Nourishing oneself

January 29, 2016
Nourishing Oneself

Long before the broth trend, there was Chicken Soup for the Soul. As if we had already understand how important it is to get some comfort food not only for our body, but also for our soul.

I like this idea of nourishing ourselves. I like the sound of it. If you break “Nourish” into two pieces, you get “Nous” and “Riches”, which in French means that we are rich. That’s what we get when we nourish ourselves properly: we get a fuller, richer life.

It’s more than just feeding yourself. Feeding to me sounds very practical, very material. The idea of nourishing oneself goes beyond what we put into our bodies to function on a daily basis, it’s not just fuel that we use to get through the day. It takes into account the wholeness of our human being, it includes not only feeding the body, but also feeding the heart and the mind.


Nourishing your soul

What does your soul eat for breakfast? I’ll give you a hint: it’s kind of the same thing that gives meaning to your life . Yes, you got it: it’s love. As The Beatles used to sing it, love is pretty much all you need.

But how can we get love? How can we find it? Some of you might have been looking for the one for a while now, and might start to get discouraged. We look so intensively around us to find “The One”, we search and search for hours over the Internet, on Tinder, in coffee shops, in bars, to find that passion, to get that burning desire for someone. It was for me something very important to find that soulmate, that person I would get to spend most of my life with. And it still is. Every day, I am grateful to be able to share my life with someone I deeply love.

This whole chasing love thing gets us confused though. It gets us caught into thinking that without that single person to love, we can’t nourish our soul. Do not confuse passion with love. Love cannot be concentrated into one human being, or a few chosen. Love is not something to find: it is simply something to feel.

We are surrounded by love. To nourish our soul, we don’t need to wait for someone to love us back. We simply have to open our heart to what is already there. There is love to be found on the sidewalk, when a father shows his son how beautiful and unique each snowflake is. There is love to be found in the library, when the employee takes its time to show the old man how he can use the computer to find the book he is looking for. There is love to be found at work, when everybody gets together to surprise that precious admin assistant leaving for a year to pursue her dreams.

And when you find some, take it. Open your heart to it, breathe it in. Feel the warmth in your chest, that joy coming up. Sometimes, the love message will be clear : someone will give you a compliment, or you will even get lucky enough to receive a “I love you”. Accept them. Cherish them. These messages are precious. On other times, the love message will be more subtle. On those days where you find yourself struggle to find some love, let it be. Simply have faith that it is there, somewhere, to be found, and eventually, with an open and compassionate heart, I am positive that you will find the expression of love around you, might it be in the smile of stranger, or a simple gesture from a friend.


Nourishing your mind

As I’ve mentioned before, the idea of nourishing oneself includes nourishing our whole being, not only our body. If our soul needs love to live happily, we also need to feed our brain properly. As creative beings, we need to learn to stay alive. Learning helps our mind stay sharp was we age.

Human are creatures of habit. We tend to repeat day in, day out, the same activities. Isn’t your working day looking pretty much the same as yesterday, and probably as the day the come to? Even if we have to respect some sort of schedule, and might not get the chance to travel the world to experience amazing adventures, we can still get to learn some things on a daily basis.

Learning is a pleasure, taking the time to cultivate our mind is even a luxury for some of us, knowing how busy our lives are. To make it fun, I recommend to go with your passions. I love books, so every night, no matter how little time I have left, I make sure to read at least a few pages of a book I carefully chose. It can be that easy. That’s my food for thought for the day. These few pages, I enjoy them, slowly, reading one sentence at a time, letting it sink. Again, the notion of nourishing is precise when it comes to describing this experience, as reading is not only about giving something to my brain to think about, it’s also about nourishing all the senses that are involved in the process of reflection.


Nourishing your body

Then we come back to the basics, the home for our heart and mind: our body. Just like when it comes to accepting compliments or words of kindness, I sometimes struggle with accepting the food that nourishes my body. I will simply eat without giving much thought about it, from the tip of my lips, simply to get some fuel to keep going. But when I am eating mindlessly, I am missing on so much.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, mindful eating is a deep practice. Eating mindfully is a gift we give ourselves, the gift of presence, and gratitude.

“Some of us, while looking at a piece of carrot, can see the whole cosmos in it, can see the sunshine in it, can see the earth in it. It has come from the whole cosmos for our nourishment.

You may like to smile to it before you put it in your mouth. When you chew it, you are aware that you are chewing a piece of carrot. Don’t put anything else into your mouth, like your projects, your worries, your fear, just put the carrot in.

And when you chew, chew only the carrot, not your projects or your ideas. You are capable of living in the present moment, in the here and the now. It is simple, but you need some training to just enjoy the piece of carrot. This is a miracle. » – Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindful Eating

I used to struggle with that miracle. And I still does on some days. It is not also easy to sit down and be present to ourselves as we are eating, especially when it is one of the rare moments you take in your day to pause and relax. Some emotions might show up as we slowly relax and come back to the moment, emotions we accumulated through the day. Don’t eat with that emotion in your throat. Let it be first, accept that there is anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, and them let these emotions go so that you can truly enjoy your meal. Slowly, one bite at a time.

Because it is a miracle, and I believe we need to honor it. How lucky are we to get food on the table everyday? We used to thank God before starting the meal, and I am not all crazy about religion, but that idea of expressing gratitude before eating is a practice I want to get back to. As my boyfriend was mentioning the other day, isn’t unbelievable that we get mangos from Chile, and pears from China? (We try to buy local, but we are far from perfect, sorry about that.)

These days, Thich Nhat Hanh is right: there is the whole cosmos in our plate. And when we sit down to integrate the whole cosmos into our body, we become part of it as well. When done properly, that practice has the power not only to nourish our body, but also to nourish our mind and our soul.

“The woman sitting next to me is also practicing mindfulness while eating her breakfast. How wonderful! She is touching the food with mindfulness. She is enjoying every morsel of her breakfast, like me. We are brother and sister on the path of practice. From time to time we look at each other and smile. It is the smile of awareness. It proves that we are happy, that we are alive. It is not a diplomatic smile. It is a smile born from the ground of enlightenment, of happiness.

That smile has the power to heal. It can heal you and your friend. When you smile like that, the woman next to you will smile back. Before that, maybe her smile was not completely ripe. It was ninety percent ripe. If you offer her your mindful smile, you will give her the energy to smile one hundred percent.

When she is smiling, healing begins to take place in her. You are very important for her transformation and healing. That is why the presence of brothers and sisters in the practice is so important.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindful Eating

Let’s sit together, and nourish ourselves.

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