New York City should wear a sign around its neck that says, “Under permanent construction.” Sidewalks and roads are consistently narrowed to make room for construction crews, cement trucks, and scaffolding. For years my subway line in Queens has undergone delays and service interruption for weeks on end to make upgrades, repairs, and expansions. Certain city blocks in Manhattan are completely unrecognizable because they’ve been transformed into rows of new glass buildings. I used to be really annoyed by the constant ‘improvements.’ Why can’t they leave things as they are?! Must everything be taller, shinier, more innovative than the last thing in its place?
I spend a lot of time looking up watching buildings grow into the sky. I study construction sites and try to envision the future buildings within the bones of the scaffolding. I visualize all of the jobs these new structures will create, the homes they will provide. I imagine the satisfaction of the engineers and architects seeing their visions come to life. It’s hard to be annoyed when I see all of the goodness being built. It’s inspiring! (“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” - Dr. Wayne Dyer)
These construction sites have made me look at my own upgrades, repairs, and expansions. As humans we are in a constant state of maintenance. We go to the barber, we get medical checkups, and we get massages. We treat ourselves to pedicures, manicures, and all sorts of other unnecessary ‘cosmetic’ procedures. Heck, I even have eyelash extensions because they make me feel prettier! We go to the gym, train for races, and improve our performance in sports and fitness. But what’s happening underneath all of that renovation?
Scaffolding is made up of temporary platforms from which the repair or erection of a building takes place. (I never realized the word temporary was in that definition.) We have an inner scaffolding that is also evolving. I’m not talking about bones and networks of muscles and organs. Yes, that’s on the inside, but what’s even inside all of that? Our soul. Our outer structure will fall away, break down, and lose its shape, but our soul is eternal. Our soul’s inner scaffolding is made up of love, courage, bravery, compassion, and patience. We must keep this structure strong and well nourished in order to take on the circumstances of the outside world. It’s an inside job.
How do we keep our structure nourished? We feed it of course!
I try to feed my soul with really good thoughts and actions. I’m constantly flipping situations like a Rubik’s cube. With a Rubik's cube, you try to get the sides to match up. You try to create order out of chaos. The easiest way for me to find order in a situation is to recognize the positive aspects. I’ll be honest, it’s much easier to master the positive puzzle of someone else’s life than my own. It's easy to see things from the outside. But even looking at the bright side of someone else’s situation is good practice for recognizing the good stuff when it shows up in my life.
I feed my soul true emotions. If I’m sad, my soul consumes my grief. If I’m overwhelmed, it eats my stress. And if I’m happy, it feasts on joy. Obviously, it’s not a well balanced diet, because I don’t have control over my outside experiences which my insides have to process. The world may seem like it’s crumbling at our feet and safety may feel like it is a luxury. Tragedy and devastation have been around forever. What's different is now we are flooded with news pouring in through devices and media outlets. It's immediate and inescapable.
I feed my soul with mantras and prayer that help to dissolve my fears and anger. These practices help me remember the sweetness of life. They remind me that I’m not alone, and that there is something greater than me. I feed my soul art! Music, dance, theatre, museums - they are so fortifying and immediate examples of the beauty in the world. Lastly, I feed my soul with my community. Strength lies in numbers! Seek out your people, your loved ones, hold them close, and take shelter in these relationships. This soul food doesn’t make the bad stuff go away, but it reinforces our inner scaffolding.
Here’s a recipe to bolster your soul as well. It’s seasonal, it’s comforting, and the perfect thing to share with loved ones. Put your phone down, turn off the news, and count your blessings.
Warm Salad of Acorn Squash, Lentil, and Apple
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cups French green lentils, rinsed
- 3 thyme sprigs
- juice of one lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 medium acorn squashpeeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1apple—peeled, cored and chopped into ½ inch pieces
- 1/2 small head radicchio, shredded
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in the lentils, thyme and 2 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs. Transfer the lentils to a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in the lemon juice remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°. Arrange the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with cinnamon, salt, and pepper and roast for 10 minutes. Add the apples to the baking sheets. Roast for about 10 minutes longer, until the squash and apples are tender and golden.
- Combine the lentils, squash, apples, radicchio, and thyme leaves in a bowl. Pour onto a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
This post is dedicated with love to a special Frenchman who is safe and sound in Paris.
Food photography is by Cheryl Stockton of Stockshot Studio.