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Self Care Confessions

untitled © 2010 Mahala Mazerov

I have a confession to make.

When I published the Tender Loving Care post my original plan was to move the post in a different direction. As you may remember, Susan told the story of her tender attention to her baby daughter. She wrote of her mother watching in awe, touched and inspired by Susan’s loving care.

I planned to write about how seemingly ordinary expressions of loving kindness have a profound impact on others.

When it came to write, I was too tired to form words into sentences. I left Susan’s story to speak for itself and highlighted her final question. “Why, then, is it so hard to give that same care to myself?”

The result was wonderful conversations in the comments and in Real Life.

So here’s my confession.

Through years of living with a brain injury (and a thyroid illness and adrenal fatigue, sigh) I’ve had lots of practice with deep, honest self care. But the truth is I’m a million times more comfortable writing glowing words about inspiring loving kindness then I am writing about self care.

It seems to me that alone requires further consideration.


I have all the same demons you do assuring me it’s selfish, unnecessary (or too necessary, I’ll never doing anything else for anyone else ever again) lazy, arrogant, and in the end just plain wrong.

At the same time, everything in my Buddhist teachings (confirmed by my own experience) tells me focusing on myself, my needs, my desires is exactly how I create my own suffering. The way to free myself is to focus on the benefit of others.

Well, what am I to do with that?

Every time I put myself first — examining every request through the lens of my own energy level, riding disability carts through airports as throngs of travelers drag suitcases in the trek to their gate, going first, sitting when others stand, canceling plans, choosing to rest — how do I reconcile all that “I”?

You may give me a free pass because of my health challenges. You’ll say, it’s different for you Mahala, you have a head injury for goodness sakes.

Keep Your Free Pass For Yourself

You, sweet readers, are some of the kindest people on earth. So please forgive me.

I don’t want your free pass.

Your free pass, so lovingly intended does not help me at all. It makes things worse, can you understand? I don’t want to be the exception. Let someone else be the exception for a change.

We already give each other permission. Compassion. How can each one of us give ourselves permission? Our own free pass to take the care we need to stay whole, healthy, and in service. Without waiting for a breakdown?

How do I wish this for me and for you without turning my back on Buddhism, karma, and the genuine blessings that come from thinking of others instead of ourselves?


I’ve been struggling with these issues for years. Then, about a week ago, I started having breakthroughs. All of my long-standing explorations, meditations, conversations with Buddhist friends, studies in Buddhist psychology… everything that had been so emotionally laden before rearranged itself in the most clear and simple truth:

It is possible to engage in Sacred Selfcare.

I see it. I understand it. I can feel it in my body. It’s tender and beautiful and whole.

I’ve got so many ideas jumping around excitedly in my brain longing to be told, shared, and refined.

There is just no way I want to do this by writing alone. I want to be with you as much as I can with these observations.

I am inviting delightedly begging you to join me for what is sure to be a rich, joyful, wisdom filled, three-part class on the subject of Sacred Selfcare.

This changes everything.

And here it is! Body of Wisdom ~ Mindfulness Practices for Sacred Self-Care. Click for complete details.

13 Responses to Self Care Confessions
  1. rebecca @ altared spaces
    August 6, 2010 | 5:23 pm

    Self care. Is it selfish?

    Well, I notice this: when I am kind to myself I am more kind to others. Here’s an example. We live quite far from a grocery store where I might buy some yogurt to go with the delicious peaches that are in season right now. i was in town recently shopping for food to bring home up our mountain and eat.

    I was 1/2 up the mountain when I realized it. I’d forgotten the yogurt. Oh! how I wanted it to accompany my fresh peaches. Several years ago I would have scolded myself, “I am so stupid. I go all the way to town and forget the thing I most want!” But that’s not what I said this time.

    I said this instead, “I must be hungry to taste something new in the peachy world.” I realized there was a lot on my list and a simple slip up was easy to make.

