Out of breath and with swollen ankles the woman struggled into line behind me at Target. She waved two reusable grocery bags at the cashier, “Did that lady forget her bag?” “Hey!” She yelled out to me, “Is this your bag? You forgot your bag! Be sure and get your bag!”
I recognized her, not from her face but from the harried way she so desperately wanted help me. She filled the roll of the archetypal EveryMom – hair frazzled, a chronic look of worry on her face. EveryMom always takes care of everyone else first. She doesn’t heed the warning of the flight attendants upon takeoff, “If we loose cabin pressure while in flight, first, place the oxygen mask over your own face and breathe, THEN place the mask over your child’s.”
Before leaving the checkout line at Target I assured the woman that the bags were not mine and had been left by someone else. She looked defeated and exhausted, as if she had just failed at her task.
How often is it the case that we put other’s needs first and leave nothing for ourselves? We have heard others tell us and have convinced ourselves that to do otherwise would be selfish.
Here’s why it is important to do as the flight attendant says and give oxygen to ourselves BEFORE others –
We cannot help others when we are depleted. There is a term in Ayurveda called OJAS. When I think of Ojas I think of, ‘filling the well.’ Ojas is the nectar of life that we put in a reserve, in a well that we always have access to. It’s very much like a savings account at the bank. Think of the feeling you have when your savings account is full vs. when it is low or empty. Your body has the same feeling when your Ojas is depleted.
Ojas in Western medicine is related to the adrenal hormones cortisol and DHEA. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can suppress immune function. It’s a pretty good bet that when you are sick your cortisol levels are pretty high. DHEA in comparison is an anti-aging hormone. When cortisol levels are high DHEA levels are low. Low levels of this hormone are found in cancer patients, those with depression, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue and memory loss.
How does one fill the well, increase Ojas and DHEA and keep cortisol levels at a healthy low? It’s all those things we hear all the time – fresh alive food, exercise, meditation, prayer, breathing exercises. Those things that balance our harried lives.
Dr. John Douillard recently posted on his website – http://www.lifespa.com a challenge to all who cared to participate to pick a week to live at the “Royal Pace”. To paraphrase, royals do not rush, they get a good night’s sleep and wake up early, engaged in activity but calm and silent, breathing deeply with full breaths, do not raise their voices, eat at a table fully set, they are totally present, benevolent rulers. The Royal Pace supports the creation of ojas, of filling the well, of raising the levels of DHEA in our bodies.
This Mother’s Day I invite you to practice the royal pace.
See if by doing less you actually do more. I would love to hear your comments on this and I will share mine with you.