Why spiritual chocolate?
Because if you want to nourish your spirit, you can’t feed it a diet of pure austerity. There has to be some sweetness, some frivolity, and some joy.
Think about your physical body. If you want to keep it healthy, you probably wouldn’t eat a lot of chocolate. Kale, yes. Kale, more or less, is widely regarded as something that promotes good health. But it’s also bitter, fibrous, and hard to chew and digest. Until you’ve gotten a taste for it and have eaten it in forms that are not only palatable but pleasurable, you might be hesitant to allow it into your life. You might even move away from it, making fun of those who eat it or even reviling all leafy greens altogether. Kale is what most people eat because they HAVE to, not because they WANT to.
Chocolate, on the other hand, is what people like me come to the table for. It’s the spoonful of sugar after the medicine. It’s the sweet treat after you’ve eaten your vegetables. It’s not entirely unhealthy. And when a chocolate truffle is melting slowly in my mouth, it’s almost impossible not to feel joy.
Now, the physical body is just the part of us that presents to the outside world. There are deeper, more subtle bodies within every human. These are the bodies that produce ideas, emotions, and eventually connect us with our truest essence as human beings. But all of these subtle bodies need to be nourished and cared for. And it’s really hard to care for something you can’t see.
I’ve learned to like kale a lot and have managed to work it into my life in ways that make it something to look forward to. But I still struggle with spirituality. There are plenty of mindfulness practices that nourish your spirit, including yoga and meditation. The cruel irony of these practices is that when you need them the most, they are the least palatable. Who wants to sit with violent feelings and let them wash over you when all you want to do is go running away from the chaos and back into your little cocoon of oblivion? Who wants to come to terms with the ugliness of reality when our internal fantasy lives are so much more appealing?
Maintaining a spiritual practice can be difficult because life gets in the way. From the moment we’re born, external sources send us messages that are frequently at odds with our spiritual natures. We’ve internalized these messages and when they clash with our spirits, it creates discomfort. Instead of reconnecting with that truest essence within, we look to external sources for comfort or approval---our friends and family, our jobs, our food, our possessions. There is always something more interesting, exciting, or sexy to do than to sit still and feel. Sometimes it’s easier to reason yourself out of the mystery of the subtle and come back into the realm of the physical. Looking for something that you can’t visualize, don’t feel a strong connection to, and aren’t really sure exists at all is frustrating, and many people simply give up without even realizing it.
This is the kale. Sitting when you don’t want to, feeling sorrow or rage or despair, coming to your mat when you’re hungover and logy from all the sugar you ate the night before. But you need this kale, this tough, stringy bitterness that’s hard to digest, to get to the chocolate. Just like there’s no light without dark, no sun without rain, you need the contrast of the difficult to come to the ease.
Spiritual chocolate motivates you. Knowing there’s the light at the end of the tunnel can ease the journey. The best part? Once you know that the chocolate is there and available, you start finding it more and more often. The lotus flower blooming in the swamp. A smile from a stranger on a bad day. The peace in sitting in a silent room, allowing waves of feeling and emotion to move through you. And as you practice, you start to recognize that the spiritual kale is not all that bad and that the chocolate is around the corner, and even after the chocolate is gone, you can find it again and again as long as you don’t get bogged down in the kale.
I think that chocolate is one of the best things ever. I’ve heard that there are people who actually don’t like chocolate, which I find hard to believe, but if you’re one of them, your spiritual chocolate doesn’t have to be chocolate. It doesn’t even have to be food. Figure out what both nourishes your spirit AND feels good—a walk outside on the perfect fall day, holding the hand of a person you love, speaking your truth in a safe place—and then do it. You’ll learn that there is more sweetness in this world than you ever imagined.