    Now when my husband forgets things I rarely scold him either. I find it easy to invent a reason he must have forgotten or been too busy or hungry or tired.

    When I treat myself kindly I find it rubs off. I am kind to others as well. Generosity begins with myself. And it is fed with generosity to others.

    Does this ring true with you?
    rebecca @ altared spaces´s last blog ..tender mercies heal a barren landscapeMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Mahala Mazerov
    August 6, 2010 | 10:22 pm

    The point you make, when you’re kind to yourself you’re more kind to others is so true.

    What a delight-full response “I must be hungry to taste something new in the peachy world.” It sounds like this comes to you quite naturally. Was there a time when you were hard on yourself?

  3. Christine (Blisschick) Reed
    August 7, 2010 | 10:23 pm

    There is a level of NOT taking care of one’s self that actually DOES become selfish. When we martyr ourselves to others. When we do for them out of obligation, etc.

    My point being that there are so many degrees of all of this.

    The Dalai Lama is quite clear about it. He says that we cannot even begin to help others until we ourselves are healed, otherwise things like the above-mentioned martyrdom happen.

    AND, of course, when he says “until we ourselves are healed,” he is not just talking about a few months or years from now. His view on this is a bit more expansive and eternal. ;)

    • Mahala Mazerov
      August 10, 2010 | 10:41 am

      This is an interesting thought to me. DO people not take care of themselves because they think it’s martyr-iffic? I thought it was more unskillful, unmindful, not knowing how or feeling guilty for it.

      And yes, the Dalai Lama does not want people to harm themselves. But he also understands the chronically ill mother who gets up to tend to her child, the father who works 2 jobs to give his child the education he didn’t receive, the human rights advocate who eats her dinner at her desk most nights.

      There are, as you said, so many degrees to this.

      I think I see a new blog post coming on. Thanks for your inspiration!

  4. Susan Gallacher-Turner
    August 8, 2010 | 5:59 pm

    Such good comments above…just like the safety speech on an airplane about the oxygen mask, that you must use it yourself, first, before you can help others. I can see self-care that way, the problem comes in when I push myself too far for others and then get caught up in the martyr/victim role. Sigh. And that’s a big clue that I’m not doing good self care when I need it, excessive sighing.

    Right now, the messages I’m getting are for me to rest, to do nothing when nothing is working, and be kind to myself so I can be kinder to others. Easier said than done, but, I believe that it can be done. I praise this group and comments for helping and supporting us all on this road.

  5. Mahala Mazerov
    August 10, 2010 | 10:43 am

    “do nothing when nothing is working.” Reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

    All easier said than done. <3

  6. Rupa
    August 12, 2010 | 5:05 pm

    Mahala, this is so, so lovely. You are addressing a universal need, to be sure. What helps me in this regard is to remember that the body and the mind are considered different from the actual self, according to my Hindu tradition (and maybe in Buddhism, too?).

    So, while we are inhabiting the gross and subtle body (body & mind), we, the soul, are distinct from them. If regarded in this way, the loving kindnesses (not indulgences) we render to our own bodies and minds are as selfless as those we render to others. xo p.s. Love your site.
    Rupa´s last blog ..One Who Can’t Dance Blames the Floor and Other Useful ProverbsMy ComLuv Profile

    • Mahala Mazerov
      August 19, 2010 | 1:46 pm

      Rupa, how wonderful of you to share these perspectives.

      Buddhism differs from Hinduism in that it doesn’t recognize an independently existing self / soul. It’s not a nihilistic view, more an issue of awareness of interdependence. Hard to express in these short comments, but difficult to grasp even with thousands of written pages. :-)

      I love your words “the loving kindnesses (not indulgences) we render to our own bodies and minds are as selfless as those we render to others.” What I tend to say is “love is love” meaning for everyone, not withheld even from oneself. You’ve said it much more beautifully. Thank you.

