Center for Sacred Psychology

Soul Food Archive: Desserts & Snacks

Radha and Krishna
Radha and Krishna Feeding Each Other in the Glade
Western India, 19th century*

Desserts & Snacks can come in spiritual flavors. There are times when the hearty meal or novel fare just doesn't appeal to our taste buds. Instead, we hunger for small after-dinner tidbits, simple comfort food, the treats of childhood. Here are some assorted tasty morsels and indulgences for times of spiritual play (and, no calories!).

Please visit our Main Courses and Guest Caterer Specials for heavier meals. Also, don't forget our earlier offerings, stored in the Soul Food Archive. Your comments are always welcome. Read others' comments about this page.

§

 

A year ago, we offered a tasty dessert about Hebrew letters (see the Soul Food Archive, under “Desserts & Snacks—Fall, 2010”). The idea then, and now, was that the simple tracing or copying or coloring of a letter or shape can help us ingest its history and traditional meaning(s).

Let’s apply the same idea to another culture’s calligraphy. Here is the Chinese ideogram for STILLNESS or KEEPING STILL, done in water color.

                  

There are two types of STILLNESS of which this character can remind us:

1)  Our world is hectic, noisy.  We multi-task and almost everyone we meet complains of being too busy.  We need more sleep, some R&R, regular down-time.  Spending time with this Chinese character can remind us of how pressing are these needs…not luxuries, not extras, but essentials in our life and, especially, in the life of the soul.  A little story from a friend:

I bought a book ten years ago because I loved the title: Leisure and the Spiritual Life. “That’s what I need,” I said, “I just want to sit quietly for a little bit each day, doing nothing.” When I got home, I put the book where I would see it and be reminded of the need for leisure, for quiet, for stillness.. Well, the book is in the same place. Its title is still a reminder of something I need—but I’ve always been too busy to open it, much less read it. Now I’ve bought another book to put next to it: Sabbath Time. Maybe I’ll get to them this year.

2)  Another kind of STILLNESS could be described as “active stillness,” or “quiet waiting”—one of the Advent themes.  Here’s a vignette from another friend:

Many years ago, we had a gray and white cat. Night after night she would sit in the back yard as still as a statue. She wasn’t asleep --far from it; she had her eyes riveted to a mole hole. I would watch her from the window, and by moonlight could see her shape, unmoving throughout the night. One morning, she proudly appeared at breakfast-time, bringing us a present. You can guess what it was! Later I learned that, in ancient China, the spiritual seeker was sometimes compared to a cat watching a mouse hole…completely still, but watching for the tiniest flicker of holy presence.


To try:

  • Trace the shape above with a fingertip, aware of its meaning.
  • Copy the ideogram—slowly, prayerfully, so as to unite with its age-old sense of STILLNESS. Put the copy some place visible, so I’ll bump into it throughout the day.
  • If the shape continues to speak to me, recreate it—larger, more colorfully, noting what effects result. Traditional Chinese artwork is done with brushes and inks. We may not have these, but can use whatever writing materials we have at hand. Does time with the image help me achieve a more quiet heart? A more stilled mind? A less restless body? A more focused sense of spirit?
  • Find other Chinese ideograms that picture qualities to absorb, and copy those which are most needed just now. A good source: The Book of Changes (the I Ching), with words or phrases such as PEACE, RETURN, DECREASE, ENTHUSIASM, GATHERING TOGETHER, and 59 others.*

Unless one is of Chinese descent, this simple exercise is a way to connect with a tradition that’s very much "Other." One of the tenets of Jungian spiritual practice is being aware of opposites coming together—in outer life and, ultimately, in the soul. So, this could be an "East meets West" experience for any westerner. (This particular ideogram goes with hexagram #52 of the I Ching: mountain over mountain.)

 

§

We're interested in ways this Soul Food may have touched your life.

Click HERE to send us your comments...

Read Others' Comments...

 

To the Center: I am glad you are featuring the calligraphy of other cultures. I've always been intrigued both by the Hebrew letters, and by the Chinese characters--but never connected them to my spiritual life as a western Christian. You've given me a way to appreciate these and use them for my own soul-life. Thank you! Hope you will offer other examples from other traditions.
Arthur
New York City

Dear Arthur, Thanks for your comments. Yes, we plan to feature other types of calligraphy in "Desserts and Snacks" to come. Hope you'll watch for these. Holiday greetings from us all.
the Center Staff
Los Angeles

§

* Credits for this page:

~ Radha and Krishna Feeding Each Other in the Glade, Western India, 19th century

~ The Book of Changes (original ed.1950, Richard Wilhelm translation of ancient Chinese wisdom texts; many editions since then); this is not a book of divination, although it has been used as such.  For the western seeker it’s an interesting source of '‘projective hooks' —that is, words and images that can elicit responses from the unconscious. Tending the 'gifts from the inner sea' helps us become more conscious, more who were were born to be; projection is always a valuable source of such information. (An exercise in image as a projective hook can be found in our Soul Food Archive under "Guest Caterer Specials—Winter, 2011." Synchronistically, the source is not ancient, but modern day, China.)

WATCH FOR OUR NEXT DESSERTs & SNACKs OFFERING IN february

top of page