The Precious Resources of Our Time and Attention
How do we nurture our soul?
Posted Nov 21, 2018
Most of us know that there are certain kinds of experiences that nurture our souls and others that don’t. We also know that “experiences” are not “things,” and that although things, like money, homes, and motor vehicles do matter in our lives, they do not nourish our hearts and spirits. There’s nothing wrong with something that enhances only the material as long as we don’t expect more from it than that. For most of us, separating unrealistic expectations from real ones is not easy.
If we spent even 10 percent as much of our time and energy on matters of the heart as we do on matters that relate to the fulfillment of our ego’s desires, our quality of life would transform. For most of us, even 10 percent would represent a several-fold increase of our time. Many of us give more time and concern towards the maintenance of our cars than to our deeper needs. We may insist that what we most value is love, inner peace, family, or ‘truth,” yet our lives may not reflect his priority. It has been said that you can know a person by the way in which he spends his time, not by his words. What we truly love is what we give our energies to, and this may not be what we say matters most to us.
Perhaps if each of us were to confront the truth of where we direct the precious and limited resources of our time and attention, we would discover an incongruity between our words and our deeds, between what we insist is true and what is actually the case. Seeing this gap can be painful but it is also the first and most critical step in the process of bringing integrity into our lives. Until we have done so, self-deception and rationalization will permeate our daily existence. And the results will show up in everything from the quality of our health to our relationships (or lack of them). We begin the process of bringing meaning and authenticity into our lives by recognizing their absence and grieving that loss. Ironically, it’s our willingness to accept our disappointments and failures that opens our hearts to the possibility of finally finding deep and lasting fulfillment.
When we deny the body vital nutrients, we weaken it and put it at risk of being vulnerable to some opportunistic illness. When we deny our soul the nourishment it requires, we risk a kind of damage that can be even more destructive to our sense of well-being than is physical harm. Soul-damage occurs when we deny ourselves the kinds of enriching experiences that we need to have in order to thrive, rather than simply survive, experiences that make our heart sing, that infuse our lives with a sense of passion and vitality.
Just as a starving person can only recover his strength by ingesting food, soul-hunger can only be satiated by giving ourselves experiences that leave us feeling nourished. This hunger isn’t fed once and for all any more than we eat once and for all, but must be addressed on a daily basis. Just as we find ourselves asking the question: “What is it that my job requires of me today?” We can learn to ask the question, “What is it that my soul desires today?” learning to ask this question does not mean that we neglect our other responsibilities, only that we add this one to our list of daily concerns.
For many of us, giving up the addiction to satisfying the expectations of others is on a par with kicking heroin. It’s strange, but true that attending to the needs of our soul can be one of the most difficult things that we ever do. We are convinced that putting our own needs in front of those of others makes us selfish, and therefore unworthy of love. Our preconceived beliefs notwithstanding, it is not selfish to provide ourselves with this kind of attention. And in so doing so we are not being irresponsible to others. The truth is, in fact, the very opposite.
The greatest gift that any of us can give to those we love, is our own happiness, not the superficial happiness that comes from the attainment of pleasurable experiences, but the happiness that is a natural expression of a life lived in conjunction with the truth our or own being. We come to know this being in each unfolding moment as a continually evolving expression of our true nature. The quality of attention that we give to ourselves reflects what we give to everyone that we encounter. Despite what we may believe, it’s not possible to be more loving to others than we are to ourselves.
We can give our loved ones the gift of caring that is spontaneously generated when our hearts are full and our souls are nourished. We begin with the willingness to recognize the truth of what it is that has been awaiting our attention and then embracing it. Whether it is pain or happiness, the ten thousand joys as well as the ten thousand sorrows a life that is lived from this truth opens us to a peace unavailable through the addictions that preoccupy the ego. Well-being is available to those who believe themselves deserving of it and most importantly, are willing to act accordingly. What about you? Are you worth it?
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