I think I am extremely lucky that I found my life's work at a young age. I know this doesn't happen to everybody and I know it is a gift from above, and I treasure it as such. When I am doing my work, it gives me a joy and an uplift. I always come home in a good mood (well, almost always) no matter how tired I am, no matter what else may be going on. And as I got my natural, drug-free "high" from my work at a young age, I called it "soul food". It's a term I have used ever since.
Yes, I think there is food for the body and food for the soul. And I really believe that we need to get some daily soul food. To "Just Say No" to drugs, to any bad habits won't ever work, because nature abhors a vacuum. In order to successfully "Say No", we need to be saying "yes, yes, yes" to lots of good things in life. Many cool, interesting and exciting activities that feed us in a deep place. I am not talking about anything over-stimulating or over the top: I am talking about an inner sustenance that comes from love, which feeds us on a core level that, unlike an unnatural high, lasts and deepens our soul and also which carries us through tough times.
And I think we need this kind of imbibing of something that we love, absolutely every single day. No exceptions.
When we think about it, we can fall off the bridge tomorrow. We never know when our last moment will come. To live as if today was our last day, to savor its gifts and to share love with those we care about is important. Because....we never know.
Whether it's turning off the overhead lights and eating by candlelight, holding hands with our family and loved ones just before dinner, saying a kind word, marvelling at the stars overhead and following their constellations, listening to our favorite music, spending time with friends, writing poetry, playing sports, riding horses, going to a museum, challenging our intellect, calling one friend every day...I believe in living for all that is most important to us. And surrounding ourselves with the people who we love.
But frankly, those things are just the beginning. I am suggesting something much bigger: Pursuing life's passions. Whether that's skydiving, swimming with the dolphins, playing music, dancing, working at a butterfly house, working with animals, playing a sport or whatever brings us all uplift...there it is. Go for it!
When I was growing up, things were far from perfect, but I also grew up with a family of very positive thinkers. Every other word out of the mouths of my parents and siblings was the word "gorgeous". Well, not every other word, but you know what I mean. And when growing up, my mother always said: "We look to what is good in people" and also try to understand their foibles, as best we can. (Which doesn't mean not to have boundaries either!) Even the foibles can be an expression of the good aspects: Stability-loving and family-oriented, home-body-type people can be sticks-in-the-mud, which is the other side of their being into their families and their homes. A sharp critical thinker could be prone to anger, a function of their insight. Etc...so with every dark side, we also get to appreciate the gift which comes with it.
And I really do seek the beauty in life, and believe----deeply, with my gut----that beauty and peace are the essence of the life we live. Which doesn't mean that life doesn't have a shadow side and that there isn't evil: Not at all. I am talking about the core essence, not the personalities, which can be a different matter. But...If you look around, there is beauty we cannot escape, and we are enfolded in it: The canopy of stars overhead, the sunrises, the flowers, beaches, sparkling waters, the glint of the spirit within every pair of human eyes.
I am writing this because I believe that many of us teach kids, for example, to "Just say No" to drugs, sex, rock-n-roll, whatever.....and what are they going to do? Resort to violent behavior? Probably, as long as the inner vacuum remains unfilled. And it begs, cries to be filled. That----this lack of inner soul food--- maybe not the sole cause, but I believe it also plays an important role in fueling our youth to violence and drugs and other thrill-seeking behavior. I think if we give our youth thrills of a healthy kind, then we may see less and less crime and drugs. And, less addiction of all kinds among our adults, if they seek to give themselves daily soul food.
I would love to see the day coming when education involves teaching in a way that feeds the soul. What would happen to our society if....kids were taught to question, if curiousity and wonder were stimulated, if reverence and a love of life was imparted by the manner in which the whole educational package was presented, if kids were urged to pursue their interests in a serious way....perhaps we might have a whole other society?
I remember once visiting The Exploratorium in San Francisco, a hands-on, experimental science museum for kids and adults alike. It was fascinating to notice how everyone from four years old up to mid-seventies was engaged. There was not one case of attention deficit, not one wandering eye. Everybody was having a blast, and the kids probably didn't even realize how much they were learning. Oh yes, so much more than by studying a textbook in school. Studying their brains out to pass a test, with facts and figures which they would only be bound to forget, like water running through a sieve. What's the point? We call this education? I prefer to call it brain-cramming. I would love to see true education, not brain-cramming, where education would be defined as using the whole brain and engaging the whole person. Artistic reverence, critical thinking, curiousity and exploration, fostering a love of life, learning real-life skills like actually building a house...that is real education, if you ask me!
One thing I am very grateful for when I was growing up, was that we were taught to seek out the best of all teachers. "It doesn't matter what the subject is, or whether or not the subject even interests you. Go wherever there is the great teacher" my mother would say. And she moved heaven and earth to see to it that we had the very best of the best teachers. That's in fact how I ended up inspired for the rest of my life, doing the work which I do. Quality inpsires. That's all there is to it.
And seeking out this inspiration and milking it from life, taught me to truly be excited by life. That is why I have the enthusiasm for life which I do have----lots of it, if I may say that about my own self. Thank you, Mom.
Well, I am passing this on because I believe our society's values may teach us, unawares, to shun self-nurture as "selfish". I think nothing could be further from the truth. I think when we are happy ourselves, we infect others with our happiness, which is a service to the world. So that is far from selfish. Further, those who resort to drugs and alchohol in an addictive way do so to hide from life's pain, but also to fill an empty hole. Perhaps that empty hole can be filled with....soul food.
May we all find that source of inner sustenance and bring it to our lives on a daily basis. May the word spread until the fabric of existence is at least laced with a daily dose of that soul food, if not even comprised of it (in the ideal world). Thank you for spreading word. I believe our kids need it. Once again, thank you.