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Fallen out of love with your wellbeing?

How to make taking care of yourself fun again

I’ve recently been learning about the Japanese term te-ire that directly translates in English to “maintenance”. That doesn't sound like the basis of an interesting post, I know, but just like the Japanese term Shinrin-yoku translates to Forest Bathing, it doesn’t express the true beauty and essence of either of these incredibly subtle, yet powerful Japanese practices. So as a broad overview, te-ire speaks of the idea that without regular attention, things can begin to fall apart.

Let me explain.

Gardens, homes, clothing, cars, and material things we own usually require te-ire, or attention and maintenance, and without this, these possessions can all start to become, well, a bit of a burden. This process doesn’t happen overnight of course, but rather it begins to creep its way in, as our priorities shift and our focus and effort wanes.

So how can we make a shift in our perspective to make this te-ire, or maintenance, feel like something worth looking forward to? And more than that, how can we broaden this idea out to encompass ourselves – so maintenance of us?

Taking care of your health may not always feel fun or exciting. Sometimes we have to force, or strongly convince ourselves to do this and it can begin to feel monotonous, boring, a chore. For many people, the responsibility and idea of maintenance in general is often viewed as unpleasurable.

So how can we learn from te-ire?

An act of care worth looking forward to

Te-ire encompasses the idea that we build affection for the things we’ve had for many years, and that we become proud of wearing, using, fixing- and growing - with these items and things. Maybe its fixing the kitchen cupboard that's off it's hinges, or something as simple as sewing a button back on a jacket we’ve had for years and love, but not bothered to get it ship-shape again. Or perhaps it’s replacing batteries in a watch we’ve had for years but have left it sitting, waiting for our attention once again. Or polishing our old rings to restore them to their former glory. Any act of restoration done with the intent of care, is a way of embodying the spirit of te-ire. These are all examples of something I’ve either done recently as an act of te-ire or haven’t (and which I felt the burden of) but now plan to approach with altogether new eyes. I love this. It’s a very subtle, but yet poignant shift in perspective from one of burden, to one of care, or even love.

With te-ire, we’re able to develop a kind of love and care that’s not possible with single-use or instantly gratifying items which we so often reach for nowadays. It’s a kind of respect for things we own that is built only with time. A bit like Forest Bathing, or any mindfulness practice, it’s only when we take the time to slow down and notice, that we begin to see how these acts of care and attention can bring us great pride and joy.

And so if we cast the net wider, from our belongings to ourselves, and begin practising the te-ire of our health and wellbeing, then it becomes something not only of greater value and importance, but also something we look forward to doing. Taking a few minutes longer to make something less hurried, more nutritious to eat, getting out in the morning for a brisk walk before the day begins, persevering with a daily practice such as Breathwork, yoga,stretching, or meditation for example, are all ways that suddenly have the potential to feel more inspiring, more important through the te-ire ens of welcomed self-nurture, rather than a chore.

If you have grown tired or stressed by the prospect of taking care of your health, why not take 10 minutes of quiet time over Christmas, or even better, over the 3 days of standstill during the forthcoming winter solstice when time seems to stand still, to notice why this is? Then, adopt the lens of te-ire and see how this new perspective changes things for you. Are you able to refresh your approach and get excited again (or even for the first time ever) about taking greater care of yourself in the days, weeks, months and years ahead? Can you adopt a new way of thinking to see this as a loving act, one of great kindness, reverence and cherish these moments of self-care?

You may find peace and calm in the latter. You may find joy again.

Thank you to Kaki for these wonderful insights.

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