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Reviewing What Nourishes Us

Periodically, we need to view our lives from an aerial perspective and reassess what used to be functional, but may no longer be working, whether that’s our job, spiritual practices, our relationship, or our living conditions. What no longer nourishes you? Where do you need more protection, care, or attention?

Practices that replete us for the past twenty years may suddenly not be what we currently need. First, we need to pause. We can get so caught up in the day-to-day management of life and don’t feel like we have time and energy to assess the bigger picture.

Chinese medicine looks at the imbalance in the whole body rather than just addressing the organ that seems to be suffering from dis-ease. Massage therapists know that a referral pain may not be the source, and you need to understand how everything is connected and works within the bigger system.

I asked a client if they knew what hydrophobic meant and they responded, “When someone has a fear of water?” It’s such an interesting term that describes a state that soil goes into when it repels what it needs most. Humans do this too. Hakomi somatics talks about a “nourishment barrier”, which refers to strongly desiring or craving something, such as support, and not being able to register it when it is being offered, or not being able to tolerate receiving it because it is so unfamiliar.

Someone can be distraught over their partner not giving them what they need when sometimes it actually is available to them. However, how it is offered can make all the difference. When it is not offered with a certain amount of presence or the right tone of voice, someone with a nourishment barrier may not register it as being truly available. Not having support provided by parents primes them to be more distrustful of how genuine an offer is in the future. Out of self-protection, they may search their environment for signs that support is unavailable and their historical receptors latch onto this “proof” rather than register the support that is there. In partnership, this of course is a co-created dynamic

In the case of me and my garden, I take full responsibility. It is my job to attune to its needs and change my care depending on the current assessment. As some of you may know, during the winter storms we had here in the bay area, the roots of my neighbors’ cedar trees and black acacia that stood at the fence line became loose and had to be removed for safety reasons. The reduced shade and increased sun had a dramatic impact on the soil in my garden. It became hydrophobic aka Dry, note the capital D, demanding much more water and still doesn’t retain it. I’m in the process of amending and protecting it.

This demonstrates how interconnected everything is. In nature, as in relationships, there is a domino effect when one thing in an environment changes. If addressed early something catastrophic may be avoidable. While certain flowers are happy with more sun, others are suffering. There is a reorienting to the protection this land/garden now needs. A shift in considering mulch, worm casting, and different plants versus throwing more water at it.

This summer I am looking forward to the camping and rafting trips I have planned, the comedy and live music shows I’ll see, and the reduced number of days I see clients. But a larger scale reevaluation is needed. The lack of hydration in my garden’s soil speaks to my own lack of figurative hydration. It begs me to ask what else I need to do to attend to what nourishes me most.

Restructuring will allow me to register big changes in my environment and anticipate their impact, instead of continuing to move forward without taking that initial pause and reconsidering the strategic plan. Part of this is ignorance, as I am a beginning gardener, and part is a much longer pattern of being scrappy, enthusiastic, and over-committed. If my garden is an extension of my body, I can either be attuned to every little sensation or good at dissociating from devastating moments and then have a delayed, somatized reaction, such as headaches….or in the case of my garden, hydrophobic soil from losing all the canopy protection.

I am happiest when I am immersed in caring for my home base, and make my practices my number one priority. As I age, I’ve gathered so much awareness and many beneficial ways to take care of myself, but I struggle to do them all. Too much of a good thing. Attempting to be in all of them consistently can feel like hoarding practices: meditating, writing, exercising, and gardening. As I rotate my crops, I need to rotate what form of self-care takes precedence this season. 

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© 2022 By Charna Cassell, LMFT. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. MFC 51238.

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