‘…………to feed the soul’

‘When of thy worldly goods thou art bereft, 

And from thy meagre store 

two loaves alone to thee art left,

Sell one, and with the dole

Buy hyacinths to feed the soul.’

 Sadi, 13th Century Persian Poet

I love this little poem – I’m sure it’s even more moving in the original Persian. 

It’s not the time of year for hyacinths, but perhaps the meagre (or slender in some translation) store  the poet writes about, can refer in the context of the 21st century to our time.  We always seem to be short of time to do the things we would like, or, if we have the time, we don’t have the energy to do them.  

To transfer the metaphor, maybe we could take a look at our stores of time and see if we can ‘sell’ some non-essential activity in order to ‘buy’ a more soul-nurturing and energy restoring one.  What ‘loaf’ would you sell?  Where do you feel you spend too much numb time and is there room for manoeuvre to spend less?

Then the question poses itself what would you buy with the purchased time?  I find the soul-feeding ‘hyacinths’, like the flowers themselves, outside, in nature, and am restored by walking on the seashore or along the dramatic, Poldarkian cliffs near where I am now on the lovely south Cork coast. My view is expanded to the wide blue or grey horizon; sky and earth are miles apart, reminding me of the vastness of things – a friendly vastness, as I’m held in nature’s embrace. 

But there are many other ‘hyacinths’ to be bought with our time.  Working on a poem can sow me a bulb; cooking a really old-fashioned shepherd’s pie can be a full-blown one; a loving conversation can become a whole beautifully presented bunch.   By the end of a day, when I cast my mind back, I find I have a vaseful. 

You have many ways to fill your vase.  Cast your mind over the day and see where you bought hyacinths today, and plan where you can buy some more for tomorrow. When you have more than enough, you can always give some away.


Miriam Wainwright is the founder of WiseTime for Personal and Professional Development


Beware the Soul-Suckers

Break the cycle - WiseTime

I’ve been thinking about those voices that we internalise – so many of them –  the little soul-suckers that can turn our joy to sawdust if we let them;  how we manage to integrate outrageous lies that disguise themselves so very successfully, we are convinced they are the truth.  Then, pathetically clutching these false truths, we let them take over, posturing, menacing, and holding us in their grip.

How do the voices do it?  How do they take over our minds and pollute us with their thinking?  The trick they use is to present themselves as our thoughts in our very own voices.  So it’s my own voice, plausible, familiar, so much part of me that I don’t know it’s there, that puts out the negative stuff, finely tuned to suit each emerging situation – and this background like warm pervasive amniotic fluid once was – has the ability to hold me back; sap my energy; keep me awake; make me at odds with myself.

I have to dig in deep to find out where these voices come from – the internalised beliefs, generations of cultural conditioning, negative habits – to find out where I am ensnared.  Then the relief when I realise what’s going on!  How my mind can relax and I can smile again when I can say – ‘Oh, is that it – is that all? – I didn’t realise……….’ and the damn is unblocked and life flows once more.

Sometimes the shift happens because of something I read.  It happens in one of those soul-searching conversations I can have with someone I trust who’s on my wavelength.  Sometimes it’s just being out in the woods, or by the sea.

It never lasts for very long.  There is always another voice to replace the one that’s ousted, lurking, skulking in the shadows, ready to pounce – always in new guise, always brilliantly disguised and determined to instill the old familiar feelings that bring, stagnation, inertia, or depression.

But it’s not the whole story, or there would be no point in getting up in the morning.  There is a way to interrupt the hold of the soul-suckers, and break through (a breakthrough) to the authentic part of us that’s always there, just waiting to express itself.  It is is a continual process, a daily one, an hourly one – and it grows from failure, and it grows when we’re not looking, but just want it to grow: the process is awareness.

Can we break the cycle once and for all?  I think not.  Quick fixes don’t last, but over time, the process of just being aware becomes internalised along with the voices. When the soul-suckers are named and shamed, they lose their grip and we receive back our sovereignty and confidence.

Which voices are you listening to?


Miriam Wainwright is the Founder of WiseTime, Personal and Professional Development