I’ve always known intellectually that life on this planet is impermanent. I’ve also done countless meditations on mortality and impermanence. I’ve even had a few close encounters with the Grim Reaper. But now, according to officialdom, I’m a senior citizen.
I don’t feel much different mentally than when I was twenty-three. It’s a different perception when I look in a mirror or go shopping for a new pair of blue jeans.
Like most folks, caring for myself has been a hit or miss situation. Most of the time I’ve maintained good, healthy practices, but there have been periods of back-sliding. I’ve been blessed with an over-all strong physical constitution with no chronic problems nor disabilities aside from terrible eyesight. I also know that such a healthy disposition is not a guaranteed, permanent situation. Health issues and conditions will more than likely crop up sooner or later.
On each birthday I sit outdoors or in a place where the outdoors is visible, and contemplate the world, my place in the world, and how well I’m integrated in it or not. What are my dreams and how have they changed? This is a powerful exercise in self-care. It’s good to become reacquainted with oneself each birthday and at the beginning of a new year. It’s a good way to make sure you’re not running on auto-pilot. What am I doing right? What do I need to change?
I have a formal check-list that an ex boyfriend gave me inside of a birthday card many years ago. I make sure to move it to each diary as I begin one. It’s a simple list of important reminders.
Be true to yourself. Love yourself. Accept yourself. Test yourself. Respect yourself. Value yourself.
For me, these simple statements are the benchmarks of good living. They are so simple and obvious that I have to keep the list of them so I don’t space them off.
There is no hierarchy to the individual qualities because they are interdependent. That said, there are times when one or two need reinforcement. Some sort of personal crisis determines which of them needs extra attention. I’ve found that if one or more of these statements is taken for granted or neglected, my quality of life diminishes.
In being true to myself, I don’t crave the admiration and approval of society. This gives me the freedom to explore what it means to be myself.
To love myself seems obvious. I deserve the same amount of love and affection as everybody else in the world. It’s true that I must love myself before I can authentically love others.
To accept myself for who I am has been a difficult balancing act from time to time. I do my best not to think of myself as lower or higher than others. An old Hindu Proverb is helpful in this respect. “There is nothing noble about being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.”
To test myself is something I enjoy doing. This is where thinking outside of the box comes in. What can I do that I haven’t done before? Do I truly have an open mind? What ways do I limit myself? In what ways has my thinking become strait-laced and overly traditional? How can I enhance my freedom?
To respect myself is when I remember that the only one who can actually bring myself down is me. The only person who can bring myself up is me. Certainly I’m not immune from insults and oppression, but it’s up to me whether or not to accept insults and oppression as truth or fiction.
To value myself is tricky. This is the balance act between humility and pride. Not enough or too much patting oneself on the back are both unwholesome. A realistic self-evaluation is an ongoing process. It’s good to step back and understand what we undervalue about ourselves and also how we overvalue ourselves. I don’t want to be a doormat nor a narcissistic tyrant.
As always, I hope you find some positive value in what I write and share.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders the wisdom of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. “Find the love you seek by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”