A Little Soul Nourishment: 5 Ideas For You

Sedum in Fall

“There is no one like anyone else, ever…For it is the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

~ Oliver Sacks, Gratitude

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of my grandmother – my Oma – who was my last remaining grandparent. My Oma was a complex and intelligent woman, who experienced many struggles in her life, and who had a deep enjoyment of reading, especially poetry, essays, and books that made her think. She was also a talented and accomplished writer, and when I look out across my family – thinkers, writers, readers, linguists, teachers, wordsmiths – the shared history makes itself clear.

Funerals, like no other life event, confront with you thoughts of mortality and the meaning of life, and take you through this unique realm of family you don’t regularly get to see, people from your past, stories you’d forgotten, and the joys, sorrows, struggles, adventures, and mundane everydays that make up each individual life. It’s a liminal time where contemplation and reflection – soul work – feels important and necessary.

I spend so much time thinking and reading about nourishing the body (right now I’m reading No Grain, No Pain, by Peter Osborne – a useful read if you have any digestive diseases or discomforts, or think that gluten might be a problem for you) that I often forget to make space for nourishing the soul.

fall sedum 2

What nourishes your soul? I love poetry, photography (hence the fall sedum photographs, all from my front yard), reading beautiful nature essays, engrossing novels, making soup, chocolate chip cookies, playing pianoblog posts that give me perspective on life, books on happiness, and tea. Oh, and writing. I suppose that’s what this blog post is – a bit of a Tuesday outlet for my soul.

So here are five of the soul-nourishing options that I’ve been thinking about lately. Consider putting a book option on hold and giving it a read before bed (an excellent soul-nourishing time), or take this blog post and use it as a reminder to incorporate a little of your own soul-food this week, whatever that is for you.

  • Wait But Why: Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel: Great title, no? What a cool concept. I’ll let the post speak for itself, and it’s a hugely worthwhile read, but the main point is: life is a series of Todays. Thinking about life only as exciting Tomorrows that are going to be so much better than our regular Todays is missing out on being present, and is ultimately missing the point. This wonderful post reminds us that thinking about life as a movie montage or a big picture with sweeping music, an overall theme and story arch, and whizzing frames that just blur past the hard, disappointing, or boring bits, just sets us up for regrets and unhappiness. We may find those epic stories in looking back on our lives, but the reality to make peace with is that no matter what, our lives are built brick by brick, Today by Today. And, our Todays might often just be “mundane Wednesdays.” What we can hope to do is make the best of our “mundane Wednesdays”, and so the post concludes with some tips for the scientifically proven things that actually improve our Todays over the long-run: gratitude, good health, satisfying and loving relationships, good sleep, and kindness/giving to others.
  • Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks. This short, small book contains four essays written by Oliver Sacks in the last two years of his life. I read it cover to cover in under an hour and felt my soul had been warmed. Oliver Sacks writes so positively about aging (in the first two essays, before he receives his terminal cancer diagnosis) and then so beautifully, bravely, and honestly about the remainder of his life in his final two essays. It’s also a marvellous book to marvel about writing, and the power of words to reach out across the ethos and capture emotions you felt but weren’t satisfactorily able to express. This little book gave me new ways to think about the beauties in life, the gifts that we’re given (even those that don’t seem like gifts), and the magic of a dialogue with a good book.
  • Upstream, by Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, and even though this is a book of essays, I can’t deny that reading it is like reading poetry – a luxurious pool of words that you spend time swimming around in. The book includes a wonderful essay called My Friend Walt Whitman, where Mary Oliver writes about poetry – and the experience of poetry – with such tenderness: “But first and foremost, I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple – or a green field – a place to enter and in which to feel…I learned that the poem was made not to just exist, but to speak – to be company.” If this makes you wish to read poetry, try a few favourites: Whitman, for sure, and Mary Oliver, but also Wendell Berry, John Keats, Tennyson, and Shakespeare. All good and satisfying.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve been trying to incorporate more grain-free options, to see how that sits with me, and today I’m trying these Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Against All Grain. I’m all for nourishing my soul by also nourishing my senses (and stomach). *grin*
  • Herbal Tea: Lastly, if you’re looking for a new tea to try, consider fennel! It’s great for digestion, very soothing if you have any digestive issues, and it may also be anti-inflammatory, immune-supporting, and helpful for managing PMS symptoms. Plus, I love the licorice/anise flavour.

If you’re looking for other soul-nourishing and happiness-boosting posts, consider:

Thank you for allowing me to write about what’s on my mind, and for taking the time to read, even though this diverts from usual content. I’ll be back with more recipes soon. Until then, happy soul-nourishing!

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercouse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

~Oliver Sacks, Gratitude

 

© Backyard Owl

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For the End of Summer: 7 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

Friends, I am going through a bit of dry spell for blog creativity. I have no shortage of recipes to try, but I haven’t found anything of late that just really says “I’m a success and I need to be shared with the world.” I made some cantaloupe limeade the other day (basically you juice a cantaloupe and two whole limes, dilute with water, and add maple syrup to taste) and as excited I was about making an beautiful peach-coloured drink, it didn’t taste quite as good as I’d hoped.

dandelion fluff

So now, as I sip cantaloupe limeade (just because it wasn’t amazing, doesn’t mean I’m going to just waste it), I ponder what I should do next. After all, the summer is a time when fresh, seasonal, local fruits and vegetables are so available! I should be swimming in recipes to try. But, I don’t know what it is.

Did I mention my plum jam this afternoon burned and was ruined?

