How to feed your own soul? Is your soul hungry? Now that we live in an era of social distancing, is your soul starving? This has been a strange week, with most of my coworkers now working from home, and dealing with family members who are going crazy in isolation. For me, this is the norm. I have always loved my own company, and find work from home to be peaceful and calm. But a lot of my friends are suffering emotionally, they cannot cope in their own company, so I am writing this post to share some strategies on how to feed your own soul.
This is something we all should be doing at all times, not just in an era of required social distancing. We cannot have healthy relationships with other people unless we have a strong and deep bond with ourselves. In fact, if relationships have always been short, abrupt and cold, chances us that you may be seeking from others that soul food you should have been feeding yourself. This is a great opportunity to learn how to nurture yourself.
So, what is soul food? We are emotionally affected by everything that happens around us: media, news, friends, our work, drinking, commuting, you name it, it affects us spiritually and emotionally. Now that you have to spend so much time on your own, you will notice rather quickly how those things are affecting you. You are now in isolation, and can no longer blame your stress and bad mood on other people. You choose what you put into your brain just like you choose what you put into your mouth every day. Spiritual or soul food can be both junk food and health food. You choose to interact with toxic people, share your stubborn opinions, post on social media, feed your soul with some empty drivel. You can also choose to listen to uplifting music, dance, exercise, meditate, spread positivity faster than a virus, give people hope rather than bad news. Now that we all have a lot of time on our hands, choose wisely how you are going to spend it. Will you nurture your own soul, or spit out toxic sludge at other people? Remember, when you are sharing fear and negativity with other people, you are actually holding it in your own body. That IS karma.
If you are at home and in isolation, here is something that you can do to make solitude a beautiful experience. Clean your house. Cleaning your home is in fact a spiritual experience. It is taught by zen masters and spiritual teachers to mindfully find peace in cleaning your personal space, and making it beautiful. Rather than panic because my fridge is empty and create awareness of lack, I decided to make my personal space more comfortable. After disinfecting everything, I moved a few objects around, restyled my bed, took some artwork out of storage, bought some potted plants, repurposed some old items. With my extra time, I restyled my rooms with objects I already had, eliminated accumulated clutter, and gave away a lot of things I had in storage. I lit candles, brought out my finest crystal, of course I’ll be treating myself to my best champagne while I’m in isolation. But cleaning and redecorating my home on a dime, really did feel good and calming.
Read. Now is the time to fill your mind with a careful selection of things you want to be aware of. I want to always be aware of adventure, success, winning, loving, nature, this beautiful earth, wildlife, humor, health, thriving. I carefully select what I fill my head with. A note of caution: when I say be aware of health, I do not mean that you should make yourself aware of all the things that could block your health like viruses, cancer, pollution, chemicals, or bad food. Awareness of that will poison you. Awareness of health means acknowledging the tremendous resources we have like medicine, exercise, clean water, and the realization that in less that 5 seconds we can all create a feeling of wellbeing in our minds to instruct our bodies to follow. What a powerful feeling!
Laugh. It is amazing how quickly I start laughing and making light of every situation when I shut off all media. If you can find humor in the most difficult situations you are doing something right. You can join people in their fear and misery, or you can infect them with laughter, and force them to see something positive when they are insisting that the world is ending.
Write in your journal. Now that you have all the time in the world, you have time to re-write your story, decide how tomorrow will be, or paint a picture of the life that you want to live.
Take care of your body. If you love to cook, make yourself the most exceptional meals. Treat yourself to your finest foods. I don’t like to cook, but I do love fine wine and champagne. Now that I am shopping for only one, I can afford to buy myself the best. Cooking can be a mindful experience when you learn to enjoy every moment. Take some time to decorate your plate, serve yourself on your finest china, pair your simple meal with an extravagant wine, and bam, you’ve got mindfulness!
How about a bubble bath? When was the last time that you treated yourself to an hour of pampering yourself? We all pay for services to pamper us, but that care comes form outside ourselves. How about caring for yourself? There is nothing better than taking the time to think what do my mind and body need, then use your own hands and your own initiative to give that to yourself. A fragrant bath, a slow self-massage, a facial are all example of you taking the time to tune inward and give your body what it is asking for.
Give yourself the gift of nature. Nature talks. It is amazing how connected I feel when I am alone in nature. Years ago when I was feeling very down, I would hike by myself in a nearby state park. One day, when I was feeling particularly hopeless, I leaned on a tree. First I touched it with my hand, and felt an unbelievably powerful surge of healing energy. I burst into tears. I was laughing and crying at the same time. So, this is what it means to hug a tree. If you have never tried it, or even ridiculed the idea, I urge you to hug a tree in solitude. You have to be alone to experience its power, but a tree is my best medicine. I sat down and rested my forehead on its trunk. I have never experienced anything more powerful than the healing energy that nature gifts us every day. This is probably how the Buddha healed from years of hunger, pain and suffering. That tree have me my most humbling moment.
My favorite practice that I started a few years ago when I was on a man-diet was to date myself. If you are suffering in social isolation, this is probably the best thing that you can do alone because it will change how you perceive men, teach you self-reliance, but also make you more confident, and aware of how attention from a man compares with the quality of attention you give to yourself. Dating myself is now extremely important, whereas before, it was something to be avoided at all costs.
To date yourself, make a list of things that the men in your life never wanted to do. It could be antiquing, apple picking, knitting, art classes, nature walks, sunset watching, cooking lessons. Then, all you have to do is do it by yourself. The most spectacular sunset I ever had with myself, was at my own log cabin in the Adirondacks, with my feet soaking in a frigid lake, drinking a $250 bottle of wine and a French baguette all by myself. The day I gave myself that gift, was the moment I realized how I create my own world. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. Now that you can’t lean on others to accompany you to these activities, it is the perfect time to understand that other people are your crutch. Get rid of your crutches and learn to appreciate every moment walking in your own company.
If you were staring at the most beautiful painting in the world, what would feel better? To tell all the people in the gallery how much you like it then collect their opinions about it, or would you appreciate a moment in the gallery alone, with nothing but the rays of sunshine to make the painting come alive? I could see the painting better in silence, in peace, and absorb every color all by myself. If you had a glass of vintage wine, would it taste better when your friends are telling you that it tastes great, or when you are sipping all alone by candlelight, swirling every exquisite drop on your tongue? That is mindfulness.
To get in touch with your inner self, solitude is of utmost importance. It is about becoming comfortable with your own company, making friends with it, then slowly appreciating everything in your surroundings to the point that every moment becomes precious.
These times of social distancing will define us. Some of us will become infected by our own toxicity. Those people who absolutely cannot stand to be alone, may realize how much they hate their own self as a companion. Hopefully, they will see why others end relationships and move away so quickly. But many of us will take this time out to reflect, turn our space into a personal haven, take care of our mind, body and soul, and appreciate the respite from too much social interaction.
I’m fine on my own, I’ve lived by myself four years now. I practice social distancing anyway because of my schizoaffective, and an immune system I have to strengthen in any number of ways. I’m careful with where my energy goes. I just cut my own hair, but I didn’t mess it up. Now working from home is the new normal. I might actually wind up getting a good job because of this, although I’m looking into internships.