Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps in Personal and Planetary Transformation

Nurture Yourself First: Gentle Steps in Personal and Planetary Transformation

by DSS Ilenya A. Marrin


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504354974
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 06/07/2016
Pages: 198
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)

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Nurture Yourself First

Gentle Steps in Personal and Planetary Transformation

By Ilenya A. Marrin

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2016 Ilenya A. Marrin, DSS.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-5497-4


Crashing and Crawling into Self-Nurturing

I finally asked the right question, "How can I quit pushing and driving myself?"

Illness Allowed Self-Nurturing

After college I became a child welfare social worker in Texas. Periodically, I had to go through court to remove badly neglected or abused children from their parents, which was extremely stressful. Invariably, I developed a chest infection that indicated I was grieving. I needed antibiotics and two or three days of rest. At home I slept, read, sewed, or embroidered, embracing quiet or mildly creative nurturing activities while my body recovered. Although I was sick a few times a year, this program worked fairly well for quite a while.

Fast-forward past my two years of social work in London, my writer/editor/publicist career in Las Vegas, and my private practice as a psychotherapist in Tucson.

Stress and Chronic Illness

I worked once more in children's services, this time in a large county in California with some of the toughest assignments in the agency. I was responsible for children so emotionally disturbed that they could not live in family foster homes but needed round-the-clock professional supervision in group homes. Many had been in the system for years.

It was not easy, but I felt I was making a difference by helping children and families through some incredibly challenging situations.

One December morning, I was expecting a promotion to supervisor. Instead, we huddled in an impromptu staff meeting and learned that the county had declared bankruptcy. There would be no promotions. Hiring was frozen. I narrowly missed a layoff. Caseloads went up, but the client visits, case documentation, court reports, and court appearances still had to be completed. I still got crisis calls in the middle of the night.

I did my best to manage it all. I met deadlines, saw my clients, wrote thorough reports to minimize time waiting in court, and juggled multiple crises daily.

My health went down the tubes. In the first fifteen months after the county bankruptcy, I took prescribed antibiotics thirteen times. I was never free of chest congestion and sinus infection. A chronic cough ruled my life. Many times a day in my cubicle or in meetings with clients or on the freeway, I doubled over and coughed for minutes. Eventually, I recovered from the spasm and carried on. I seldom took days off even when I was sick because catching up with missed work was impossible, and I could not expect my colleagues, who carried equally heavy workloads, to pick up the slack for me.

I continued to have neck pain because of whiplash and bulging discs from an auto accident a few years earlier. I developed carpal tunnel syndrome and wore a wrist brace. Tired and achy all over and never a sound sleeper, I could not get comfortable in bed. I spent hours awake in the dark, flopping around, imagining strategies to help my clients, rehearsing testimony or simply fretting over how to get everything done. Some days I nodded off in traffic. Scary!

Mounting stress undermined my normally calm disposition. Many mornings I sobbed in the shower. There was not enough of me to go around. I felt my energy pouring down a black hole. Then I commuted an hour to my office, checked dozens of phone messages, and coughed my way through another round of calls, meetings, and client visits.

Cracking My Cosmic Egg

After about a year of this routine, I attended a weekend workshop on individual and world peace and had a revelation. For the first time, I saw how I sabotaged my inner peace by pushing and driving myself to excel. I was relentless, and my health was taking the hit.

Although excited by my new perception, I had no idea how to change my approach. Pushing and driving had been a part of me for so many years that I didn't realize I was doing it until that moment. On a break, I mentioned my stunning self-awareness to my husband, who said, "I've been trying to tell you that as long as I've known you." Yikes!

