Nourishment Begins Day One
It’s an interesting thing that in the majority of life on Earth the first physical nourishment we receive is directly from a parent. I say interesting because when I think of something nourishing me, it is nearly always associated with others involved.
For instance, when I think of nourishing foods for my body, the first image in my mind is that of myself at a table filled with good things and surrounded by friends and family, laughing, talking and enjoying not just the meal but the company partaking in it together.
Think About It
When I think of nourishing myself with exercise, my first thought is of walking or hiking in nature with my husband or someone else I love, adventuring together into the freshness of the day.
When I think of nourishing my mind, I think of deep discussions late into the night talking over science, technology, religion, and the state of the universe.
When I think of nourishing my soul, I think of sitting in meditation with a group of like-minded people, connected by our mindful practice.
And when I think of nourishing my heart, the first thing that comes to mind is always my husband, and the simple pleasure of just holding his hand or curling up in his arms.
Other living things are at the center of nourishment for me, and I suppose this must indicate something about me. It’s a way of understanding myself so that I know what to seek out to help myself heal when one of those aspects in my life is out of balance or wounded.
For me, self-care is directly related to connections to others.
It’s good to know what it is that most nourishes us, for in caring for ourselves today we are giving a gift to ourselves in the future. We are giving the gift of health in that area, of growth, of evolution into something better. We are handing it forward to our future self so we may enjoy that future even more.
What Nourishes You?
- What is the common thread you find when you consider that?
How Do You Nourish Your Body?
- Allow yourself a moment to think about what nourishes your body – don’t analyze it, just write it down or speak it out.
- What’s the very first thing that comes to mind for you?
How Do You Nourish Your Spirit?
- Is it laying on the beach and being out in the sunshine?
- Jogging or doing some other kind of exercise?
- Or just resting, reading, listening to music or allowing yourself to sleep in or take a nap?
How Do You Nourish Your Heart?
- Is it being with others, with animals, or being alone?
- Is it out in nature or inside where you feel safest?
Ask yourself this question for each area of life, and take note of it. As you ask yourself this question about each area – body, mind, spirit, heart – pause, don’t go on to the next one until you’ve had a minute to consider and write down or speak out the first thought, image or memory that comes into you mind.
Take A Look at Your Answers
Now take those answers and look at them. Note the similarities, and the differences.
Perhaps for you nourishment involves some type of interaction with others for some areas of your life, but alone time in others.
While it may nourish you to spend time with others while you work out, finding that it motivates you more, it may not nourish you to be with others when you want to heal your heart. It may serve you better to go out by yourself into nature and just breathe in to nourish your heart or your spirit. You may find that alone time is extremely necessary for your mental health and well-being. But activities with others is what motivates you the most in caring for your body.
And those answers can change – probably should and would change – as you change, as circumstances change, as life changes. What may be nourishing to your body at one time in your life – extreme sports, for instance – you may find diminishing in returns as you get older. Until one day you realize that what really nourishes you now physically is to walk quietly alone in the park, where you’re able to focus fully on your form and your body in a way that isn’t distracted by others, or competition, or conversation.
I know that there are times when what my spirit needs is alone time. Meditating in a group may come to mind as nourishing for me initially, being with others in prayer. But I have also found that I absolutely have to have alone time for writing, meditating and just thinking on a daily basis, or I begin to feel incomplete.
So that which nourishes us is not only individual to us, but also can change from day to day, and even hour to hour.
How Do We Figure Out What it is We Need?
I believe by simply asking ourselves that question. What do I need right now? What will best serve me in this moment? Is this thing I’m about to do or am doing, or this place I’m about to go, something that feels good for me?
How often have we laughingly said to that last question; “Nope. But I’m doing it anyway.”
And sometimes that’s what we have to do, because sometimes we have to let go and allow ourselves to dive into things we know are not necessarily the best use of our time, or the “healthy” choice in the moment, in order to fully experience life and all it offers. And as long as we are aware and keeping ourselves from getting caught up in an addiction or some other form of truly self-destructive behavior, that’s fine. Go for it! Life is for living.
Sometimes nourishment means allowing yourself to experience those things not traditionally seen as “good for you.”
Just recently I hurt myself – not purposely, and not in a bad way. What I mean is, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time. I spent the evening having dinner with my nephew who is in his late twenties, and since he stayed over to visit for the weekend, we ended up talking, laughing and drinking through the night.
As in literally through the entire night. We discussed philosophy and family and politics and friends and travel and hopes and dreams and life in general. We joked about taking lessons from Hemingway (if only we could also have his talent to go along with the all night drinking and talking session). We talked and drank Bourbon together until 5:30am.
We Had a Great Time. But oh, I Paid for it the Next Day!
I discovered I don’t bounce back from an all-nighter now the way I did when I was his age. Let me just tell you that choice you make at 4am to have just one more glass of whatever never looks as good in the light of the next morning. Of course I know this, but that didn’t stop me in the moment, because we were having a truly good time.
So though I am grateful I had that night and we had our talk and it is a wonderful memory I will cherish, I also know that as long as it’s been since I’ve done anything like that, it’s going to be even longer before I do it again. I do not encourage it. Just putting that out there. I am not promoting drinking all night, or drinking in general, or, well, drinking.
That being said, while sipping Bourbon and staying up all night talking may not sound very nourishing, it did nourish my soul at that time. And it nourished the relationship between my nephew and me. And so for me, it was a good choice after all.
