Self-care & risk-taking: tea with Jennifer Louden
When I was about to release the first edition of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life in 2005, I reached out to a few wise voices for an endorsement. Jennifer Louden was at the top of my list. Not only did she write a glowing review, she continued to offer support by heartily encouraging me to accept an invitation to start teaching at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. I had a very young child and was reluctant to travel to this remote center in the Berkshire Mountains, but Jen said, “Do it!” (And I am so glad I did-this is now one of my “homes away from home!”) I count Jen as as a treasured mentor, soul sister, fellow self-care advocate and I am so grateful for her big heart and generous spirit. She exemplifies “Sisterhood.” Last week I asked her to join me for tea and answer a few questions that have been repeatedly surfacing in the retreats/women’s groups I lead around the US.
Jen, how do you deal with fear?
I work at having a relationship with my fears. I practice being sensitive to their presence. I just didn’t know how much fear constricted my life for too many years – it was hidden for me. Knowing “Oh that’s fear stirring me up” has been so huge. I then (try) to allow Presence or Being (aka something far larger than me) to welcome the fear, to love it as only Presence can.
I also practice not being impressed by my various fears. They excel at being dramatic, running around with their wrists pinned to their foreheads, wailing about how screwed up I am. I’ve (mostly) learned to shrug and grin, and carry on.
What do you most want people to know about the practice of self-care? What self-care practices are non-negotiables for you?
There was a period of time when I utterly rejected self-care. I had been dubbed the Comfort Queen from a character in one of my books, and I become somewhat of the de facto spokesperson for self-care. At first I loved it but then the whole thing became too precious. I started to see women using self-care as a reason to not take risks or grow because it meant being uncomfortable. I started to see a few personal growth teachers teaching destructive stuff in the name of self-care. Yuck. I had to distance myself from the whole concept but that turned out not to be so good for me personally! What we reject has to go somewhere! I had to rediscover for myself what self-care meant – which, funnily enough, has been learning how to disconnect from the “I”, my strong sense of personal self, and spend more time just being.
As we navigate times of tremendous uncertainty (and all this brings up), what reminder would you offer up to our readers?
Life is always and absolutely completely utterly uncertain. We just pretend it’s not. Thus the best way to navigate life is to embrace that truth – we never know what’s going to happen next. Then you can discover how to ground yourself in simply being and in opening to life moment by moment. It’s so much more fresh and interesting and you have so much more energy! And of course, it’s easier to do this when life is going along the way you want. Thus I can write this sentence while sipping a latte at my kitchen counter, all cozy and happy. Could I write that same sentence at my daughter’s bedside if she were seriously ill? I doubt it. And yet, this is still what I believe to be true. Now to learn to live it more of the time.
Thanks for having me Renee!! Thank you Jen, I feel very blessed to be able to share your wisdom with my community!
Jennifer Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 6 additional books on well- being and whole living, and there are about a million copies of her books in print in 9 languages. Jennifer has been teaching retreats and workshops since 1992, and creating vibrant online communities and innovative learning experiences since 2000. She married her second husband at 50, and is the very proud mom of Lillian and very proud bonus mom to Aidan. She lives on the plains near Boulder, Colorado. www.JenniferLouden.com