When I was younger, everything felt gravely serious to me. Whether or not I had the right answer when I raised my hand in class. The type of glasses I needed to make me look academic but still pretty. The numbers that appeared on my bathroom scale. Everything was a mountain, and I wanted to be in control. I became a ruthless editor of my own life, and despite carefully curating my appearance and experiences, I felt no happier. If someone asked me what supplements I took every day, they would be simple: anxiety, perfectionism and self deprecation.
With age, I abandoned my old ruling forces, the ones who punished me for every misstep and imprisoned me in a nervous cage. I embraced uncertainty, embodying two lines from an old Rainer Maria Rilke poem.
“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
I read that poem often, “Go to the Limits of Your Longing.” And I feel that it taught me a lot about the state of being. I turned inward and decided to create new tenants. It’s my opinion that the three greatest supplements you can use to create a life of optimal health, relaxation and alignment are the very things we take for granted on a daily basis.
Water. Sleep. Oxygen.
Yes, that’s it.
When I was looking for an apartment with my partner, one non-negotiable thing on our list was a soaker tub. And that loving ritual, of running a bath, shaking in a drop or two of lavender oil and lighting a few candles became so important to me. Alone with my own thoughts and completely submerged in water, I have had the space and clarity to confront my own parochialism. It is in warm baths that I learned to expand.
One of my most beloved texts, the Dao de Jing, talks about the intrinsic value and fluidity of water. I often think about this line, “The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to. It is content with the low places that people disdain.” The idea of being who you are, without the insecurity and weight of trying to prove your identity resonates with me. Like water I flow with contentedness and knowledge of self. Like water I adapt based on my environment and amplify my surroundings.
When I started looking at water as both a supplement and a teacher, my life was irrevocably changed. I stopped taking myself so seriously, stopped striving and just started knowing.
Which leads me to my next point, sleep.
I actually looked forward to naptime as a child, I liked that state of inactivity. When I dreamt, it felt like I was suspended in the air watching movies. I generally don’t dream from the first person perspective, where I’m viewing the world as the protagonist. I’ve always dreamt as a fly on the wall, watching myself and others from several feet away, sometimes the ceiling.
As I got older, sleep seemed like a frenemy. On the one hand, it would withhold itself but step in and out of my periphery so I knew it was there. Lightly dazed, I would reach for iced coffee and press on with my assignments. On the other hand, it would cast a Grimm fairytale style spell over me, knocking me out with surprising force. At the height of depressive episodes, I can become a true Sleeping Beauty, unconscious for over twelve hours at a time. Lately, I can’t sleep at all, at least not when I’m supposed to.
A remedy I’ve found is CBD oil. I like to put a dropper full under my tongue and take deep breaths with closed eyes. Sometimes, I wake up the next morning refreshed, and that is an absolute gift. I’ve come to realize that sleep isn’t my frenemy, casually withholding itself or cruelly clobbering me over the head. Sleep is a supplement. It’s a ritual, just like bathing, that can be enjoyable if I stop resisting it and look at it as a mandatory time to reset, unplug and reward my body for another day of hard work.
Another way that I’ve learned to reward my body is with deep breaths that oxygenate my blood. I was fascinated to learn that there are actual breathwork experts like Claudia Nanino that can teach you how to take intentional and affirming breaths. On my own, I realized there were so many ways I was putting my foot on my own neck and making it hard for me to breathe.
I never wanted to make mistakes and was deeply embarrassed whenever I did. I just wanted to execute optimally each time, with whatever I was doing, especially when I had an audience. This weighty expectation literally made it harder for me to perform, and just set me up for unending disappointment.
I can breathe easier knowing that I am a human being that errs and stumbles, but still persevere as a student of life. I look at air as both a literal and figurative supplement. How can I fly without wind beneath my wings? How can I breathe if I intentionally hold myself back with all of my insecurities, and doubts, and fears?
These days, as far as my neuroses, I’m packing light and doing my best to breathe. Focusing on the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe deeply, helps me to sleep. And receiving nourishing rest allows me to wake up, hydrate and power through my day. It’s not one supplement that’s giving me daily strength, it’s the interplay of all three.
And now I have a question for you. What supplements real or imagined are you feeding your body, the most priceless thing you own?