Tending the Fires of Self-Care

Do you ever get lessons or metaphors from everyday actions? I get them quite often and wanted to share this one that popped up on a chilly, snowy day last winter.

Photo by andre govia on Unsplash

I am fortunate enough to have a fireplace. I am even more fortunate that I was able to have an insert put in, which is basically a wood-burning stove with a nice glass door so that I can still see the flames crackling away.  Don’t you feel warmer just reading that? I certainly do.

 

On this particular day, I started a fire and closed the door. At first, the cheery fire burned brightly. Then I went out of the room, and when I came back, the fire was almost out. I pretty much had to start from scratch to get the fire going again, which was the lesson. I needed to tend the fire. To check on it frequently, even when it was burning brightly. I needed to keep feeding it, to add wood in the right size pieces. The hotter the fire burned, the bigger log I could put on.  If I started the fire and as soon as a flame showed up, I put too big a log on so I didn’t have to tend it so frequently, I would smother the fire. If I kept putting kindling size sticks on an established fire, the would burn out quickly, and I would either have to keep putting more and more on more frequently, or the fire would burn itself out in short order.

What does this have to do with self-care? It’s a similar process to take care of one’s self on every level: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. We need to develop a regular habit, with frequent checking. It will be most beneficial to start with small, consistent actions. As we get more comfortable with these actions, as they become a part of what we do regularly, we can add more or bigger actions.

On the physical and mental levels, it could be starting yoga. You might take a yoga class once a week. When you are comfortable with that (and you might be surprised how quickly that can happen) you can add a second class, or start a practice at home. The better you feel, the more motivated you will be to continue the practice. That’s feeding the fire, the weekly class. The bigger log is adding another class. It becomes easy and regular practice to keep feeding your fire often enough with just the right log to keep it burning brightly.

On the emotional level, it might be finding a therapist to help you break through the blocks and barriers to feeling how you want to feel. I see that as finding the right size log at the right time to keep the fire burning, but not smothering it or having it burn out too quickly.  When you understand your feelings, and how feelings impact behaviors, you are on your way to a more mindful way of living. Not that you won’t feel the undesirable feelings, but that you learn that undesirable feelings pass, and don’t need to result in undesirable actions.

The spiritual level is very personal and could be a very long post. In essence, what is it that feeds your soul, that connects you to the bigger energy outside of yourself? What kind of community or practice fuels you? I wonder if this is less about the wood and more about the reaction with air, which is also necessary to keep a fire burning.

Self-care is an ongoing process of connecting all the elements that keep you burning brightly. It can be joyful, sometimes a little painful, sometimes a little difficult journey with bright rewards along the way.

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