Living a Nourishing Life
Living a nourishing life is not about accomplishing goals or having so-called worldly success. To me, a nourishing life is living life in alignment with what truly matters to us, what we value. When I was at the Social Venture Network conference in San Diego last month, I heard a man tell a story that resonated so deeply with the practice of Language Alchemy. In his twenties' he was sentenced to prison for 30 years. During the first few years of prison, he spent his days blaming others for his circumstances. He blamed his parents, society, the judicial system, and his friends. Occasionally, he blamed himself for not being able to outsmart the system and get caught. He said his life was hell, not only because he was denied his physical freedom, but because he had no internal freedom. His internal language was at war, so much so that he had alienated himself; others were tired of hearing him complain about everything. One day, he was on the phone with the only friend who would still answer his calls. He was repeating his habitual rant and blaming, accusing, and complaining. His friend stopped him and said: "I've been listening to the same thing from you for years. I'm fed up. Take some responsibility for your life and only when you do that can you call me again." The man went back to his cell feeling furious and now accusing his only friend of abandoning him, like everybody else. The next morning, he got up with a fresh thought: what if I abandoned myself? What would I need to do to get myself back?"
In his prison, there was another inmate who was considered a sage, and so this inmate asked for a conversation with this sage. The sage gave him 15 minutes. The first question the sage asked was "what are your values?" The man could not respond right away; it was not something he had considered before. He just said, I want to get out of this hell, I'll do what you tell me." The sage gave him a pencil and a piece of paper and said, "write your 10 most important values on this paper and see me tomorrow." The man came back the next day. The sage looked at the paper and asked "you say these things matter to you, then what are you doing to honor them? If you want to get out of your hell, you need to do something in our life every day that shows your values." From that day on, the inmate made a commitment to honor his values. He learned to be vulnerable and communicate again with those he valued. He made amends with every member in his family. He went back to study and earned a college degree. He learned to take responsibility for his life, not by blaming, but by acknowledging that he had abandoned himself when he abandoned his values and word. He asked for help to discover his role in his life and heal. In time, he became one of the most optimistic people in the prison and learned to have friends. He was released almost two years ago and he now has a fulfilling job in San Francisco. He learned to live a nourishing life even while incarcerated and now he contributes to society by living in alignment with his values. When I met him, I knew he valued connection by the way he looked at me, listened to me and hugged me.
Living a nourishing life is not easy. But it is a challenge worth taking, not because it will give you a high paying job, a perfect romantic partner, or vacations in exotic places, but because you learn to listen to the most powerful voice: the longings of your heart. It is the heart’s longings that reveal our core values. When our core values are uncovered in the heart, these values become a force that move us to seek support when we need it; to deepen our transparency with our loved ones; to stay connected to our true essence when discomfort happens. Living in alignment with our values becomes a fascinating alchemical adventure in which we are invited to listen, communicate and act with authenticity and compassion. And when we live in this way, we live a nourishing life that benefits all those whom we touch.
Here are some ideas to get you started on your alchemical adventure towards a nourishing life:
- Go to a quiet place where you can be undisturbed for at least 30 minutes.
- Notice your breath. Connect to the felt sense in your body. Are you feeling present and open?
- Write down a list of up to 10 values and then write down why they matter so much to you.
- Savor each of them and think about the smallest thing you can do to nourish and communicate these values. Maybe you start by honoring one value a day in your words, your thoughts and your actions. Let your life be a reflection of what is important to you.
- As you go through the day, listen to these values as longings in your heart. The more you listen to them, the louder they get.
- At the end of the day, acknowledge what you thought, did and said in alignment with your values.
- If you notice you are not following through, ask for support, engage in a compassionate internal dialogue and recommit to the longings in your heart.
Let me know how it goes, and if you want to learn different tools to communicate and live in alignment with your values, join me in one of my workshops, courses or ask me for Language Alchemy coaching.