So, yeah, a tough month for ol’ Emily. But, instead of beating myself up, I’m trying to remember that a) summer is a busy time, and b) sometimes recipes and schedules just don’t go according to plan, and c) sometimes the answer to the blahs is taking the time to RECHARGE.

summer sunflowers

Summer is often an active time, with hot weather, long days, and lots we feel we should be doing/attending. Are you feeling drained, dull, or low on the creative juices? Peruse a few of these articles, try a recipe or two, and treat yourself well at the end of this beautiful, hot, gorgeous summer. Enter the Autumn feeling strong and vital, and give yourself that much needed boost as you transition to a new season and a new phase of the year.

  1. For Your Soul: Recharge with the power of a super moon! Who doesn’t love the idea of letting Nature help fill up our spiritual and emotional cups?
  2. For Your Body: Make yourself an easy, natural brown sugar scrub and indulge in the shower for smooth skin, exfoliation, and a circulation boost.
  3. For Your Baking Side: Use up some zucchini (which is always ubiquitous this timesimple and refreshing iced herbal tea with fruit and mint leaves of year) and make zucchini chocolate chip muffins, then enjoy with a cup of tea (or iced herbal tea!) and your favourite novel for a few stolen moments on your porch, in your favourite chair, or just sprawled out on your bed (with the fan blowing, if it’s hot where you live).
  4. For Your Spirit: If you’re in the mood for singing, take 20 minutes to sing along to your favourites. Singing is something so few of us do anymore in any real way (yes, the shower counts, except not really) and it’s so restorative and so, well, pleasant! Embrace your folk side with John Denver “Take Me Home, Country Roads” or maybe your country side with Tim McGraw “Sick of Me.” Or, go mellow and strummy with Pink and Dallas Green, “You and Me.” Sway around. Get into it.
  5. For Your Inner Child: In this hot weather, don’t forget about swimming! It gets your core temperature down and, if done before bed, can cool you down enough for a reasonable night’s sleep. Find your nearest local pool and try it! My friend Liz and I have been swimming several times this summer and it’s so fun! I forgot how delightful it is to just lounge in a pool and see the blue sky.
  6. For Your Tastebuds: Make strawberry summer sherbert or avocado lime ice cream. ‘Nuff said.
  7. For Your Heart: Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend. Take some time at the gratitudeend of summer to reflect, journal, and think about what you’re looking forward to as Autumn approaches. Forgive yourself for anything you feel wasn’t perfect this summer, or make a commitment to yourself to try again at something that really matters to you. And, as always, take stock of the good things in your life. Sometimes a few moments spent reflecting on what we love about our lives can boost our feelings of harmony and joy, and bring us to a place of peace and connection again.

Happy Last Days of Summer!

avocado lime ice cream with coconut milk

(C) Backyard Owl

 

 

It’s the Holidays: Survive, Thrive, and Remember What Counts

What are the holidays are meant to be: relaxing, celebratory, inclusive, social (but not stereotypical – families are made up of all different kinds of groups and people), generous, full of gratitude, delicious, joyful, cozy, and fun!

What the holidays aren’t meant to be: stressful, expensive, a wallop to your digestive system, annoying, full of old anger-inducing family patterns and arguments, packed with non-stop travel, short on self-care and me time, wasteful and excessive, or full of resentment, anger, frustration, or disappointment.

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I mean, in reality, we all know this instinctively. No one sets out with a wish to make their holidays as miserable as possible (with the exception of the Grinch, pre-heart enlargement).

So this Christmas season, take a few moments to remember what counts. Be sure to take time for yourself, and to appreciate the smells, the sights, the lights, the snow (or lack thereof), the special food and traditions, the dark chocolate, the family or friends, your furry life companions, the good books, a nice fireplace, and so on. Take every opportunity to remember what makes you happy in your life, what fills you with joy, and what makes you feel so lucky to be alive. These things can tiny or grand. It just matters that you think about them.

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Survive and thrive this holiday season by:

  • making a daily gratitude list: dentifying those things – no matter how small – that brought a smile to your face. Aim for a balance of both material things (like, you’re grateful for the sweater that Aunt Doris brought you) and non-material things (like, you’re grateful that Aunt Doris said this is the last year she’s bringing sweaters for everybody).
  • indulging in special foods, but sticking with a few meals and a few days that include healthy options: maybe a green juice, or a green smoothie, oats for breakfast, some clementines here and there. Indulging is a wonderful way to celebrate the different foods and traditions we have available to us, but feeling like crap really sucks. And so does getting sick. So keep up with those fruits and vegetables.
  • walking as much as possible: the schedule at the gym changes for the holidays, you might be in your car for longer stretches, or because of the holiday and family parties, your regular routine might just end up in shambles. What can you do? Just walk more. Walk to see a movie, walk to a party, walk in the morning, walk before bed, just get outside. Not only is walking one of the most beneficial overall exercises you can do for your health, but walking outside has so many other health benefits: the fresh air (better air quality outside, typically, than inside), the change of scenery, the ability to deeply inhale, the smell of woodsmoke, the beautiful lights. It’s like a whole body de-stress in 30 minutes or less.
  • making it a point to seek out what makes you laugh: look for as many good laughs as possible. I personally love The Mindy Project and watch episodes on the regular for good laugh out loud time. Find what works for you: Jimmy Fallon youtube videos, National Lampoon, Seinfeld reruns, maybe a David Sedaris book.
  • being present: with a jam-packed schedule, it’s easy to spend time thinking about what comes next on the list. The next event, the next party, the next obligation. Try to set those all aside and just enjoy each experience as it comes. You’ll feel calmer, more appreciative, and more in the festive spirit.

Happy Holidays from Backyard Owl!

© Backyard Owl