Ango Week 7: Nourishment

November 7, 2022

Image (detail): Mayumi Oda, “Morning Breath/ My Breath”

A weekly message from teachers Sarah Dōjin Emerson and Charlie Korin Pokorny in support of the 2022 Fall Practice Period.

We need to flood the system with life-affirming principles and practices, to clear the channels between us of the toxicity of supremacy, to heal from the harms of a legacy of devaluing some lives and needs in order to elevate and indulge others.
—adrienne maree brown, “We Will Not Cancel Us”

This week’s email is a little later because it took some time to form.  The theme we want to offer is Nourishment, and we want to offer it in light of a couple of teachings from our tradition.  The first is stewarding, attending to and caring for the first grave precept: a disciple of Buddha does not kill.  We can turn this precept to its affirmative form: a disciple of Buddha cares for and cherishes life.  So in taking up Nourishment, we can ask ourselves:how do we care for life?  How do we flood the systems with life-affirming principles and practices, moment after moment?  And taking up this question as a koan and a compass on every level: from a vast planetary scope, to our communities, to our beloveds, to our own bodies within systems, down to the minutiae of our most mundane, intimate daily choices.

The early roots of the word nourishment come from Latin nutrio, which has the meanings: to feed, foster, nourish, cherish, preserve, support.

This week, growing from contemplating the body and contemplating rest, we invite an inquiry around nourishment. Like rest, nourishment is something we can think of more conventionally- as in food and nutrition; or more expansively- what sustains us, what supports, what restores and nurtures?

What feeds, fosters, cherishes, preserves and supports you? What nourishes your body? your heart, your whole being? your practice? your bodhicitta/ aspiration for liberation? your freedom?

The second offering form the tradition that we want to include this week is an understanding of nourishment in the context of the cyclical nature of giver, receiver and gift- how true  nourishment never actually travels only in one direction, but happens, in interconnectedness, in systems of reciprocity.  Given that, are there things you offer into the world that nurture you by your offering of them?  Are there offerings you receive that are actually a gift to those giving them to you?

Possible practices:

– Mindfully feeding ourselves:
Caring for how engaging with food and eating can be a complex relationship for many people, and acknowledging that mindful appreciation of eating is rarely supported in dominant culture and busy lives, can we engage with eating and feeding ourselves this week as an offering?
One possibility: Take time to get quiet and settled, and then ask yourself what foods your body would really appreciate taking in right now. If something comes, can you find this food? Is there time, just once this week, to cook this for yourself? Can you create a small ceremony to offer yourself the food and to receive from yourself the food?

– Savoring small moments of sensory joy:
Attuning to your senses, can you identify things besides food that feed and nourish your heart/mind/being/soul? If you let the aperture be wide around asking this question- is there anything that surprises you?

Are there

sights (art, light, colors, views, scenes in your daily life, an expression on someone’s face),
sounds (music, sounds in nature, certain voices, laughing babies, the sound of the subway?!),

smells (scents that bring a sense of ease),

sensations of ease and joy (some examples: noticing a moment of feeling warmth- holding a cup of tea, putting on a warm sweater or socks, sun on your skin, stepping into a warm shower of bath; or noticing a moment of moving from even small discomfort into ease- sitting down, laying down, resting your eyes, resting your feet)

that bring joy and nourishment to your being?

If you can identify one or a few, can you make time to encounter them, turn your whole being and attention toward the nourishment, and maybe even savor the sensation for a few breaths, a couple of times this week?

-Find a way to make an offering, even one that seems small, this week that nurtures you in the giving of it.

Inquiring into conditioning:

What does Nourishment evoke for you? What did you learn about it in your early developmental life? Who nourished you? How? What nourished you? How? Are there things you felt nourished by in the past that no longer nourish you? What has changed?  Are there things you can experience as nourishment now that weren’t in the past?

What is the history of nourishment for you and your family, for your ancestors, for the communities you come from? What were the forces at play in shaping all this? What does it mean to care for these histories in your life right now?

We are working our way toward the contemplation of joy, pleasure (maybe even bliss!) next week- so maybe begin to walk in some contemplations around these concepts this week as you explore nourishment as well.

Thank you for your patiences and your care for your practice, yourself, your communities and all beings,
Sarah & Charlie