There is fundamental wisdom in the Buddhist approach: Get yourself in a better place first. Then help others.
We see this wisdom reflected in the emergency instructions on an airplane. The flight attendant says, “In case of the loss of cabin pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first, before your child’s.”
Why do they instruct the mother to put her own oxygen mask on first? Are we not socialized to care for others first? Is it not selfish to put our own mask on first? Is it not more noble to put our child’s make on first? Wouldn’t it look bad to put our own mask on first? Wouldn’t we be an awful person if we did that?
These are the ways that we beat ourselves up and coerce ourselves to neglect our own basic care.
The simple, nuts-and-bolts truth is that if we fiddle with our child’s mask first, we may pass out before we get it properly fitted on her face. We could definitely pass out before we get our own mask on, and our child will likely not be able to put our mask on for us while we’re passed out!
So it makes sense. Put your own mask on first. Oxygenate your system. Then attend to others.
The oxygen mask analogy is pertinent for the people of modern society. We keep ourselves so busy and spread ourselves so thin, that we starve the air of our spirit. At some point we feel like we are running on empty, and because of our socialization to put others first, we over extend ourselves.
It is not healthy for us. It is not healthy for others.
I encourage you to look at how you can begin to shift your own life this week. Take care of your basic needs. Get yourself into a better place, and then the next week you will have more to give to others.
May this INSPIRE you!