This weekend, I had the honor of teaching 25 students in Boston, a brand new workshop that I created based on some very personal experience. The workshop is called The Essential Self, and we spent an hour and a half diving into some very powerful self-inquiry work using Essential Oils, Breath work, Yoga, Meditation and Journaling.
Part of the inspiration for the experience came out of one of my favorite quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. The quote goes “It is not with the eyes that one can see rightly, but with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye”. I was reminded of this quote earlier on this year, and it resonated so much that it has been making a rather long appearance on our chalkboard wall in our kitchen. To me, this quote represents the "unseeable self", the one from which we make all decisions; not our physical body, but our emotional heart. It is a constant reminder to me to turn inward for what is really essential in life and that I am the greatest source of all that I create and experience.
The other inspiration for the workshop came out of what has been a very challenging year. Exactly a year ago at this time, my husband experienced a pretty strong anxiety and depression. At the beginning, I had absolutely no idea what to do or how to support him. It was difficult to watch and have absolutely no control over, admittedly. There were many moments when I wanted to be able to snap him out of it, (sometimes by telling him to do so), and there was so much that I wanted to “fix” for him to help make him happier, because I thought I could and I was desperate to make it happen.
I don’t remember the exact moment that I got it, but eventually I had the realization that none of it was mine to fix. And that by consuming myself, my time and energy in trying to “fix” whatever it was that seemed broken, I was going to be wandering aimlessly down a dead end road. I had to do two things: the first, was give up the idea that I had any control or cause over what was happening with him. I remember writing in my journal one night, the words “I surrender”. I knew in that moment that it was exactly what I had to do if we were going to have any hope of surviving. The second thing I had to do was realize he wasn’t broken, nothing was. This was in fact a disease that he was struggling with. The trick of depression is that it’s symptoms mask itself in behaviors that appear to a healthy minded person as something that can just be changed. Especially that of a yogi who believes so strongly in personal power and self motivation, it was incredibly difficult at times not to place judgement on him and what seemed like choices that he could just stop choosing. In that moment, he couldn’t do that and it took me a bit of time, but when I finally realized that, I was able to be there for him with compassion and love rather than judgement, disapproval and anger.
Instead, what I knew was imperative for me, for him and for our daughter, was that I get even stronger in my own self-care practices. This didn’t mean heading to the spa and getting a massage or treating myself to regular manis and pedis. This meant diligent, daily rituals that kept me in check with who I was, and in my healthiest mindset, so that I may be able to hold space for my husband while he was not able to do that. It meant that every single day I was on my meditation cushion before my daughter woke up. It meant that I was on my yoga mat as often as possible. It meant that I was treating my body well with good food, and using essential oils to keep my mind uplifted and feeling well loved. It meant writing in my journal daily, so that I could get out of my head and onto paper what it was I was feeling and cultivate clarity. It did mean the occasional “Treat ‘yo self” moment or weekend away to the beach to give myself some relief with childcare and get some needed space. But mostly it meant being kind and loving to me, the one person in this scenario of which I had one hundred percent control.
One of my biggest realizations that came from these daily practices was how much of an impact, caring for oneself has. As time passed and each day I held strong in my own care, I noticed that my husband was able to breathe a little easier and put focus where he needed it in finding his own care. He sought out therapy, specifically CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, so much of it aligned with my own work the last decade in yoga. He had the time and space to get healthy without the pressure that he had to do it for me or even for our daughter. While of course, we missed our guy and desperately wanted him “back”, we were doing ok because at that time, I was able to hold us up. As I described to someone recently, I was able to live at the vibration that I wanted our entire family to rise to each and every day. And there were days when that just wasn’t possible and that was ok. I was at peace with knowing that we were both doing our work, trying our best and trusting the process. It was scary to be sure, but also incredibly freeing. Our reality was that neither one of us knew exactly how it was all going to turn out, and instead of hustling to “know” we embraced the not knowing and just went one day at a time.
It was hard. I certainly don’t want to downplay that or give all of the credit over to myself and say that my self-care is solely what saved us. But I do want to give it a lot of credit, much more than I believe we tend to as a society who likes to measure success. It is so easy for us to write off how we treat ourselves each day, because we can each probably name five to ten things that we must actually do in the course of a day to make our lives run smoothly, or run at all. The illusion being that if we don’t get A,B and C done or we can’t measure progress, we aren’t doing well.
Self-Care is often not something we can see, at least right away. It cannot be measured and there is no definitive amount or answer to how much is enough or what will work for us. We have to continue to check in and listen to ourselves and feel how we feel, thoughtfully and mindfully. If only there was a bell and whistle that went off when we were fully charged and ready to go. The reality is that there isn't and the knowing of when and what must come from inquiring within, every day.
That is exactly why I am stepping out and advocating for a shift in mindset around how important small daily acts of self-care are. It is not in what we can see, or the things that we do that hold the most essential value to our lives. We first make the decision to do anything from the invisible space of how we feel. When we can consciously connect to that space regularly, we can make decisions about what to do with more clarity and integrity.
We can certainly care for others better when we first are cared for by ourselves. To me, this is no longer negotiable. It is also at the forefront of how our family operates now. Whenever one of us finds that we are drifting away from a strong self-connection, we purposely take time to do what will bring us back. Even our three and a half year old, has tools to help herself calm and find center. My husband too has adapted this mindset for himself, in his own ways. His meditation is often going for a walk in the park or out into the city, listening to music. That was another big key for me, not putting my practices that worked for me, on him. My practices are powerful, but they are powerful for me because they are what I connect to. My aim is to share them with others who also may connect to them, but it is not my job ever, to force them up on anyone, including my husband or my child. So much of our work is in discovering what works for us.
A year later and we are much better partners for each other because of what this last year offered us. I look back now and I am grateful. We were given a gift after 17 years of being together to break everything down to what was essential and now build around that. The depression isn’t always gone, it may never fully go away. He once described it to me like that last scene in A Beautiful Mind. The people that John Nash was seeing didn’t go away, he just learned how to live with them there. And we now have tools that help us navigate it, both individually and as a couple.
In the coming months, I plan on sharing even more around what it is like to be on the other side of depression, to be the space holder for it. And you can guarantee that most of what I have to say and offer will be based on how the one giving care, cares for themselves. Active, daily self-care is as essential as the air we breathe, the money we make and the health of our physical body. There is nothing selfish in the ways of self-care and in so many ways, it is the most essential work for each human being to do.
Check out a brief video of the workshop this weekend below and to connect with me one on one about self-care using yoga, mediation or essential oils, email me: Sara@OneOMatatime.com I am able to be here for you because I am here for myself. It is an honor and a gift.
is a Mama, Wife, Teacher, Writer and Creator of One OM at a time. She has been teaching and studying yoga since 2008 and has taught at studios in Syracuse, Boston and New York City. For two years her hOMe was wherever she, her husband Justin, their daughter Audrey and pug Oscar find themselves as they traveled for Justin's job on the national tour of Matilda the Musical. This way of living has really taught Sara that yoga and mediation requires nothing more than some time and a space for your mat. You can find Sara teaching regular classes in NYC, workshops and retreats all over the country as well as in her very own online studio right here!