Spiritual and Material self-care
When we talk about self-care, we usually referring to proper diet, exercise and sleep. This is only part of global self-care.
In Zen, however, self-care is an oxymoron. Why?
A fundamental teaching of Zen Buddhism is the concept of “no-self”. No-self does not mean that we don’t exist as living being. This is absurd. It means simply that the self is not a unique, permanent, independent, separate self-entity with a self-intrinsic life. We are all interconnected and interdependent with our environment, which is providing life to us.
The concept of separate self or ego is purely biologic that is materialistic.
2,500 years ago, when the Buddha looked into the Nature of Everything, he realized that the perception that we are separate from each other and everything else is an ego-driven illusion and the primary source of our suffering.
In Zen, spiritual self-care is not related to any religions. Zen is agnostic (it is up to you to believe in whoever or whatever you want). Spiritual self-care refers to the caring of our immaterial mind.
Spiritual Zen practice is down to earth. It is based on:
Recognizing the nature and cause of suffering –1) I want, 2) I don’t want, 3) Our illusions) and the ways to deal with them.
Since the main source of suffering in ego-based mind generated, the spiritual practice requires that we focus on different targets affecting mind and ego:
1) Focusing mindfully on our mind activity:
To control his output such as ongoing thoughts, negative feelings and when he is travelling constantly in different space-times such as past and future. Being aware of our mind outputs is the mandatory step before accepting then controlling them. This is, eventually, the way to serenity.
The difficulty about observing your mind is that you do it with your mind. Your mind will create all kinds of distractions that suck you in and deviate your focus on something else, wandering here and there. That is the nature of mind. That is what you observe as you practice meditation. Back and forth between breathing and thoughts.
2) Focusing mindfully on our illusions also called ignorance that is ignorance of reality.
This is part of watching our mind that we talk before. The 2 most frequent illusions and delusions
that out ego mind is producing are: that we are a separate living being and that we control our life.
3) Focusing mindfully on the genuine reality of the present moment.
The present moment or NOW is the only one where we are alive, not 10 years ago and not in one year.
We did exist 10 years ago but only in our mind, in pictures and movies. This past you is dead since you cannot be alive 10 years ago and now. Same conclusion about the future, with a twist.
We don’t know how long we will exist.
As long as you are alive, we are breathing. When you focus your attention on your breath, your body and mind are grounded in the present moment.
4) Focusing mindfully on self-compassion:
It does not mean being narcissist or self- pity. It means to recognize that we are not super heroes w/o flaws.
Also, accepting ourselves as we are does not mean complacency but it is the first step towards improvement It means also that compassion to others cannot be achieved w/o, first, self-compassion.
5) It involves connecting with others, practicing understanding, compassion and generosity toward them and sharing yourself with others.
6) Finally: apart its spiritual component, self-care involves also the material care of your body:
It involves, among others things, eating well, sleeping enough, getting exercise.
Finally, it involves slowing down and being present right where you are with people and things just as they are, even if it hurts. When things hurt, be one with the pain and practice compassion for yourself.
Then, look what could be wrong and do whatever you can to fix body and mind.
You will feel better.