Could something as intangible and hard to define as "soul" determine your well-being?
by Catherine Honora Kineavy
ver the past months, I have been discussing different types of healing modalities including massage, ecopsychology and macrobiotics to name a few. It has been my hope to present alternative methods of healing in an effort to assist you on your road to achieving health. As I have stated in the past, there are many levels to health: physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual. Most of us are keyed into our physical health and our mental/emotional health, but how many of us can assess our spiritual health, or more specifically, the health of our soul? These words "spiritual" and "soul" turn some people off because they sound too "religious." Also, they are not scientifically quantifiable. Yet, I believe that it is the health of the soul that forms the basis of any healing practice. It is soul that I wish to discuss in this article, particularly as it relates to our well being.
The 1990s mark a renaissance of sorts in a conscious understanding of the soul. Visionaries of this century are prompting us to open a dialog with our souls. It is necessary to awaken our soul's consciousness, they contend, if we are to heal individually and collectively.
"Soul" is not often discussed in traditional healing modalities. Yet, if our soul is not living its truth, our bodies exhibit dis-ease symptoms The soul is just as much a part of psychology as it is biology. We cannot tangibly measure the soul's contents; however, its contents can manifest as joy, healthy self-esteem, contentment; or boredom, depression and anxiety. Therefore, it is necessary to understand, at a conscious level, the health of our souls.
Okay, what is the soul? Well, it is different for many people. So, then how do we know what it is for us? And, how do we know if our souls are healthy?
First of all, I would suggest that we think of our soul as our true essential self. That is, our self that we are without being anything to another person. In other words, throughout our entire lives we are told by our families and society that we should act a certain way, or that we should do a certain thing. So, we become who we are told to become. Or, the opposite could happen we could be told not to become who we naturally are.
Let me use myself as an example. I come from a family of writers. My sister is an outstanding poet and so is my brother. When I was a child, I used to write poetry as well, but because I was not "dubbed" a poet, I stopped writing poetry for many years. It turns out that writing poetry is natural for me, it flows from my pen like milk from a mother's breast. My point is that, well, deep in the recesses of my being, I am a poet. That is part of my essential self. Writing poetry is exercising my soul. It is living my truth! When I write poetry, a peacefulness overcomes me, I feel a sense of contentment, joy and hope. But most of all, I feel free. As the poet David Whyte says, we all have our own way of belonging in this world. It is in knowing how we belong that we can claim a place for ourselves.
So, soul is that part of ourselves that makes us completely unique from another individual. Yet, what so often happens in our society is that we are not allowed to express our uniqueness; we wind up conforming. In the meantime, we do not nourish that part of ourself that is our essential core. We live lives that are in contradiction to our natural self.
What happens when we do this? We get sick, either physically or emotionally. Many illnesses that have occurred throughout the ages have had no physical explanation. People get easily fatigued, they are not interested in the world, and they go about their daily routines without creative expression, rather than cherishing the moments and celebrating in the wonder of life. They are not living in harmony with their souls. Again, none of this can be measured. But it is evident, given the number of people who have heart attacks on Monday morning. If we are not doing the work we love, our soul suffers. Perhaps we cannot get out of a work situation for some reason, but we can decide to change our perception of it.
This is no small task, caring for the soul. But it is as important as caring for the body and the mind. Richard Carlson says, "Nourishing the soul is a lifelong journey, traveled day by day that is worth making the most important focus of our lives." What happens when we do not care for the soul? We begin to die. We feel disconnected from life, the spark begins to fade, we are susceptible to dis-ease, and we live in constant hunger for something to fill a void. Often times, addictions result from soul loss.
We need to check in with our souls. Quiet is needed to do this. I believe that if you are quiet, the soul will speak to you. Perhaps, going into nature will elicit the soul to stir. My best thinking occurs when I sit with the trees. So many great thinkers have alluded to the power of the soul to bring us to health, Robert Frost said, "Something we were withholding made us weak, until we found it was ourselves." Marion Woodman speaks to the power of the soul by saying, "It is amazing that our souls - our eternal essences, with all their hopes and dreams and visions of an eternal world - are contained within these temporal bodies. No wonder suffering is part of the human condition." The soul is that which is the foundation of ourselves. It needs to be discussed, it needs to be nourished.
A western medical doctor will not discuss the health of your soul. You need to become your own healer, take your own inventory. Be quiet. What is it that fills you up with joy? What is it that stirs your compassion for life? What is it that makes you feel peaceful? That is the soul at work. The soul is the ocean of our being, it fills our bodies like the blood fills our veins. Treat your ocean with love and compassion, listen to its movement, find out what causes waves and find out what makes it reflect your true self. It is then that you will begin to heal your entire being.
Catherine Honora Kineavy, M.A. is a historian, macrobiotic vegetarian, free-lance writer/editor, shiatsu masseuse and has just started her own company to educate and spread the word about healing ourselves and the environment. Catherine's email number is down, if you would like to reach her you can contact her at 557-4491