Third re-discovery: When you care for yourself, the world cares back


I took last week off work. I didn’t do anything special or go anywhere special. In fact, I took time off precisely to stay home and do ordinary things I never normally get time to do. Like go to the dentist. Fun. The surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) thing that I rediscovered is that these ordinary things are really special, and bring me infinite joy.

I had one of the best days I have had in a very long time last week. It was totally self indulgent or what I would prefer to call self caring. I woke up easily, I meditated and wrote in my gratitude journal (in the morning, and didn’t fall asleep). I spent time hanging out with Monkey and Mr Bread, doing nothing in particular. Then I went to the dentist. And happily, what I thought was going to be a major procedure turned out to be very minor. Instead of getting two new front teeth (I broke mine when I was young – dolphin kick, eyes closed, bottom of the pool), they just gave them a bit of a polish and they were as good as new. This gave me extra time for more self care.

ImageSo I did a bit of shopping. Not the type of shopping where you buy too much to try to fill some void with stuff and then regret it later, but the kind where you buy one or two lovely pieces that make you feel beautiful.  Then I had lunch with myself – a pure joy. I had forgotten what great company I was. This was followed by a manicure and pedicure while sitting in a massage chair and flicking through a trashy magazine (does it get any better?). My friend, Miss A, called and asked if I wanted to join her for a massage, why not, I thought. That massage chair was really just wetting my appetite. ‘Shall we do an hour and a half?’ she said. Yes, lets. It seemed that the universe was just offering up more and more self caring opportunities. Obviously what I needed. And the fun did not end there. I had a delicious Japanese dinner and then my beautiful pink nails and I sat down with three inspiring and passionate women for drinks on that balmy Bangkok evening. But that is for my next installment, ‘Friends are Awesome!’ coming soon.

Back to my massage. As my tense muscles started to unfurl like the fronds of a fern, my friend and I talked and laughed on our side-by-side massage tables. Nearing the end of this blissful experience, Miss A’s ‘oracle’ masseuse said to her, ‘you’re friend [referring to me], she happy. Good laugh, good person. She happy person.’ This was the kindest complement anyone could pay me at this point in time as I try to reconnect to my happiness – not ‘you’re beautiful’, or ‘intelligent’ or even ‘kind’; but ‘happy’. And at that moment I felt deep down that she was right. I was happy, in fact I felt at peace. I felt like the real me was starting to reemerge after months of aestivation.

Well anyone would feel happy if they had a mani/pedi and a massage, you may say. It has taken me over a week of reflection to try to understand and articulate what happened on my day of self-care. I have realised that it wasn’t the external experiences that brought me joy. It was that, on this day, I allowed myself to enjoy the moment and care for myself without trying to justify it and without feeling guilty for being so self indulgent. I let go of the need to be productive and let myself just be. I read a great quote from happiness guru Robert Holden, ‘the purpose of our lives is not to get everything done.’ Sometimes I forget this. But on this day, I remembered. I connected to my joy and the joy in others around me. And the world seemed to congratulate me, ‘here have some more fun, and love to go with your self-love’, it said. I think that on this day I had a glimpse of wu wei – the action of non-action, or non-doing – an important concept in Taoism. The best way I can explain my experience is that by going with the flow, one beautiful thing led effortlessly to the next and time seemed to be endless. It was like the universe reflected back to me my internal experience.

It is very hard for many of us, myself included, to believe that getting a massage is as meaningful and important as attending a meeting or answering emails. But it is. As Ekhart Tolle explains – your inner purpose, which is primary, is to do exactly what you are doing now with consciousness or awareness. My purpose is typing this word. Your outer purpose, which is secondary, is whatever you want to achieve through the doing. We will definitely come back to this purpose stuff in future blogs.

But for now I know that my purpose is not to get everything done. Although, I do love a list. And now that I have ‘baby brain’, to-do-lists are essential. (The other day as I was packing for an overseas trip looking absolutely everywhere for my favourite, most-comfortable bra, that I was actually wearing – seriously!). So I can’t give up the lists, but I will include self-caring and fun activities on my to-do-list and I will try to prioritise them as equally as I prioritise work. And I will do what I am doing, in a spirit of non-doing.



2 responses »

  1. That’s interesting, I was talking to a rabbi over the weekend who also likes to skateboard. He used to skateboard as a kid, way before he became a rabbi, and he then rediscovered it more recently and got back into it about a year ago. Most of the other rabbis think he’s crazy and those that don’t assume it’s some kind of “reaching out to the kids” thing but he says it’s more than that. It’s his space for “non-doing” where he can reconnect with everyday pleasures like doing a trick on a skateboard. He’s also a Kabbalah scholar so he explained to me how Kabbalah means “receptivity” and how it’s the art of learning to receive or making a space to receive life’s gifts. He also blogs at

  2. Thanks bookswapmelbourne. Fascinating blog. I think sometimes doing activities that we really love, or that require extreme concentration, or that are even a bit dangerous are in part so joyful because they quieten the mind. I tried rock climbing for the first time recently and had a similar experience to some of the things spiritualskating talks about. You have to be fully present in the doing, in order to simply not fall, and therefore that experience feels intensely alive and energised. I think everything we do has the potential to bring that sense of aliveness if we do it fully with all our attention. Not so easy when doing the dishes…but possible.

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