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Understanding and Cultivating Your Resources

Learning how to support yourself.

Key points

  • "Resource" is anyone or anything that promotes growth and healing.
  • Resource can be a person, process, relationship, experience, memory, or energy flow.
  • You can support your practice of cultivating resource by creating a personal set of resource icons, such as key figures or moments in your life.
Prostock-studio/Shutterstock (Item ID: 1746425702)
Black Self Love
Source: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock (Item ID: 1746425702)

Every one of us has a giant goodie bag full of resource. Yet most of us focus on only one corner of our goodie bag and rarely look beyond it.

This is actually a cause for celebration. It means that you have many more places to turn—and many more options to explore—when the heat gets turned up under you.

Let’s review your most familiar and obvious forms of resource:

  • Family members, friends, and other human beings who care about you
  • Helping professionals—healthcare workers, therapists, counselors, life coaches, massage practitioners, and so on
  • Communion and alignment with your ancestors
  • Spiritual leaders, coaches, and advisors, especially those with an embodied or emergent focus
  • Trustworthy mentors, elders, and teachers
  • Spiritual communities, especially those with an embodied or emergent focus
  • Informal and formal support groups of all types, from Twelve Step meetings to weekly breakfasts with trusted acquaintances to lifelong triads
  • Meaningful written texts of all types—from brief aphorisms to multivolume works
  • Helpful apps
  • Talks, podcasts, videos, interviews, and in-person presentations featuring wise and compassionate people
  • Workshops and classes led by people you trust
  • Inspiring music and art
  • A regular contemplative practice such as meditation, prayer, yoga, chanting, singing, mindful walking, or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. (However, keep in mind the potential peril of bypassing, as I discussed in my post "Are You Bypassing or Overriding Your Body's Genius?")
  • Time spent in nature—walking, cycling, swimming, bird watching, collecting mushrooms, or watching sunrises
  • Time spent quietly alone, deliberately not doing any task
  • Time spent simply humming, wiggling, or rocking
  • Time spent with animals—a beloved pet, the pet of a friend or family member, or wild animals in a park or nature preserve
  • An enjoyable art, craft, skill, or hobby—taking photographs, cooking, painting, dancing, restoring your home, playing chess, or creating a new and helpful app
  • Keeping a journal
  • Body practices (included below)
  • Principled, compassionate activism—working for a valued cause
  • Pausing and paying attention
  • Any other activity that you find meaningful

Now let’s investigate four ways to explore your resource goodie bag that many people often overlook or don’t recognize as valuable:

1. Add more soft things to your life. Take regular naps. Take relaxing baths. Spend three minutes a day stretched out on the floor, listening to your favorite music. Go dancing. Download and use a stress-reduction or grounding app. Hug and kiss your family members twice as much as you do now. Spend more time playing with your grandkids, your pets, or both. Get massages.

2. Consider all the people who care about you. We naturally see partners, relatives, and friends as forms of resource. But there are many other people in your life who can help or support you. Don’t dismiss them as resources just because you’re not close to them. If you have early-stage prostate cancer and you’re torn about what to do, reach out to your colleague at work who had it a few years ago. If you’re beginning to have doubts about the trustworthiness of your minister, speak with two or three other people in your congregation. If you’re worried about letting your 16-year-old son drive your car, call or e-mail the couple down the block, who now have three kids in college. Your shared interest or experience—and your familiarity as an acquaintance—may be enough to bring the two of you together around your particular concern.

3. Connect with your elders and ancestors. Each of your ancestors may have wisdom, experience, or information that can guide you. Talk with your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other respected elders about their lives and about the generations that came before them. Ask them to show you old photos and films. Explore your memories of any ancestors who might provide you with insight or support. Even an ancestor you despise may be able to teach you something, by helping you recognize what not to do—and by enabling you to be grateful for having chosen a different path.

4. Embrace silliness and cuteness. Watch videos of cute and goofy animals, cute babies and kids, and pets and their owners doing silly things. Watch silly comedies. Don’t think of these as guilty pleasures but as forms of resource. They can help you relax and settle your body. They can make you laugh, and they can help you relax.

When you access any resource, pay close attention to what shows up in your body, including any:

  • Vibrations (the charge or energetic quality that your body picks up about a person or situation)
  • Images and thoughts (memories, ideas, visions, fantasies, etc.)
  • Meanings (explanations, stories, comparisons, connections, cognitive judgments, etc.)
  • Behaviors, impulses, and urges (what your body does, plus what it wants to do that you don’t act upon)
  • Affect and emotions (fear, joy, disgust, delight, anxiety, pride, grief, longing, etc.)
  • Sensations (pressure, tightness, release, heat, cold, numbness, etc.)

You can support your practice of cultivating resource by creating your own personal set of resource icons. These are images, symbols, and phrases that quickly remind you of specific resources. A resource icon is essentially a shortcut on your internal computer screen that you can quickly locate and click on.

Imagine that you had a teacher in high school who was an important mentor. She died a few years ago, but her words, actions, and lessons still live on inside you. Her photo from your high school yearbook can be a resource icon for all your memories of her and everything you learned from her.

Suppose that your uncle David was a major role model when you were growing up. You have a particular memory of him holding onto your forearm as you practiced learning to ride a bicycle. That memory of his firm and confident grip can become a resource icon. Simply recalling that grip can enable you to quickly access all your learnings and memories involving him.

Here are some other examples of resource icons:

  • The way your sister used to call your nickname to announce that supper was ready
  • The warmth of your dog’s belly on your hand as she sleeps beside you
  • The coolness of the night air when you first step outside after dark
  • A still image on your phone’s home screen from your favorite cat video
  • A quote from Angela Rye posted on your refrigerator door
  • Your best friends from high school or college telling you how proud they are of you
  • The business card of the person who hired you for your first meaningful job
  • A tweet from Charlamagne Tha God reminding you that your mental health is just as important as your physical health

The practices that follow will help you make cultivating resource a regular part of your life.

Bodymind Practice: Cultivating Resource 101

Sit comfortably and quietly for a minute or two, breathing normally. For 10 breaths, follow the air as it enters and leaves your body.

Bring your attention to the bottoms of your feet. Sense the ground beneath them, supporting you. Stay focused here for a few breaths.

Then move your attention to your back. Experience the chair or sofa supporting you, doing what it was designed to do.

Now think of a resource icon—a person, animal, or place that gives you a sense of safety and security. Imagine that you’re with that person or animal or in that safe place. Let yourself experience that safety and security for a few breaths.

Notice what your body experiences throughout this practice. Pay attention to any:

  • Vibrations
  • Images and thoughts
  • Meanings, judgments, stories, and explanations
  • Behaviors, movements, actions, impulses, and urges
  • Affect and emotions
  • Sensations

Bodymind Practice: Your Goodie Bag of Resources

Set aside 20 minutes to be alone with your thoughts. Have pen and paper nearby.

Make a list of all the types of resource you can think of. In addition, mentally review all the important things that you have lived through, learned from, and worked on—and the people, connections, skills, and awareness that these have brought into your life.

Keep in mind that a resource must be real. It can’t be something you only wish for, hope for, or aspire to.

After 20 minutes, stop. Then slowly review the list from top to bottom. If you like, pause at any time to smile or be grateful for any resource on your list.

Keep this list in a place that’s easy to access. Whenever you like—or whenever you need a boost—take out this list, pick one or more of the resources on it, and connect with it.

Once a month (or more often if you wish), quickly review this list. Then spend 10 minutes adding to it.

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