Next up in the workshop, a remarkable man named John-Roger, founder of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, educator, and author of more than fifty books, sat on a low stage and chatted with various participants. I raised my hand, eager to ask for suggestions on how I could be kinder to myself. He called on someone else. I laughed with the crowd as he talked with that person. But I really wanted to ask my question. He was looking around for the next person while I kept waving my hand. I was so enthusiastic that I jumped up and started down the aisle. He called on someone else, but he told me I was next. I sat down and enjoyed the discussion as the level of humor stepped up another notch. John-Roger had a gift for speaking to the heart that ranged from the sacred and profound to the hilarious in a moment.

At last, I walked to the microphone to ask my question. "How can I quit pushing and driving myself?"

"I don't think you can," said John-Roger.

My heart sank.

John-Roger turned to the audience and began cracking jokes. I listened and laughed too, and in a couple of minutes, he turned back to me.

"You through with your stuff now?" he asked.

My only thought was a moment between my husband and me a few years earlier. "All I can think to say is once when we lived in Tucson, Alf and I were having a big argument, and I was upset and crying. So he mooned me!"

Uproarious laughter!

John-Roger looked around for Alf, found him trying to hide at the back of the room, and led him by the hand to the stage.

"Did you really do that?"

With a red face, Alf nodded.

I added that I couldn't stay upset after the mooning. I had to laugh.

A psychology professor in the second row said, "A new conflict resolution skill!"

For the next half an hour, John-Roger bantered with Alf and the audience about mooning and related silliness. I laughed until tears flowed.

Beginnings and Endings

Even though John-Roger never said a word directly about my issue, I left the workshop with a new awareness, a lighter heart, and an intention to stop pushing myself. I gradually began to nurture and care for myself.

I turned to a well-known holistic chiropractor and naturopath and stopped taking antibiotics. I stayed home for almost two weeks to rest and recover from my ongoing respiratory infection. I found a fabulous massage therapist in a medical doctor's office. That compassionate doctor referred me to a German-trained holistic doctor who helped assess and treat my fatigue. Then I saw a pulmonary specialist who diagnosed and began treating my asthmatic cough. After several tests ruled out other possibilities, doctors diagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome and recommended a disability leave.

I did not think a disability leave was a good idea. What would happen to my clients? Who would do my work?

A few months later, still struggling with recurring illness, chronic cough, ongoing fatigue, and pain, I agreed to partial disability status and worked part-time. I carefully orchestrated the transfer of many clients to other social workers. Even with holistic remedies and asthma medication, I was far from well.

My Wake-Up Call

That August I was still working part-time. My husband was away on business. My brother and his girlfriend were in town and stopped by for lunch. As usual, I felt slightly detached from reality, not connected with my body, just going through the motions.

I used my Wedgewood china, a relic from my first marriage, because I had not seen my brother in a long time and had never met his girlfriend. I dropped a plate. It shattered in the sink, but I made light of it. It was just a thing.

At some point during lunch, I put wet clothes and sneakers from the washer into the dryer. My little fifteen-year-old cat, Tukie-Bear, hopped in the dryer on top of the cold clothing. I shook my head. She was always exploring dark cupboards and corners. I left the door open and went on with my chores and the visit.

After lunch we decided to drive to the local grocery market. At the curb, I backed into my brother's car, leaving a dent in the front bumper. Fortunately, he was very understanding.

We returned to enjoy iced tea and dessert. They needed to leave. I stacked dishes in the sink, and when I passed the dryer, I shut the door and turned it on.

We stood outdoors, admiring bird-of-paradise flowers in the garden and saying our farewells. I was glad to see my brother and his girlfriend but relieved they were on their way. I was so exhausted. I went upstairs to nap.

At about nine that evening, I woke, went to the kitchen, and opened the dryer. I screamed. I called my neighbor and then my veterinarian. The neighbor drove me to the vet with a still-warm Tukie in my arms. I was devastated. I could scarcely think.

Everyone was so kind when I explained what happened. The neighbors drove me home and reluctantly left me when I said I would be all right. I called my husband at his hotel in St. Louis. He was marvelously kind and supportive.

