I think of my personal energy as my inner chi availability—not only because the words rhyme, but also because inner chi means “vital life force.” Sometimes spelled Qi, the word originates from ancient Chinese and other eastern cultures and literally translates into “breath” or “energy flow.” Although mainstream medicine considers chi an unverifiable concept, its existence forms the central, underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts.
Yes, mainstream science does recognize that human bodies produce energy. I recently came across a western medicine-oriented MD who begins her book by discussing cellular energy—not for smart phones, but for wise bodies.
I remember from high school biology class that our cells produce energy. But I didn’t remember that the mitochondria are the workhorses that actually do this. Dr. Terry Wahls explains in her best-selling book, The Wahls Protocol:
“Most cells in your body contain mitochondria. Some contain many more mitochondria than others. The more energy that a particular cell needs, the more mitochondria it requires to churn out the energy. For example your brain, retina, heart and liver cells contain a lot more mitochondria than most other cells in other parts of your body because thinking, seeing, pumping blood, and processing toxins are all high level activities.” (p. 28)
She goes on to explain her eating plan based on what our cells and mitochondria need for optimal performance. It makes so much sense. Give the nutrition what your cells need and they will be healthy and fuel you; don’t and you won’t have the energy you require.
And it’s an unfathomably complicated business:
“Your cells have approximately 4,000 different enzyme systems with more than 1,000 different chemical signals, performing trillions of chemical reactions every second.” (p. 35)
Yet, give them the nutrition they need—and they perform these astounding myriad of complex interactions beautifully. The result?
We have enough energy to live–we have inner chi availability.
I think about the busy parents I coach who are constantly exhausted and overwhelmed with work and family. Juggling, and attending to conflicting demands day in and day out is an unfathomably complicated business, as well. When I invite them to experiment with “the paradox of self-care” they look at me like I just stepped off an alien space ship.
Who has time for selfish pursuits with a fussy baby or a frustrated 5th grader?
Self-care can be seen as selfish, even narcissistic. However, in all my years of parent education and coaching work, I have not meant one single parent who was “too selfish.” Quite the opposite. Most parents are so self-sacrificing; they suffer, and their children suffer as a result. (Although they don’t notice that, at first.)
Restoring parents’ commitment to protect their inner chi usually takes three steps over 4-6 months:
First, intellectually understand that parent renewal is good for the kids.
Moms and dads who move out of the idea that it is selfish to take care of themselves and come to understand that it’s the best thing they can do for their kids, soon gain energy just by the thought of taking time to gain energy!
Framing self-care as self-nurturance changes perceptions. I introduce this concept in the PCI training for parent coaches, as well. Lesson One invites budding parent coaches to take their self-nurturance practices to the next level.
When parents say they will give self-nurturance a try, in order to re-fuel their inner chi, I also ask them to observe “the paradox” they are about to begin living. By taking more time for themselves, they will have more time to give to their children. Suspend belief. I know it is not logical to expect this. However, once they see it, though, they then believe it. Living the paradox bring visible changes.
Second, begin renewing self regularly and observe effects.
Whether its getting back to your yoga practice or taking fifteen minutes in the morning to savor a cup of coffee before the children wake up, what constitutes self-nurturance and energy restoration varies in scope, size and shape. I ask my clients to be realistic—and extremely gentle with themselves. Start slowly. Even more slowly than comfortable, since forcing nurturance cancels the definition and prohibits the purpose. If you have to do this or think you should do that—it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Third, consider plan to nurture self holistically and be clear about what has changed.
After a few months, parents soon notice exciting positive changes:
“Now that I’m going to the gym twice a week to let off steam, I find myself having more patience when I help Sally with her homework.”
“Taking 20 minutes after I get home from work to de-compress, has helped me be more engaged with the kids’ bedtime routine.”
“I am actually considering getting started on that new project I told you about.”
Seeing the results of their own self-nurturance in action clearly demonstrates the “paradox of self-care” in their daily lives. Most parents profoundly moved with increased inner chi availability look to tweak other parts of their life. For instance, if they start with caring for their physical health with more attention on diet and exercise, they might add mental health tune-ups with increased meditation time. If they begin with keeping a journal or other spiritual reflection exercise, they might want to move on to planning ahead for regular time with friends.
As they excitedly add new components in eager anticipation of even more benefits, they soon realize that protecting personal energy means a life-long spiral upwards. They rejoice in this understanding.
Just as cells function optimally when they receive the necessary nutrition, when parents attend to their personal energy needs, their children flourish. The family moves to new levels of harmony and aliveness with ever-increasing Inner Chi Availability for all!
Copyright, Gloria DeGaetano, 2017. All rights reserved.