, ten years ago from our governing bodies we must still demand. It is tempting to negotiate down. To say to ourselves, “Just this, and that is enough, and I will be content.” It is time to remind ourselves and speak out about what matters most to us, and to live every day in testament to it. We must not chip away at our standards because we don’t like the discomfort of not meeting them. Let us hold our standards and expectations of ourselves and others high, in the name of self-care.

Now is not the time to let our relationships settle in mediocracy. Now is the time to more deeply explore the value of each of them. Strengthen those that need strengthening. Renew those that need renewal. End the ones that need ending.

Now is not the time for apathy. Now is the time for engagement. For learning and growth and speaking out. All our words, all our truth — the world needs to hear it now. It’s time for passionate and honest expression.

Now is not the time for more boundaries, caution and restraint. We did that already. Now is the time to open the windows and dance and sing out loud. To move our bodies and our minds in any damn way we please. Now is the time to throw a party, and celebrate life. This too is an act of activism against a societal pull to draw the curtains closed. In the name of activism, now, more than ever, is the time to love our world. Not just quietly or subtly or gently. But wildly and wholly and without boundaries.

We are living in a very different time. Let us make it a time for boldness. For gutsy chances. Even for some decisions that others might call rash.

As much so as marching in the street, activating one’s own passions, truth, strengths and talents in the world is a form of activism.

Let’s activate them, in the name of self-care.

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