  7. hazel colditz
    August 12, 2010 | 6:10 pm

    wow…all great and insightful comments Mahala, that are the essence of self care! YOU have provided a wonderful platform for everyone to share themselves in peace, non judging, loving kindness!
    by expressing your issues or confessions it has allowed others to be liberated in their own way and time.
    i am always telling the younger gen that World Peace begins within…before we can spread this meaningful journey we must apply our mind to change within.. self-care is a responsibility that just IS. something that our mind needs to cultivate and investigate to the truest meaning…changing our intellect or knowledge of something into wisdom applied.
    you go girlfriend!!

    • Mahala Mazerov
      August 19, 2010 | 1:51 pm

      hazel, I so appreciate you chiming in here. You of all people understand the inner conflict between focusing on oneself and the teachings which instruct us to focus on others as the way out of suffering.

      “self-care is a responsibility that just IS.” I think I need to put that on a sticky note, dear one. Your words are like one perfect slice of Manjushri’s wisdom sword.

      Seeing the connection to World Peace. So important!

  8. MamaRed
    August 21, 2010 | 4:01 pm

    Oh dearest Mahala…how is it that each time I encounter you I find such wisdom and connection?!?!?!? Nope, no synchronicities … total opportunity for sharing, loving and caring. I, too, have dealt with many an illness during my years and have pushed myself relentlessly, priding myself on “getting up and at ‘em” sooner that folks that was wise. And yes, at least in my own journey, I’ve discovered a martyrdom component that has been present in ever so many lives. Many of my stories that are now being rewritten have to do with self sacrfice, not being good enough as_______ (insert wise sage, creator of spiritual movement name here).

    I believe we have often confused “selfish” with wise self care and have caused ourselves endless pain and suffering because of it. As I was coaching someone a few months back, I asked her to reconsider her definition of “selfish” and it was amazing what happened. When I asked was Buddha selfish or selfless? How about Mother Theresa? Or Gandhi? Or Jesus?

    Mind you, these are the people I’ve used to fill in the blank a paragraph or so ago! And what dropped into a conversation I was having with a friend one days was exactly on this topic. Those speaking of these sages NOW are amazed by their selfless and wise acts. If we were their families, friends, associates AT THE TIME, would their actions have felt selfless or selfish? I posit that it is an AND conversation that we could learn from too. Those amazing people, along with many others who have given great gifts to the world, made choices and left others behind, hurt others and scared others. And they did it because they felt they MUST.

    What if we MUST (although I don’t use the word often) take care of ourselves if we want a snowball’s chance in Hades of helping others? My spending 6 months recovering from serious surgery and 3 years coming back from adrenal exhaustion were opportunities for me to learn and learn a LOT. AND while I was down for the count, I couldn’t share my gifts with others. And it is my belief that it is at least partialy because I didn’t take care of myself or listen when rest was needed.

    OOPS, this has turned into a post…smile.

    love and light, hugs and blessings

  9. Michael
    August 25, 2010 | 5:49 pm

    I haven’t checked in with you for some time, so it was a delight to see these comments; even late, I wanted to share what they’ve inspired in me. I think there is an aspect of self-care where one’s care for others is a kind of care for self which speaks to spiritual growth, but which is also dependent on one’s intention. Then there is the practical aspect where I think self-care seen rightly is like our food, water and air — part of personal maintenance that one should strive to do simply and unselfconsciously. I’m not sure these aspects of caring are in conflict. Proper care for others and proper self-care both create a positive vibrational energy. Doing either with unclear motivation might not always be easy to discern, but I think that’s the underlying challenge of skillfulness in this regard, and an aspect of my life with which I have been at times angry and unfulfilled as well as joyful and transformed.

  10. Elana
    August 27, 2010 | 4:56 pm

    Mahala, you’ve inspired reflection. Being one who can often ‘overcaretake’ when it comes to others, and not always with pure motive as there is some selfish neediness coming up in there, I would be an excellent candidate for your sacred self-care classes. Alas, I must support you in spirit alone due to my current economics : ) What you’re doing is fantastic and SO necessary. I’m so happy you are doing it!

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