Nourishment for the Soul
Almost everyday there is a new article or news item about food. Everyday we pick and choose what we want to eat whether it fits someone’s idea of “balanced” or not. We read about superfoods, whole foods, organic foods, genetically engineered food, packaged food– for the body. But what about food for the soul? Let’s take a look at things that are food for the body and nourishment for the soul
Nourishment for the Soul—The Main Course
I used to think that the soul was fed only through the study of sacred scriptures–the Bible, the Vedas, the Tao Te Ching, for example. I still believe their teachings are valuable, but they are only one course in a three course meal for the soul. Scripture is perhaps the “main course” because if we listen closely, we may hear the voice of the Divine and learn valuable lessons from the sacred teachings that have come down through the ages.
If scriptures are the main course then, to me, beauty is the appetizer. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, my idea of beauty may be entirely different from yours. That’s not just okay—that’s fantastic because there is so much beauty to behold. Beauty comes to us through each of the senses so we’re continuously presented with it in some form if we are awake and aware enough to notice.
For me, beauty to enjoy with my sense of sight is all around me–everywhere I look. I especially love the beauty in nature–flowers, trees, clouds, clear sky. But I revel in the beauty of a child’s face (especially the faces of my grandsons), any painting by Monet, lovely fabric, a seascape, and sunrises and sunsets. That’s just the beginning– my list is endless. Almost everywhere I look I see beauty.
My hearing is thrilled with sounds of the ocean in its constant ebb and flow (it’s hard to hear it in the desert but a CD will give you the same feeling), the birds singing outside my window, or a child’s laughter. Bach’s “Sleepers Awake!” (Cantata 140)–or almost anything by Bach–makes my soul soar, and hearing my sons’ calling “Hey, Mom!” brings it even more joy.
My taste? Oh, it has to be chocolate in any form, Maryland crab cakes, a great cup of coffee or a glass of vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. On a hot day, nothing tastes better than a glass of cold, pure, spring water or a tasty glass of lemonade, a little on the tart side. These feed my body and my soul simultaneously.
What tickles my sense of smell? The sweet smell of a baby’s skin, the scent of any flower, the air right after it rains, cinnamon, cookies baking and lavender. With any of these, if I close my eyes and inhale I can feel my soul expand.
And then there’s touch. I think of a wonderful massage that kneads my tight, tired muscles and helps every muscle relax, or the feel of silk on my skin, or the gentle touch of someone who loves me. When my sons were babies they would reach up and touch my face with their tiny hand bringing almost more soul expanding joy than I could take in.
So we have beauty as the appetizer coming in through the senses and the sacred writings as the main course. Now, what’s for dessert?
Love is the dessert. Think about what is said of love: Love makes the world go around; Love heals; Perfect love casts out fear: Love conquers all; God is love. Science has proved that feeling loved creates positive change in the body at a cellular level and stimulates the secretion of endorphins–the “feel-good” hormones. It stimulates the immune system to help your body heal itself. Poets have written about love from the beginning of poetry and love songs have been written and sung over the ages. Preachers have preached about it, advertisers exploit it to sell a product, and now scientists are studying it. We all want it, some long for it, some die for it. Love–the sweetest dessert.
The poet, Rumi, said “The soul is here for its own joy.” We are offered so much “soul food”–teachings, beauty, love. It’s up to you to reach out to take it. And your taking all you want doesn’t diminish the supply for anyone else. So now is the time to feast. I love the little poem by Hafiz that says just this:
Just show you God’s menu?
Hell, we are all
(From The Gift: Poems by Hafiz The Great Sufi Master. Translations by Daniel Ladinsky)