We all talk about being caring. And we usually refer to being caring for others. But if we haven’t learned how to truly care for ourselves, we will not be able to effectively care for others.
The problem is, we may well have learned what care is from people who didn’t know how to care for themselves, and so did not appropriately care for us. In my case, it was only from Baba that I learned what care truly is, and how to express it fully. I had to dismantle my understanding of care, which I had been carrying around with me up to that point.
What I learned is that care is paying attention to a person and wanting what is best for them and facilitating that—and this includes yourself. Care is manifesting Love. It is not a decision you make on the basis of your ideas. Care is not a zero-sum game, in which care given to one person means a withdrawal of care from someone else. Care is a bulb shining in all directions, not a spotlight. Everyone benefits.
One way to work with our understanding of care is to use a three-dimensional fourchotomy.
The first fourchotomy is just the quality of caring itself:
|Caring||Indifferent / neglecting / abandoning|
|Lost in / codependent||Non-attached|
The second fourchotomy is how we care for ourselves:
|Am I caring for myself||Am I indifferent to myself /neglecting|
|Am I lost in myself / self-absorbed||Am I non-attached to my self|
The third fourchotomy is how we care for others:
|Am I caring for others||Am I indifferent to others|
|Am I lost in/codependent others||Am I non-attached with/to others|
Finally, the last fourchotomy is how others care for us:
|Are others caring to me||Are others indifferent with/to me|
|Are others codependent/lost in me||Are others non-attached with/to me|
When we relate with people socially or professionally and we care both for ourselves and others, our interactions should be engaging, respectful, enjoyable, interesting, comfortable, voluntary, relaxed, and full of care.
Caring in action should look like this: listening, being honest, respecting others’ agency, and giving ourselves and others appropriate space. If we are resonating, forsaking ourselves, letting ourselves be receptacles for others’ outbursts, getting emotionally enmeshed, putting up with inappropriate things, or wanting to be fixers, then we are no longer caring but rather losing ourselves, which is no help to anyone.
When we are indifferent to others, we don’t listen, we don’t participate, we put up walls, we belittle, we fail to value, we allow ourselves to be distracted, and we remain rigid. When we are truly nonattached, however, we will be present, conscious, disentangled, listening, clear and non-reactive, easy, receptive, agile, and responsive.
If we actually take appropriate care of ourselves, then we can take appropriate care of everyone and everything around us. If we do not know how to take care of ourselves, we will not be able to discern real care in others, much less know how to care for them.
Depending on where we are internally, we relate with other people according to a spectrum of possibilities:
When we are isolated, we do not relate on any level; we remain separate even in a crowd. Resonating is an immature form of care: instead of remaining grounded within ourselves, we vibrate like tuning forks with the vibrations of those around us. This fools us into thinking we are connecting with others, when in fact we are losing ourselves and being selfish at the same time, because we are really indulging in our own vibration.
Sympathy is seeing outside ourselves without selfishness. We feel for someone else’s situation. This makes caring possible, because we are focused unselfishly on someone else while remaining grounded inwardly. When we are completely nonattached and feel someone else’s vibration while knowing it is not ours, then we are truly empathetic, and can grasp and understand someone else’s experience. Only with nonattachment can we show pure compassion, which will then bring us to Love.
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