I did not know what to do with myself. I killed my favorite kitty in the whole world. I called a friend who listened with great compassion. At some point she reminded me to forgive myself. I said the words, but it was automatic. They did not get in past my shock and pain. Eventually, I fell asleep.

The next day I went to work, but I was useless. I sat in the upstairs lobby with one or another of my colleagues, my spontaneous grief counselors. Our kind program manager walked through, saw my desolation, and asked what happened. "I killed my cat," I wailed.

From my caring colleagues, I finally got the message: I was under extreme stress, and I needed to rest and heal and take better care of myself. One friend gave me a ray of light when she suggested that my kitty sacrificed herself so I would get the message to take care of myself before a major car accident or other serious event stopped me in my tracks.

Certainly not functional as a social worker at this point, I canceled immediate appointments and scheduled a meeting with my doctor for the next morning. I agreed to his previous suggestion — a full-time disability leave for three months.

I spent those next months vegetating. Many days I thought, I really need to vacuum ... but not today. I saw my doctors and followed their advice.

At Last, Nurturing Myself

At last, I put a supportive program in place. I did spiritual exercises (SEs) for one to two hours daily. Each day I listened to my own voice reading a fourteen-minute positive affirmation and to a healing meditation by John-Roger, focusing especially on the neck pain caused by bulging discs. When I had the energy, I wandered slowly on the beach. More often I perched on high rocks at the point in San Pedro and watched dramatic waves crash in and rush out. I sat at our kitchen table and sculpted small character doll heads from Super Sculpey or crafted greeting cards using scraps and found items. I haunted the library, devouring books about holistic health, nutrition, gentle exercise, simplicity, and frugality.

When the disability period ended, I resigned on medical advice. I had recovered enough to do something, but not enough to return to a cauldron of stress. For the next eighteen months, I did part-time counseling and consulting work. I did not make much money, but I loved my work.

Two years later I went back to a different division in the county social services agency. By this time I had learned to pace myself instead of driving myself to exhaustion. The county was out of bankruptcy and the agency had emerged as a leader in child welfare, even more proactive in helping families and children to reunite safely.

Eventually, I moved into the long-awaited supervisor position and loved nurturing and encouraging my dedicated staff. The work was intense, the challenges many, but I was seldom ill. I consciously orchestrated my days so I had quiet time to regenerate after long work hours.

Still Nurturing Me

Today I continue daily self-nurturing practices. Some have been valuable for years. I add new strategies and drop old ones as needed. Now I seldom get a cold and have had few full-fledged infections, all of which I treat with holistic products and spiritual approaches. In eighteen years, I have taken prescription antibiotics for a respiratory infection only once because it included a painful ear infection. I have steady energy and enthusiasm, and I seem to accomplish a lot through small steps that I take consistently. I am grateful for my life!

I continue to learn and grow when it comes to self-nurturing. Virtually every day I find new twists on caring for myself in my relationship with my husband, in my various social interactions, in home responsibilities, in creativity, and more. I still find plenty of opportunities to ask for what I need and to give myself what nurtures and supports me on many levels. Sometimes my growth opportunities are subtle, but other times they are head bangers. I do strive to have an attitude of loving for all these challenges as chances to expand my consciousness. Most of all, I intend to hold steady in loving myself, regardless of my activities or challenges.

My adventure continues. Please join me in learning the value of treating yourself as the amazing and valuable being that you are. When you take small steps repeatedly, taking care of yourself first, you can expect major transformation to unfold over time. Wherever you are in your journey, I invite you to explore how self-nurturing can help you. Use my hard-won experience to avoid or to work your way out of overwhelming circumstances into self-compassion and resilience.


The Self-Nurturing Project Is Born

Best of all, my students' overwhelmingly positive experiences inspired this book.

