Do you remember a time when you were transfixed by the beauty of an outback sunset?
Well, can you remember the first time you saw the ocean?’
Have you stood in wonder at a scenic lookout, enjoying Nature’s majesty?
‘I know some other hackneyed clichés; would they help? Anyway, if you’ve seen one scenic view you’ve seen them all.’
When buying a house, people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars extra to live by the water, or to get a view.
‘Is that what’s this is about? Real estate?’
Think about how stars in the night sky inspire poems . . . how a story can move you to tears . . . how indoor plants do more than hide a blemish on a wall. What have those instances in common?
‘They all induce a sick feeling?’
Those things can feed our soul.
‘I thought you weren’t interested in New-Age guff.’
Every land dwelling creature evolved in response to the land’s environment, and is inextricably meshed with it. We might live in cities but we still want to be in touch with the natural world.
‘We’re afraid of the natural world! We barely go there. We certainly don’t look after it.’
Nature is harsh. It has bugs. It lacks the comforts we are used to. But we want the garden, the pool, the wooden furniture, a potted plant . . . even if it’s a fake potted plant. It’s why a child collects tadpoles, why we sit by a pond, or use a gum leaf for a bookmark. It’s why prisoners have pleaded to be given a cell with a tree outside their window.
‘Are you telling me to interact with nature?’
No. Telling you to instal a potted plant or take a walk in a park would be lame. I’m describing our need to feed our soul.
‘What does it mean, ‘to feed one’s soul’?
No person can definitively define that expression and expect to be believed. It’s a personal thing. And what we feed our soul is a personal thing. What feeds mine could differ from what feeds yours. A walk in a park might feed your soul but it wouldn’t feed mine. For me, walking is for camels. But when we feed our soul we feel enriched. Soothed. When I am heartened, or gladdened, or moved, a part of me feels replenished. I call that part my soul: the bit that feels enriched. If you feel enriched when you:
▪ express yourself by putting a flower in your hair, wearing odd coloured socks . . .
▪ attend a religious service, or meditate, or do something virtuous . . .
▪ are creative, by writing a poem, or painting a picture, composing a tune, devising a puzzle . . .
▪ enjoy nature, by studying it, being in it, gardening . . .
. . . you will be feeding your soul.
‘It doesn’t take much.’
‘How about watching the wrestling? Or the UFC?’
I wouldn’t think so. I’m suggesting you feed your soul, not torment it. But that’s a good point: we can eat chips and sweets, or eat fruits and vegetables; one diet adds to our wellbeing, the other doesn’t. In the same way, we can feed our soul rubbish and end up with poor emotional wellbeing, or we can feed it well, and increase our chance of feeling good about ourselves, and about life.
‘If you’re on Facebook looking at your friends’ food pictures or vacation photos, that will shape your reality. . . . If you’re on porn sites, that’s what your reality is. If you follow people on Twitter who complain all the time, that affects your life in a major way. If you’re on websites that talk about how horrible the world is, and how gays and Muslims and feminists are causing everything to go to hell … then that will be your reality.’
Leo Babauta, in his blog, Zen Habits.
In this section we look at six ways we can feed our soul and help satisfy our deep need to belong.
Q. ‘Mark, why do we need to feed our soul good things? Sometimes we need to explore the dark aspects of life. We can learn from studying cruel regimes and barbarism. We can’t ignore cruel acts and the suffering of others just to make sure we feel good. To ignore anything which might unsettle us won’t help us grow.’
Learning about those things might toughen us and be good for us in other ways. Agreed. But they won’t feed our soul.
And, it depends. Someone brought up on slaughtering animals might remain unaffected by the practise, whereas someone new to the job might find their soul jarred.
‘They’d get used to it.’
Or become desensitised? Would they lose their capacity to feel some emotions, like empathy? I don’t know.
Tips on how we can feed our soul:
1. Say ‘Thank you’.
But this isn’t about being polite. It’s about you. Every time you say ‘Thank you’, you benefit.
2. Say ‘Please’.
Again, this isn’t about being polite. This book isn’t about how to be nice!
3. Avoid the underminers.
If only more people avoided their underminers! What a different world it would be!
4. Be the gatekeeper.
Why does anyone watch advertisements, for goodness sake?
5. Ulysses and the Sirens.
What can we learn from sailors who filled their ears with bees’ wax?
6. Don’t cheat, don’t steal.
We all know it’s wrong to cheat and steal. But do we know why it’s wrong?