Karuna and Self-Care
Karuna means “Compassionate Action” in Sanskrit. Compassionate action in our thoughts and deeds. We foster compassionate action better with a community.
Those who serve others need self-care.
Lawyers, Servicemembers, teachers, nurses, yoga teachers, police, mental health professionals, public interest types, and you name the job take on the stress and trauma of the people they serve. Many do-gooder types are the last to seek help. There is still a stigma. We need to realize that it is ok to not be ok.
I realized this 10 years into the job. I developed unhealthy resiliency techniques. The “suck it up and drive on” technique learned in the military no longer worked for me. In fact, it made things worse.
I became emotionally numb. I became desensitized to the trauma. I found myself craving alcohol as an escape from a long day. I was still very good at my job but at what cost to the rest of my existence. Not many lawyers talked about secondary trauma, burnout, depression, addiction, and mental health when I first started. I remember being at the Clarence Darrow Death Penalty Defense College and looking at all these selfless advocates sacrificing themselves for their clients. Same with many of my military colleagues.
After a client killed himself in front of his family, I realized that I needed to learn healthy ways to process this work. I read countless books, talked to colleagues, and discovered a mindfulness practice. I resigned from my part time public defender position to take time for self-care. I felt guilty. How could I put my own interests ahead of my clients? Was that selfish?
How could I have joy when there was so much suffering? How could I go for a run when I need to prepare for trial? Where is the time in the day for meditation or to see a therapist when the job never stops?
I remember my yoga teacher after class saying, “We take care of ourselves on our mats, so we can take care of others.” That was a wake-up call. Self-care isn’t selfish. So simple, right? But this concept can still be quite hard to apply.
For the first time in my life, self-care is priority in my life. Self-care for me comes through yoga, mindfulness, community, and service to others. I’m still a work in progress. I want to help others.
I want to connect good people with service, community, and mindfulness. I want to share opportunities and ideas. I look forward to seeing this adventure unfold.