When I’m feeling anxious or upset, I know certain things will soothe me. I grew up in a very food-centric house, so food has always been one of the things that made me feel better. Temporarily. But after losing 230+ pounds back in 2000 (my ex-husband weighed at least 200, and I had gained around 35 extra pounds by the end of that unhappy first marriage), I’m now more choosey now about how I use food.
Food still pops into my head as something that can soothe me- and it does. Temporarily. And not actually in a true sense. Anyone who uses substances knows that you use them because they work! But the consequences aren’t always ones you want. So then you have to change how you soothe yourself.
Now I’m more choosey. I know other things soothe me better. Spending time with loved ones, going to yoga class, listening to music, making art, reading at the beach, walking by a lake & bird-watching, gardening, praying and meditating. These things truly soothe me and even bring me joy. There probably isn’t a day that goes by without me listening to music and taking some time to get outside, and lately if I have time to make art , I find I am so happy.
Right now, as I type, I can hear the music in my waiting room. I have a group of rotating album and song tracks, in playlist featuring Bon Iver, Nick Drake, Deva Premal, Enya, and my super fav, Krishna Das, who I can hear singing my most an amazing song, God is Real. Krishna Das (or KD as he is called) sings in a chanting “Kirtan” style. Chanting (Kirtan) is a part of the path of Devotional Yoga. During Kirtan, KD chant/sings in Sanskrit, often reciting the “names of God.”
When I learned that Krishna Das was chanting God’s names, I was blown away- “WOW!!” No wonder I love his music– I had NO idea what he had been chanting, but I know I felt better when I joined in. So I did. I listened more and more, singing along.
Since I grew up Catholic, I am used to calling God by a few different names: “God,” “Jesus,” “Holy Spirit,” “Abba” (which means “Father”) and “Yahweh”. In Boston, I found a funky Catholic church that called God “the Father and Mother of us all.” That was one of the most liberating spiritual insights- that God can be called by so many names. That has really resonated with me.
As my spiritual practices soothe me and give me comfort, I feel strengthened to be my true self in the world. I am less-likely to numb away anxiety or sadness or overwhelm. Brene Brown talks about the tendency to numb our feelings in her powerful TED talk. She learned that people who are open-hearted and show vulnerability (like admitting when you need comforting), are able to lead happier, more emotionally satisfied & connected lives. There is a power in admitting your feelings, feeling them, and choosing to stay connected to yourself and others.
When I am having a bad day, so many things actually do help soothe me. Turning toward others, my husband, family or friends, can be very helpful. Going to the yoga studio after a particularly hard day has many times been a place that has calmed my brain and eased my spirit. Listening to and singing along with Krishna Das, especially if I am lucky enough to hear him chanting ” Ah, Yes, God Is Real – real is my soul, Hare Ram Ram Ram, Sita Ram Ram Ram…” helps me feel I am connected to God. My dad would say, “That’s not luck.” It’s meant to be. That soothes me.