Now that Valentines Day is over we can explore other ways to incorporate love into our daily lives. Valentines Day should be every day, right?! It’s great to have a collective celebration where we recognize the ones we love, but do we love ourselves as well? Not the kind of narcissistic love born out of vanity, but one that is the result of self awareness, compassion and understanding.
Loving oneself is enjoying the process of self discovery, having faith in oneself, accepting imperfection, acknowledging boundaries and appreciating the opportunity to experience the world. It’s basically enjoying the ride called “LIFE” and remaining steady through its ups and downs. Self love is essential because it allows us to love others. If we love ourselves, we are able to grow, develop, nurture wisdom and extend it to others. The journey from infancy to adulthood is the process of learning how to care for ourselves independently so that we can procreate, tend to offspring and care for others.
Love is viewed as a sentiment reserved others. But the ancient Greeks had a more complex understanding that did not exclude the self. They had four different words for love, the primary being “philia”, or virtuous love. The others included agape (divine love/charity), eros (sexual love) and storge (affection/empathy). For the ancient Greeks, love was tied to an ideal of beauty that infused all areas of life, including the self.
An immediate way to love oneself is to care for one’s body and help it maintain optimum health. In this sense, self love is intrinsic to survival. It’s important to nourish the body internally and externally. Lalun began as a way for me to care for myself while I was working for a corporate architecture firm in New York City, clocking 80 hour weeks, pulling all-nighters, binge eating junk food at my desk. My lifestyle was a disaster and certainly not sustainable. To counteract the effects on my body (especially my skin), I began researching holistic practices and remedies. I was especially drawn to traditional skincare preparations as they reminded me of my childhood in Iran where beauty was homespun.
I was also learning how to nourish myself and discovered the macrobiotic diet. The emphasis on whole foods as opposed to isolated, processed food made sense to me. The human body, having evolved over millions of years to extract nutrients from whole sources, would be thrown off balance with the consumption of refined, processed or isolated foods. When taking vitamin C, for example, the body recognizes the missing components such as fiber, water, complex sugars that make up the whole orange and creates a deficiency. This places a metabolic burden on the body. In addition, most nutritional supplements are derived from synthetic sources. I realized early on that it was better to focus on a healthy diet that gave my body what it needed.
Collection of rare attars and rose ottos
Caring for myself quickly became a passion, something I dreamt about while drafting or building models hunched over a desk. Whatever spare time I had was spent purchasing gorgeous materials (rose ottos, attars and exquisite sandalwoods), experimenting with formulas, whipping up products and enjoying the fruits of my labors. It took years for me to recognize and acknowledge the importance of this vital work. Some people considered my passion misplaced while others thought I was wasting my Harvard architecture degree and years of training. But I persisted and when I decided to stop practicing architecture in 2008, I knew where to turn for emotional, spiritual and physical support. My new path became my salvation and Lalun evolved into a way for me to extend my self care knowledge to others.
Image courtesy of Sarita Rosenhaus Coren
The first self care lesson I learned was the importance of oils for the skin. In the mid 1990’s nobody dreamt of cleansing with oils, let alone using them as moisturizers. The common preconception was that oils would clog pores and cause break outs. After all, this was the era of “fat-free”. But I went with my intuition and observations of how the body worked to come up with treatment solutions that supported our natural mechanics. Contrary to popular belief, cleansing with oils would not cause break outs, but would have the opposite effect, easing inflammation and normalizing the skin. Any deviation (dryness, oiliness, patches, rashes, etc.) would be an indication the skin was working overtime to normalize itself. Understanding how our skin works would help us care for it.
The second lesson was seeing how profoundly the seasons affected the skin. I was raised to eat seasonally because there were no other options, so it was natural for me to view skincare as a way to help the body adjust to seasonal variability. You wouldn’t wear an overcoat in summer or a bikini in the snow. The same logic applied to skincare. Cleansing with oils “normalized” the skin so products could be effective when used seasonally. As a result, the richest formulas would be used in winter, the lightest in summer. Similarly, autumn products would help with sensitivities while spring would be balanced.
The third lesson was that self care is incremental. There are no quick fixes and anti-aging is a marketing myth. Any product claiming to make changes on a cellular level should be viewed with skepticism. After all, radiation does just that . . . better to consider what the body needs to maintain health.
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Taking time to care for oneself is a ritual that enriches the senses and a gift of love. I turn my self care ritual into a mini meditation that includes a modified sun salutation, deep breathing, self massage (especially breast area) and a check-in with my body. When you do the same routine on a daily basis you can tell when issues crop up. Yesterday I could do that forward bend, but my left hip feels tender as I sweep down . . . what could be the reason . . . oh yes, I tripped on the sidewalk while I was checking my emails . . . Now I know the logic behind the rhyme “don’t step on the cracks, you’ll break your momma’s back”!
Humor helps me remember not to be too hard on myself. I could have, would have, should have. . . there’s always another chance, another direction, another point of view. Better to sleep on it. Really! Getting enough sleep can help the subconscious mind take on problem solving burdens. It also allows the body to complete its circadian rhythms. Our bodies undergo different metabolic states during sleep, excreting through the skin. Best to allow that process to take place with minimal interference.
Healthy self care habits contribute to a holistic approach to self love. The body demands continual management, why not infuse it with deeper meaning, beauty and joy? Becoming aware of the necessity to love oneself is the first step.
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