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Mindful Filling of Our Souls

Originally published about four years ago when our boys were 5 and 3.

One of the great joys of my life these days is getting to hear original thoughts that come rolling out of our boys.

A personal favorite came about when our older son, Joshua, asked about the origin of his belly button. After going through my anatomy atlas and discussing the roles of the umbilical cord and placenta, Margaret asked, "So why do you have a belly button?" To which Joshua's immediate reply was: "Because you cut the hose off!"

Equally memorable was the following exchange while Joshua was out with Margaret and they spotted a man smoking a cigarette:

Joshua: That man shouldn't be smoking. It's bad for his health!

Margaret: That's right, because smoking is bad for us and all of our insides, like our lungs and heart.

Joshua: It's bad for God too, because God is inside us, right here (tapping his chest).

How did Joshua come to believe that God resides in all of our thoracic cavities?

I've found that with Joshua's incessant questioning to get to the bottom of things, I often feel like I have nowhere left to go but to answer with, "Because that's the way God made it, son."

Here's how this happened shortly before Joshua's comment about God residing in our chests:

Joshua: Appa (Korean, for dad), can we play tennis today?

Me: I'm sorry Joshua, the weather forecast says that it's going to rain all day. But we can play when the rain stops and the courts are dry.

Joshua: When is it going to stop raining?

Me: I don't know. We just have to wait and see.

Joshua: But why does it rain?

Me: Sometimes, it rains when there are lots of clouds. Clouds are like big pillows of water up in the sky, and when they get too big and heavy, the water starts to spill out of the clouds. (Not sure if this is technically correct, but I suspect I'm not too far off the mark.)

Joshua: Well, where do the clouds come from?

Me: The water in the clouds comes from lakes and oceans. The water rises slowly through the air until it becomes a cloud. The wind blows clouds around and this is how trees and plants get the water they need to grow.

Joshua: Well, where does the wind come from?

Me: Well...God makes it, son. (Not sure if this is technically correct either.)

Joshua: Well, where's God?

Me: Well, God is everywhere. He's invisible.

Joshua: Is he right here on this blue couch?

Me: Yes, he's everywhere. He's on this blue couch, and he's inside all of us.

And that's a pretty accurate rundown of how Joshua has come to believe that when a person smokes, it hurts God, too. Makes perfect sense, right?

Our boys are now five and three years of age. They continue to surprise and fascinate me almost daily. When I interact with them or even just observe them from across a room, I'm often humbled and even slightly frightened by how much impact Margaret, our relatives, and I are having on who they are becoming.

The feeling is that they are these precious and lovely spiritual beings that are filling out and taking form right before our eyes; everything they see us say or do seemingly adds one more layer to the hundreds of thousands that they've already acquired in such a short time.

Like the other evening as we were getting ready for bed, I was telling Joshua about a time when he was about six months old and often needed some low grade vibration to go to sleep. As I ran the pads of my fingers through Joshua's beautifully thick, black hair, I recounted how on one cold, winter night, I ended up driving him all the way down to Toronto and back at around 1 am so that he could get some sleep in the car and Margaret could get some sleep at home.

As I shared the details of that memorable night and answered questions that he had about the circumstances surrounding our impromptu drive, Joshua's sparkling eyes and sweet, angelic smile told me that he was fully feeling how much I've always adored him - I guess we all like to hear about things that happened when were babies, right?

Well, after I finished our story and hugged and kissed Joshua good night, he bounded over our mattresses and almost jumped into Margaret's arms, making her year by giving her an unabashed and unsolicited kiss, smack on the lips, to which Margaret responded with an involuntary, almost loony squeal of happiness.

Now I might have been reading a smidge too much into things, but what I saw and felt in that moment was a real-time transfer of love. It's like I witnessed our little story time filling Joshua's soul up with enough affectionate love that he was ready to overflow.

