When someone mentions nutrition most of us would think about the food we eat. We are all aware that a diet rich in fresh vegetables and other wholesome unprocessed foods is likely to be nutritious and health supporting.
No doubt, those of you that are health conscious try to keep junk food to a minimum but have you ever considered that the impressions that you get from your experiences and surroundings are also a kind of food.
Just as we can be susceptible to nutritional deficiencies from a junk food diet, we can also suffer from mental and emotional deficiency diseases from a perceptual junk food diet.
We live in a sea of impressions that continually assault our senses. When we were younger we would look, feel, smell, listen and touch as if our lives depended on it. We would soak in the impression of a flower, look at the sky in wonder and experience the world in awe. Very soon, we get too busy to take it all in; we get caught in a kind of consensus trance and only receive small packets of information through our senses, filling in the gaps with concepts we have already formed about the world and ourselves.
Our world becomes more and more imagined and we begin to simulate our reality. Many moment-by-moment impressions begin to lack taste and very often sensation becomes dulled. Repression and suppression can easily become our watchwords trapping us in a kind of waking dream. Subsequently our impressions can begin to lack substance so we do not get nearly as much mental and emotional nutrition from them as we used to. A mental diet of computer games, watching TV soaps and superficial interactions with others lack a certain nutritional quality, subsequently creating a craving for more stimulation and a sense of being alive. Some compensation’s for this are drug and alcohol dependencies, appetite distortions and behavioral problems, extreme sports, religious cults and the like.
Let us look at this from a physiological point of view. If we are short of chromium, an important trace element and constituent of raw sugar, and a vital component in the digestion of sugars, we will crave sugar. However the more we eat refined sugar the more we will be lacking in chromium and subsequently the more we will want it. So we stay short of chromium which inhibits our sugar digestion and we also experience the negative side effects of eating refined sugar such as sudden spurts of energy that are quickly depleted leaving us tired and unfocused, bad tempered and irritable.
Similarly, if our perceptual impressions are lacking in quality, clarity and substance we can expect to suffer from a variety of mental and emotional problems caused by this deficiency. A classic example of this can be observed when a child does not get the quality of attention he or she desires. If we are too busy in our abstractions and are not fully present when listening to others during our interactions they will only receive a small part of our attention. To a child particularly, but also to an adult, this is a junk food impression and has no real substance and they soon want more, so the child misbehaves because that way he or she can get more attention. Better junk food than no food! Many arguments that we get into with others is because of this sense of lack of substance in our impressions within our relationships and so feeling starved of nourishment we look for other ways of getting it.
However, just like a junk food diet, the rewards are slim, do not last long and take more out of you then they put in. We need rich sensory impressions and if we do not get them, we develop various kinds of psychopathology. Really paying attention creates the kind of impressions that nourish us. If we learn to be present and mindful in our everyday affairs, we will begin to nourish our souls and become less needy. Our relationships become cleaner as we require less attention from others to feel fulfilled.
We also become more aware of our own, and others real needs, and so our responses and actions become more appropriate. As a result, we will feel happier and healthier and the dynamics within our family, friends and work colleagues will be more positive and constructive as proper nourishment becomes available.