Yet I also recognize it’s something that can be harmful to me in the long run, especially if I did it often.
So I don’t. Moderation is a good thing, it allows you to enjoy something throughout your life, and to give it up entirely if you so choose much more easily.
And so, by keeping the alcohol in moderation in my life, I also make it more special, which causes it to become something that can be nourishing rather than unhealthy for me. I allow myself the ability to have that kind of night and create that kind of memory because I keep it under control the rest of the time. And in that way, I am nourishing myself as well.
(I learned this the hard way with sugar, by the way. I loved it and had it in everything, especially my coffee. Which was another thing I used and abused – coffee, caffeine. Both of these I ended up having to give up for health reasons due to overuse, and I realized then the best way to keep the things I love in my life was to enjoy them in moderation, and avoid addictions to them.)
Is it Time to Challenge Yourself?
Moving on – my point here is that sometimes nourishment isn’t just about finding the things that are “good” for you, or that you think “ought” to nourish you. Sometimes it’s about allowing yourself to experience something you normally wouldn’t do.
And sometimes it’s about challenging yourself to try something completely different.
I am preparing for a pilgrimage along the Camino in Italy. Not a long or difficult part of it, but a walking trip just the same, and I’m a bit nervous about it. If I’ll be able to keep up. If I’ll be able to GET up the next morning after walking ten miles a day for ten days. If I’ll even make it off the plane after 18 hours without my sciatica raging and killing the walk entirely before I even start.
Yet ever since I first heard about it, I felt it was and is something I need to do for myself. A way to encourage me to get out walking daily, but also just a goal to give myself, an experience to allow myself, a way of living life without fear despite all that has been happening in this world. Or really, because of it.
Nourishing ourselves isn’t just about sticking with what we know and with which we are comfortable. Nourishment often comes in the form of a challenge, of something new. How often were we told as children; “Just try it, it’s good for you, you might like it?” (Or at least I was, being both a stubborn and finicky eater as a child.)
And more often than not, my mom was right. I’d take that one bite and find out that I actually liked what was being presented to me. The next thing you knew, it’d become a favorite.
Even If you Don’t Like It – It Might be Good For You!
Of course, there are also those things that nourish us which we wish didn’t, because we can’t stand them. Exercise, which is so dang good for our bodies, is something I’ve always struggled to make myself do. Some people love it, and while I do love being out walking, hiking, swimming, or nearly anything outdoors – the reality is, I’ve never been one who likes to hang out at a gym and work out. It’s just not me.
Yet exercise is not only nourishment but necessary for our bodies to remain healthy. So I find ways to make it fun, to incorporate it into my life doing things I enjoy doing with it, and give myself goals to inspire myself to do it more. Things like taking a walk for ten miles a day through Tuscany in the summer.
As with exercise there are foods that we know are good for us that it can be hard to take. Cod Liver Oil is one of the best things you can take for your system, but who wants to choke that down every day?
Well, turns out, I do, since I found out how good it has been for my body. My naturopath recommended it as part of an overall health plan, and so I’ve incorporated it into my daily routine. However, do I like it? Nope. Do I do it anyway? Yep. I get through it, and on the other side I know I did something to nourish myself and it’s over with and I can move on.
Challenges = Growth
My point here being that often when it comes to the nourishment of our heart, mind or spirit the same thing is true. What can seem difficult or hard to take may turn out to be something which is truly nourishing in the long run.
The wounding we receive may lead us to finding ways to care for ourselves better that we never thought we’d do before. But we choke it down or grunt our way through it, knowing on the other side we will be healthier.
The sugar and caffeine thing, for instance, with me. It took going through cancer to discover what I was doing to my body with them, and to make the decision to cut them down and ultimately as much out of my life as possible. It also caused me to begin to do other things which are healthier, such as walking daily.
The funny thing is, now I love walking. Instead of a chore, I look forward to doing it, and want to challenge myself to go further.
And I even find that I… well, not exactly enjoy, but don’t mind the Cod Liver Oil every day as well. It makes me feel better taking it now, knowing it really is helping my system be in balance. I can deal with it.
More importantly, though I cut sugar and caffeine down, I found myself able to moderate it so they are not completely out. Like that night with my nephew, I’ll give myself a treat every so often and have some dessert with coffee. I’ll allow myself the pleasure of it for that moment, knowing I won’t have it again tomorrow or the next day, or probably not even for the next month. Rather than a daily habit, it’s something to savor, something I can gift myself.
Which makes having a slice of cake and a cup of coffee with a friend at someplace like Marie et Cie that much more special to me. And in this way, what once was something that hurt me, is now something that nourishes me.
You’ll Thank Yourself
So there are many ways we can nourish ourselves, and there are many things in life that are nourishing to us. It’s good to know what those are, so that we are able to better care for ourselves and help ourselves get healthy, not just physically, but in every aspect of our being.
Think about what it is that nourishes you.
Ask yourself those questions, and look at the threads that tie together your answers as to what nourishes you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Then ask yourself further – what is it that I know isn’t good for me or has hurt me, but perhaps in the long run helped me?
Maybe you’ll find bits of nourishment in them as well.
And as you put the pieces of these memories and thoughts together, you will be able to come up with a plan, a goal, a way to help nourish yourself better in your present moment so that your future self can look back and say;
“Hey, thanks. I needed that.”
By JEANETTE DUBOIS
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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