[This blog post is an excerpt from my Month of Mindful Connection e-course. If you find these words helpful, consider joining the class.]
The word “food” is easily replaced by other words: phone, news, TV, exercise, work, shopping, or devices. (We have many unbalanced relationships.) There’s much that consumes us and that we consume. Yet what do we really seek? Our habits can mask our heart hunger.
While still a professor, I remember siting in my office late in the afternoon, surfing the web, making a new Amazon purchase, or mindlessly scrolling email. I was tired and depleted, unable to focus on important work yet unwilling to leave the office early (or just take a break). In hindsight, I see my heart hunger: I longed for rest, play, and connection. But habits ran the show: I made unconscious choices—choices that left me depleted. In addition, I criticized myself: “you didn’t get enough done.” This was an unbalanced relationship.
Gradually—over years—I cultivated ways to feed my heart hunger. In the process, I released limiting beliefs (e.g., I’m not a gardener, I’m not creative, I’m hopeless at cooking). Looking back on this process, I smile. Seemingly, my life has flipped 180 degrees, yet the core of my being and my heart hunger has stayed the same. What changed was my perspective and my commitment to well-being.
As humans beings, we’re different and we’re the same. We all have heart hunger yet it’s filled in diverse ways. There’s no right or wrong answer to the question, “How do I nourish my heart?” It’s important to listen inward with curiosity and kindness. And to commit to ourselves—our well-being—in small, doable, heartfelt ways.
Some activities that nourish my heart: Gardening, baking bread, buying and making food from local farmers, taking photographs, writing, meditating, walking in the woods, hugging a loved one, listening and being listened to, laughing, exploring nature, communing with friends, and intentional solitude. When I feel crabby, frustrated, or depleted, it’s a sign to tend and care for myself. When I remember to remember, I choose something from my heart-hunger list and prioritize it, either in the moment or in the upcoming days.
EXPLORE YOUR HEART HUNGER
Get your journal and pen(s). Shut off distractions and create comfortable conditions. Give yourself space to listen to this meditation:
WRITE FROM YOUR HEART
Consider these questions:
What activities (or non-doings) nourish my heart?
What habits prevent me from heart nourishment?
How can I feed my heart hunger on a regular basis (small, doable steps)?
Spend some time writing. Expressively write in your journal in response to those questions and about your experience in the meditation. Or make a colorful list. Or draw a picture. Express your heart hunger in some tangible way.
EVERYDAY AWARENESS SUGGESTIONS
Release a “should.” Notice the ways you limit yourself. Pay attention when you say inward or outward, “I should,” or “I have to do,” or “there’s no other way.” Should is a bell of mindfulness. Underneath is often fear or judgment. Try to release a “should.” Give yourself permission. Open to possibility.
Nourish your heart. Look anew at your daily choices. Which ones nourish and which deplete? Notice when you search externally for that which is found by feeding your heart hunger. Make more conscious choices.
Laughter practice. Sometimes we take life far too seriously. As a counter measure, we can practice intentional smiling and laughter. Give it a try and see how you feel: