Earlier this week, I was feeling a little discouraged about the “me, me, ME culture” that seems so pervasive in our North American affluence. I wrote a bit about that in my post about all of us being citizens of the world.
Some days, I go through my social media streams, or I stand in a grocery story checkout, and almost all I see are self-focused posts, advertisements, and magazine headlines about how “you deserve to pamper yourself” and “you can make all of your dreams come true” and “you owe it to yourself to buy yourself more things” and “you can manifest abundance and an easy life”.
It makes me want to say what I sometimes say to my children, “It’s not all about YOU!”
Let me say right from the start… self-care is a good and necessary thing, and I am in no way suggesting that you shouldn’t be good to yourself. Many of us struggle with being kind to ourselves, so I understand the importance of reminding people to take care of themselves. I do this often in my courses, workshops, and coaching sessions. I was raised by a mother who modelled self-sacrifice and self-deprecation, so I know how hard it can be to honour ourselves.
The problem is, many of us replace self-care with self-centredness. We justify selfishness – buying ourselves extravagant and wasteful things, doing things that harm the earth, and ignoring other people in our communities – because we believe that we deserve it. In doing so, we isolate ourselves and we marginalize others.
We forget that we need community. We forget that we need to serve each other. We forget that in all of our lives, there will come a time when we will need to rely on the compassion and kindness of other people. My broken foot this week is reminding me of just that – I need people to do many things for me that I would normally do myself.
After the discouragement earlier this week, I started reading various stories coming out of Gezi Park in Turkey that gave me renewed faith in humanity. What began as a protest against the destruction of the park has grown into so much more. People are standing up to police brutality to protest the way that the concerns of common citizens are ignored by their government. In the process, they have created a beautiful community where they share food, make art, do yoga, look after each other, and dance.
One of the most beautiful stories I read was that of the mothers who showed up to form a human chain between the protestors and police after the Prime Minister told them to take their kids out of the park to protect their safety. I was so moved by that story, in fact, that I created a Facebook group to represent a virtual chain of mothers who stand in solidarity with those mothers.
What I love about these stories is the fact that they show that, at our hearts, we are a communal and compassionate people. When there is need among us, we show up for each other. When someone else is threatened, we stand united against the threat. This doesn’t just happen in Turkey – it happens in all parts of the world.
In the Art of Hosting work, there is something called the Four Fold Practice, which teaches that wholeness in this work (and in our lives) comes when we commit to each of the four practices:
- Be Present and cultivate a strong practice of hosting yourself.
- Participate in conversations with deep listening and contributing from the heart
- Host others with good process
- Co-create a way forward together
This is a beautiful reminder that, to live in community and in a world that needs each of us to show up and offer our gifts, we must host ourselves, participate actively, host others, and co-create a way forward. None of these can stand alone, and none of these is a complete picture. Unless you host yourself, you cannot offer deep listening to others, nor will you be prepared to host others.
I created this mandala awhile ago, playing with the idea that all four of these practices are connected, that there is a flow and an interdependence among them as we learn to work with our own gifts and the gifts of others, and that they are all part of what it means to be in circle with each other.
The more I do this work, the more I know that it is imperative, paradigm-shifting work. We cannot continue to function in a self-centred world, nor can we function well if we fail to care for ourselves or others. We need to rely on each other, but we also need to recognize our own strengths.
If you want to learn more about this, you’re welcome to attend a one-day introductory workshop on The Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter that I’ll be co-hosting in Winnipeg on July 24th.