Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar: when I ingest even small quantities of these substances, my body registers the insult and lets me know about it – except sometimes it gives me a little slack when it comes to sugar.
Nutrition is not news. For years, we've been hearing about what foods are good for us and what foods are not so good. I get it, especially as I age: it's important to eat what truly nourishes and avoid the other stuff.
Lately, I've been paying more attention to the effects of, not just what I eat, but what I ingest into psyche and spirit. TV shows, murder mystery novels, football games, news casts and action movies. While I'm drawn to the excitement of the drama, afterwards I'm often left with a hollow feeling, a gray-darkness inside. I know I haven't been nourished.
Then there are the interior dramas – the ones totally taking place between my ears – stories of woe and unworthiness, danger, betrayal, rejection and ruptured relationship, imaginary conversations as I rehearse for the worst, and the ubiquitous negative commentary of the inner judge. I once thought these were relatively harmless pastimes, almost like a form of entertainment. But they're not.
More and more, as I sit with myself and others, I see how these fictions do real damage to us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Their repetition creates toxic inner pathways that capture us with ever greater ease. As the stories become more automatic and familiar for us, they start feeling real and affecting us as if they were real.
Not good food for the soul, these stories. Definitely not nutritious.
Mindfulness invites us to notice what nourishes us, to take seriously what harms us, and to consciously choose what thoughts we entertain and what thoughts we send packing.
Like nutrition for the body, inner nutrition requires repetition – thousands of conscious choices in the moment to nurture the being entrusted to our care.