There are certain kinds of experiences that nurture our souls and others that don’t. We also know that “experiences” are not “things,” and that although things, like money, homes, and motor vehicles do matter in our lives, they do not nourish our hearts and spirits. There’s nothing wrong with something that enhances only the material, as long as we don’t expect more from it than that. For most of us, separating unrealistic expectations from real ones is not easy.
The matters of the heart are the most important.
If we spent even 10% as much of our time and energy on matters of the heart as we do on matters that relate to the fulfillment of our ego’s desires, our quality of life would transform. For most of us, even 10% would represent a several-fold increase in our time. Many of us give more time and concern towards the maintenance of our cars than to our deeper needs. We may insist that what we most value is love, inner peace, family, or ‘truth”, yet our lives may not reflect this priority. It has been said that you can know a person by the way he spends his time, not by his words. What we truly love is what we give our energies to, and this may not be what we say matters most.
We begin by telling ourselves the truth.
If each of us were to confront the truth of where we direct the precious and limited resources of our time and attention, we would discover an incongruity between our words and our deeds, between what we insist is true and what is actually the case. Seeing this gap can be painful, but it is also the first and most critical step in the process of bringing integrity into our lives. Until we have done so, self-deception and rationalization will permeate our daily existence. And the results will show up in everything from our health to our relationships or lack of them. We bring meaning and authenticity into our lives by recognizing their absence and grieving that loss. Ironically, it’s our willingness to accept our disappointments and failures that opens our hearts to finally finding deep and lasting fulfillment.
We can acknowledge any prices we pay for the way we are choosing to live.
When we deny the body vital nutrients, we weaken it and put it at risk of illness. When we deny our soul the nourishment it requires, we risk a kind of damage that can be even more destructive to our sense of well-being than is physical harm. Soul-damage occurs when we deny ourselves the kinds of enriching experiences we need to thrive, rather than simply survive, experiences that make our heart sing, and that infuse our lives with passion.
Just as a starving person can only recover his strength by ingesting food, soul-hunger can only be satiated by giving ourselves experiences that nourish us. This hunger isn’t fed once and for all (any more than we eat once and for all!), but must be addressed on a daily basis. We can learn to ask the question, “What is it that my soul desires today?” Asking this question does not mean that we neglect other responsibilities, only that we add this one to our list of daily concerns.
Giving up on satisfying the expectations of others is on a par with kicking heroin. Attending to the needs of our soul can be one of the most difficult things that we ever do. We are convinced that putting our own needs in front of those of others makes us selfish, and therefore unworthy of love. It is not selfish to provide ourselves with this kind of attention. And in so doing so we are not being irresponsible to others. The truth is in fact the very opposite.
Giving ourselves happiness is also a gift to those around us.
The greatest gift that any of us can give to those we love, is our own happiness, not the superficial happiness than comes from the attainment of pleasurable experiences, but the happiness comes from our true nature. The quality of attention that we give to ourselves reflects what we give to everyone we encounter. It’s not possible to be more loving to others than we are to ourselves.
We can give our loved ones the gift of caring that is spontaneously generated when our hearts are full and our souls are nourished. We begin by recognizing the truth of what has been awaiting our attention. Whether it is pain or happiness, the ten thousand joys as well as the ten thousand sorrows a life that is lived from this truth opens us to a peace unavailable through the addictions that preoccupy the ego. Well-being is available to those who believe themselves deserving of it and, are willing to act accordingly. Are you worth it?