In My High Functioning Six, I shared on six strengths upon which we can exercise to face life on its terms. Today, and amidst unexpected developments around health, good and not… I am reminded of self care and how we almost superficially acknowledge its importance. I am reminded of what is most important to me and that to which I soulfully aspire.
But first, I offer up this story which I have loved for years but only today am seeing a deeper layer within.
There was once a lover who had sighed for long years in separation from his beloved, and wasted in the fire of remoteness. From the rule of love, his heart was empty of patience, and his body weary of his spirit; he reckoned life without her as a mockery, and time consumed him away. How many a day he found no rest in longing for her; how many a night the pain of her kept him from sleep; his body was worn to a sigh, his heart’s wound had turned him to a cry of sorrow. He had given a thousand lives for one taste of the cup of her presence, but it availed him not. The doctors knew no cure for him, and companions avoided his company; yea, physicians have no medicine for one sick of love, unless the favor of the beloved one deliver him.
At last, the tree of his longing yielded the fruit of despair, and the fire of his hope fell to ashes. Then one night he could live no more, and he went out of his house and made for the marketplace. On a sudden, a watchman followed after him. He broke into a run, with the watchman following; then other watchmen came together, and barred every passage to the weary one. And the wretched one cried from his heart, and ran here and there, and moaned to himself: “Surely this watchman is Izrá’íl, my angel of death, following so fast upon me; or he is a tyrant of men, seeking to harm me.” His feet carried him on, the one bleeding with the arrow of love, and his heart lamented. Then he came to a garden wall, and with untold pain he scaled it, for it proved very high; and forgetting his life, he threw himself down to the garden.
And there he beheld his beloved with a lamp in her hand, searching for a ring she had lost. When the heart-surrendered lover looked on his ravishing love, he drew a great breath and raised up his hands in prayer, crying: “O God! Give Thou glory to the watchman, and riches and long life. For the watchman was Gabriel, guiding this poor one; or he was Isráfíl, bringing life to this wretched one!”
Now ponder this.
What if the Beloved and the Lover are One?
What if caring for ourselves is caring for others? What if caring for ourselves both sets an example for those whom we care and for anyone observing? What if caring for ourselves also made it possible to care for others ever better?
What if self care and care for others were not mutually exclusive? What if it wasn’t about self care coming “first” but that self care strengthens care and care strengthens self care? What if it was reciprocal and not some zero sum game?
I found my 14 years of work with and exposure to the body of work of Dale Carnegie to be such a reminder. The principles he offered around worry were truly about self care… and the principles he offered around our connection with others were about genuine Caring, in action.
Caring, in action. Taking interest. Listening. Being considerate, gentle and loving. Bringing Excellence. Passion for what matters to us most. For ourselves as well as others. This is Caring, in action.
When we care for ourselves, we are setting an example and building a capacity to better care for others. When we resolve to take our best care, we become not unlike a lamp and lit for others. And part of caring for ourselves is caring for others, in Service.
Service is so much more than the “lip service” it is too often given. We are useful. Wholeheartedly so. Thoughtful for others. And ourselves. Helpful. Contributing. And it includes ourselves.
How can we best care and serve ourselves understanding that Caring and Service are of the Lover and Beloved, One? How can we better practice Caring and Service, for ourselves and others. I am pondering this day, amidst my own journey around health, that there my be 4 strengths quite useful.
Another Kind of CIGS
I suggest we look at Candor, Integrity, Gentleness and Simplicity in manifesting best Care and Service.
Candor. Candor is that capacity to be real and honest, with ourselves and others. It is not about giving or taking offense. It is about being real, honest and truthful. We are able to say both YES and NO in response to requests, honoring our best and most true capacities and interests. Candor allows us to best choose how we can care and serve … and own it.
Then there is Integrity, Being true to our ideals. True to our best character. Trustworthy; doing right by ourselves and others. True to our best promises. Integrity is our alignment in care and service. If Candor is us being real with our commitments, Integrity is understanding our best commitments. Both matter, incredibly so.
And then, Gentleness. To be safe with ourselves. A place of solace for ourselves and others; handling all with care. That safe space, “home”… it matters. Kindness of voice and action, with ourselves and others. Peacefulness and Grace, forging Mercy and Forgiveness… for ourselves and others as works in progress. Creating space and time to BE. Gentleness is a strength of Endurance. As we are gentle with ourselves, not unlike our other possessions, we get their full use longer. Gentler gives us greater quality and quantity.
Simplicity of spirit. Enough. Wise in our choices of focus over scatter. Appreciating. Enjoying. Knowing for that which we care most. With Simplicity, we get and appreciate what matters most
Simplicity fights the clutter of doubt and distraction. It keeps us focused on being the best at what matters most, and not trying to be everything to everyone.
But let’s go back. What if Caring for ourselves was intrinsically tied to caring for others? What if Service to others included such to ourselves? What if owning our lives with Integrity, and expressing our interests with Candor, and practicing Gentleness and Simplicity in our choices and their consequences helped us to care for ourselves in mind, body and spirit… and set a beautiful example for others whom we know and do not?
What if it was not a zero sum choice?
How would we better and more consistently care for ourselves?
What would we keep and let go, and add?
I would keep my deep love of teaching and ever more selectively serve in my work with Epic Engage. I would be ever more discerning in my choices to care and serve. I would get back to singing and dancing, personally and professionally. I would dive more into my loves of heroic stories. I would eat to live and enjoy it. I would cartoon again, and write science fiction. I would live my life one semester at a time, living my best choices each 4 months and seeing where they take me. There are people I would keep in my circle and some whom I would simply wish well. There are caring people I would add. I would own what matters most to me in all that I do… my belief in humanity and more. And, conversations around our humanity matter to me. Justice too. And, talking ideas… and community. I would express that with ultimate Candor, unapologetically so. I would be gentle with myself in my choices and consequences, and with others. I would live the Simple Man.
As I write this, I practice this… and my journey back to optimal health continues.
How about you?
Panda got it, instinctively so. How does Candor, Integrity, Gentleness and Simplicity resonate for you in your own practice of Care and Service at home, school, work, business and community? How could they advance your own best sense of Care and Service for clients, customers, colleagues, constituents, companions and all with whom you interact? Your answers will strengthen your true health of mind, body and spirit.
My answers will for me.
Peace, passion and prosperity…
“Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. ― Abraham Lincoln