by Rachel Harris, Ph.D.
Go Directly to the Retreat
How many of us actually take good care of
ourselves? Do we eat right, exercise regularly,
spend quality time with friends and family, pursue our
dreams, take time to retreat, choose our associates
wisely, say no to overextending ourselves, get yearly
medical and dental checkups, indulge in moderation, get
the sleep we need, laugh often, save money for extended
vacations, wear seat belts, use sunscreen, enjoy holiday
celebrations, ask for help when needed, communicate our
feelings appropriately, plan for retirement, give and
receive love, have fun, learn new things, watch a
sunset, and rotate the tires on the car?
The list seems overwhelming.
Taking good care of ourselves involves
all of the above plus a sensitive attending to how we
need to grow and develop. This means being aware of
how our spiritual life is unfolding, and how we can nurture
that process in ourselves. For
forty-eight-year-old Betsy, self-care is currently
focused on learning about menopause. For
thirty-year-old Ben, whose father has lung cancer,
self-care is spending quality time with his dad.
So self-care is far more than doing what feels good or
makes us feel good about ourselves. Self-care is
about developing our highest Self. Admittedly,
this is not so easy to do, particularly given the large
and growing demands on our time.
It seems that, as life moves faster and
with greater complexity, it becomes more important, but
increasingly difficult, to take good care of
ourselves. Both men and women are torn between
work responsibility and family needs, concerned with
current living expenses and future planning. Yet,
many of us, women particularly, seem to have a
difficult time putting our own needs ahead of the needs
of others. Jennifer Louden, author of The Women's
Retreat Book, spoke to this issue when she asked
women, "What would you most want to see in a book
about retreating for women?" The most
frequent response was that they needed permission to
take time for themselves.
This is the central issue in self-care:
giving ourselves permission to make it a priority.
Caring for ourselves is an inalienable right that many
of us don't exercise. We may have been taught that
spending the necessary time is selfish or, worse yet,
narcissistic. We may feel guilty doing something
for ourselves before everyone else's needs are met--and
that generally never happens. We may have
neglected ourselves for so long that we don't even know
what type of care we need or how to start. This is
especially true for those of us who have been taking
care of others, whether a growing child or an aging
"Supported by Water"
retreat is for those of us who spend a considerable
amount of time and energy taking care of other
people. So often we're warm and supportive to
others, while we're barely holding ourselves
together. We can create an opportunity to take
care of ourselves whenever we need it, simply by withdrawing
into our bath. Candles, aromatherapy oil and bath
salts, or music can all be added, but the essence of
this retreat only requires a bath tub full of water and
a lock on the bathroom door for privacy.
Entering into Retreat
In a comfortably warm, very full bathtub, allow
yourself to just stretch out for three minutes.
Arrange a pillow or facecloth behind your neck for
For a full fifteen minutes, allow yourself to be
softened, cleansed, and held by the warm water.
With every breath, imagine allowing the water to support
you. Allow your arms to float on the surface of
the water. Feel how their floating allows you to
let go of them from deep inside your shoulder
girdle. With every exhale imagine that your arms
can float away. Use your exhale to similarly let
go of your legs from deep within your hip joint.
Even though your legs won't literally float on the surface
of the water, imagine that they can just drift
off.. Allow the the water to surround and support
Returning to the World:
In the final two minutes, gently begin to shift
position in the tub, stretching and preparing to get
out. Please move slowly and treat yourself gently
as you dry yourself off and get dressed.
Copyright © 2000 Rachel Harris, Ph.D. and The Philip
Lief Group. All Rights Reserved. Excerpted from
"20 Minute Retreats: Revive Your Spirits in
Just Minutes a Day with Simple Self-Led Exercises,"
Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Not to be used without
Harris, Ph.D. is a psychologist who has led a private
practice in Princeton, New Jersey, and has led national
and international workshops for thirty years. She is
author of "20 Minute Retreats: Revive Your Spirits in
Just Minutes a Day with Simple Self-Led Exercises"
and the co-author of the best-selling "Children Learn
What They Live."
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