These principles are applicable to any situation, and can turn an otherwise draining experience into one that is nourishing. When they become embodied in every moment you will become a source of nourishment for yourself, your community, and the world.
Cultivate a nourishing intent.
The intent leads, the qi follows the intent, the fluids follow the qi, and the tissues follow the fluids.
The tissues of the body are all suspended in fluid, yes ALL the tissues, even the skin. We have an evaporation field that surrounds our whole body, we do not end at the skin! The fluids nourish the tissues; hydrating them, detoxifying waste products, transporting hormones and nutrients. From a physical perspective we are mostly fluid, not tissue. Remember this when moving the body! When the Ocean moves, the whole body of water moves, not just the wave. When we learn to move like the Ocean, from the inside out, our movements become much more powerful and nourishing. From our very beginning as a single cell we are fluid and whole. When the mind becomes fragmented our experience of the body becomes stiff and disconnected. As we heal the body, regaining fluidity and connectedness, the mind realizes its inherent wholeness.
The fluids then are suspended in and nourished by the qi. Qi, is often translated as “energy” but that doesn’t quite give the right picture. “Informational energy” is closer. Qi is energy but it’s energy that carries with it information. For instance; when you’re waiting in a long line and the person behind you is getting irritated, you can feel their irritation without even looking at them. You can feel their energy but it carries with it information about what their mind/intent is doing. Or perhaps you walk into an alleyway and get the chills and the hair on the back of your neck stands up. These are signs of your system interpreting the qi of the space, and the qi carries with it the information of what has happened there, what has been cultivated there, and that it is something that is not good. For a positive example I’ll use something from my own life; I’ve often had people when first walking into my treatment room tell me how just stepping into the space makes them feel more relaxed and peaceful. That’s because I’ve used my treatment room for helping people heal, and so the space now resonates that in its informational field.
The qi is governed by the intent. What that means is that whatever kind of intent you have, that’s what kind of qi you will cultivate. If I intend to help people heal, it cultivates a nourishing qi field. If I am angry it cultivates an injurious, ungrounding, upward pushing qi field. If I am anxious it cultivates a dispersive qi field. So the number one Nourishing Principle is to cultivate a nourishing intent. This guides everything else.
2. Be Natural
Since the intent leads everything else, there is really only one principle needed- to have a nourishing intent. The rest of these principles are things that naturally manifest from a nourishing intent. So; Be Natural. What does this mean? Nature is naturally healthy and vibrant, disease and disharmony don’t last long in the wild. So another way of saying this comes from my Craniosacral teacher, she says; “Be a good animal.” A good animal, sleeps when it’s tired, eats when it’s hungry, and plays when it’s happy. Honor your body and all of it’s signals. The human body is the most advanced technology in all of the Universe and it carries with it an intelligence that has been here since the beginning of creation. As we learn to listen to this intelligence it will guide us as to what proper choices are; what we should eat, how/when to move and rest, what medicines/herbs will be helpful, etc.. It can even guide us in major life decisions, and what a relief that can be! Have you ever had to make a decision about something that you just couldn’t rationally weigh the odds? Well, when you learn to listen to the inherent intelligence of your body, you don’t have to because it knows what the nourishing choice is!
3. Be soft.
Not flacid or complacent, but soft. One of my teachers playfully says; “You know how to spell soft right? …. P-R-E-S-E-N-T!” In order to be truly soft we must be fully present. For example when I say “Soften your shoulders.” what happens? Your awareness first goes to your shoulders and then you think something like “Oh jeez I didn’t even realize how tense they are!” And then you might have a difficult time actually releasing your shoulders because you’ve been unconsciously tensing them for so long. It takes a very clear and present mind to be able to have a “soft” body, and in order to find softness in the body we must have a soft and nourishing mind intent. This is something that extends out through all of our experiences, not just in the body. We must be soft with ourselves, kind to ourselves, treat ourselves like a friend. Have you ever caught yourself berating yourself for a mistake you made? What does it help? Nothing. It just hurts you and makes you a sour person to be around. It is also obviously important to be soft with others. This means accepting them for who they are, and respecting their experience even if it is one you don’t understand. There’s a line in The Taiji Classics that states; “Practicing hard injures, practicing soft nourishes.”
4. Slow Down.
Don’t be in a hurry. In order to fully understand why this is important we need to learn a little bit about the nervous system. There are two main branches of the autonomic nervous system; The Parasympathetic, and the Sympathetic. The Sympathetic is responsible for waking us up in the morning and being active, the stress response, and the “fight or flight” response. When this response is activated our bodies dump hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, which is helpful for short periods of time when we need to fight or run away. When left in the system though those hormones begin to break down healthy tissues causing all sorts of problems. The Parasympathetic is commonly called “Rest, relax, and digest,” but it’s also responsible to restoration. This is a SUPER important connection to make- the branch of the nervous system that heals the body is the same that is responsible for relaxation. So there is a direct link between relaxation and health. When we are in a hurry we get tense. Adrenaline courses through our bodies and the parasympathetic response is dampened. This means that the bodies ability to heal itself is dampened. Slowing down provides the proper pace so that we can accomplish our tasks while remaining in a balanced state within our nervous system. This allows us to heal while we perform our tasks. Ultimately we can accomplish more because we don’t get slowed down by sickness and injury, and we have a more enjoyable time during the experience. Another line from The Taiji Classics; “Practicing fast injures, practicing slow nourishes.”
I hope you found these helpful. If you want to develop a practice of how to actually embody these principles on the deepest level possible consider signing up for a Qigong class. It’s the most effective method I know of for cultivating the ability to nourish.