As part of my daily responsibilities, I follow a variety of blogs, online magazines, and the like to stay up to date on the current patterns, themes, and topics of the yoga and meditation industry. One thing that always strikes me as both strange and vaguely uncomfortable is the self-care movement.
That is because it focuses on caring for the limited self--the body and the mind. And while I don’t disagree with the necessity of this, I find that it is lacking in care of the true Self. And if we are missing that most vital piece, then we are missing the point and relabeling vanity with the phrase self-care.
What is the Self?
When we talk about the self, there is the little self and the big Self. There is the self that identifies with the mind, body, and the material world. And there is the Self which is our true, pure, and eternal Self as part of God. This Self is the same thing as the soul.
What is the purpose of the Self and Self-care?
The nature of the Self is Love and its purpose is to Love. The only thing that it knows is Love. But this Self is clouded behind layers of karma and negativity and illusion.
Self-care is the act of turning back to the Self, of honouring the soul, and living in a way that will guide you back to your true Self.
What does Self-care look like?
‘So, if you want to be healed, if you want to attain very high level in spirituality, change, you know. Become vegetarian. You will see, you know, as the plants are light, you know, this will help you. It will help you physically, mentally and also Spiritually.’
I was quite young and fairly inconsistent when I first started exploring vegetarianism and veganism. At fourteen, all I knew is that I didn’t want to eat something I wouldn’t kill myself. But a few years later, I got sick (unrelated to the veganism) but all the doctors told me to start eating meat again. I did but the decision never felt right to me nor did the dietary change help my illness. I only seemed to get weaker and sicker.
Over time, I changed doctors, got second opinions, and somewhere in the middle of all this, naturally turned back first to veganism. And shortly thereafter, I came to the spiritual path.
But one of the things I learned so clearly in this time, was that what we eat has an immense impact on our bodies, minds, and spirits. It may not have been meat that made me sick, but it certainly was meat that made me sicker and prolonged my illness. Which makes perfect sense because, to consume meat is to also consume the karma, fear, pain, and anger of the animal you are putting in your body.
And beyond that, these animals have a soul as well. Their soul is made of the same quality and energy that your soul is. All of creation is connected by this force like pearls along a thread. So when you eat an animal, you are denying the very force that created you and gives you life. All for the gratification and sense-pleasure of the lowest self.
Becoming vegan both improved my physical health but it helped me turn to connect with my soul and with God.
Babaji’s Surya Namaskar
‘So, your body is a temple, you know, where the Lord resides Himself with all His splendour and all His love. So let’s remind everybody of this sacredness to keep this body healthy.’
-Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda
My relationship with Babaji’s Surya Namskar has fluctuated between being madly in love with the practice and wildly uninterested in it. But one thing I’ve learned is that nothing grounds my focus on God and my goal, gives me mental clarity to focus on my seva, and the energy I need for my day more than Babaji’s Surya Namskar.
Through asana, mantra, and breathwork, the body moves with the Name of God. By starting my day with this practice, the Name of God and my body moving together, I am called to remember the sacred purpose of my body: to utilise as a tool in service and love on the spiritual path.
Quality Sadhana Practice
‘When you take time to do your sadhana, you will realise the beauty of God’s Love, the beauty of life, and you will know why you are here on Earth. Once you have opened this found, this tap of His Love, Love can just flow naturally.’
My days begin and end with a sadhana practice. But there is a vast difference between sitting and practising my Kriya or doing Babaji’s Surya Namaskar mechanically, doing it with love.
Doing it with love honours my soul, helps me to build my relationship with God and to feel His presence all around me, to feel Him sitting next to me while I meditate and pray.
One of the best ways I have found to develop a quality practice was to make it a priority. My sadhana has its own time in my day and that time, every day, belongs to sadhana. Only when I made a priority was able to start building this relationship up and sustaining it.
There is no perfect recipe, no magic ingredient to guide you in this. Each person must find their way to care for and identify with their own soul. Above, I’ve listed three of the many things that have and continues to support me on my journey. But it is up to each of you to decide which self you want to care for and how you’re going to do that.