“How would your life be different if you were conscious about the food you ate, the people you surround yourself with, and the media you watch, listen to, or read? Let today be the day you pay attention to what you feed your mind, your body, and your life. Create a nourishing environment conducive to your growth and well-being today.” ― Steve Maraboli
Some words just feel good to say.
It feels, well, it feels nourishing to say it. This week in my Nia classes (and then March 2-4 at the Nourishment: Movement, Meals and Mindfulness retreat ~ more on that below), I will focus on the satisfying and fulfilling practice of nourishing ourselves.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, when I started taking Nia classes in 1998, I was also beginning the process of nourishing myself. After years of compulsive exercise and strict dieting, my practice of Nia opened a new relationship between me and my body, movement, food, relationships and life. Pounding aerobics classes and fat free cottage cheese interspersed with devouring entire bags of cookies (fat free, of course. It was the 90s, after all.), had left me starving and empty. Nia offered a different way of not just approaching movement, but of experiencing my body and my life.
As some of you know, I am a recovering English major, so the first place I go when inquiring into a word is the dictionary (or these days, dictionary.com). And oooooh my gooshness, I absolutely love the definitions of “nourish”:
nour·ish verb (used with object)
1. To sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth.
2. To cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.: He had long nourished the dream of living abroad.
3. To strengthen, build up, or promote: to nourish the arts in one’s community.
4. [Susan’s additional definition ~ not endorsed in any way by dictionary.com] To allow in said nutriment; to actually receive the cherishing, fostering, strengthening, promotion.
We can use these definitions to inquire more deeply into the experience of nourishment: the action (or object), the intent, and the receiving. Let’s take movement as an example. The body is designed to move and movement is one of its nutriments. Movement is necessary for the life and health and growth. Movement nourishes the body.
The second two parts of the definition speak to the intent behind the movement. Does movement cherish, foster, and keep the body alive? Does it strengthen the body, build it up and promote it? When I was taking two, pounding, high impact aerobics classes a day, there was no cherishing or fostering going on. I actually remember glowering at myself in the studio mirrors. Laughing in class was sacrilege: self-loathing was serious business! I was punishing my body, not necessarily with the kind of movement I was doing (there are lots of people who love high impact aerobics and do it with joy and pleasure), but with how I was doing it. For me, exercise was the penance I paid for the food I ate. Any desire to strengthen or build up my body was intended to make it look a certain way (let’s be honest here, what I mean by that is thinner).
So, not all movement is nourishment for the body. Nourishing movement is movement that honors the body, fosters its wellbeing and takes care of it. This, I would say, comes back to the energy behind what we do. As I said, I know there are people who do high impact aerobics or athletic conditioning with joy and love. And I know people who do Nia or yoga as penance and punishment. For me, Nia offers movement that is fun, challenging, and healing. My practice of Nia has given me the tools to do other movement with awareness and compassion whether it’s a yoga asana, a challenging hike or a kettlebell class. It is our intent and focus that creates the nourishment.
The last part of the definition (which I openly admit that I completely made up) is about receiving and allowing in. Have you ever given someone a sincere compliment about how great they are and have them spit it right back at you? When I started teaching Nia, students would sometimes come to me after class and thank me for class. My response, in those early days, usually went something like this, “Oh NO! Thank YOU for coming! I didn’t do anything special, it was YOU who made it so good by being here!” That nourishment and fostering that my student offered me, bounced right off and landed in a clump on the floor.
These days, when someone thanks me for the class I’ve offered, I do my best to pause and breathe, look back at them and say, “You’re welcome.” Nourishment received.
Nourishment is about the act or the object, about the intent behind it and about our ability to take it in. We can look at anything in our lives — the food we eat, the friends we choose, the environment we live in, the movies we watch – and ask if it is nourishing.
Think of something in your life and ask yourself, “Does this nourish me?” First, is the quality of the act or object nourishing? For example, fostering friendships is nourishing given that connections with others are necessary for our wellbeing. Smoking, on the other hand, is not something that is necessary for life and health, no matter how relaxing it may feel or how positive my intentions when I light up.
Second, what is your intent or energy behind the object or action? If I am friends with someone even though he criticizes me and takes advantage of me, that friendship is not offering me much nourishment. If I spend time in the garden because I love being outside, the feel of the soil and the beauty of nature (rather than because I’m worried about what the neighbors think about my yard), I will be deeply nourished by gardening.
And finally, can I allow in the nourishment that is offered? When I eat a meal, am I able to taste it, enjoy it, and allow it to sustain me? Or do I eat quickly and without appreciating it? Of course, the energy of the food will still be received by my cells. I’m suggesting that it won’t have a deeply nourishing quality for mind and spirit, if I just hold my nose and wolf it down. If I focus my attention on the things my child doesn’t do well rather than on her gifts, is either of us really being nourished by the relationship?
I believe that creating lives that are deeply nourishing is essential…and fun! I am so excited by this inquiry that I am offering a weekend retreat called Nourishment: Movement, Meals and Mindfulness in Madison, Virginia from Friday, March 2 to Sunday, March 4. I’ve gathered together some talented people to offer information and experiences to help you connect with the sensation of nourishment. We’ll do Nia in a beautiful circular space that looks out on the mountains. And we’ll have some seriously delicious and nourishing food including one of the best salad dressings known to man (I’m telling you, the Sevenoaks Lemon Tahini dressing would taste good on a shingle).
And one final thought: part of the nourishment of going on retreat is the nourishment of time. A retreat offers time to reflect, to foster a new relationship (maybe with someone else or maybe with yourself). Time to savor, ponder, inquire, discover. Nourishing time.
I hope you will give yourself this gift. I would be delighted for you to join us. You can come for the weekend or come for the day on Saturday. We are taking registrations now (the deadline is February 20). Click here to find the schedule and registration, or just ask me!
This week, come move with me and begin an exploration of what nourishment is for you. Dance on and nourish up, my friends.