Practices From the Inside Out: Spiritual Life is Like Ice Cream


Spiritual Life is Like Ice Cream

I have had a passion for ice cream my entire life. As a proud son of America’s Dairyland, I have eaten ice cream longer than I can remember. I went to school at the home of the best ice cream in the world, in Babcock Hall, at the University of Wisconsin.

Ice cream is personal. People have favorite flavors and textures. We may be willing to try something new, but usually go back to what makes us feel good.

Some people are purists, focusing on the ice cream itself. They want nothing to interfere with the flavor of their pistachio or cappuccino, even a cone. Some people even like blue moon.

Other people view the ice cream as a delivery system for other flavors. They add cookie dough, chocolate sprinkles, or caramel syrup. The ice cream is secondary, almost incidental. They may even prefer vanilla as a canvas on which to create.

People love ice cream because it is refreshing. They choose the flavors that most appeal to them.

Spiritual life is like ice cream. There are different flavors and textures. Some taste like cinnamon, some like fruit, and some are enhanced by adding things. There is joy in exploring new insights, finding new favorites.

People respond differently to different flavors. Even people whose spiritual life has always been the same enjoy something new once in a while.

Some people grow up with a particular kind of ice cream. They may be unwilling to try anything else. We may be afraid something might give us a new favorite.

I help people find the flavor which is most appealing to them.

Which Flavors Are Your Favorites?

Some of us choose our preferred flavors of spiritual life early in life. We find something which comforts us and we stick with it. There may be times when we branch out to try something new, but we already know what we like.

Other people approach spiritual life like those who need to see, or try, all their options. The case is full of many appetizing choices and we want to taste them all. Whenever we see some exotic new treat we are drawn to find out more. We have not really explored until we can feel it in our mouths.

Spiritual life is an ongoing balance of our established favorites and something new.

Some of us grew up in a world without the ice cream of spiritual life. We have no childhood flavors which awaken our ice cream memories. The world of ice cream can feel intimidating or unimportant without the context of those flavor experiences. We may not appreciate what all the fuss is about.

There are people for whom ice cream has not been particularly healthy. Ice cream may have made us sick and we are not eager to try more.

It may be helpful to start by trying fairly simple, basic flavors. Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry can relieve some of our anxieties. Other people begin with flavors they know they enjoy from other foods and branch out from there.

It can be easy for spiritual life to overwhelm us in similar ways. If it is new to us we may want to move slowly and not get carried away.

Even if we try an exotic flavor we may want to start small and work our way up from there.

How Do We Decide Which Flavors to Taste?

Most of us will be drawn to try flavors of spiritual life with which we are comfortable. We will probably start with flavors which feel more familiar or reassuring to us. There may be flavors we remember or with which we feel similarities.

Some flavors remind us of our experiences. We remember the first time we ever tasted this, or where we were the time we had that. Other flavors are creating new memories on their own.

Some flavors belong to the same families as others with which we are already familiar. If we love chocolate it is not a challenge to want to try chocolate chip.

We do not want to be held prisoner by our own expectations. It might help us to taste something which reflects another culture, completely outside our experience.

The more varied flavors we taste the more room we have to try new toppings. Spiritual life, like ice cream, is a creative enterprise.

It helps our willingness to try new flavors when we talk with someone who has different tastes. We meet someone who likes a flavor outside our comfort zone and we become more willing to try it ourselves.

Some of us try to taste as many different flavors of spiritual life as we can as quickly as we can. We hunger for new experiences and insights. We want to try it all.

Other people are more meticulous, more comprehensive. It is as if they have a detailed plan to try the flavors they are interested in trying. They may be skeptical about some, focused on specific flavors of spiritual life.

Spiritual Life As Ice Cream

Each of us has our own unique understanding of ice cream, and of spiritual life.

Some of us have a passion for spiritual life based in our experiences. Others are more reluctant, less willing to take risks. We are searching, but not obsessed.

It is not our task to try all the different flavors of spiritual life, or to find our single favorite. The flavors of spiritual life, like ice cream, are not mutually exclusive. We can appreciate and enjoy more than one flavor. Each taste can make us feel better without canceling each other out.

Our approach to spiritual life grows out of who we are. Spiritual life is delicious and refreshing and fills us with satisfaction. It is great in its most basic forms and also good with all the additional toppings.

How did you find your favorite ice cream?

What is your favorite flavor of spiritual life?

[Image by UnknownNet Photography]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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