We may at times feel guilty about “indulging” in self care, especially those of us who feel a need to help transform the current sociopolitical reality we find ourselves in. We may feel we are being weak or selfish by taking time to meditate, to rest, to socialize, to exercise, to eat well, to create art. It may feel like we aren’t working hard enough, aren’t suffering enough, for our cause.
This however, is a false dilemma.
Self care and political work are inextricably intertwined. What other purpose exists for our political work, but to ultimately ensure true, equitable, and sustainable care and wellbeing for all? Wellbeing, too, for our environment, for our fellow creatures, our Earth. And how can we build a new future, if we do not collectively engage in deep personal exploration and development of our potential? How many past revolutions have failed because we got lost in tearing things down, instead of building what is to come?
Of course, as long as we exist in a system that profits from our exhaustion and inability to get our heads above water, true self care will be an impossible to reach vanishing point. We can heal all our past hurts, but new traumas and damages, on a personal and global scale, will continue to tear us down. This doesn’t mean that we can exist without pain, without death, without accident, without imbalance. As Zorba the Greek reminds us, “life is trouble, only death is not!” But much of what we suffer now, in terms of injustice, in terms of lack of opportunity, in terms of exploitation and discrimination and abuse, is avoidable, must be transformed. And self care, self transformation, is an integral part of this. As Krishnamurti says, “the transformation of the world is brought about by the transformation of oneself.” Even if our current life situation presents challenges in taking care of ourselves to the full extent we would like, let us construct internal and external support networks to decolonize from that which requires our suffering and blood and excessive or demoralizing work. Let us reclaim the necessary. Let us recuperate pleasure. We can be gentler with ourselves, and give priority to our right to wellbeing. And we can create communities that support this work.
In Audre Lorde’s words: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”