By Dorian Martin, I Start Wondering Founder
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about nourishment and poison in my life. While there are obviously some specific items that handily come with a skull-and-bones label on it (strychnine, for one), there are other ways to poison one’s life and one’s soul. On the flip side, have you ever really thought about what nourishes you?
Those two extremes are my current homework assignment for my book group, which is reading Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening by Martha Beck. The book suggests that we should take specific steps to regain our wild selves, which can help us navigate the topsy-turvy world where we now reside.
Pick Your Poison
Martha’s second task in regaining one’s wild self is to consider poison. Needless to say, everyone’s first thought almost always goes to what we eat and drink.
I believe that our body becomes more calibrated to recognize poison as we age. About a decade ago, I went to happy hour with several friends and we ordered margaritas and a bunch of fried appetizers. By the time I left the restaurant, I was literally nauseous. I learned the hard way that night that what my body used to be able to do – eat greasy foods and consume moderate quantities of alcohol – no longer was acceptable.
That experience led me to explore the effects of different foods on my system. I started a research project in which I’d eat a specific food and really listen for the response. Did I want more? What did my digestive tract feel like right after eating or drinking the substance? When did I become full? What did I feel like the next day?
What I learned surprised me. Meat ends up sitting in my stomach for a long period of time so I feel like I have a block in my digestive tract. That experiment caused me to cut back on my meat intake and adopt a more plant-based diet, which doesn’t give me that bloated feeling.
Some findings came more slowly. For example, I love cheese, but my seasonal allergies have improved dramatically since lowering my intake. Have I given up cheese completely? No. However, it’s a treat, as opposed to a daily menu item.
Martha Beck also encourages readers to explore poison in other parts of our lives. This is a bit harder, but I am making progress. For instance, I realize that I find political diatribes that were common after the election to be poisonous. I have a similar reaction with people who start every sentence or Facebook post with “You must” or who are judgmental. I also find that many violent movies are poisonous because their focus is on gratuitous carnage as opposed to having a true plot line.
The same goes with certain words that are derogatory in nature. I recently had lunch at a restaurant where two young men at a nearby table were throwing out curse words on a regular basis. I felt the poison seeping into my system and was happy when they left so I could enjoy a quiet and peaceful meal.
Of No Value
I’ve also recently started noticing things that don’t offer any “nutritional value” to my life. For example, I recently saw a touring production that I had first experienced in the 1990s. I had been excited to see the show again, but found that it was predictable, dull and uninspiring. While the performance wasn’t poisonous, it wasn’t something that was worth spending three hours of my life.
In comparison, I went to a play last night with a young friend who is taking a theater class in community college. Neither of us had seen the show before and we both became caught up with the local production. It was such a treat to talk about the play’s twists and turns on the drive home. I found it to be a much better investment of my time then the play I had seen earlier in the month.
So what nourishes? Some areas are simple to identify. My skin began to look healthier when I stopped drinking diet soda and starting making water my beverage of choice. The same goes with moving to a primarily plant-based diet; I just feel better.
But there’s a deeper layer to consider as well. My life seems to flow a lot smoother when I get enough sleep, meditate or do Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of qigong based in unconditional love. I find that taking time to indulge my creative streak nourishes me. The same goes for spending time outdoors, gardening, listening to a wonderful piece of music or podcast, going to the museum or for a walk, and delving into a great book. Taking time to be quiet offers nourishment – as does getting more involved in my community and having soulful conversations with friends and family members.
Interestingly, I don’t find people who have different political stances than I do to be poisonous. Instead, I find that those who are willing to have a two-way conversation about their stances to be nourishing. Perhaps that’s because we can often find places to agree. At the very least, I end up with a better understanding of their perspective. And quite frankly, they sometimes cause me to reframe my thinking.
Thinking about poison vs. nourishment has offered many important a-has for me. Taking time to think about these concepts is really important in our technology-driven world. What nourishes you? What poisons you? And how do you want to change you life to include more of the former?