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On savoring and serving: my curly questions for Jen Louden

Saturday, June 25, 2011 by Marianne Elliott

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Yesterday I was over at Savor & Serve – Jen Louden’s awesome space. She asked me questions about what savoring and serving looks like for me. And today she’s here – answering some of mine!

Click here to read yesterday’s start to this conversation.

What first tipped you off to the connection between savoring and serving?

A quote – actually a misquote – of E.B. White’s that our mutual friend Eric Klein offered me last summer when I began to recognize that I wanted to serve in a new way. “I wake up each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it very hard to plan the day.”

Eric said, “You are knitting the two together” and I thought, “What a great thing to devote my self to.”

I’m four months into the experiment and all I can say for sure is that it feels so right. It’s like I’m building a bridge between self-care and world-care; a fluid back and forth, or a context for the oneness of it all.

I’m, obviously, still struggling for words!

What is a ‘shadow comfort’ and how do you distinguish it from savoring?

Shadow comfort is a term I coined in my first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book. I started writing it when I was all of 25. I had no idea how to take care of myself. I wrote the book to discover how – and as I learned about self-care and self-nurturing, I realized how much of the time I comforted myself in ways that actually made me feel worse.

I discovered that healthy comfort and shadow comfort are different in how they make you feel. More alive, more centered, more you? Healthy comfort. Dull, self-hating, anxious? Shadow comfort.

It’s not what you do, per say, it’s how it makes you feel about yourself and your choices. I can eat a piece of pie with such love and attention that I am deeply nurtured, or I can eat it standing up at the fridge without tasting a bite.

Savoring is the opposite of shadow comfort because savoring requires you to be present and grateful. When you are present and grateful, it’s much harder to choose things that aren’t in your best interest.  You naturally go toward healthy comfort that increases that aliveness, which helps you savor life more!

What’s the difference between savoring and indulgence? Does it matter?

I think it does matter. An indulgence is something special, like Fran’s Gray and Smoked Salt Caramels or a trip to Paris. Not things we we do, or want to do, everyday. We certainly want to savor them when we do.

Daily unadulterated savoring, on the other hand, is something I want to do all the time. This kind of savoring is like living inside a Mary Oliver poem, perceiving life like Rumi, celebrating being in my animal body and taking in whatever comes.  It’s about love and loving it all!

Of course, when you live like that, even doing the dishes (Warm water! Lavender dish soap! Radio playing!) can feel indulgent. Eating toast, yes! Sitting in the sun, wow! Even being in pain, which I am right now from a small injury, is an invitation to move into life more fully. Categories melt away, as do words and it all becomes very, very interesting; maybe even indulgent. What do you think?

What about on cranky, tired, no-good-rotten days? How do you savor and serve then?

You take an interest in the tired cranky parts of you or your whiny kids or your snappy partner. It’s a wonderful idea from Buddhism of getting curious, taking an interest in everything. Susan Piver wrote a great post about it here.

I define savoring as mindfulness + gratitude. Can we be mindful and grateful for everything? Probably not, but I bet we can be curious.  Being curious is so much more fun than being judgmental, and being curious can lead us back to savoring on even the worst days, which in turn, can make them good days, or at least, tolerable.

Final thought

I don’t want savoring to become a should or some moral precept. Let’s make a pact to keep it juicy and funky, closer to moans of pleasure and whoops of curiosity than to something we strive for or change about ourselves, okay?

Marianne, you teach me so much. I can’t wait to be with you in Taos where we can talk late into the night (at least until 10) about all this, and writing, and taking sweet care of our tender selves.

Thank you for asking me such great questions.

Jen Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped start the self-care and self-love movement in 1992 with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She is the author of six books on well being and personal wisdom sold that have sold nearly 900,000 copies and have been printed in 9 languages. She leads retreats, runs the virtual Serve & Savor Café, and walks around astonished by life most of the time. Visit Jen at http://JenniferLouden.com

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5 Responses to "On savoring and serving: my curly questions for Jen Louden"

  1. you are amazing! thank you for asking me!

  2. Jasmine says:

    Marianne, I’m so moved by this interview. I’ve had Jen on my peripheral radar for a long time now but this is the first time I really heard her voice and was able to see what she is offering this world and how in alignment it is with my own work.

    Bless you for this.

  3. “This kind of savoring is like living inside a Mary Oliver poem, perceiving life like Rumi, celebrating being in my animal body and taking in whatever comes.”

    Yes, yes, yes! Love this; thanks to both of you!

  4. Wonderful ideas to think about. When we savor, I think of enjoying to the fullest, but I like your definition mindfulness + gratitude. Thanks!

  5. […] Jennifer Louden wrote her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, when she was 25. “I had no idea how to take care of myself. I wrote the book to discover how – and as I learned about self-care and self-nurturing, I realized how much of the time I comforted myself in ways that actually made me feel worse…I discovered that healthy comfort and shadow comfort are different in how they make you feel. More alive, more centered, more you? Healthy comfort. Dull, self-hating, anxious? Shadow comfort,” (from an interview with Jennifer on Marianne Elliott’s website). […]

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