The glossy mags have declared 2017 to be the year of Lagom. The Sweedish word means “just enough“. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we should approach 2017 seeking to have just enough of everything. No overeating or undereating. No fanatical fitness or living on the couch for a week. Lagom implies just the right amount of time at work. The word implies a balance between all things.
In between pondering if my porridge was too lumpy or too smooth (neither is good – it has to be lagom) the meaning of the word is something that is repeated in many cultures around the world. Our ancient customs and traditions were closer to a sense of wellbeing and the individual than anything that exists today.
In China is the well known Yin-Yang, a sense that there must be a balance for wellness to occur. Yin-Yang is not two separate entities but rather one entity. If you continue from Yin you arrive at Yang in one smooth motion. Balance, or wellness, is found by balancing both but neither are inherently bad or good. Importantly, there is no distinct Yin or Yang. They are both one, both dependent on each other and in a constant state of flux. Lagom is when we just have enough Yin-Yang to be in balance.
Closer to our own culture, the Celts had a concept of balance woven into their beliefs. There were male and female gods, both of equal stature. A balance had to be found with nature in the sense that men and women were not the rulers of nature but part of it. Night was as important as day and for example, a Druid’s day began when it got dark (i.e. the night before – this carries over to the modern 24 hour clock when a new day begins at midnight). The Tree of life had it’s branches in the heavens, it’s trunk in this world and it’s roots in the underworld – again the tree was a continuum rather than worlds being distinct entities separated from each other.
Shamans the world over had the heavens, middle earth and the underworld – again each were connected to the other and the Shaman had the ability to travel between the worlds. The Shaman understood that nothing really could be created because creation was merely a form of change in itself so therefore ‘death’ was also just a change in our journey. So anything that existed, was connected to everything else and our existence was a web of constant change.
It is only in modern times that we have lost this sense of balance and wholeness. Our lives have become compartmentalised, separate and distinct things we do. We eat because we are hungry. We sleep because we are tired. We meditate to calm the mind.
But this misses a deeper meaning of lagom. When was the last time any of us ate to improve our spirit, slept to heal our body or meditated to increase our energy? Approaching food as a substance to fulfill a physical need (hunger) can never be “just enough” because food can affect us on a deeper level.
An awareness and balance across our own sense of being has been lost because we have become accustomed to viewing things individually rather than affecting the whole. Thus we approach food as satisfying hunger rather than anything to do with healing the body or warding off the season’s ills.
Traditions – including religious traditions – the world over have food at the center. Food can serve to connect us to the earth, our community and our own sense of being. Being mindful and conscious of what we eat produces a new level of awareness, a deeper sense that we are something more than just a food burning machine living to earn a wage.
Eating food just for the sake of it being food will throw us out of balance eventually. If we approach food on the understanding that it does more than just fulfill a physical need, then we get closer to the concept of living as a whole being. For example, what if we were all to spend a month living only on ethical foods that do not harm the environment – no pesticides, no cruelty, no growth hormones – would our awareness of ourselves and our environment increase as opposed to surviving on a diet of coke and pizza? Can food affect us on a more profound level?
The very act of thinking and being mindful about food affects us because our attention and energy turn towards a new (or lost!) way of living. If we are taking care that our food is ethical, our very thoughts and actions begin to take on that hue. Wouldn’t it be difficult to eat ethically produced food and yet be careless about the packaging on our food at the same time? Or to pay a fair price for food and then go on to mug someone of their handbag the same day?
If we are conscious of the purpose of food, it reinforces our sense of who we are and the values we hold. If you eat bread because it brings you spiritually to another dimension and another eats bread because they can break it and share it amongst friends, both will succeed in their journeys of spirituality and making friends. The belief that we insert into our food can have a profound affect on the manner in which we experience this life.
Most of us who start a new fitness regime also take a close look at our diet. Out go the chocolates, biscuits, cake and coke and in come the veggies and fruits. We can say that the former do not resonate with us because we are now seeking ‘fitness’ and vegetables and fruits resonate with this new us.
There is no difference in associating diet and fitness than there is in associating diet and spirituality or diet and soul or diet and mindfulness. Our diet is such a fundamental aspect of who we are on this earth that it no wonder that we often hear phrases such as “gut feeling” to describe something deeper within us. Food has always had the ability to alter the way we feel, heal and experience. Food, if we let it, can be for the soul.