Nourishment

January 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

In a world with so much lack, as we grapple with refugee crises and a myriad of other macro problems, the theme of nourishment continues to come up for me on a personal, everyday level.

Like too many of us, I was forced to deal with abandonment at an early age. Having lost my center of emotional and physical connection, I turned to other means in an attempt to nourish myself.

Fast forward forty or so years and I have become acutely aware of how I still attempt to ‘nourish’ myself with things that not only fail to serve that function but constrict my creativity and expansion.

However, before we can change how we try to nourish ourselves, we need to ask a simple question: what does it mean to nourish ourself?

I now have a 6 month-old baby, and the theme of nourishment could not be more clearly illuminated than in her daily reality. She turns to the most essential, fundamental nourishment: her mother’s breast. This nourishment goes beyond nutrition- it is holistic and complete, evidenced by how long she stays on the breast after she’s finished feeding.

But that fails to address the question raised above. What do we seek by nourishing ourselves? If hunger is sated, what then? We clearly seek nourishment in order to feel something. What do we wish to feel?

There is a wonderful TED Talk by Johann Hari about addiction, that culminates in the brilliant idea:

‘The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.

Isn’t connection the nourishment we are seeking when we rest, reflect or take action?

Isn’t that who we all are at our core? Beings that want to connect: with others, with ourselves, with nature and with the silence, within and without?

I have used all manner of artificial, non-sustainable things in an attempt to nourish myself and feel connected. If you’re wondering what they are, just look around at what our society generally offers us for nourishment and it shouldn’t be a mystery.

Many of these things entertain, divert and distract us, but do they nourish our spirit?

A definition of spirit: ‘the vital principle in humans, animating the body or mediating between body and soul.’

The vital principle in us, animating the body.

I like that phrase: the ‘vital principle’. The principle that is most alive, important, meaningful, life-filled. The principle that animates the body, where our spirit is housed. But I would add that this vital principle also animates our minds, and the essence that some might call our souls.

It is this, this spirit, this vital principle, that we seek to nourish. We seek to awaken or arouse it with stimulating experiences. We seek to give it peace and time to rest and reflect through comforting and soothing devices.

But what stimulating experiences? And what soothing devices?

Returning to babies for a moment, I find it interesting that we call artificial breast milk formula. Whether or not we are breast-fed as babies, so many of us go on in our lives to seek out other artificial formulae to nourish ourselves, bypassing the very real nourishment we need that is freely available.

To find this organic, sustainable and abundant resource of nourishment, we need only begin to ask simple questions.

What nourishes my spirit? What animates me on a fundamental level? What fosters meaning in my life? What enervates, stimulates, rejuvenates me? What soothes and heals me?

I can begin the process, right now. 

A whole world opens up for me through three simple steps:

  • Quietening my mind, opening my body and breathing into my core
  • Asking myself, in this moment, without any thought of the future, what would most nourish my spirit
  • Acting on whatever suggestion emerges from the silence

This is not to say that there isn’t a place for enjoyment of light, frivolous things. I love my dose of whatever shiny thing I happen to be attracted to in a given moment. But these are just formulas- interchangeable , ephemeral and rarely touching spirit.

I’m not usually a fan of mass-market, conventional things such as ‘New Year’s resolutions’ but today I’m prepared to make an exception. In 2016 I’m committing to replacing formulas with real nourishments that cultivate the vital principle, living inside me.

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