We Feed Each Other

This week’s post is dedicated to BlogActionDay 2011 (#BAD11). This year, they are asking all of us to blog on a topic relating to food.

When I am in need of inspiration, I tell people I need spirit-food, and everyone seems to automatically understand my meaning. It’s really no stretch to apply the concept of food to spirituality. Food and food imagery is all over our religious past, no matter which faith journey you walk. Whether we talk about the apple in the garden, the story of the loaves and fishes, ritual fasts or food as holy feast or sacrifice, the fruits of the Earth have long been tied to the stories and rituals each of us knows and appreciates. The Christian faith even speaks of “the fruits of the spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23), as that which nourishes us when we walk with the Divine. Food is everywhere!

These are all food we take in on our faith walk, but I believe that we are each gardeners, as well. Yes, we may offer physical food to others, but we give of the bounty of our spiritual life every day, too. Whether we want to perceive ourselves as feeding those around us or not, I believe that the words and actions that we each bring to our day are the fruits of the life we live and the habits we allow to grow. I wonder, were we to take the best of those habits, cultivate them, care for them, elevate them to the level of a spiritual practice, and then approach them with the reverence of a holy ritual, could we change the world? I honestly believe we could … One soul’s garden at a time. I would love to blink and change the world sometimes, but I know I can’t do anything about the fruit of any habits but my own. So, in this time of turning within, I decided I would have a look inside to see what kind of fruit I am trying to grow.

There is so much to look at. After all, we each create habits constantly, and I am no different. Some of my habits can be reactionary. They might sprout and grow without real forethought, but more as a response to past events. At other times, I create habits consciously, by cultivating something I feel to be important. It might be as simple as a morning prayer or meditation ritual, or it might be as challenging as forcing myself to learn to listen when my nature is to speak, or to learn to speak out a truth when I would rather hide it away. Some habits bear the sweet fruit of positive impact on my life or on the lives of those I love. Others of a more bitter nature, bring negative consequences. For example, I know I should eat better and exercise more. Knowing this doesn’t automatically make it happen, though. I have cultivated a habit of letting these things slide, and the fruit could be terrible as I get older.

When I recognize what I consider a bad habit, I weed it out, as best I can. I do try to replace it with a better habit, so the roots of the old one won’t produce more growth in my life. I also work to water and to fertilize those habits I want to flourish. Evaluating a habit is the key, and it isn’t always self-evident. Things that take discipline can be habits that are challenging to create but may have amazing blessings as their fruit, and enjoyable habits can sometimes lead to illness or pain. At other times, neither of these statements is true. So, how do I differentiate what is good for me from what is not?

First, I have to see things as they are. As I learn the art of being both the observer and the observed, I begin to recognize things I do out of habit. I contemplate them, and I start to see the impact these behaviors have on my life, and the lives of those around me. As I learn to rest in that internal space, I realize that it is the same place where joy and peace enter my life. It is where I go to listen to the Divine “still, small voice.” Observing from there, I can finally learn to recognize the real fruit of my actions. I cultivate my connection to that space through meditation, prayer and practice. From the place of the internal observer, I can better evaluate what about myself is worth the work, and what isn’t. It allows me to direct my energy to what needs weeding, and what needs watering.

I believe that this act of intention is the key to allowing every part of my life to become an aspect of my spiritual practice. I believe that spirituality is not something to look for at a specific time on a designated day, but it is a way of expressing a world view that sees everything as an expression of Spirit. Every event, every object, every being holds the breath of the Divine and therefore as a human expression of Divine breath, I need to learn to relate to everything around me as being connected to me through the this holy breath we share. Separation is an illusion of the material world, and we are all bounteous expressions of Truth from the same tree.

That connection to all beings is the behavior I want most to cultivate. Just think of the possibilities! Imagine if it became a habit to visualize every conversation took place in a globe of pure love-light. How would that change what is said? What is heard? What if every time I touch a child, friend, parent or partner, I were to consciously remember that this moment and this relationship is a divine gift that we share? What if I were to approach my work as a mindfulness practice? What would change? These things are all candidates for spiritual practice. I just need to encourage the underlying habits. I need to remember that a practice like ‘listening better’ is not just a gift to the speaker, or even to myself, but it can be an opening where the Divine can enter. That is fruit worth cultivating!

I want to end this week’s post with this poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, PhD. It is a wonderful presentation of the fruits of our habits. It is pretty easy to expand on her original intent, and contemplate this as a meditation on our relationship with all the beings we know, including our selves, our own inner child (Blessings to each of you this week!):

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

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