By Tarah Hines
Have you ever looked at something in nature and thought, “that looks like…” and named something on or inside your body? I have. When I see clouds I think of my massive afro or my sisters' TWA. I see my veins when I look at a tree's branches and roots. I hear my breath as I listen to leaves sway with the wind. I look at insect wings like they are my skin under a microscope. I see myself everywhere, and each time I step outside of my house or even look out of my bedroom window I love my Self a little more.
I define self-love as the complete acceptance and appreciation of one's whole Self, inclusive of the physical (bones), mental (brain) and spiritual (being). For me, self-love is more of a journey than anything else; it is a continuous process of shedding, strengthening, and growth. The more I love my Self, the more I want to care for every part of me. I often ask the question, “how am I caring for my Self, physically, mentally and spiritually, in order to ensure that I am existing at my best?” I know this question in some variation or another is a part of virtually every self-care and self-love blog and YouTube channel, but what I haven’t read about or seen as often is how both are inextricably connected to the environment.
As I grow in self-love, my self-care practice evolves as well, accommodating my ever-changing thoughts, cravings and sensitivities. It’s through this process of learning that I have finally realized what was missing from it all: Earth-care. Meditation has helped me to become more aware of my surroundings and to have conversations with myself about my own observations and thoughts. Is this a little "crazy"? I’m sure many people would say yes. For me though, having an inner dialogue is a critical piece of my personal self-care practice. It’s through this inner-dialogue that I began noticing how nature looks like me,...or perhaps it is the other way around? Either way, I have come to see just how inseparable from the Earth we are.
You’re probably thinking, “duh, we live on it.” The funny thing about this thought is how many people really don’t push past what this means and translate these ideas into action. We live on this Earth, yes, but we throw our trash out the window as we drive down the freeway. We live on this Earth, but we use products full of chemicals that get washed into our waterways. We live on this Earth but take extra trips with our cars even if we can walk or ride a bike, adding to greenhouse gas emissions. All of these actions and countless more are commonplace. We continue to act in these ways because these ways are rooted in money, convenience, or even just pure apathy.
None of these reasons however, take away from the truth that as we do these things everyday we know, either consciously or otherwise, that are killing the planet we live on. So: if we’re living on this earth and killing it, aren’t we killing ourselves? I’d say there’s no other answer but yes, and on more than one level too. If something is harmful to the environment, many times it is also bad for us. Look no further for an example than your kitchen. Plastic bottles and containers are convenient, cheap and everywhere you turn. We know now that many plastics have chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) that can be ingested and cause various health problems for humans. Plastic bottles and containers that aren’t disposed of properly find their way into the environment killing wildlife and ocean life while adding to the ever-growing “plastic islands”.
Not only do we live on the Earth, but we are a part of it, and that means that we can’t care for ourselves without caring for it too. We’re all connected to and by it. The air I breathe, the water I drink, the ground I walk on and how I interact with each element affects and connects me to you. How then, can I say I love you and I love myself but not love the tree’s branches and roots that look like veins? How can I love the air and the sky that remind me of my sister’s hair or the leaves in the wind that breath as I do? I can’t. How can self-love, self-care and Earth-care be separate? They can’t.
My journey to holistic wellness and enlightenment is a constant one but it gives me great peace to know that I choose to live a life striving to love in all forms. I choose to love the sun that energizes me and the soil that provides. I choose to love you who I have never met. I choose to love myself. And I choose to love this amazing planet Earth. Wait, what am I saying? Duh! We live on it!
Tarah Hines contributes to BGIO because she sees the necessity for creating spaces for self-love and self-care for Black women and would like to help build the platform to spread love and help more of them become healthier whole beings. She is based in Tampa, FL. You can find her on her website and on Twitter and Instagram (@EarthandAlkemy).