Feeding Your Soul:
The 4 Keys to Deep Spiritual Nourishment
BY PATRICK PAUL GARLINGER
just like you feed your body and mind, you must also feed your soul with various forms of spiritual nourishment that refuel us at the deepest levels. photo: lerina winter winter creative co
Nourishment: Treating Our Bodies Kindly
Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.
— Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du goût
In the documentary film Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock experimented by eating nothing but super-sized McDonald’s meals for thirty days. Not surprisingly, Spurlock quickly grew ill and fatigued, gained a lot of weight, and saw his cholesterol skyrocket. Even more disconcerting was that after the end of the experiment, Spurlock discovered how difficult it was for his body to recover from the ordeal. The average person does not have to undertake such drastic measures to know that most fast food is not a healthy option.
1. Dietary Choices
Few spiritual books address eating and feeding your soul as a spiritual practice, but it is essential. We must understand why we eat certain things and how what we eat matters to our wellbeing. You are indeed what you eat. However, many people do not know what they are eating, are not aware of the inferior quality of much of the food supply in America, and, even when they are informed, resist changing their eating habits.
This is true for many people who regard themselves as having a heightened sense of spiritual awareness. Part of the problem is that many of our food choices reflect physical addictions or emotional needs. We often try to eat what we don’t get in other areas of our lives. Another reason is familiarity: We are conditioned to eat certain foods and not others, because that is what we were fed as children. Unfortunately, these scenarios don’t nourish your soul and cheat our bodies of proper soul and spiritual nourishment.
Food is one of the ways in which we take on copious amounts of negativity and do harm to our bodies with uninformed choices. It is not my intention to provide you with nutritional guidance that is specific to your body. The following guidelines are meant to feed your soul. Most people know that they need to eat more vegetables, reduce their sugar intake, and avoid trans fats. You can consult a registered dietician or health coach about proper calories; balancing protein, fats, and carbohydrates; and detoxification. The focus here is on the quality of the food that you eat, how it is produced, why your choices matter, and how they nourish your soul.
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Consuming products from animals that are humanely raised and treated is essential on a spiritual path and to feed your soul. Most meat and dairy products come from factory farms, which means that the animals that are the source of those food products endure lives of intense pain, fear, and suffering. There is simply no reason to support an agricultural system that inflicts such pain on the pretense that we need to in order to eat. Factory farms also generate large amounts of methane, which is a significant contributor to climate change.
That same ethical concern extends to farm workers and food producers, so whenever possible, purchase certified Fair Trade products to nourish your soul. Otherwise, the food you consume was grown, harvested, distributed, and packaged by people who may have endured terrible working conditions or weren’t even paid a living wage. Your participation in that economy through your purchases, contributes (perhaps unknowingly) to the continuation of that exploitation of labor. With fair labor purchases, you honor and respect the effort others have expended to prepare your life-enhancing sustenance that feeds the soul.
Avoid fast and processed food as much as possible. These foods contain synthetic additives and other ingredients that are not beneficial to your soul nourishment and health. A common ingredient is high fructose corn syrup; it has become a substitute for cane sugar because it is significantly cheaper to produce. Processed foods lack the nutrients of fresh whole foods, and are intentionally addictive to keep you coming back for more.
Eating in restaurants can be a serious challenge when you care about the quality and source of your food, so you will have to exercise care in choosing meals to avoid animal products that were likely produced by factory farms, and vegetables that may have been heavily sprayed with pesticides. Luckily, many restaurants are now serving more organic and locally grown fare. Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are often, but not always, a better source for organic and high-quality food that feeds your soul. Be vigilant and creative when looking at a menu and skip items that you know are likely derived from artificial or ethically questionable sources.
plastic toxins that leech into the water over a period of time. Furthermore, plastic water bottles are not a sustainable practice, using precious amounts of petroleum for a single-use item that simply ends up in a landfill or polluting the ocean. A reusable metal or glass bottle is a better choice to nourish your soul and the earth.
It is best to minimize or eliminate soda and alcohol. Sodas are laden with sugar and artificial ingredients, particularly diet sodas, which are full of dyes and artificial sweeteners. Alcohol can be consumed in small quantities, but large amounts are detrimental to your spiritual nourishment and are obviously toxic to the body, and your liver has to work harder to detoxify the body from the effects.
2. Bless Your Meals
Blessing your food and drink is an important spiritual practice to feed your soul. Again, the same principle of interconnectedness applies. Someone else’s labor has produced this sustenance. From nature and Mother Earth’s capacity to grow, to the farmers and laborers who harvested the vegetables and raised the livestock, the workers who packaged and shipped and sold you the food, and the workers who helped bring clean drinking water to your town, someone else’s hands made your soul nourishment possible.
Consider the number of people and the amount of energy it took to bring you whatever it is you are about to consume. When we bless our food and drink, we are expressing gratitude for all of the labor those individuals exerted to create the sustenance we are about to enjoy. Blessing also directs positive, uplifting energy toward it. By regarding our food and drink not simply as something to consume, but as a gift of spiritual nourishment, we raise the energy frequency of that which we consume.
