Experiences that lift our spirits, make us laugh or give us meaning or fulfilment, release vitamin J for us, or ‘joie de vivre’ as the French say – the joy of living. In today’s age of information, we should be vigilant not to lose touch with ourselves and the things that feed our soul; that add meaning and sparkle to life.
Love, happiness, passion, laughter, creativity, inspiration –these are just a few expressions of joie de vivre as they say in France, the joy of living. And if experience is the food of life, offering different levels of nutrition, then JOY or vitamin J as you might call it, is an essential ingredient of a life lived well –a soul food diet you might say. Just as we take vitamins A, B, C and D for a healthy body, so do we need vitamin J as a rich source of nourishment for our spiritual well-being —our soul.
Vitamin J does not come in a pill or capsule. Rather, it is released in joyful moments that lift our spirits, make us laugh or give us meaning or fulfilment: the birth of a child, our wedding day or graduating from university: a choir in a cathedral, a Shakespearian comedy or surfing the tube off Hawaii, the playfulness of a kitten, a lover’s tender kiss, a sudden sense of déjà vu or even just Belgian chocolate!
But embarking on a soul food diet can also mean consciously embracing a change of lifestyle, weaning ourselves off behaviours and situations that have become habitual and no longer allow us to grow, or can lead to health issues. A soul food diet can launch us into the unknown, attracting experiences that nourish the innermost core of our being. Here, Vitamin J can be the result of a long-term plan or mission involving much hard work but ultimately leading to realising one’s career calling or spiritual goals; or even overcoming illness.
The role of our mental/emotional nature in health is attracting increasing interest in current research. However, as far back as the 1970s, American Norman Cousins’ groundbreaking recovery from what was diagnosed as ankylosing spondylitis, a rare form of arthritis –as described in his book on the subject Anatomy of an Illness –As perceived by the patient(1979) –is considered a classic case in the history of alternative medicine. There is something compelling about a man diagnosed with a chronic, life-threatening illness and given little chance of surviving by practitioners of traditional Western medicine; boldly booking a hotel room and with the help of some Marx Brothers comedy videos, literally laughing himself back to health. Here we see the power of humour, one of the richest sources of Vitamin J.
There is mounting evidence that the relationship of body and mind plays a vital role in health, healing and well-being. In her New York Times best-seller Radical Remission –Surviving cancer against all odds(2014), Dr Kelly Turner reports the results of studying hundreds of cases of statistically unexpected cancer remission. ‘Radically changing one’s diet’ emerged as one common element.
However, of the nine key factors she identifies as making a real difference, it is interesting to note that seven were emotional, mental and/or spiritual in nature and so arguably more linked to Vitamin J and the soul food diet; they were as follows:
- taking control of your health
- following your intuition
- releasing suppressed emotions
- increasing positive emotions
- embracing social support
- deepening your spiritual connection
- having strong reasons for living
In another remarkable book Dying to be me (2012), Anita Moorjani documents her journey as a terminally ill cancer patient; and her healing transformation in the realm between life and death, before returning to share her message with the world. “Love, joy, ecstasy, and awe poured into me, through me, and engulfed me”, she says; “I was swallowed up and enveloped in more love than I ever knew existed.”Aware that she had the choice, Anita decided to return from her near death experience (NDE) –and to the astonishment of her doctors, after a period of thorough examination and rounds of tests, was found to be free of cancer. Anita recalls being in such a state of euphoria that her doctors wrote in big letters on her hospital discharge slip, “Discharged to go home for further rest. NO SHOPPING OR PARTYING FOR AT LEAST SIX WEEKS!”
Moorjani’s epiphany while in a coma was that her illness was a manifestation of her own internal disconnection. She had lost touch with the true, magnificent, infinite self she was born with, and was always meant to be.Thus, she urges everyone to live fearlessly, realising it was fear that caused her cancer in the first place: afraid of letting people down, of being disliked, of not being good enough and in particular, of getting cancer.“I was afraid of living, and terrified of dying”, says Moorjani.“The realm I experienced when my body shut down allowed me to see my own magnificence undistorted by fear. I became aware of the greater power I had access to”.
In today’s age of information, we should be vigilant not to lose touch with ourselves and the things that feed our soul; those that add meaning and sparkle to life. In the present-day haze of distractedness, it is easy to overlook the soul food diet. Like the man in the Leunig cartoon who watches a sunset on television, we might forget the real event is happening right outside our window.We might also forget some old-fashioned basics, like being out of touch, or not able to be contacted, can actually be a way of rejuvenating; so we can go about life again with renewed zest.
Yes, even in today’s fast and furious lifestyle, there are still roses to be smelled. We just need to slow down, stop and take the time. In the past, time and space were simply the by-products of a less advanced technology. The advent of instant communications has come at a cost. Email, for example, is much less personalised than yesteryear’s handwritten communiqué or ‘snail mail’ as it is known. And the so-called advantage of speed means we miss out on that special sense of anticipation and/or feeling special or cherished that often accompanies receiving a real letter; or to borrow again from the French, the intangible je ne sais quoi of a connectedness that engages the senses, rather than intellect alone.
Remembering to be open to some joie de vivre everyday, as part of our own personal soul food diet, reminds us of the value of savouring life and its experiences. Not to rush everything, but to take one’s time; to absorb the nutritious essence of what life has to offer, just as you would relish a fine meal –except this is a degustation of life energies, experiences and impressions.
Moorjani also reminds us that we need to self-administer some of this Vitamin J. Without a healthy love and respect for the fearless and magnificent self that I am, nothing is possible. When I realise that my sense of scarcity, of being incomplete and always in need of others’ approval is an illusion; that I already am what I think I lack –in other words, when I see that I am whole and complete as I am —then I will know my true self, as a unique source of universal love, capable of emanating love energy for the benefit of everyone around us and all creation.
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