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  • Writer's pictureMark Chabus

The Rise of Well-Being with Self- Love

How self-love and compassion serve as fundamental ingredients for a well-lived life.

Making dough while practicing mindfulness
Mindfulness in the Kitchen

Just like sourdough starter needs flour and water to catalyze a well-risen loaf of bread, we too rise with the presence of two necessary ingredients: self-love and compassion. Let’s explore how these two crucial components can help us to ascend to greater heights of emotional and mental well-being.

A sourdough starter is a living fermented culture of fresh flour and water. Think about a bread that hasn’t risen, it’s a stark contrast to a well-rounded loaf with a desired shape and structure. Personally, I just love the crumb structure of a well-leavened bread. It is open, light and airy as opposed to being flat, heavy and dense. I find the texture to be pleasantly soft and tender in contrast to its chewier counterpart. And, to me, nothing beats that yeasty flavor born out of the fermentation process—a mouthwatering taste that is simply absent when yeast hasn’t had enough time to impart its characteristic tang. It’s not to say that a flatbread can’t be well enjoyed but, to me, a fresh and flavorful bread made from sourdough starter is uniquely deific.

Flour and its likeness to Self-love

Flour provides many important functions in bread making which significantly contributes to the taste, texture and overall quality. Its key component, gluten, forms a resilient network when combined with water and kneaded, trapping carbon dioxide during fermentation. Just as gluten provides extensibility, strength, and structure to the bread, self-love generates growth, as well, and assists us in rising to occasions and bouncing back from difficult experiences.

Flour serves as a rich source of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals—all of which contribute to the nutritional value of the bread. Self-love, similarly offers us a wellspring of vital ingredients that contribute to the value of our lives. When we cultivate love for ourselves, it provides nourishment and becomes a springboard for positive changes. These include: prioritizing self-care, initiating healthy eating, ensuring adequate sleep and engaging in the activities that sustain our mental and physical health. Self-love also fosters personal growth and transformation because it inspires us to improve ourselves—reminding us we are worth it! It promotes emotional resilience because when we love ourselves, we are more likely to learn and implement healthy coping mechanisms. Self-love is also a gateway to wholesome relationships because when we love ourselves, we feel empowered to create healthy boundaries and we are less likely to settle for toxic dynamics or tolerate mistreatment from others.

Just as the type of flour influences the flavor of bread such as rye adding a slightly sour, earthy flavor—different forms of self-love will significantly affect the “flavor” of one's life. Self-kindness, for example, is a form that influences a pleasant self-image. When we speak positively to ourselves, it leaves a pleasant taste in our mouth. Contrary to common belief, self-indulgence, is actually another beneficial form of self-love when positively channeled through balance and moderation. This can be seen as taking time for oneself, to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy life’s pleasures. Unfortunately, many tend to put themselves last, adopting a form of self-martyrdom that often spoils life’s experiences— consequently leading to resentment, staleness, and burnout. Meditate on this and allow yourself to savor and enjoy a deliciously satisfying meal when possible. You deserve it!Self-confidence, another type of self-love, enhances decision-making, relationships, and overall enjoyment of life—a key ingredient for a richer, more fulfilling experience. Lastly, a short list of other types to be be mindful of are: self-acceptance, self-care, self-respect, self-forgiveness, self-trust, self-validation and self-actualization. Imagine how one simple ingredient such as self-love can provide such a plethora of essential building blocks and contribute to overall well-being.

Compassion is life-giving similar to water's function in sourdough starter
Water as a symbol for Compassion

Water and it’s likeness to Compassion.

Water serves many important functions in bread making that contribute to the taste, texture, and overall quality. It hydrates the flour which is necessary for the formation of gluten and it also contributes to the dough's moisture. It binds the ingredients together just as compassion behaves as a unifying force, bringing people together in cohesive and symbiotic relationships and communities. Compassion often leads to altruistic actions, where individuals prioritize the well-being of others. Research tells us that engaging in acts of kindness and service to others not only benefits those in need but also provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment for the individual, positively contributing to their own happiness.

Hydration also initiates enzymatic reactions and fermentation, leading to dough development, the enhancement of flavor and the breakdown of complex molecules into simpler compounds. Similarly, compassion leads to personal development and the ability to transform and overcome complex problems into manageable ones by fostering a positive mindset that enhances a sense of optimism, gratitude and overall well-being.

Water influences the texture of bread, contributing to a soft and palatable crumb. Just as compassion softens interpersonal interactions, contributing to a more understanding and empathetic social environment. Furthermore, it dissolves barriers between individuals and communities. By fostering a culture of understanding and kindness, people can successfully overcome complex societal issues, promoting social cohesion and inclusivity.

Just as water activates leavening agents, contributing to the bread's rise, compassion also acts as a catalyst for positive change and growth. It uplifts individuals and communities, elevating them to higher levels of understanding and kindness. It also raises our emotional intelligence and helps us to respond to the emotions of others. With a higher emotional intelligence, we can empathize with others, communicate effectively and build stronger more positive relationships. With this growth, we make better decisions, become better leaders and are more likely to effectively manage conflicts.

Additionally, water is responsible for the gelatinization of starches in flour. This process contributes to the texture and moisture retention in the final bread. Such a process reminds me of the benefits of collaboration and teamwork which is born from compassion. When individuals approach problems with a compassionate mindset, they are more likely to consider the needs and viewpoints of others. This collaborative approach facilitates effective communication, creative problem-solving, and the pooling of diverse talents and ideas.

The life-giving liquid, water, evaporates as steam during baking which creates a humid environment in the oven. The initial burst of steam helps set the crust, allowing the bread to expand before the crust becomes too firm. Similarly, compassion creates a beneficial environment as well. Environments fueled by compassion become a breeding ground for people who value empathy, kindness, and social responsibility. This has a ripple effect that can also affect the world as a whole. Imagine an earth filled with conscious people engaging in environmental advocacy. Teams of people purposefully minimizing personal and collective environmental footprints, reducing resource consumption and waste generation. Coming together to involve themselves in local clean-up initiatives, tree planting, or community gardening projects. Individuals who care deeply about the well-being of other living beings may actively contribute to preserving biodiversity, protecting habitats, and supporting conservation organizations. Without hydration, the bread wouldn’t be possible. Similarly, without compassion, these beneficial behaviors would cease to exist. 

Just as a well-crafted sourdough starter requires the harmonious union of flour and water, our journey toward emotional and mental well-being finds its synergy in the balance between self-love and compassion. These vital ingredients, akin to the essential components in bread making, form the foundation for a life that rises to greater heights, exhibiting strength, resilience, and a rich, flavorful texture.

Practicing mindfulness through bread making.
Artisanal Bread symbolic for life.


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