I’m currently immersed in a favorite topic of mine, Soul Care, as I prepare for another women’s event. About 15 years ago, I learned the stunning fact that my soul required care. Before that, I never thought about it and I’m a pastor. In seminary there was talk about Self Care. This was about taking some time for oneself for exercise, play, family time, study and quiet. We learned about balancing our days–not working morning, noon and night, for example. We touched on the Sabbath but not as much as you would think.
No, I learned about Soul Care the hard way through a series of Wake Up Calls that illustrated very vividly that my Soul was weak, sickly, pale, dehydrated and running breathlessly behind me asking if we might sit a while and take a breath. My Soul spoke so softly and breathlessly that she was very easy to ignore. After all, I had three children, a big job, a calling, a ministry I was passionate about and lots of people demanding my attention. I ran on fumes and it is a tribute to God that I ever managed to do anything spiritual at all in that state.
As I re-read favorite authors on the topic of Soul Care and remind myself again of what was so transforming, I thought I’d share some Soul Care tips in case you or someone you love is in need of a refresher course.
Plato and Socrates spoke of the Greek concept of therapeia of the soul which means either care or service. Socrates says it is like the care you’d give a horse on a farm: you feed it, brush it down, exercise it, give it water and clean its stall. Thomas Moore writes this is the model for Soul Care. Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Every Day Life
I’ve never had a horse but I have cared for children and dogs and I’m thinking it is the same. The idea is that our souls are living, fragile and in need of our attention.
What is it that your soul needs to thrive?
Your soul needs space. Space to breathe, to rest, to pay attention to unseen things.
Your soul needs solitude. It does not matter if you are an extrovert and get your energy from people. Your soul is not. She needs alone time.
Your soul needs to inhabit your body. That means your body needs to be rested, hydrated, fed, exercised and open. Emily Dickinson said the soul needs to stand ajar, ready to receive inspirations.
Your soul needs people. A soul needs to be connected to a family and a community. Thomas Moore writes, The soul prospers in an environment that is concrete, particular and vernacular….nothing is more suitable for care of the soul than family because the experience of family includes so much of the particulars of life.
Your soul needs beauty. Sunrises, sunsets, nature’s vividness, art, music, creativity. When you see or feel beauty your soul is fed.
Your soul needs alignment. My yoga teacher speaks about alignment often. She tells us to adjust our alignment many times in each class. Your soul needs to align with God. This, to me, is what prayer is: aligning our will and thoughts with God’s will and thoughts. My soul is capable of getting off track. She needs to adjust her alignment often.
Your soul needs laughter and play. The soul has a child’s heart. My favorite almost-two- year-old has a fun sense of humor already. He thinks lots of things are funny, like putting a sponge on his head and calling it a hat. I love being silly with him and making him laugh. I can tell it feeds my soul.
I believe our world would be a better place if there was more Soul Care happening. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the needs of the world and the hurt and trauma all around me. In my better moments, I refocus on caring for my soul so at least what I toss out into the universe comes from a place of grace, God, centeredness, health and wholeness.
Jesus had his own way to advocate for Soul Care. He said, What good will it be for a person to gain the whole world but lose his/her soul? Matthew 16:26
Soul Care 101, a must-do for summer 2018.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, writer, speaker, breast cancer survivor and one who tends to her soul.