I took one day this past week and did some major soul care. I made banana bread. I did my online yoga class. I quietly read my book. I got a massage and a facial. I did so not because I’m entitled or a princess…I’m so not…but because my body needed it. My mind needed it. My spirit needed it. My soul needed it.
Do you ever think of what your soul needs? We spend countless hours working on our bodies and improving our minds, but what about our souls? Don’t they also need tending to?
But what exactly is your soul, you might ask. It’s defined in many ways, depending on where you look. Sadly, if you google “soul” today the first thing that comes up is an upcoming Disney film. That should tell you enough!
You could say your soul is the “driver” of your body. Some think of it as simply a big invisible piece of us that’s vital yet vague. It’s “officially” defined as the spiritual source in humans; our moral and emotional nature; the principle of human life, feeling, thought, and action; and a distinct entity separate from the body. In short, it’s the spiritual part of us as opposed to the physical part. Common synonyms are conscience, personality, and spirit.
The bible tells us that we consist of body, soul, and spirit and that our material bodies are evident but our souls and spirits are less distinguishable. Believer and non-believers alike probably can agree on this and most believers believe that God is the spiritual guide of our souls. So then how in the world do we care for an ambiguous yet essential part of us that is our soul and avoid joining the ranks of countless lost souls?
We dig deep. Dig to see what’s really inside of us. One of my local priests, who I consider a rock star, recently reminded us that what we put inside ourselves is who and what we become. He suggested we start putting in more love, more goodness, and more God. Fill yourself with God! Feast on “what’s good for the soul” and fast from everything out there that is eating away at our soul care.
Just today he reminded us that feelings are okay, but not at the risk of losing our souls. I for one am fasting from much of the negative and all of the propaganda out there that is anything but “soul food” for me. Everyone’s feelings are so amplified right now and “I’m offended” has become a mainstream mantra. I’m putting it out there that your feelings aren’t going to convince me of anything different or maybe I already agree with you so seeing the same stuff over and over again is exhausting. None of it is worth losing my soul over. Deceit and hypocrisy are in fact prevalent poisons to the soul and my soul is walking away.
It’s not an easy thing to do, and I’ll be first in line to admit when I venture back into those dark places. Unfortunately, many of us continue to sell our souls by cashing out and logging in. We buy more stuff, which should mean we are happier than ever before, but that’s not always the case. We seek fame and fortune but I’m always reminded of my friend’s observation of the fashion industry when she said, “They’re rich and famous but have lost their souls.” That was years ago but to this day I remember it and now I look at the eyes of all those super models and often see vacancy.
And, as documentary “The Social Media” shows us, even though we think of ourselves as the customers of social media, we are not. We are the products, being bought and sold to advertisers and online accounts that promise solutions and more and more information that will fulfill our lives and has resulted in countless unfulfilled lives full of often needless stuff and misleading data. It’s also resulted in empty hearts and souls.
When you dig deep, what do you see? Spiritual mentor Susie Davis addresses that point in one of her fabulous podcasts when she asks, “What is the condition of your soul?” Good question, right? What does your soul look like? Is it empathetic? Is it rested? Is it lost? Is it bitter?
It can at first feel overwhelming and confusing, but let’s consider for a minute the soles of our feet. Those feet get us places, have a million nerve endings, take the brunt of our weight, and their soles tell so much about our overall health and well-being. Same with the souls of our bodies. When you’re happy, they’re happy and when they’re happy you’re happy. When you hurt, they hurt and when they hurt you hurt.
Indeed. We have bodies, but we are souls. Davis suggests thinking of our bodies as our souls’ address and just like any address, both the outside and what is inside needs attention and upkeep.
I also like that she describes the Holy Spirit as the “decorator” of our soul and I’m pretty sure we all want a welcoming and comfortable household for our guests so they feel truly at home, right? Again, even non-believers should agree that our souls and the homes they and we reside in should be welcoming and benevolent. Can I get an Amen?
But there’s so much out there drowning us that we often feel like it’s a sink or swim world. We are being tossed around in waves of worry and a sea of hopelessness; struggling to keep our heads above water and grasping for anchors and floats. Time to think of God as the anchor of our soul and know that the further away our rope strays, the sooner we will feel that inner tug and return to our anchor. He will help us float safely ashore and give peace to our souls.
So yes, your body is the house of your soul and your soul is the home of God and today more than perhaps ever before we want to feel safe and protected at home, right? We are craving comfort, healing, and hope. God wants that same feeling inside our souls and longs for us to make them beautiful, so we need to “decorate” these “homes” with all the right things. I decorated the other day with baking, yoga, reading, and self-care. Tomorrow it might be taking a walk, calling a friend, or simply resting.
We often forget how beneficial rest is. As children we fight having to take a nap but as adults we long for them. Naps are good for the soul. A recent study found that people who nap once or twice a week-even for just 20 minutes-had a lower risk of heart attack and stroke compared with those who didn’t nap.
If you can’t nap, perhaps just rest. Really rest. Many of us think that just because we are doing nothing we are resting. Not true. And sleep does not always equal rest. If I had a dime for every time I tell my husband I didn’t wake up rested I’d be a millionaire. Rest is so much more than sleep; it’s detoxing and refueling our spirits and our souls. Even Jesus said, “Go away and rest,” and God rested on the seventh day; not for His purpose as He never needs rest, but to set an example for us that rest isn’t for the weak; it’s for the strong.
Rest is good for our souls, as is prayer, often thought of as the “home-life” of the soul. The more we pray and the more we rest, the healthier our souls are and the healthier we feel.
And yet, we rarely take the time to slow down and rest. We tend to believe busy is good and are always one email or text away and then wonder why our minds, bodies, and souls are over-pressured and anxious. Even the most extroverts of extroverts crave solitude but, as will all of us, sometimes have trouble finding it. We will never find peace and quiet if we’re always available and function with a “to do list” check mindset. Instead, how about making a “to don’t list?” Fill it with ways to reduce the pressure and quiet the noise. It’s what our souls are craving. They are telling us to slow down and we need to listen to them.
Thomas Merton describes solitude as not only rest, but the mentally nourishing ability to be attentive to the present moment. This is tough for the planner in me, but all signs point to its benefits. When we are in solitude, Merton notes, we are able to fully taste something as simple as water and feel the weight and warmth of a blanket. This is good for your body and good for your soul.
I’ll wrap with Davis’ four components of a soul to help get you on the soul care right track:
- Your mind: where you think and reason. Are you being rational? Are you thinking for yourself? Do you often overthink and feel overwhelmed or are you at peace with where you are?
- Your will: the piece that helps you do things like marathons and diets. Where is your will? Is it gentle? Humble? Stubborn?
- Your emotions and feelings: what triggers you and what inspires you. Are you grateful? Anxious? Too sensitive? Not sensitive enough?
- Your personality: where you learn who you are and how to relate better with others and handle things. Are you using your personality in a healthy way?
She also states that in order to have a healthy soul we need good self-leadership, which requires you to:
- Know yourself. Know your tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Know what makes you feel good, i.e. feeds your soul, and what doesn’t.
- Love yourself. It’s hard, if not impossible, to lead someone you don’t like.
- Lead yourself. In order to get to a place of wholeness, you need to think for yourself and don’t let other voices persuade or lead you.
So maybe today, or tomorrow, or at least sometime during the coming week, take time to make a personal house call and feed your soul. It’ll do your body good.