Seeing this transfer was a powerful reminder of the value of being mindful of what we fill ourselves and others up with. Isn't it perfectly natural and human to share and pass on whatever is within us? To try to share compassion when what we're feeling is anything but isn't a sustainable pattern of being.

Sometimes, we get lucky and some other person or experience fills us up with a spirit worth passing on. (In a perfect world, we ought to strive to be that other person for those who surround us, especially young children who are infinitely more malleable than grown-ups.) But there are days - and this is just my belief - when we have to find our own good karma juice. Otherwise, it becomes easier to get filled with that it's-me-against-you juice that's so readily available in our world. And as we all know on some level, it's whatever juice that's inside of us that typically comes gushing out whenever we are squeezed by stressful circumstances.

This is why I place great value on setting aside some time each day for affirmations, prayer, meditation, journal writing, or reading from books that encourage us to live with love, compassion, and wisdom. In fact, when striving to experience optimal health, it's my belief that making time to do this is the single most important habit we can adopt to support our health.

To give a concrete example, one little ritual that has picked me up on many occasions over the years involves thinking about people who are dear to me - those who I love and those who I'm sure love me. Even spending a few minutes reflecting on the fondness and loyalty in these relationships can make me feel like I'm almost floating. Imagine making it a habit to meditate in this way every day upon awakening. To begin the day with this state of mind and heart is my idea of a religious experience.

Another example would be to think about three or five things that I am immensely grateful for. By really allowing myself to experience gratitude at a cellular level, there are times when I can actually feel a wave of reverence run through and envelope my body - if this isn't healing energy, I don't know what is.

Of course, the thing that I'm most grateful for these days is the gift of being father to Joshua and Noah. Their presence reminds me daily that as I walk and talk, I transfer whatever feelings and intentions I carry to people around me.

For those of us who can always use new ideas on how to fill ourselves up with love, compassion, and wisdom, I ask that you please consider sharing anything specific that you strive to do regularly to nourish your soul. You're welcome to use the comments section below or post your thoughts at our facebook page.

And please don't forget: when we smoke, we hurt God, too.


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This healing frame of mind is something I practice from my bed before sleep as well as upon awakening, when I really need to recover from injury. As I say this mantra, "thank you for my healing," I smile and feel the me who has been healed - so that, when I recommend this technique to my patients, I ask them to try to really feel the gratitude/experience of total healing. It's 180 degrees from, "Oh, that really hurts!" or, "Man, look, it's so swollen!" For we can think swelling into an injury. At least I think so. By focusing on any "wound," I believe we are directing our immune system to gear up into the inflammatory reaction: pain, swelling, splinting, heat, etc. By contrast, when we have expressed gratitude for our healing, our thinking gears up into a frame of healing, et voila.

As far as floating is concerned, Dr. Kim, thank you for giving my joy to me today. I've been missing it. I love the metaphor you portrayed with your son springing love onto his cherished mother. Love in, love out! Children truly are the fruit of our love. I dearly wish I had some [but I'm convinced that I have in one life or another, and in lives to come].


Dr. Kim,
Really enjoy your writing. Thanks. re: the where is God question I found easiest answered with "God is in Heaven". It gives kids incentive to want to reach there. U can say he's with the Angels etc.

I am sure u have your ways of teaching about Heaven, I thought I would put this out there. The reason I say this is bc I've heard questions like "is God in the toilet?" or "is God in evil people?" and it can proceed to become a very confusing matter for kids!

Best Regards

Thank you for another great post on mental and physical health, and on what I think counts the most for all of us: our capability to generate happiness for us and others.

I don't have a specific ritual to regularly positively nourish my soul, but I should, and I will leverage on yours :)

As you say, when we are squeezed it's what we're filled with that gushes out. And another image I find useful to remember is that the world is like a mirror: we receive and perceive from it what what we let flow out from ourselves.

