In 2017 I was running my healing center, at the top of my game, serving hundreds of women, and feeling like I found my stride as a business owner. But there was a truth festering underneath the mask of success. I wasn’t feeling good. I was getting constant nudges from my body to slow down. I was always on the verge of getting sick. I had headaches and body aches but I just kept pushing and ignoring my body’s cues. There were so many important things to do, and so many people to take care of, that I couldn’t just stop what I was doing. So I kept going.
Until my body took me down. Until she gave me no choice but to stop. She really wanted me to listen. I ended up getting sick—horribly sick—like the kind of sick that makes you take inventory of your entire life. And this sickness (or dis-ease) stayed in my body for years after. The doctors called it Epstein Barr Virus, but I like to call it My Teacher.
Because her job was to teach me something. She is probably the most important and effective teacher I have ever met. She forced me to come back inside. She made me sit with myself for months and years. She told me to listen deeply, to not look away, and to honor my body and soul with the deepest reverence possible. She asked me what really matters, and what I needed to let go of in order to fully live.
She didn’t let me get up until I was ready to make the changes necessary to heal. She didn’t let me get up until I faced the patterns that made me sick in the first place—until I committed to living in a different way.
She taught me a practice that I call Self-Devotion. Self-Devotion is not merely self-care or self-love—it is devotion, in the most sacred way, to yourself. It is devotion to your wellbeing. It is standing at the altar of your body and your life and making a sacred commitment to show up for yourself first. It is putting yourself at the center of your own world, in service of those you love.
In my darkest moments, My Teacher showed me a circle. And in the center of the circle was me. I was always at the center. And inside my circle, surrounding me, were my children, my husband, my loved ones, and my most passionate work. She showed me that I cannot serve my children or husband or community if I am not serving myself first. I cannot continue to offer my gifts if I am not at the center of that circle.
And she was serious.
Self-Devotion is not an easy practice. It’s not something we were taught to do as children, nor is it celebrated by our culture. It’s not easy to always remember to show up for myself, but if I slip, or if I look away, My Teacher comes back with reminders and lessons to keep my attention. She stays with me, still, every day.
And so I am a lifer. A devoted practitioner of reverence for myself—of Self-Devotion.
And I believe this is the kind of practice that will allow us as women to step into a new level of leadership.
Every Sunday I will be talking about Self-Devotion in our weekly Sunday Service. I’d love for you to come. You can always catch the replay if you can’t join us live. Sunday Service is offered in our private facebook group at 9:00 am PST. Go HERE to join.
Michelle Long, MA (Founder of The Practice)