Updated: May 22
Morning baths always seemed so forbidden to me as if I were squandering precious time that could be used more wisely. I'd always bought into the cultural conditioning that spending time on things that didn’t involve doing or resulting was wasteful - even sinful.
I grew up in a blue-collar family ingrained in a constant mindset of lack, which, in turn, produced a specific external language to express it. Scarcity was vivid. Food, clothes, and extra money for fun were regularly not available. So, I deeply internalized that getting anything or anywhere always meant doing something physical to produce it.
I lived by the concept that my own personal value rested on how I organized my daily life. And as a female, I tended to double down on helping others through how I managed my time, set goals, and created productivity at home, at school, and at work. I don't think I even had a lot of fun doing the things I loved like sports and dance and music, just because I was trying to achieve through sheer force and will.
I felt pressured, for instance, to be the best in my class in order to justify my parents' keeping me in a private school, which, of course, they couldn't afford. I continually scouted for better after-school positions. By the time I was 14, I was expected to earn some money in the city Summer Jobs program in order to alleviate basic expenses. I babysat my brothers, cooked when my mom came home late from work, and took on massive extra-curricular projects in order to prove my stamina, my beauty, my intelligence, and my worth. All of it in the hopes of creating some sort of far-away, fantastical abundance. All this because I secretly didn't believe I ever would. I'd been told it was the right thing to do, but occasionally wondered, however, if it actually was.
It didn't stop me, though. I refused to pause. I sidestepped the very question. And I continued achieving through excessive labor in every facet of my life right through my 20s, 30s, and 40s. It took my 50s to finally learned to think and behave differently in the opposite direction.
After decades of exhaustion, I realized that rushing around, overdoing, and over-giving were terrible, punitive habits - especially for women. Habits that hurt our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits, and eventually take their biggest toll on our relationships. The one we have with ourselves and by extension the relationships we rely upon with others. So, I determined that it was time to do away with forgoing the most essential aspect of my womanhood. Pleasure.
Ok. Yes. I know what you're going to say. I'm sure you already do know how to make yourself happy in all kinds of ways. But are you really in your full feminine energy? Sure you can sit back and relax. But the deeper place means you can pause, breathe and receive. And that's pretty hard. Believe me, I know first-hand.
I still have to routinely pull myself back from the idea that I need to do more, have more, or be more. It's only when my body just quits on me and I shut down completely. Exhaustion takes over. My joints ache. I get a sore throat or can’t seem to digest food. Mood swings are the norm. And depression sets in from the guilt of not being able to plow ahead with my to-do list because I suddenly can’t get out of bed. I tell myself all the spontaneous crying is for no reason at all. But, I know exactly what's going on. I’m just embarrassed to admit it to myself or pissed that I’ve been waiting for someone else to miraculously give me what I need. Playtime, serious self-care, and rest. And it all goes back to my childhood conditioning of "spending time".
It took a lot of release work to be able to reframe that conversation. I have to consciously revisit it daily. Developing good habits is a lot more challenging than sinking into bad ones. I remind myself all the time that pleasure, for women, is not only the essence of our femininity, but the source of our power. It is our direct connection to the Divine. For men too. It’s simply unhealthy to live 100% in our Yang energy 100% of the time. It might seem heroic. But it’s a lot for a mere human to withstand.
While I began turning around the idea of what the value of rest was, it didn’t seem like a big deal at first. But there was something very weight-lifting about removing the expressions, “hard work” and “work hard” from my vocabulary. Although the word “discipline” remained. Because beauty, self-care, abundance, and rest take a certain amount of development, practice, and dedication to fully realize.
The first time I finally allowed myself to take a morning bath, I got momentarily squeamish and almost talked myself out of it. But that simple rejuvenation was like unlocking a safe at a bank. It was so easy afterward to get through my day and I did it with so much unexpected creativity. I felt abundant and free.
So, look, you can do whatever makes you happy. For me, it is taking a beautiful, steamy, oil and flower-filled bath. For you, it might be sipping a delicious drink as slowly as possible or strolling on a less traveled path at some point in your day. The point is just to do it. No special instructions are required. Spending time experiencing rest, pleasure and joy is in more ways than you can imagine, like money in the bank and it's a lot better than stressing.