Saturday, November 15, 2014

Soul Mates: Radical Self-Care and Badass Service

Soul Mates: Radical Self-Care and Badass Service
Catherine Cook-Cottone

I am on the path. In fact, I have been trying to stay on the “path less travelled” or the “good” path for many years without having a felt sense, an I-get-it moment, of what I am about to tell you until this week.

In my I-get-it part of my brain,  there has been a meeting of soul mates.

Radical Self-Care and Badass Service found each other. Without out a doubt, this was meant to be. This is the real thing, true love, a partnership that builds both and accomplishes great things.

This is sort of crazy in face of the truth that I created a model of being that was published in 2006 (see below) that is, in fact, a representation of the inner and outer self. Within this model, the center, the very center, is your embodied self, the representational self, the self that lives in both worlds, you and me right here, out here. Sometimes it takes a while to find the starfish on the sand right in front of you when you are looking out at the horizon.

Citation here Cook-Cottone, 2006

So, here is the backstory. I teach a class called The Mindful Therapist at the University at Buffalo, SUNY in the Fall on Wednesday nights. This year, I took the class through an activity (see ACT Big Book of Metaphors) in which they first imagine, then explain to a peer, and lastly write down exactly what they are like when they are their best selves. They wrote this on a 3X5 card. Next, I asked them to write on the opposite side of the card what gets in their way. After that, we meditated on the self as witness. This meditation ended in a focus on the card, holding the card, seeing both sides of the card- the most effective self and the self as obstacle- all on one card. Despite creating my model eight years ago, presenting on the model for as many years, and creating research study after research study trying to figure it all out, that night-- I got it.

Driving home, I saw myself as a quarter with a heads-side and tails-side, both aspects of the quarter, both always there. I saw my soul, or the part of the self that is witness, seeing this whole thing and choosing- not tossing the coin and hoping and praying that it landed with the best-self-side up- no, I saw myself choosing to show up, to be my best self, my BADASS SERVICE self, and to give less light to the stuff that gets in the way.

This realization felt good, really good. I felt un-split. I ruminate at times on the poem about the two paths that diverge in the woods (Robert Frost). In this way, I have seen myself as disconnected- hopping over trees or crevasses to get to the BADASS SERVICE self path or falling off of the this path onto the other not-so-good path. I was of one self or the other self. I was the good BADASS SERVICE, Catherine or the not-so-good, maybe even tired, Catherine. Really getting it, that all of me is always right here, all of the time, and I need simply to turn my attention, my energy to the best-self-side, ah- that felt so much more integrating and- honestly- easier than jumping paths and essentially being two different selves.

Still, the soul, or witness self, has some heavy lifting sometimes. My BADASS SERVICE self has big, huge, gigantic dreams and plans. I wear myself out on this best-self path. I think that is how I sometimes end up falling through the crevasse onto that other path or a start leaning into the obstacles, blaming circumstances, and shoring up a disempowered stance. Instead of compassion, I get critical, saying “Catherine! Try harder! Be stronger! You are here to make a difference! If not you, who? Get going! Be your BADASS self.” Gosh, in action, embodied, it isn’t so simple as just looking to the best-self-side. I get tired and fall.

I know this is not sustainable. I knew this years ago. You probably have a sense in your own life that knowing something, getting something, and doing something- well- they are not necessarily co-occurring. 

So where does the RADICAL SELF-CARE come in? 

What if the other side of the coin was not obstacles? What if the other side of the coin was self-care? Whoa right?

So for years, I was all in or all out.

I was either amazingly competent or in a self-indulgent decline into whatever self-destructive behavior de jour I was stuck in.

So, yeah, it was:


 That was what the coin, the two sides, and my 3X5 card looked like.

So my bigger, huger insight came two days after I had a felt sense of the me and the two sides of the coin and all that.

The past two years, I have been in development of the Mindful Self-Care Scale (Cook-Cottone Scroll Down for Scale). I have also fallen in love with the term RADICAL SELF-CARE because for people like me- it takes something radical to get me out of my BADASS SERVICE- or what is an enthusiastic and 100-miles-an-hour passion for service and making a difference. To be clear, what I am saying is that in my life, self-care feels radical and it needs to be that way to pull me in, to slow me down.

So my new self, my new coin which has been evolving to this very moment for years looks like this:


Notice that I did not write “or.” I wrote “and.” Yes, one path, one quarter, one 3X5 card. I knew this- damn it! For a few years now when I have taught yoga, I have challenged the students and then brought them into counter/recovery poses saying, “After great effort, take great rest.” I have been describing this way of being for years, letting it float on the surface of my life- and finally- I get it! I get it in my body, in my head and it feels wonderful.

In this new way of being, Radical Self-Care holds the hand of Badass Service and together they are unstoppable. Like any good relationship- they are stronger together than they are alone. Radical self-care without service, well, you get a little self-indulgent and lose sight of your Dharma (a Sanskrit word meaning purpose). Self-care is not a purpose. It is not a reason for being. Further, without the self-care of your being, your physical and spiritual self cannot sustain your mission of finding and pursuing Dharma.

Get it?

You need the RADICAL SELF-CARE to sustain a BADASS DHARMA and you need Dharma, a reason for being, to inspire self-care.

I feel like I have brought together this couple that was destined to be together. It is like they finally ran into each other at the grocery store. I imagine Radical Self-Care was trying to choose a few lovely apples and Badass Service was standing up after picking up a sustainable grocery bag that had fallen on the floor. As she (Radical Self-Care) thoughtfully chose the most nourishing apple and he (Badass Service) retrieved the almost-lost container, there was this clumsy, silly collision. 

Then, time stopped. 

They looked into each others’ eyes. Ah, it was if Plato’s split aparts were finding each other. There were fireworks. All of that.

I believe in this couple. And I am so glad that Badass Service broke up with Self-Destructive Exhaustion a few years back. I am also glad that Radical Self-Care started doing yoga. It’s all in the timing, isn’t it?

So, this is a love story about how Badass Service met Radical Self-Care and they changed the world for many, many years- together. 

Now, back to the research to see how this shows up in the world (but only after I go running with my friends, laugh with my kids, do a little yoga, and take a nap with my husband).


Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag

Post a Comment