Dear Dr. Ben Kim, What a wonderful post on your personal feelings about your conversations with your sons. Especially with Joshua. I loved reading it and tears came as I read about the tender parent you are to your Boys and husband to your Margret.
If the world were filled with men like you Dr. Kim families would be loving and kind abundantly!! Love would flow and children would feel full of worth and joy!! What a great example you are to mankind. Certainly your children will know who God is because of your teachings and how you treat them and their mother.
This speaks volumes about who you are and how much you love to share with all of us how to be more healthy in body and mind and spirit.
I thank you for your gift of yourself and nutriton and family wisdom.
It brought me great peace to read your thoughts and feelings and family love and caring. Sincerely, Terry Glendale AZ

Dear Dr. Kim,

I agree with Terry from AZ, who commented that if the world were filled with men like you, and how families would be more loving and children would feel full of more self-worth and joy.

Unfortunately your post also brought to me a personal sadness upon reflection of how I raised my own children when they were little, which was a reflection/perpetuation of how I too was reared. I know there are no 'do-over's' or 'taking back' of all the things I coulda, shoulda, woulda done, as I raised my kids as an alcoholic mom. Although I never got into recovery until they were mostly fully grown and on their own; today they accept me as a friend and confidant, and I have experienced these feelings of unconditional love for and from them.

One tidbit I would like to relate is when they would often ask me if they could bring a friend with them if we were going somewhere, I didn't always want to take one of their friends because I knew I would probably be drinking at some point and to cover up this fact, I would sometime tell them "Not today, I don't want to share you with anyone." It was the best I could do at that time in my life to help them feel a small modicum of love and belonging.

I'm so glad I don't have to live like that anymore, and since I've been in sobriety (over 15 years) I have been able to express my gratitude, and love for them more directly, verbally and in the things I can do for them today. Not to make up for their lost childhood, but to let them know I'm human and people can change.

I love your posts and will often share them with my adult children.
Thank you for all you do and all you and Margaret are to your boys.
You are a strong power of example.
Blessings and Hugs,
GS- Maine

I too felt joy & felt uplifted for a moment and wondered what it would have been like to be raised in such a houshold. And then I felt overwhelming (or so it seemed) sadness for my own lost chidhood. I am a child of chaos, my father was an alcoholic and my mother had her hands full taking care of him. They tried there best, but they were terribly flawed and really, hadn't a clue on how to raise children. And of course, I became a alcholic too, but I found recovery. The mention of mindfulness caught my eye. I really appreciate these articles, Dr. Kim, especially ones like these!
Thanks again.


There is a book by Joyce Myer called Beauty for Ashes on emotional healing. I would recommend it to you, Peter, because it is filled with truth and comes from one who has experienced childhood abuse and neglect.

This was a very beautiful post. Thank you very much for sharing these thoughts with us.

My 3 year old has been softly repeating what we say with exactly the same voice inflection. Amazing (and scary) to realize with such clarity that she is continuously taking notes on how to be.
I love those moments when you see the world through the eyes of a child - trying to put logic to what they see and hear. A really neat thing is to set your 5 year old loose with a camera and take a look at what he photographs.
Positive self-talk is key too for filling the soul.

I love it when people like you, a doctor, talk about God, their families, and their observations about the events unfolding before them.

Knowing that you believe in God makes me trust, respect, and admire you more.

May I express my gratitude to you again for reading my story in the July 2010 issue of Diabetes Forecast and giving me your comments on it.

great post!

tools I use are breath awareness....taking a few moments to connect to my breath, really noticing if I am limiting my breath in any way, 3 long slow breaths I give to myself when I do recognize that I am holding or not fully in my body. calm slow breath=calm focused mind

when i feel down remembering my kids as babies or looking at their baby photos always makes me happy and I SMILE. I ADORE BABIES.

music.....esp uplifting mantras like Snatam Kaur's Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo

Peace Love Light to all

I just want to say a heartfelt thankyou for sharing the thoughts regarding your children. Lately I have been feeling quite discouraged about the state of humanity. I agree with you about filling ourselves with love so that this is what we overflow to those around us . By sharing in this beautiful manner that you did even if we never meet I know that you are my brotherand it makes me trust the other medical advice that you give all the more because I can trust that it is of good intention. Your sharing was the best kind of medicine.
World Peace Now, Trish.

