Two Types of Nurture

“Nurture” and “fix” are often synonyms in my dictionary. Something hurts? Go to the doctor. Have a problem? Find a solution. Strategy, responsibility, and practicality are my default ways of expressing care. It is part of what makes me love coaching. I believe people can move forward and make progress and I love helping them get past their hurdles and reach their goals.

But there is another type of nurture. It has nothing to do with fixing. It’s a type of nurture that is not interested in outcome, but is more concerned with presence. It’s the type of nurture a mother gives her child when he skins his knees. A gentle touch. A loving kiss. A cuddle. Sometimes what we need as much as a solution, is acknowledgment of our pain and an assurance of loving presence.

Both types of nurture are necessary in helping someone feel whole. And often, the second type is what catalyzes the first. Being seen and loved is often the pre-requisite for all kinds of creative problem-solving.

I struggle with recurring sinus and throat pain. Recently, my spiritual director asked me how much I have paid attention to the escalating pain from the past couple months. I confessed I had been attempting to ignore it. She told me to gently put my hand on my throat and just stay with the pain for a while. I began to speak to myself as if I were a child, I’m so sorry, Kel. I know it hurts so badly. It’s been hurting for a long time. I know. I am here. And then I just stayed there a while, listening to what else my body might be wanting to tell me.

This whole exercise took all of ten minutes, but I could feel something changing in my soul. I had been craving nurture, as much as, if not more than, I had been craving relief. And I wasn’t even aware of it until I took some space to just be present to myself.

Soon after, I continued my journey of looking for help. I reached out to a few doctors and to friends and am not giving up trying to find solutions. That part of care is crucial as well. But too often I underestimate the healing power of attentiveness and acknowledgment.

Take a few minutes right now and practice being attentive to yourself. What is your body trying to say to you? Are there parts of you that have been craving nurture? Ask Jesus to show you how to speak lovingly to those parts of yourself. Practice just staying there for a bit without needing to fix anything.

For more on this type of prayer, look up BioSpiritual Focusing, a practice that was developed by two Jesuits:

Published by K.Aalseth

Kelly J. Aalseth is the Coordinator for Leadership Development for InterVarsity in Greater Los Angeles. She is an author, coach, preacher, and trainer.

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