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"Self-Care" Retreat
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 more 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 parent.

20-Minute Retreat:


"Supported by Water"

This 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.

Step 1: 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 comfort.

Step 2:
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 you.

Step 3: 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 permission. 

Rachel 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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