How Will You Feed Your Soul Today?

What practices will bring you what you long for?

When it comes to practices, I have been as stubborn as anyone, finding difficulty meditating or doing the same thing every day at the same time. I remember around 20 years ago when someone tried to teach me a different way to breathe, I got all defensive, “So even my breathing is wrong? Harrumph!”

Ironically, though it still takes an effort, breath practices are now central to my days and they help to “feed my soul”.

What I did not understand when I was being such a rebel was that I had already for decades been engaged daily with impressive discipline in several mind-body practices. For example, with great discipline every day, I worried several times daily.  I also practiced self-judgment and self-recrimination regularly.  These practices had the predictable effect of tightening and stressing my body, reducing the depth of my breath and oxygen intake, and diminishing my mood and self-confidence.

These were what I now call “habitual, unconscious practices”.  Even though they had been operating unconsciously for decades, I wasn’t aware of them and I took their negative effects for granted.  That was just the way life was.  I didn’t know I had a choice.

Perhaps you too have such practices.  Maybe you’re even aware that you do these things, or say these things to yourself, but you haven’t yet figured out how to stop it.  That is where conscious practices come in.  Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  The solutions to our issues will remain elusive as long as we operate from our unconscious, habitual thinking.  Conscious practices are deliberate choices which work to change our perspective, so that we become capable of new kinds of thinking.  Such disciplines or practices can be found in all of the spiritual and religious traditions, as well as in self-help and therapeutic paths.  Most are legitimate for the right person at the right time, but not necessarily right now, for you!

We modern Americans are an independent bunch.  We tend to think we know what’s good for us and are perfectly capable of making all our own choices.  But it’s tricky to choose the most appropriate practices to broaden your own mind.  The unconscious, habitual part of us which created the problem is often the same part deciding what practices to take on.  That part won’t choose a practice that will diminish its control.

Sometimes we can trust a book to offer reliable guidance.  Often we need a trusted teacher, a skilled therapist, or a wise friend to guide us to a practice which will be most helpful to us.

And even the right practice will take time to show effect.  I tell my clients that a filled oil tanker at sea takes a long time to turn.  If the First Mate spins the wheel to full right rudder, notices no effect on the compass after one minute, gives up in discouragement, and returns the wheel to center, then the ship will never turn.  The momentum of that ship is like the momentum of our lives and our habits.  It takes holding that rudder hard right for quite some time.  It takes sticking with the appropriate practice to begin to discern a positive shift.  We need a confident Captain who says, “Keep the wheel turned.  Be patient.  Trust in the process.  The turn is happening.  You just haven’t noticed it yet.”

Here’s how the poet in me says it.

How Will You Feed Your Soul?
by Paul Chubbuck

It is possible that when you lived with that other tribe too long,
beside the river which did not drain into your sea,
you picked up some bad habits,
like chaining your soul in a small closet,
because he was causing trouble,
because she wanted too much to eat.

You might want to break that habit.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me.
If released from that closet,
he will definitely cause trouble.
She will certainly demand finer fare.

But it is only he who knows the way to the mountaintop
where the view is that you sorely need.
It is only she who can lead you to the spring
where your thirst can be quenched.

You cannot escape his rage, her hurt,
though it will help a little
if you ease his tender eyes gently into the light,
and massage her ankles where the shackles bruised.

And start a new habit.

It was only in that other tribe you learned to ask
What is wrong with my life?

Here, where the river smells like ripe huckleberries,
and the birds sing the song whose words you almost remember€¦
here we ask, “How will I feed my soul today?”

Do you have questions about the body-mind connection or about recovering from trauma, loss, or abuse? Click here to leave me a private message. I’ll either answer it in an upcoming blog or privately. Either way, it’s anonymous.

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Paul Chubbuck is a practicing psychotherapist in Fort Collins, CO, using Somatic Experiencing„¢ to help people release trauma, abuse, and loss. He may be reached at 970-493-2958 or through his website at

Your comments, questions, and stories are welcome below. I will respond.

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    • Great blog…very insightful. No wonder it’s hard to change. I never understood that saying by Einstein. If you can’t solve a problem by the same thinking you had when you created it….what are you supposed to do….go to the “thinking store” and get an updated version? You’ve shined some light on how meditation and/or therapy can help me look at my life in a different way.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the praise.

        Some “updated wiring” is necessary, but that’s what the practices are about. We really can rewire our brain with appropriate practices. Meditation (with it’s many varieties) may well be an appropriate practice for you, but it could also be other things too…like drawing, or joyfully dancing around your livingroom to music you love, or keeping a dream journal. There are many possibilities.