Even when we strive to eat a healthy diet, we can sometimes still make poor choices, particularly if there do not appear to be immediate negative effects. Just because you may not see immediate ill effects does not mean that you’re not harming your body. Be gentle with yourself even when you do not make choices that nurture your body and feed your soul. Use it as an opportunity to build awareness as to why you did not make a healthier choice.
3. Adequate Exercise and Rest
Most of us do not think of exercise as a spiritual practice, but you cannot cultivate unconditional love for yourself if you don’t give your body something as essential and nourishing as exercise. The benefits of exercise are uncontestable, so much so that even as little as ten minutes of vigorous exercise a day can add years to your life. To allow disease to take root by being sedentary does not feed the soul and honor the sacred vessel that is your body.
Sufficient sleep is also essential to feed your soul. Numerous studies have documented the ill effects of sleep deprivation on the body. Many people believe that they can thrive on just a few hours of sleep, but most are deluding themselves by using stimulants, such as caffeine, to stay alert. Depriving the body of sleep is often done in order to do more work and make more money. Because our society places so much emphasis on efficiency and productivity, adequate rest is discouraged. Yet, this is one of the best ways to nourish your soul. We don’t allow ourselves to rest according to our bodies’ rhythms—we caffeinate rather than nap. If you have difficulty sleeping, you can implement some natural principles of sleep hygiene like using light-blocking shades and avoiding electronics for at least an hour before bed. These, along with the practices below, will provide spiritual nourishment on deep levels.
Standing in front of a mirror, use affirmations to thank your body for supporting you in so many ways; tell it how beautiful it is, and how much you love it. Your body performs countless processes on its own, and it deserves to be acknowledged. Many people spend a lot of time staring in the mirror pondering how their body could be “improved” or “be better looking.” Practice the thought of fully accepting your body to help reverse the effects of that negativity and to feed and nourish your soul. Self-love means you embrace your body exactly as it is in this very moment.
4. Pampering Yourself
Pamper yourself! Many of us do not practice enough self-love for our bodies. A pernicious and antiquated idea is that we must sacrifice as part of a spiritual path. An old mindset, rooted in scarcity, it denies all worldly pleasures as necessary for spiritual growth. While it is true that attachment to material items is linked to the ego, the Buddha taught us long ago that denial of all worldly pleasure—an ascetic life—does not lead to enlightenment. Because life is meant to be joyous, there is incredible value in activities that allow you to feel good in your body and feed your soul and spirit.
Nourish your soul and body with love. Massages, restorative yoga, swimming in the ocean, pedicures, laying in the grass, and taking a warm bath are all uplifting and nourishing to your body. Many of these, such as a walk in nature or a warm bath, are not costly practices to feed your soul. For example, I find that pampering my feet is incredibly restorative because it honors the support my feet are always giving me. We often view these activities as a luxury, when studies have in fact shown them to be an essential part of restoring our minds and bodies. They are as important to spiritual nourishment as eating and sleeping. These activities are healing practices because they teach us how to feel good in and about our bodies.
More than just being physically restorative and beneficial, pampering yourself embodies a key spiritual truth: It reminds you that you are worthy of receiving. It reminds you that you deserve joy, including the pleasure of feeling good physically and feeding the soul with love on a regular basis. Many of us lack the ability to receive. Our culture imbues us with the belief that we should be independent, take care of ourselves, and not rely on others. For many of us, receiving triggers feelings that we don’t deserve what we are given, that somehow we didn’t earn it, which means that we are struggling with unworthiness and a lack of self-love.
In truth, we are always receiving from others; that is the very nature of our interconnectedness. Yet we deny our ability to receive, a key component to soul nourishment. How can we expect to receive the blessings of the Light if we cannot give and receive love from ourselves? Learning to receive through the body, and feel good about it and worthy of it, not only feeds the soul but teaches us to be open to the multitude of gifts that the Divine can shower upon us.
Consider your diet and food choices you make to nourish your soul. Do you regard them as part of a spiritual practice? Do you think about the food you are eating as sustaining you energetically? The next time you eat a meal, think about whether the food you are consuming is enlivening you or just “filling” you.
Consider your meals as the culmination of a journey. Do you think about the people whose labor was necessary for you to eat? The next time you eat a meal, look at each of the ingredients and imagine what it took for each one to arrive at your plate. Bless and thank each person who you imagine contributed to your meal. This practice helps to feed your soul energetically.
How often do you exercise or pamper yourself? If you don’t regard it as part of your spiritual practice, consider whether you might take more walks, get massages, or do something else positive for your body as part of a spiritual nourishment routine.
This article on feeding your soul and spiritual nourishment is excerpted from When Thought Turns to Light: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Transformation by Patrick Paul Garlinger.
About The Author
Patrick Paul Garlinger first experienced the grace of awakening many years ago when he began to meet numerous spiritual teachers and experience higher states of consciousness. While training under the renowned spiritual teacher, Mirabai Devi, Patrick underwent a profound evolution of his inner world. Previously a professor of Spanish literature and an attorney, Patrick is now a spiritual writer who provides intuitive guidance and healing services to individual clients. He lives in New York City with his husband and two cats. For more information about his writings and services, please visit PatrickPaulGarlinger.com