I really enjoyed this post, Dr. Kim. It's easy to see how much you love your family and how much they love you. I'm a single mom to a 4 year old daughter that I adopted out of the foster care system. She was placed with me when she was 3 days old and I love her dearly. She was my 11th (foster) child and I have had several of them who were being raised in homes where there was a lack of love (something so simple to give and yet not all parents seem to know how to give love or understand the importance of it or the consequences of not showing it or giving it). I remember one of my little foster sons (he was not quite 2 years old) kissing my boyfriend on the lips when he (my boyfriend) fixed a toy for him. He was so pleased that someone had done something for just him and his reaction was completely spontaneous and poured out of him like you described it coming out of your son. Thanks for bringing back that memory of a very special and precious little boy.

At the end of your post you ask for ideas on how to fill ourselves with love, compassion and wisdom. I learned that most of all on the mission field many years ago when I was in Guatemala. We were in an extremely poor village and a little boy ran up to me and gave me a big hug. I'll never forget his happy little face. He had no idea how poor he really was and yet I'm sure he had never spent one day of his life with a full stomach or all his "needs" truly being met. Regardless, he was full of life and joy. I have a darling picture of him and his big sister. Sometimes I look at it and wonder what kind of an adult he became and I hope he still holds that joy in his heart. I know in the few moments I spent with him he taught me a great deal about being thankful for what I have, which has always helped me to realize how much I have to give. I think giving from our hearts and resources is the best way to constantly fill ourselves with love and compassion. When you make an effort to understand the needs of others and to do what you can to fulfill that need, you will also find wisdom that is beyond yourself and the power to do much more than you may ever realized. At least that's my opinion...

Loved this posting. Thank you.

As you say, everything we parents say or do in front of our kids gets absorbed into their own developing personalities. We should spare a thought also for all those children who rarely if ever experience the joy and security of having a loving parent to put them to bed in a secure environment. Even worse off are the ones whose parents fill them with messages of meanness and hate. What are their odds of growing into decent and loving adults?

Regarding thinking about things to be grateful for, I expect that is the purpose of saying grace before a meal. We tend to do this only at special event meals like Christmas, but at every meal I try to remember those fathers who have to watch their children starve and how lucky I am that my family can eat wholesome food regularly.

I hope all this doesn’t sound too pious. I have my bad moments as much as the next guy! One can only strive to be better and postings like yours, Dr Kim, help us along that road.

Dr. Kim, I liked your comment about the 'good karma juice,' because what we put in really is what comes out! I've noticed over the years that sometimes all it takes is a smile on a stranger's face to make me feel better about my day. So, somewhere along the line (without even really thinking about it) I started to smile at the people I saw everyday - especially the young ones (it's so much fun to smile and coo at babies) and the elderly. And pretty much every time I do this, I mentally say to myself, "This person is God's child." Actually, I've started saying this to myself even when someone has done something to totally tick me off. I'm supposing that that's really the best time to do it! I've noticed that I never seem to stay angry for very long anymore. Anyway, these are the thoughts that first popped into my head when I read your post. Blessings!

Dr.Kim, What can I say? No wonder I loved my South Korean students so very much. You are a perfect example of the love that they shared with me as a homestay Mom. I still feel like their second Mom & I know their parents are eternally grateful to me for treating them as my very own sons & daughters. I truly loved them all & when they returned to their country, the tears flowed heavy..
Thank you for such a warm loving post...I love every one of them. & I love the recipes of Kimchi, especially.. I love that stuff!
Take care & may God keep you, Margaret, Joshua & Noah in His care, always!
Carole T.