‘How quickly do I wake up?’

It isn’t new to want to stay healthy, nor is it new to believe that a good way to stay healthy is for a person to learn to work in harmony with their physical body, emotions and mind.

The recent RAW 21-day challenge asked network members to have a conversation with a person each day for three weeks about ‘what do you do to look after yourself?’

The idea was threefold: to gather more strategies or approaches to taking care of myself, to take an active interest in another person every day, and to remember do a practice every day that actually has an impact on how my brain functions.

It’s the last aspect that let me down – completely. Not only did I forget I was doing the challenge (although after a nudge, I managed to get started, albeit three days late), but one third of the way through I forgot I was doing it, and again only after a nudge was I reminded I had promised to write something about the experience.

Once I’d recovered from the embarrassment, I’ve had a good time reflecting on what I’ve learned and what I’m going to do as a result.

First of all, I had seven great conversations, one of them involved a perky discussion with a small group of people over lunch, stimulated by the challenge question. The group had had a tough morning, and we all looked a little pale as we sat down for sandwiches.

What struck me was how quickly each person had a response, and that talking about ‘what I do to look after myself’ seemed to change our mood. After about ten minutes we all looked healthier and I certainly felt as though some of how I feel when I’m looking after myself seeped in.

There’s plenty of evidence that simply thinking about what I’m grateful for (even if I can’t find anything!) improves how I feel – seems that asking this question does the same thing.

Another realisation was that other people’s responses to the question came more easily than mine, and I think this reflected a deeper enjoyment of what they have chosen to do. It left me realising that whilst I have activities that nurture me, I’ve somehow lost something of the passion for them that I used to have. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m already looking for one thing to do more regularly that will bring something new into my life.

The various conversations gave me some clues too. I was reminded about the role of pets in wellbeing, and also how the routine of taking the dog for a walk can be helped by the dog taking you for a walk at those times when it’s exactly what’s needed but you don’t have the energy for it.

This sense of being supported to self-care was echoed in a number of discussions, either because it was a regular group event where each person encouraged the other, or where a partner or spouse took an active interest in the activity because they knew it was ‘good’ for the other person.

Rhythm seemed to play a big part for many, whether an exercise class, time at the gym or being walked by the dog.

For others it was having something to look forward to rather than the rhythmical beat, whether a get together with friends, or a long weekend in a few months’ time. I also heard of just ‘time for me’ being a core strategy for some – it’s certainly been one of my own favoured approaches, one that I do every day, even if only for a few minutes. Such times might be structured through journaling, mindfulness or sliding into a hot bath, or they might be fleeting moments, but they really seemed to be a valuable lifeline.

My final reflection is on the title of the piece. Gurdjieff was a philosopher and bit of a mystic in the early 19th century. His idea was that we operate at a fairly low level of consciousness; automatons sleepwalking through life, until we wake up.

When we wake up we have a chance to work in ways that free our fullest potential. My journey through this challenge reminded me of this – I simply fell asleep – I am reassured that we all do! The question is how quickly do I wake up?

I woke up because of others gently nudging me, not blaming me for going to sleep and asking if there is still something I can offer or bring. I recognised at the end of this challenge that one of the things I do to look after myself is to be around people who are kind and who in turn are willing to share their kindness with me.