My Portable Career

Around 2002, my husband's career path took us from Southern California to suburban Detroit. Later, also for his work, we moved to Burlington, Vermont, back to another Detroit suburb, and finally to Wichita, Kansas. I did private counseling and consulting, worked in a crisis-counseling center, taught a college psychology class, and worked for the University of Vermont in a program providing training for Vermont social workers.

Our second stay in Detroit coincided with the downturn of the US economy in 2008. I began teaching psychology at two community colleges, where I loved interacting with students.

Though some were poorly prepared for college, many of my students eagerly sought to learn so that they could move into adulthood and carve out careers. Others, laid off in midlife from manufacturing jobs, prepared for new careers. Young and old, most had personal questions about psychology. They longed to discover more about themselves. Longing for transformation, they asked the age-old questions, "Who am I? What is my purpose? What am I supposed to do with my life? How can I be happier, more peaceful, and less stressed? How can I have love when I have been so mistreated in my life up until now?"

Many were asking, "Why is life so unfair? Why am I always a victim?" Others were saying, "I believe in God, I think, but how does that work? I don't see much evidence of faith improving my life so far." Lots more said, "I want to change my life, but I don't know how."

I had a rich playing field!

The Self-Nurturing Project Is Born

In addition to highlights from the vast field of psychology, I needed to teach elements of critical or logical thinking. I fared poorly with the critical thinking term paper assignments provided by the college. Perhaps because I did not create the assignments, I did not do a good job teaching them. My disappointment and frustration prodded me forward. At the first opportunity, I devised a self-nurturing project for students to use as the basis for their required term papers. Students had to create experiments, carry them out for five weeks, and thoroughly, logically analyze the results.


Excerpted from Nurture Yourself First by Ilenya A. Marrin. Copyright © 2016 Ilenya A. Marrin, DSS.. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, ix,
Introduction, xi,
Part 1: My Journey, 1,
Chapter 1 Crashing and Crawling into Self-Nurturing, 3,
Chapter 2 The Self-Nurturing Project Is Born, 12,
Part 2: Nurture Yourself for a Change, 19,
Chapter 3 Are You Ready for Change?, 21,
Chapter 4 Self-Nurturing Is Not Selfish, 27,
Chapter 5 Stress: An Opportunity for Self-Nurturing, 30,
Part 3: Nurturing Change: Six Simple Strategies, 33,
Chapter 6 My Spiritual Insurance Clause, 35,
Chapter 7 The Neutral Loving Observer, 37,
Chapter 8 Self-Forgiveness, 43,
Chapter 9 Listen for the Loving, 47,
Chapter 10 Meditation, 60,
Chapter 11 Nurturing a Positive Focus, 66,
Part 4: Fine-Tuning Change: More Gentle Strategies, 71,
Chapter 12 Nurturing Your Future Now: Naming Your Heart's Desires, 73,
Chapter 13 Transform Your Story, 76,
Chapter 14 Affirmations to Anchor Intentions, 80,
Chapter 15 Nurturing Positive Focus through Language, 85,
Chapter 16 Self-Nurturing Templates, 89,
Chapter 17 Emotion: Ego Energy in Motion, 93,
Chapter 18 Mirror, Mirror, 102,
Chapter 19 Nurturing Your SMART Parts, 106,
Chapter 20 Self-Forgiveness: Moving Deeper, 116,
Part 5: Keep the Change, 127,
Chapter 21 Nurturing Your Levels of Consciousness for Personal Transformation, 129,
Chapter 22 A Self-Nurturing Lifestyle, 140,
Chapter 23 Self-Nurturing Circles, 146,
Part 6: Be the Change, 151,
Chapter 24 Nurture Yourself and Change the World, 153,
End Matter, 159,
Endnotes, 161,
Bibliography, 163,
Math Chart: Ripples of Self-Nurturing, 165,
Spiritual Exercises, 167,
Life Satisfaction Assessment, 171,
Tracking Chart Example and Template, 175,
Book Club Questions, 179,
Suggested Reading, 181,

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