I’d like to reflect today on nourishment. In “wisdom traditions” across the world, the winter months and the time surrounding the winter solstice mark a time for moving inward, taking stock of the year that has come and gone, to heal and nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits. In this period of reflection and healing, we can become clearer about seeking expression in our lives: where to direct our time, energy, and resources, and also what can be put to rest.
We can all agree that the past year has been a year like no other. In the months since September, when The Ranch reopened after six and a half months of closure, I enjoyed connecting with many new and returning guests to commiserate about how to create a well-nourished inner environment. How do we move forward in a way that feels healthy, hopeful, and productive. Naturally, we feel a sense of challenge, but those challenges present themselves to each of us in our unique ways.
There are a number of external practices that can provide nourishment when our minds and bodies are wracked with grief, loss, and uncertainty: get outside, move your body, choose healthy and nutrient-dense foods, find creative ways to connect with family and friends, surround yourself with things that bring you joy, keep your favorite music playing often. Do those things! Do them now! I attended a drive-by birthday party this afternoon. It was awesome to gather with friends while also maintaining a safe distance for everyone.
Internally, I find that daily time spent in quiet reflection is more important than ever. Our thoughts contribute to our internal environment every bit as much as the outer practices listed above. My favorite practice is to write in my journal while I am having my morning coffee. The purpose is to move any upsets or angst OUT of my body/mind and onto the pages. (Not every day is negative, but I have noticed an uptick this year!) My journal practice is followed by a bit of inspirational reading to have something more positive and uplifting at the forefront of my mind. After this, I am ready for my sitting practice.
My practice of choice is based in Mindfulness Meditation, which invites the practitioner to be fully present to and aware of the experience of the present moment and to be willing to radically tell the truth to ourselves about the experience that we are having. When challenging feelings and emotions arise, the invitation is to recognize that they are there and allow ourselves to FEEL our feelings. This is a courageous step: consider how often we go out of our way NOT to feel our feelings! In this space, we can inquire, “What am I believing?” and “What is the truth?” We can also inquire, “What am I most needing right now?” Then, in the practice space, that thing that you have determined is most needed may be extended from yourself to yourself. It just needs to be meaningful to YOU: a phrase of encouragement, a hand on the cheek, a gentle hand on the heart, heartfelt empathy, forgiveness, kindness, love. It is said that if we can take this practice on, there is true peace on the other side.
Another important piece of this reflection is to inquire of yourself, “What do I want?” “What is my heart’s desire?” “What do I love?” Little by little, as these answers present themselves, you will find the strength, fortitude, and integrity to fill your days with more and more of what nourishes you at the deeper levels of self.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” -Rumi
Jennifer DeMarco is the Coordinator for the Contemplative Programs at Rancho La Puerta. She holds a Master of Science in Health Education, BS in Physical Education, and a BS in Exercise Physiology. Jennifer has an extensive teaching career: she is a college professor in Exercise Science and Wellness, a group exercise instructor, and has 15 years of experience coaching cross country and track.
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