Soul Nourishment

I’m currently reading a lovely and inspirational little book, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, by a beautiful writer named Mirabai Starr, whose Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation I read a few years ago. The Center for Action and Contemplation recently quoted a passage from Wild Mercy in a Daily Meditation, which led me to pick up a copy from my local library and, because I was enjoying it so much, purchase my own shortly thereafter.

In subchapter “Making Amends,” Starr writes something that particularly speaks to me: “What would happen if we cultivated tenderness toward our own broken being?” Well, from personal experience, my answer would be that doing so might very well turn your life around. As someone who spent many years listening and acquiescing to the conditioned voice of my inner critic (tyrant, really) I’ve found the simple—though by no means easy—act of generating and practicing self-compassion, being gentler with and more accepting of my own broken being, to be nothing short of transformative.

Due to the fact that things such as this take place quite gradually by nature, it’s difficult to say exactly when the shift took place, but I’m certain the seed was planted during my time living with the Vietnamese monastic community of Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn, who showed me time and time again that I’m actually lovable just as I am. Contrary to my projections, they weren’t bothered in the slightest by what had recently transpired in my life and led me to their monastery’s doorstep, nor did they appear to be too concerned with how much money I made, which is something with which I’ve always struggled and continue to wrestle with to this day as a man in this culture. What a relief. For the first time in my life, I felt I was enough, and it’s been my daily practice ever since to, come what may, keep that soul-nourishing feeling alive.