I was reading Liu I-ming’s commentary on the hexagram ‘Nourishment’ in the I Ching, when I was struck by his definition of what nourishment really is:
“Nourishment is what is beneficial to body and mind –
What is not nourishing is not beneficial to body and mind.”
I was very struck by his insight that nourishment is not restricted to the vitamins and nutrients we gain from the food and fluids we consume. It also refers to anything that we actively allow to enter into our consciousness. The nourishment of the body and mind are not separate. You cannot nourish one without nourishing the other. You cannot harm one without harming the other. They are completely unified in every way.
The insight I gained from this is that the wholeness of our happiness is hugely influenced by what we allow our minds to eat. Just as many people eat themselves into sickness by nourishing themselves with fast food, chocolate, and sugar, how many of us think ourselves into sickness by nourishing our minds with conflict and hatred, manipulative media stories, negative conversations, and films and TV shows espousing violent, divisive, and materialistic values?
It’s very easy to shrug off all of these things as being too marginal to have an effect on us. It’s just entertainment, right? But the culture we imbibe – the books we read, the films we watch, the sources of information we trust – ultimately determines our wordview, and, in due course, how we respond to that world. If you are repeatedly exposed to media glorifying violence, anger, resentment, jealousy, revenge, and conflict, such behavior begins to seem to be permissible and reasonable to your mind. Monkey see, monkey do doesn’t turn off just because we’re being passive. If you fill your mind with bad things, you will be more likely to do bad things. Corruption doesn’t spontaneously appear in a pristine mind – the seeds of the idea have to be placed there by an external precedent that seems to justify it.
Conversely, if we feed our minds with positive content, we will bear the fruit of positive actions. Buddhists refer to this practice as ‘planting the seeds of the Buddha Mind.’ Likewise, positivity won’t arise spontaneously in a corrupted mind. You have to plant the right content into it, before happiness takes root, and weeds out suffering.You can’t grow an oak tree by planting a landmine. So, if you want to be happy, don’t feed your mind with the mental equivalent of psychological fast food. Nourish your mind with that which is likely to benefit it. Then wholeness can be achieved.