July 2010: Living Soulfully
Last month, in amongst the mindfulness of beauty, I raised the subject of adding soul to your life—or what can be thought of as living soulfully. This isn’t a new idea, or one unique to me. I have been encountering it in a number of different ways, but principally through reading Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore (1992).
Trying to simplify this subject into a single blog entry will be a bit of a challenge, but hopefully I can find a single nugget to present or package a few key ideas. Moore develops several themes in his book including defining soul. I will leave that to your own imagination and worldview. However you conceive of your soul, this entry will simply be to introduce you to, or encourage you to live, giving daily consideration to what your soul needs. Another theme that is crucial to the development of caring for the soul is that of mystery. In order to embrace soul, one also has to be open to the element of mystery—not easily done in our intellectually based society.
Intertwining all these themes, Moore tells us,
“The act of entering into the mysteries of the soul, without sentimentality or pessimism, encourages life to blossom forth according to its own designs and with its own unpredictable beauty. Care of the soul is not solving the puzzle of life; quite the opposite, it is an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness into the grandeur of what human life and culture can be.”
He goes on to say that,
“Observance of the soul can be deceptively simple. You take back what has been disowned. You work with what is, rather than with what you wish were there.” (p. 9)
I don’t know about you, but for me this is fairly significant—and maybe not as simple as suggested. To accept what is—and work with it—is profoundly straightforward yet extremely challenging. So often that is the hardest part—to accept what we have to work with—and to then work with it rather than deny, hide, or ignore it. For the most part, in striving for what we wish to be, we miss out on soul—the very essence of our being.
So where does one start with caring for the soul and hence living soulfully? Obviously we must acknowledge the existence of soul if we are going to care for it. In Moore’s overview of this endeavor we hear the basis of mindfulness:
“Care of the soul requires ongoing attention to every aspect of life. Essentially it is a cultivation of ordinary things in such a way that soul is nurtured and fostered.” (p. 177)
Ongoing attention. Cultivation of ordinary things. This concept is applicable to the gamut of human experience: from washing dishes to decorating for holidays and celebrations. This reminds me of another aspect of mindfulness worthy of further exploration—finding meaning and purpose in the randomness (and rituals) of life.
The final thought I would like to leave with you from Moore’s book is this,
“…when we try to live fully consciously in an intellectually predictable world, protected from all mysteries and comfortable with conformity, we lose our everyday opportunities for the soulful life. The intellect wants to know; the soul likes to be surprised.” (p. 233)
May you be pleasantly surprised in the days to come as your soul is nurtured and fostered by honouring the ordinariness of your life.