We’ve all heard the term, “you are what you eat”. We know that if we put bad things into our bodies, we’ll end up feeling pretty poorly. Equally, if we put good, wholesome, nourishing food into our bodies, we will feel much better. How much different is it to take this idea over to our thinking minds?
Our minds need nourishment too. All too often, we overload it with media and television, with constant thinking, worrying and getting stuck in our emotions. These things also help us to distract ourselves from our true self, from our true or “pure” thinking and emotions. We can get so wrapped up in them that we can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
We all have things like fear and anger within our minds and within our bodies. The key is to not nourish these things, but instead nourish more positive things like compassion and love. This isn’t a rejection of our anger or our fear – they will always be there. It’s only human. We simply don’t have to engage with them, dance with them so much in order to live our lives fully. If I am angry, sitting with that anger, meditating with it helps me to see the underlying cause of it. I can see that the root cause of anger lies within me, and not another being that has ’caused’ it. Often it is through past experiences that we relate the anger to the present moment. If I can let my anger go, if I truly experience it and then let it go, what am I left with? The same can be said of fear. Fear is pretty much always based on change, and once we realise that all life is impermanent, the fear no longer lies within us and simply falls away. We will have to sit with these emotions time after time, but as long as we are practicing with them, we will get better at understanding them both within ourselves and others.
If we feed fear or anger, they will only get bigger and bigger. Have you ever punched your pillow? Did it make you feel better? Have you ever crawled under the duvet and feared coming out? Did this make anything better? Most likely not – acting on the anger and misplacing it on your pillow solves nothing, and also means that you have acted out aggressively and with violence to a mere pillow. If we keep feeding this sort of behaviour, how long until we act that out on another human being? Equally so with fear, if we constantly act on our fears they do not go away, but rather take control of our lives until we become so tied up within them we cannot move.
It’s not just a case of switching over to ‘positive thinking’ either. Thinking only good thoughts will not make the bad ones go away – they will be there. We have to acknowledge them first and then deal with them. Sitting with them helps us to understand them. Then we can nourish more positive thoughts. If we see that fear is keeping us immobile, if the root of our fear lies in past relationships and experiences, we can then look at it objectively and apply that reasoning to our current situation, in the present moment. We might fear that we will lose our job, but fear lies in change, something that we humans hate. We seek stability and reassurance constantly, it’s our nature. If we look outside ourselves, however we see that in nature nothing is ever constant, things are ever flowing and changing, never the same twice. Every morning we wake up a different person.
We will always have fear, we will always have anger. How we engage with them is what is most important. Friends might say something that sets off anger within ourselves, but if we sit with it and look at it, we often realise that this is based on how we think they should behave. People are never going to behave exactly as we want or expect them to – they are their own person, with their own experiences. We cannot get inside their head. All we can do is see that they share the same sufferings along the path of human existence as we do, and can see also where we have failed. When we see that, we don’t have these expectations of others, and we don’t have the anger when the expectations aren’t met, or the fear that things are changing.
Find what nourishes you most, and work with those thoughts while being in touch with those that don’t nourish. Try not to engage with the thoughts that don’t nourish – simply notice them and be aware of them within yourself. Nourishing things like love, compassion, creativity and acceptance will make the road of life a lot easier to manage.
Take a look at your food for thought. What is nourishing you?
Awen blessings. x
Hi Joanna, This is wonderful! Do you mind if I reblog this? I’d really like to feature it as a piece in my One-Many OM Project which seeks to bring together thoughtful perspectives of people around the world who are contributing to the awakening and greater consciousness that I feel we are experiencing as a species. I think I just made it sound grander than it is! 🙂 Really it’s all about interconnection and that the many make up the whole, and are all needed, which is where the one-many comes from. But anyway let me know.
Hi Eilis – what a wonderful project! Please do feel free to repost, and so send me a link to your project so I can help spread the word on here and in other places! xoxo
Thanks Joanna! Right now the project is ongoing on my blog, along with everything else I post there. I’m
This is an important lesson, that is not that easy for some to learn and harder still for some to put into practise. At this time of year when for many there are stresses of memory, disappointment and current struggles your words are most apt. There are often cycles to these thoughts, emotions and triggers, and being aware of those is also important — like knowing what triggers one’s migraines and being watchful, but also knowing even it the triggers are not avoidable, catching the signs early means less debilitation, less pain, quicker recovery.
It is far too easy to wallow, that muddle puddle of frustration or unrealistic expectations, can for some become a very comfortable place to splash around in those thoughts and ideas. It is not a matter of ‘positive thinking’, as you say, but acknowledging there is a puddle there, but one does not have to be sunk into it, overwhelmed by fear or anger but one might have to walk through it, again and again though that does not mean one has to stop and get stuck. One can walk around the edge was well, with awareness, attentive to the messages and lessons.
Changing patterns of behaviour is not easy. Changing how one perceives fear and anger for example, and what they do and mean, is also not always simple. It is easier not to sit with such the feelings and assess them. Not everyone has the tools, or been taught how to do this. As you say, they are always lurking, never lost only handled differently with a different level of awareness. A different kind of mindfulness, that does not fill the mind but opens it to different ways of understanding the self and perceiving one’s responses.
But everyone can look at what thoughts nourish and which do not, without help and support. Using ‘nourish/nourishing’ instead of ‘positive’ as the way to describe thoughts that are healthy and not harmful is really constructive. It shifts it away from the often wifty-wafty ‘just do this and it will all be better’ nonsense into something of substance, that acknowledges the process takes effort and may not be easy or comfortable. To think nourishing thoughts means, as I see it and would apply it to me, that I pause and take a deep breath and ask some probing questions of myself. And at times reminding myself that some of my reactions come because I have given someone else power over me and if I withdraw that power back to me, then the initial trigger is neutralised. That is not to say that others are unable to hurt me by their actions and in some case non-actions and reactions (or lack of them), but it is ultimately in those cases how I choose to deal with that hurt that becomes more important in the long run. How I turn mind and soul poison into mind and soul nourishment.
Beautiful words. Buddhism seeks to understand the nature of suffering, not avoid it. In the Christian tradition, it is the long dark night of the soul. It is the transformation of suffering that we heal.
I love your puddle analogy, and will hold that close to my heart! xoxo
As ever, your words strike a chord! I love the mix of zen and animism that your blog portrays.
I had a meeting today, that was destined to be a stormy one. But after reading your words of wisdom, the beast wasn’t fed and an amicable agreement was reached! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Joanna.
Oh, I am so happy Ravenspriest that I was able to help! It is so inspiring when you hear of how you can transform suffering into peace. Big love. xoxo